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Designing Challenging and Engaging Activities for Kids (of all ages!) In Two Parts – Part I

Are you responsible for coming up with the activities or curriculum for the young people with whom you work? Ever feel like some activities or lessons really hit home and others flop? There are a myriad of reasons why that may be, but below are some tips to help you consistently develop great, fun, challenging and engaging activities for your participants.

Think back to a time when you did a lesson or workshop that really rocked? Was the activity something in which the participants had expressed an interest? Where students fully engaged/on task? Were they able to describe or demonstrate what they learned as a result of the activity? Were they excited to tell others about it?

First, you have to ask yourself and decide what are you trying to do/achieve? Do you want young people to develop some new strategies (skills) for improving their spelling? Do you want to teach young people about empathy (attitude) in order to help reduce bullying? Or, do you want young people to learn about and understand (knowledge) the difference between private and public colleges and universities?

Then ask yourself what you want young people to know, be able to do or think about differently as a result of your lesson, activity or workshop; this will result in your being more intentional in designing your lesson/activity/workshop. Use these letters KSA (based on Bloom’s Taxonomy) to help you decide if you are trying to change/influence/develop, etc. your participant’s:

  • Knowledge or understanding about something;

  • Skill or ability to do something better/differently, etc.

  • Attitude or Approach to how they do something

It may seem counter intuitive, but at the very beginning, I ask myself: how will I know if this activity was a success? What will the participants be able to describe or demonstrate as a result of this workshop? Make a list of those items; usually no more than 3-5 items (which are usually called “objectives”).

Keep in mind the following advice from the authors of the Community Network for Youth Development (CNYD). Activities that are challenging and engaging do three things:

  • Are based on a young person’s interest

  • Stretch a young person beyond their current skill or knowledge

  • Develop a sense of mastery

Try out these 3 these tips and let me know how they work for you!

Read Part II to find out how to design the activity itself.

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