Essay, Research Paper: After-School Care

Education

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Posner and Vandell’s article, "Low-Income Children’s After-School Care:
Are There Beneficial Effects of After-School Programs" provides valuable
research to support the need for quality after-school programs for low-income
children. Low-income children need after-school programs like UCLinks because
"poverty affects children directly because it limits the material resources
available to them and indirectly because of the psychological distress it
engenders in parents, which in turn negatively influences parental
behavior."(1) The time a child spends after-school is also important to
their academic and social development. The quality and type of after-school care
a child receives directly correlates to their performance in school and growth
in academic abilities. The UCLinks program was created to offer low-income
children a quality, academic after-school program. In the UCLinks program, they
have children develop their academic skills in language arts, reading
comprehension, off-computer activities, and mathematics. The UCLinks
after-school program works on bringing the children up to grade level or
furthering their development. It does not serve as a homework center for
children. Instead, the UCLinks program concentrates on fostering their academic
talent in an organized environment. In Posner and Vandell’s article, they
document research that promotes organized, academic after-school care,
"Children’s academic and conduct grades were positively related to time
spent in one-to-one academic work, with an adult, whereas academic and conduct
grades were negatively correlated with the amount of time spent in outdoor
unorganized activities." (454) The children of the UCLinks program work
with a mentor in 1-1 or 1-2 setting, where mentors specifically focus on
academic areas they need to improve or help them develop their abilities to the
fullest. 1B. The UCLinks program understands how important reading skills are to
children’s success in school. If children do not learn to read at grade level,
they have a greater risk of falling behind in class work and eventually dropping
out. The UCLinks program uses a combined approach to reading instruction with
whole language and specific skills development. In each mentoring session of the
UCLinks program, the mentors practice whole language instruction. Children have
the opportunity to read one on one with their mentor. Bill Honig advocates this
interaction with the children, "Teachers classroom routine should include
reading good literature to students and discussing it with them, especially by
asking questions that stretch children’s minds beyond the literal meaning of
the text."(3) The active participation the children engage in while reading
to their mentors is productive because the children are able to practice
decoding, automatic recognition of words, and improve their reading
comprehension. Mentors ask their students relevant questions about the book that
pertain to the plot, main points and theme of the story. The UCLinks program
also practices the specific skills development with their students. Specific
skills development focuses on phonemic awareness, phonics, print awareness, word
structure, and word-attack and self-monitoring skills. Honig recommends specific
skills development, "Students should be taught these skills in an active,
problem-solving manner that offers plenty of opportunities to practice the
skills in actual reading and writing situations."(13) Children work on
computer software like Kid Phonics to develop these specific skills which will
ultimately help them read better. The children of the UCLinks program can also
spend off-computer time writing stories and poems which immerses them in print
awareness and word structure. 1C. In "Children, Mathematics, and
Computers" by D. H Clements, he writes "It appears the dominant focus
of school mathematics instruction in the last decade has been on computational
skills(which students are learning fairly well), but that the development of
problem-solving skills and conceptual understanding has been
inadequate."(1) The focus on computational skills rather than the
problem-solving and conceptual understanding hinder the mathematical abilities
of students. As math becomes more abstract, they do not have the required mind
state to solve problems with higher level concepts. The UCLinks program supports
the teaching of relational mathematics, according to Skewer, knowing what to do
and why, over rote learning with their students. The solid mental foundation
relational mathematics builds will increase the mathematical abilities of the
children and help them problem-solve as math becomes more complex and abstract.
The teaching of relational mathematics in the UCLinks program can be observed
with the use of pencil and paper, manipulatives, and computers to help children
understand mathematical concepts and problem-solving. These practices are
further supported in Clements article, "National Council of Teachers in
Mathematics recommends that students be actively involved in learning,
experimenting with, exploring, and communicating about mathematics."(4) The
development of children’s mathematical abilities increases when they actually
learn the concepts behind the math problems and how to solve them on their own.
The interaction children have with pencil and paper and manipulatives stimulates
their thought process and helps them understand why. Computers also present an
interesting new way to learn mathematics with software like Math Blaster and
Mighty Math Heroes. Children need to learn mathematics solutions that actively
engage them. If they are strictly prohibited to computation, children will lose
their interest in mathematics as they grow older.

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