Fall might seem like a strange time to focus on summer, but that’s exactly what educators from all over the country gathered to do at the 2019 National Summer Learning Association conference in Atlanta. We came to the Summer Changes Everything conference ready to present what we know about crafting a quality summer program; we left with so much more.

The conference opened with an address by Dr. Steve Perry—a man with an inspiring story of his own who knows a thing or two about how to motivate people. For an audience of people who work hard to give children a high-quality summer programming, his message was exactly what we needed to hear. The key takeaway was to keep going! Keep pushing into schools! 

The education field needs what we know how to do. 

Dr. Perry went on to say that those of us who work in out-of-school time programs are doing education the way it should be done. The following three things particularly stood out to us: 

1. We’re relationship-minded.

2. We meet kids where they are and continually have success where others fail.

3. We build communities and partnerships with folks outside of the school building. 

At Springboard Collaborative, those three things are embedded into our programs, but we know they can be used beyond programming, too. Here are some ways to embed these three best practices into your classroom or school. 

Be relationship-minded

We focus on building and strengthening two main relationships. 

First, we leverage the family-child relationship to extend the learning beyond the school day. We do this by encouraging a family member’s natural buy-in to help their scholar and by equipping them with specific and clear reading tips that they can try at home. 

Second, we create relationships between educators and families. From the beginning of programming, we encourage teachers to complete home visits to foster relationships. 

Home visits help families and educators develop stronger and more equitable relationships. 

During home visits, families can share anything from their hopes and dreams for their child to their current at-home learning habits. Previously, we’ve talked about the power of home visits and how educators have modified the home visit idea to match their school culture. After programming, teachers tell us how much they learn about the power of engaging and working with families. 

Meet students where they are

In addition to strengthening relationships, Springboard meets students where they are by offering small group instruction that is differentiated to meet each child’s need. Teachers use data from assessments to inform instruction and to identify specific reading behaviors that support the child’s developmental needs. 

Our educators also provide families with what we call a Student Action Plan, which gives a reading tip that will help a child progress effectively and examples of how they can use that tip with their child. While we use a specific model during programming, the heart of a Student Action Plan can be adapted outside Springboard Collaborative programs. 

After building the trusting educator-family team, invite families to be an active part of their child’s learning by giving them specific tips.

These tips can be woven into communication structures that you’re already doing, like report card conferences! Be sure to make sure the tips are both specific and not overwhelming. We give a single Student Action Plan with only one tip to families during our programming.

Build a school community

Lastly, Springboard Collaborative focuses on building a school community through a number of ways. 

During our family workshops, families and educators come together and share about their experiences reading. Families talk to each other and share what is going well with reading at home, fostering a sense of collaboration. Having a space where families and educators can talk and learn from each other as a group, whether digital or physical, is invaluable.

Most importantly, we build a school community by celebrating small wins. We do this by concluding each program with a Learning Bonus Celebration, which fosters a positive attitude toward learning and encourages all school community stakeholders to take part.  

Build in celebrations of small wins.  
Because we meet students where they are, we know these small wins can look different for different students, but we want to celebrate them regardless! This celebration could be something small, like a “Reader of the Week” or even a text home to share good news, but celebration and recognition can encourage students and families to keep moving forward.  
There are many small but consequential steps you can take today toward being relationship-minded, meeting students where they are, and building a school community. And we’d love to hear your ideas. What are ways that you’ve implemented these practices into your classroom or schools?