Amplify the Impact of Your Short-Term Program

January 30, 2015 – Garfield Park Conservatory

Facilitator: Nicole Ripley, Writers Theatre

In the beautiful sun-lit rooms of the Garfield Park Conservatory, we explored what it means to have impactful short-term programming in schools. Short-term programs can be mistaken for low quality programming, but in many cases schools don’t have the time for long-term commitments. Through CIS of Chicago’s research in developing the Elements of Effective Violence Prevention Programs, we found that, oftentimes, a few tweaks to programs can make them far more effective. Short-term programs in particular benefit from adding pre- and post- program activities to boost, or amplify, the impact of the program.

We wanted to explore what amplified programs really looked like, so we asked expert curriculum developer and teacher Nicole Ripley to lead us in a conversation about building effective short-term programs. Nicole is the director of education at Writers Theatre, and as part of her work, runs the MLK Project. Nicole uses school agreements, study guides and talk-back discussions to amplify the impact of her short-term program.

Nicole suggested that impactful programming depends on three program practices: developing strong agency/school partnershipssetting clear and achievable program goals, and consistently assessing impact. She posited that if all three are in alignment, short-term programs could have a more powerful impact on schools and students.


BRAINSTORM – Participants shared what they’re already doing in each area:

The Writers Theatre Approach:

Nicole shared what Writers Theatre (WT) does to engage and build effective partnerships for their short-term programs: AMPLIFYING PROGRAMS for CISC

Getting clear on objectives:

Participants used this graphic organizer to define one or two clear and achievable objectives for their program: Learning Objectives

After sharing objectives, participants broke into small groups to brainstorm things they could easily add to their existing programs to enhance their program objectives. Here are some of the highlights:

Large Group Shareout

Before a visit:

  • Send a short video to introduce the program (“Hi, my name is… and I’ll be seeing you soon to talk about…”)
  • Send a flyer or poster in the classroom to engage students’ curiosity – include interesting image, question, fun fact
  • Send a mystery box ahead of time full of words, phrases, questions
  • Send a vocabulary and/or FAQ poster or hand-out to be reviewed by teacher ahead of time
  • Ask schools to sign an agreement that include expectations, outline of the goals and contact information
  • Drop off a large KWL chart to post in the classroom ahead of time (What’s a KWL?)
  • Send letter to teacher with info on program and pre-visit activity ideas
  • Visit the classroom ahead of time to observe and get to know students/classroom
  • Send flyer to parents and teachers outlining program goals and visit date
  • Offer workshop with teachers before a visit
  • Collect demographic data from schools and teachers

During a visit:

  • Engage students in a self-directed scavenger hunt for the duration of the visit. (ex. “Today, I learned…”)
  • Use a video or TV clip – how would you handle this situation?
  • Create something during the program that the teacher can display afterwards
  • Create incentive chart with students that they can take home (# of times child brushed teeth, etc)
  • Build in pre-/post- assessment opportunities during the program (line of agreement, stand up if you…)

 After a visit:

  • Leave pencils, posters, bookmarks, flyers with logo, name and contact info
  • Leave a short video reminding students of what was learned
  • Suggest that the teacher offer extra credit to students who reflect on program with stories, letters, poems, essays, drawings, etc.
  • Reach out to teacher and offer additional assistance
  • Give “awards” to students that highlight the objectives of the program
  • Provide resources: hand-out with websites, palm cards, hotline numbers, “what to do” cards to keep in wallet (kids love stuff to put in their wallets!)
  • Connect with students through social media (depending on age)
  • Surveys for teachers and students (ie Survey Monkey)
  • Share impact data with school
  • Incentivize post activities with half-price tickets to events
  • Send pictures or videos of students working during the program, performing, reflecting


  • Leave a program poster for the teachers’ lounge
  • Communicate with the school in a personalized way
  • Leave resource flyers in the main office
  • Communicate between classroom teachers/school staff/administrators and program staff consistently
  • Create a website or section within website exclusively for students

Short term program can actually be much longer given the pre- and post- resources, as long as the minds are engaged. -Nabila Ahmed, Asian Human Services

Bringing it all together:

This is a great graphic organizer for figuring out how program objectives, assessment and relationship building inform how we connect with schools before and after a program to amplify impact: Connecting the Dots Graphic Organizer…

Thank you to all who participated. We’re looking forward to hearing about what you’ve done to enhance your short-term programs!

Assessment activity


1 thought on “Amplify the Impact of Your Short-Term Program”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s