Matteson School District 162 21st CCLC Makes Writing Relevant

Serving middle and high school students, the Matteson District 162 21st CCLC program offers a range of enrichment activities where students can develop interests and skills. Programming ranges from STEM activities like flying drones and computer programming to art classes like oil painting, origami, ballet, modern and contemporary dance, and an assortment of music activities. In addition to supporting District 162’s mission to provide all students with a well-rounded and rigorous education, the 21st CCLC helps students increase their mastery of core academic skills by integrating academic enrichment into a diverse array of activities. 

Writing skills are well suited to this approach. The District 162 21st CCLC offers writing classes that focus on creating texts like screenplays and poetry, and the team also integrates writing into other subject areas. For example, in social studies, students can participate in classes like Writing for Citizenship, where they learn to write for public engagement and draft bills as part of learning about the legislative process. During the 2020 election, students in the Global Issues program created campaign collateral, writing about their vision and policy priorities as if they were political candidates running for office. Students participating in a college and career readiness program learned to write letters of interest for jobs and wrote summaries of work experience for job portfolios. Finally, students who took part in science activities drafted and tested a hypothesis, following up with a written summary of their experiment findings. 

The common theme across these activities is student exposure to various texts and the experience of writing for a variety of purposes, with real-world applications of their work. “We want to allow students to actually engage with what they learned,” says Dr. Carl Cogar, the 21st CCLC program’s project director. Instead of repeating back facts, students synthesize information. “They develop a deeper understanding of what they have learned,” says Cogar. 

The 21st CCLC team aligns writing strategies with those used by the district. In recent years, District 162 has provided professional development workshops on writing across the curriculum and implemented a writers workshop curriculum. Because many of the 21st CCLC staff are also certified teachers, they have been able to share practices with other afterschool staff and support the implementation of some of the program’s writing strategies. 

For 21st CCLC programs that are interested in providing more robust writing enrichment for their students, Cogar recommends that afterschool programs adopt a writer’s workshop or other program to help afterschool staff guide students through the writing process. He also advocates sharing instructional strategies from the school day with afterschool staff. “Teachers had that training and have expertise that they can take to the afterschool program,” says Cogar.