Teachers trying to attract students to extracurricular activities need to think beyond the morning announcements and pizza parties, writes Kimberly Long.
This article originally appeared in Education Week Teacher as part of a publishing partnership with the Center for Teaching Quality. Reprinted with permission from the author.
Crackling over the intercom, the morning announcements begin—but no one (and I mean no one) is paying attention. Everyone is crowded around Marcia’s or Mark’s desk. After all, discussing the latest gossip is far more interesting than announcements about after-school club activities and opportunities.
You attempt to quiet students, but they roll their eyes and begrudgingly return to their seats. However, you know they still aren’t paying attention to those announcements.
Getting the word out about new clubs can be difficult. But with these four tips, you can generate student interest, buy-in, and ownership of school clubs—and enjoy being an advisor.
1. Think Like a Salesman
There’s only so much you can do to get the word out to students. Many teachers rely on morning announcements, lunch announcements, flyers, and posters. But it’s not enough to tack up a poster or submit an announcement. You have to think like a salesman.
Know your audience. Use icons, memes, and pop culture references in your visual advertisements. Try fun, bright graphic designs that students will notice. Reach out to your colleagues and have them make an announcement during their classes, a time when students may be a bit more alert. Better yet, recruit students with big personalities to give the announcements in your class or over the speaker. It’s amazing what a random British accent, a radio host-style monologue, or a pair of announcers can do to generate interest among other students.
But before you advertise your club, make sure to pick a regular meeting day that you know most students will be able to attend. No sense in getting the word out if no one can go. Be strategic and survey prospective students about when they are available to attend meetings.
2. Customize and Redefine
Who do you want to join the club? Is there a way you can think outside the box to involve more students? Redefine what it means to be a member. For example, Newspaper Club is traditionally just for students who like writing. However, by soliciting tech enthusiasts, photographers, and artists, you could diversify the group and what they can learn from one another. The latest newspaper edition could include photographs of the basketball team, an article about their big win, video of the game, and graphic design elements.
Once you’ve founded your club, be open to customizing activities based on the interests of students. One year there may be a group who wants to run a special fundraiser for National Junior Honor Society or help out a robotics team for the Science Olympiad. The students will change from year to year, and it’s OK for clubs to mirror those changes.
3. Develop Student Leadership
Think about different ways to organize student involvement within the club. Is there a hierarchy you can create to help manage students and differentiate involvement? By opening leadership opportunities, you empower students to take on more responsibility while creating role models for younger members, which will positively impact the future of the club.
Giving up control to allow the club to function as a student-led extracurricular may seem daunting. It can be time-consuming to train students to complete various tasks associated with the club and direct them on the do’s and don’ts of interacting with others. However, when we allow students to make decisions, it elevates their confidence and leadership skills to a whole new level. It may take time in the beginning, but the success is well worth it!
4. Build Traditions
Students will remember the special events and rituals of your club, not the number of meetings you held. Help your students create lasting memories by engaging them in specific traditions. How can you make members of your club feel special?
Try starting a tradition for how you kick off the start of the year. Traditions don’t have to cost money or be fancy. Above all, they should be fun! One example is to have an award ceremony for students who are graduating. Have younger members come up with an award ceremony and then elaborately decorate paper plates for each graduating member. Dramatically distribute them at the final meeting: “And now, for this year’s Annual Paper Plate Awards!” Dare to think beyond the pizza party.
Your club can also establish traditions outside of school. Members can get together to play games, go outside, give back to the community, and live life beyond the constraints of what the club “typically” does.
Whether you’re starting a club from scratch or are the new faculty advisor, the initial challenges with extracurricular clubs are the same. Get creative with your recruitment strategies and redefine what it means to be a club member. Allow the club to be student-led and embrace all the joys and challenges that go with it. Along the way, establish some memorable traditions that make students feel like they belong to a family—and will inspire new members to continue to shape and lead the club for years to come.
What successful extracurricular activities have you tried? Have any tips for recruiting students? Share them in the comments!