THINK Together’s daily middle school program consists of academic and enrichment elements and a healthy living component that includes physical fitness, character education and nutrition education.
The program is open to 6th through 8th grade students from the time the school day ends to 6 pm (approximately 20-22 hours a week). Students receive a healthy snack before participating in a rotation of structured activities. We use strategies rooted in the core elementary school curricula but augmented with more choice and enrichment activities.
The resulting program has a “club” feeling that is engaging to young adolescents while still boosting academic achievement. THINK Together staff emphasize the three Rs of Afterschool: Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor by embedding them into club activities. Middle school students work more effectively in small groups if they can see the connection between the activity and the real world that they live in, and if the activities are challenging enough to reduce boredom and easy enough to develop a sense of self-efficacy.
THINK Together is engaged in a year-long pilot to review, redesign, and strengthen its middle school programs. Staff are piloting the use of Thoughtful Conversation modules (based on the Socratic Conversation notion) to engage middle school students in reading and debating a carefully selected text.
They are also examining the use of ELA skill cards, vocabulary games, and Hear A Peer strategies during homework time. In math we have created Math Blast kits, adding VersaTiles which provide ever-changing, self-check activities to support the honing of pre-algebra skills.
We are also piloting a thematic approach based on the novel Hunger Games, a hit with middle school students. Students will all read the book as part of the academic enrichment segment of the program.
All club activities at the school will connect with the novel to deepen students’ comprehension and writing skills. Our goal is to determine if this is feasible in a year-long program that is flexible enough to adequately incorporate key program elements (homework, choice, STEAM, service learning, character education, etc) while increasing student interest and commitment to the program thus improving academic performance.