Upcoming Opportunities for Mentoring Programs
Working Group Opportunity: To provide dedicated spaces in which programs can accelerate peer-sharing and learning around mentoring, MENTOR Virginia has launched 3 no-cost working group opportunities for mentoring programs.
- School-Based Mentoring
- Community-Based Mentoring
- STEM Mentoring
Learn more and register for this statewide, peer-learning opportunity here.
Program Consultation: MENTOR Virginia has worked with over 20 mentoring programs to implement high-quality e-mentoring through no-cost program consultation. Here are some examples of what we have helped with:
- Identifying, selecting, and implementing technology for e-mentoring
- Developing or reviewing policies/procedures and materials for e-mentoring
- Developing trainings for mentors, mentees, and families on e-mentoring
- Researching and developing activities or curriculums for e-mentoring
- Planning programmatic processes around recruiting, screening, training, matching, monitoring, and closing virtual match relationships
Programs that submit an application should forward the confirmation email they receive to Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to begin immediately. Otherwise, it could take 2-4 weeks for consultation to begin.
For other programmatic needs, call Sarah at 804-829-7236 or email at email@example.com.
Resources for Virtual Curriculums & Activities
Tips for Digital Curriculum Development & Delivery
- When building out a virtual curriculum for mentoring sessions, consider building the curriculum around relevant (and fun!) themes that help break up the program cycle and keep things interesting. If a young person isn’t thrilled with the current theme, they can look forward to the next one.
- Try to find a balance when building out a virtual curriculum between the required content that you must cover in order to reach the goals of your program and the things that young people are most interested in doing. If a curriculum feels too much like more virtual school, young people are likely to check out. If young people know they can look forward to some activities that they choose for themselves, they are more likely to buy-in.
- A great way to maintain engagement is to find a balance between activities focused on teaching the required lessons of a curriculum and activities that are designed to create space for relationship-development. That might mean time for unstructured activities altogether.
- Send (or drop off) a bi-weekly or monthly care packages full of goodies and supplies that will be relevant to the mentoring activities of the next few mentoring sessions. This can be a fun preview of what’s to come in the curriculum, and it’s even better if youth can’t quite tell how all the items in the package will be used. They now have an excellent reason to come to the next session to solve the mystery!
- Consider including a photography, art, or video creation challenge as part of every curriculum-focused mentoring session. Encourage youth to respond to or apply what they learned through a form of creative expression and take time at the start of the next session to spotlight some of their creations. You can also feature their creations on social media, in e-blasts, or on your website.
Digital Curriculum Resources
- RaiseMe: A free app where students can discover colleges they want to learn more about, add achievements to their profile, and earn micro-scholarships for college based on their achievements.
- Empatico: Empatico’s free platform gives teachers of students ages 6-11 everything needed to build meaningful connections through video exchanges: a partner classroom, activity plans, and built-in video, messaging, and scheduling tools. (Shared by MENTOR, so there are probably opportunities for mentoring programs to utilize this resource)
- SEAL Digital Lessons: Series of free virtual activities rooted in the following SEL categories: awareness and self-management, decision making, and social awareness and relationship skills. Created by Denver’s Initiative for Youth Success and optimal for elementary ages.
- Seesaw is a free learning tool that can connect students, families, and teachers/mentors/mentoring program coordinators across learning initiatives. The site contains lots of free virtual activities and appears to be optimized for elementary or early middle school students.
- Kahoot! is an online platform designed to make learning fun through games, quizzes, and other activities. Ideal for elementary and middle school students.
- Khan Academy includes free math (K-12), science, technology, economics, art, history, and test prep content. Each topic includes lectures delivered via YouTube videos. Students can use the site independently, or parents can create a parent account, then set up student accounts from which they can track their child’s progress.
- Newsela is an educational website that promotes literacy using news stories. Each article is adjusted to five different reading and maturity levels, so students of all ages can practice literacy skills while becoming informed citizens.
- Smithsonian Learning Lab offers free images, texts, videos, audio recordings, and learning activities for all ages featuring its collection of more than 1 million artifacts. You can curate your own collection and share with your students to match your program’s goals.
- Funbrain provides free educational games, comics, books, and videos for children in grades Pre-K through 8th. Their fun-filled activities focus on developing skills in math, reading, problem-solving, and literacy. Content is organized by grade level and the site does not require you to enter logins, passwords or personal information.
- Storyline is an award-winning children’s literacy website that features famous people reading beloved children’s books. Children can listen to the story, follow the words, and enjoy the colorful animations.
- Chrome Music Lab enables students of all ages to explore music and its connections to math, science, and art. This highly visual tool is organized in experiments and is engaging and easy to use.
- GoNoodle is a free app and website with active games and videos designed to get elementary students moving. There’s a wide variety of free activities available, from Zumba videos to Wii-like sports games and mindfulness videos. A paid version, GoNoodle Plus, enables you to create interactive games aligned with program goals.
- Izzit has entertaining and educational videos for all levels and subjects as well as instructor’s guides and current event lessons.
- Wonderopolis has short videos and readings that answer various burning questions for students. There are also vocabulary challenges and comprehension questions. Can be for all ages, but elementary and middle school students might be most interested in the content.
- Novel Effect: As you read out loud from print books or ebooks, music, sound effects, and character voices play at just the right moment, adjusting and responding to your voice. Ideal for elementary students.
- Country Reports gives 35,000 pages of online content on the cultures and countries of the world. Can be used with all ages.
- Project Explorer has free videos from around the world for grades 3-12.
- Nomster Chef has illustrated recipes designed to help kids age 2-12 cook with their grown-ups. Recipes encourage culinary skills, literacy, math, and science.
- SworkIt has kid-friendly workouts—choose from Strength for Kids, Agility for Kids, Flexibility and Balance for Kids, Warm-Up for Kids, Cooldown for Kids, Stand Up and Move for Kids, OR create your own custom kid workout. Suitable for elementary-aged students.
- Social-Emotional Resources for Distance Engagement
Digital STEM Curriculum Resources
- Georgia Tech has created a repository of resources for K-12 STEAM learning at a distance. Find some great websites and activities already optimized for distance learning.
- The Afterschool Alliance has put together a list of STEM curriculums available for a variety of ages across the web. Not all may be optimized for virtual engagement without some adjustments.
- This repository of online resources for STEM learning from the National Girls Collaborative Project has an entire section of resources dedicated to STEM activities you can find around the web for a variety of ages.
- TeachEngineering is full of free STEM activities designed for K-12 home school students, so the activities are already optimized for completion at home.
- KitHub has an online repository of STEAM activities for elementary and middle school students.
- EngineerGirl is a STEM career exploration site that also includes STEM activities, like design challenges meant to utilize common household items. Suitable for upper elementary through high school.
- ClubSciKidz offers free daily science activities and experiments that you can easily do at home through their SciKidz blog. Suitable for elementary-aged students.
- Code.org offers a free structured computer science curriculum for kids at all levels, from pre-readers to AP-level students. Lessons teach coding and touch on important topics such as online privacy and digital citizenship. Engaging videos and fun games and activities enable students to learn at their own pace and stay challenged. Kids can even learn to build and design their own apps and games!
- FarmFood 360 offers 11 virtual tours of farms from minks, pigs, and cows, to apples and eggs. Suitable for all ages.
- NASA Kids allows elementary-aged youth to complete missions, watch videos of outer space, and play games. They also have examples of STEM activities you can do from home.
- Elemental Science has 80+ free at-home science activities. Content for all ages.
- Mystery Science offers free sciences lessons for kindergarten through 5th grade.
- Maker Stations is giving 3 free weeks of maker stations to keep kids creating at home. Each challenge includes simple instructions using materials around the house, QR code video resources, and a student recording sheet. Can be used for all ages.
- Concord has a collection of hundreds of free K-12 STEM resources, from standalone models and simulations to short activities, and week-long sequences of curriculum materials.
Other Virtual Activity Ideas
- Alberta Mentoring Partnership’s “High School Teen Mentoring Activity Book” contains over a dozen activity ideas to use with older students, many of which can easily be adopted for a virtual format.
- Youth Assisting Youth put together a list of 10 virtual match activities for the age of coronavirus.
- Our sister affiliate in Colorado has put together a list of 55 match activities optimized for e-mentoring.
- VPOST put together a Summer Activity Guide with 150 activities and challenges that can be adapted for virtual, in-person, or hybrid programming.
Here’s a list of activities that MENTOR Virginia put together early in the pandemic. Matches can:
- Focus on asking each other questions, telling stories, sharing memories or life experiences–programs can use guided questions or prompts to facilitate these conversations.
- Make up stories together, taking turns completing sentences or paragraphs. Mentors/mentees can even create their own story cubes that they can use virtually, or can utilize online Mad Libs.
- Start a book, TV show, or movie clubs where they read/watch agreed upon content independently and then come together by phone, email, or text to discuss it.
- Complete online personality or knowledge quizzes together.
- Start a pen-pal writing campaign and if needed, refer to some writing prompts.
- Utilize these free online learning resources for kids.
- Read stories to each other over the phone or video-chat.
- Research and explore career, college, or community service opportunities together.
- Play 20 Questions or virtual charades on the phone or through video-chat
- Use online coloring pages as an activity to do while talking to each other on the phone, or complete individually and mail them to the program coordinator to be forwarded to the mentor/mentee.
- Play classic conversation games.
- Explore new blogs or share old favorites.
- Go on a virtual tour of the world’s most famous museums including the MET, the National Gallery of Art, the MOMA, and many more.
- Create a shared country on NationStates and work through daily governance challenges.
- Utilize free apps on smartphones and other devices to play multiplayer games together.
- Register for free to Sanford Harmony to access online stories, songs, and games focused on social-emotional learning that matches grades K-6 can work through together.
- Check out a new podcast or Youtube channel together.
- Watch a livestream of the Opera or Broadway performances.
- Play the free online Scrabble alternative called Lexulous to play word games together.
- Go on virtual field trips.
- Watch kid-friendly TED Talks or TED ED videos together and discuss each video’s concepts and ideas.
- If you have the same board games in your homes, play games that do not require you to share the same board. Ex) Battleship, Scattergories, Guess Who
- Have a fashion show, where you dress up in funny costumes or themes.
- Create a scavenger hunt for each other where they have to find everyday objects in your house and show each other.
- Cook or bake together if you have the ingredients.
- Watch Bob Ross videos together and try to re-create his paintings at the same time. See whose painting comes out the funniest!
- Watch and discuss one of the 100+ Educational Shows for Kids on Netflix.
- Watch and discuss one of the TED Talks from the Ultimate List of Kid-Friendly TED Talks.
Here are two activities designed to help mentors and mentees engaged in text-based mentoring relationship, or a relationship that involves some written forms of communication:
Developing & Implementing an E-Mentoring Program
- E-Mentoring Supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring
- E-Mentoring Checklist
- Webinar: Mentoring in the Age of Technology
Tools to Help with Program Development
- Use this Program Planning Worksheet to walk through steps and questions designed to help programs develop and implement high-quality e-mentoring. This worksheet is rooted in national best practice standards for e-mentoring.
- Check out this sample Code of Conduct created by AMP! Metro Richmond to help govern e-mentoring interactions for mentors/mentees. Interested in devleoping a Code of Conduct for your program? Try to involve youth and mentors in the process of creating the code so that it functions as a set of community practices.
- Here’s a sample Virtual Etiquette for Mentors to help set expectations with mentors for e-mentoring. Programs can also involve youth and mentors in the process of creating guidelines for virtual etiquette.
- Looking for activity or curriculum ideas for e-mentoring? Check out our extended list of recommendations.
This training was designed for in-person mentoring programs that are considering pivoting to E-Mentoring in response to COVID-19. Topics covered include an overview of several technology platforms for E-Mentoring, risk management for E-Mentoring (including information about insurance, privacy laws, parental consent, and policies & procedures), and best practices for closing current matches if E-Mentoring is not a good fit for your program.
Part II: Best Practices for E-Mentoring
This training dives into the best practices for E-Mentoring in six key areas: recruitment, screening, training, matching & initiating, monitoring & support, and closure. Differences in best practices for E-Mentoring as compared to in-person mentoring are emphasized throughout.
Tips for Virtual Relationship Development
Prepare mentors and mentees for what it might be like to try to build a relationship virtually, especially if they had previously been involved in in-person mentoring through your program.
Help matches create a safe and open space for communication. If there’s flexibility in how matches can engage (such as through approved social media channels), encourage them to find a communication plan and style that feels safe and comfortable.
An important part of creating a safe space for program participants is to involve the same people in match meetings every time: the same staff, the same mentor(s), the same young people.
Consider the context that youth are bringing to your program. If they used to participate in your program in an in-person capacity, especially if they mentored in a space where other matches were meeting at the same time, a one-on-one virtual space with a mentor might feel really intimidating. Work with each young person to find a way for them to participate in virtual mentoring in a way that feels comfortable for them.
Coach mentors to focus on their mentee’s wellbeing above all else during mentoring sessions. If there is any flexibility, let mentors know that they can pivot away from the day’s plan (if there is one) to better meet the needs of their mentee in that moment. Letting mentees decide how they spend their time in the program whenever possible is good for relationship-building and engagement.
Be available to help matches work through communication or engagement challenges.
For mentoring interactions taking place over written text, coach mentors to use emoticons or emotionally-present language. For mentoring interactions taking place over video, coach mentors to talk slowly, use facial expressions, and use big gestures to help it feel more personal.
Encourage frequent interactions between mentors and mentees, if possible. A few interactions a month may not be frequent enough for meaningful relationships to develop. Weekly interactions are ideal.
Build a plan for monitoring interactions between mentors and mentees that balances the need to ensure safety with the need to maintain some semblance of privacy for matches. Trust may be hard to develop if the program’s monitoring feels invasive.
Consider establishing a consistent welcoming and/or closing ritual that stays the same across each mentoring session. This could mean starting or ending with a fun icebreaker question, a mindfulness exercise, an inspirational quote, a reflective activity, or an activity that ties into the day’s lesson plan. Consistency is key! Young people are experiencing a lot of change right now, and having something consistent to ground them can be a powerful way to build a safe, comfortable online environment.
Coach mentors to set expectations with their mentee around how quickly both parties are expected to respond to texts, emails, calls, or other forms of communication outside of standard program meetings. If mentors don’t respond right away, mentees might get the impression that their mentor doesn’t care about them. Setting the expectation on the front end with mentees that it may take 48 hours (or another agreed upon time) for a response can keep them from getting discouraged.
Building Developmental Relationships from a Distance
Tips for Virtually Engaging Young People
Combat “Zoom fatigue” by mixing on-video activities with off-video activities when possible. Encourage movement, scenery changes, activities that require motion, or stretch breaks to keep youth engaged. Coach mentors to make a habit of asking youth how they want to show up for mentoring each day so that mentors can meet youth where they are.
Research provided by Doug Fisher and John Hattie showed that young people don’t like seeing their own face on virtual platforms, which can be a barrier to e-mentoring. When youth have the option to be in a video meeting without having to look at their own face, it can reduce self-consciousness and increase engagement. Steer young people who are experiencing this challenge to technology with this capability. Here’s how to turn self-view off in Zoom.
More frequent interactions between matches for shorter durations of time can be an effective way to reduce “Zoom fatigue” and increase engagement with young people. The ability to send texts or short videos in between longer engagements, and to engage in online match meetings that are 30 minutes rather than 60 might help young people feel less overwhelmed by the mentoring program. The frequent back and forth can be more effective for relationship-building in the virtual space than less frequent, longer interactions.
One or a series of short activities, whether connected to a curriculum or theme, can be more engaging in a virtual environment than one long activity. Dead space while on a video meeting is really awkward; working within the attention spans of the youth in the program can help avoid it.
Avoid your virtual mentoring program feeling like work, which young people typically don’t enjoy. Try to cultivate mentoring as a time and space of reprieve from the realities and challenges of daily life.
Ask the young people in your program what they want from an e-mentoring experience–don’t just assume! As much as possible, try to structure the program around what young people have said they want and they will be more likely to engage. When possible, providing options for ways to engage in the program can be helpful while also encouraging youth to make decisions for themselves.
If families are an important part of youth engagement in your program, it could be really effective to poll families or to individually ask them what kind of e-mentoring they can manage. While it might create additional work, adapting your program whenever possible to meet the individual needs of families can go a long way in helping connect more young people to e-mentoring.
Family buy-in can be an important part of youth engagement in e-mentoring programs. Programs might want to consider having individual conversations with families, sending letters home, doing program orientations, or otherwise connecting with families to help them buy into it. If families have a relationship with your program, are included in the process, and value the program’s goals, they will be more likely to encourage their child(ren) to actively participate.
If young people are interested in it, consider offering some group-wide virtual activities with matches or just mentees even if group-work is not typically part of your program. This could be a space to just talk or to play fun games like trivia, game shows, or party games. Feeling connected to a larger mentoring community has its own benefits, and can help new matches feel more comfortable in the program.
Practice the technology that your program is using to facilitate e-mentoring with staff and even mentors before mentoring begins to ensure everyone knows how to use the bells and whistles.
Especially with elementary-aged students, activities that allow them to “show and tell” about meaningful things and people in their lives can be really great for engagement. Likewise, scavenger hunt games that require young people to go find things relevant to the day’s activity can be really exciting.
Use software like Flipgrid when possible to engage youth in the creation of videos or other forms of multimedia to supplement mentoring connections in a way that is fun and creative.
Use Google Slides or a similar software and encourage mentees and/or their mentors to create a digital scrapbook of their experiences. Using any form of media they want, they can keep track of things they’re learning, how they’re feeling about the things happening in their lives, things they’re looking forward to, happy moments in the program, etc. This kind of long-term, cumulative project can be a great way to encourage young people to see the program through to the end.
Frequent check-ins with young people and their families can help boost program engagement, but you have to meet them where they are whether that be calls, texts, emails, Snap Chats, or another form of communication. Reminders sent to families and/or young people prior to a mentoring session might be especially helpful.
Coach mentors to use the Developmental Relationships Framework to express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities with their mentee. Mentors can use this tipsheet from Search Institute on how they can build developmental relationships during the pandemic.
Individualize your engagement strategies whenever possible. Each child has individual needs, and they might need a different engagement strategy than their peers. Try some different strategies, and learn from what doesn’t work with each program participant.
When appropriate and equitable, consider offering incentives that encourage participation in the program. One idea is to offer incentives that rotate or change each week based on the week’s theme or focus. Another idea is to have a wishlist pre-created on Amazon full of items that may be appealing to youth in your program. Once per month (or at another interval), enter all the names of mentees who have met participation expectations into a raffle. Allow the winner to select an item off your Amazon wishlist and ship it to their house. Be sure to clearly communicate the participation expectations, and don’t count it against students when they are unable to attend for an accepted reason.
Reset your expectations for your program right now. Be grateful and excited for the youth participants that are able and are willing to engage in the ways you hope for, even if you had hoped for greater participation. Build on that small success as time goes on.
E-Mentoring in Virginia: Survey Results
Resources for Supporting Young People & Families
Distance Learning Resources
- ChildSavers: 3 Tips: How to Mentally Prepare Kids for Schools This Fall
- Child Mind Institute: Tips for Partnering with Teachers This School Year
- Child Mind Institute: How to Set Priorities This School Year
Information on Trauma & Resilience
- Fatherly: How “COVID-19 Kids” Will Recover from Trauma
- Aces Too High: What are Adverse Childhood Experiences & How Do They Impact Communities?
- Positive Psychology: 30+ Tips for Building Resilience in Children
- Child Mind Institute: How Anxiety Leads to Disruptive Behavior in Kids
- ChildSavers: Free Ongoing Opportunities for Trauma & Resilience Training
Supporting Young People Through Trauma & COVID-19
- MENTOR Virginia: Recording of Townhall on Supporting Young People & Families Through Trauma & COVID-19
- Zero to Three: Coronavirus Resources for Early Childhood Professionals
- MENTOR National: Supporting Young People in the Wake of Trauma
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Supporting Young People During the Coronavirus
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Helping Children with Traumatic Separation or Traumatic Grief Related to COVID-19
- Healthline: Toddlers to Teens: How to Help Kids Cope with Stress from COVID-19
- ChildTrends: Recommendations to Support & Protect Children’s Emotional Well-Being During the Pandemic
- Search Institute: Checklist: Tips for Building Developmental Relationships During COVID-19
Teens & Young Adults:
- Healthy Children: How to Help Teens During the Pandemic
- New York Times: 5 Ways to Helps Teens Manage Anxiety About the Coronavirus
- National PTA: Helping Teens Cope with Missed Milestones
Mindfulness & Breathing Activities for Kids
- ChildSavers: Self-Care for Kids by Age: Everything You Need to Know
- Positive Psychology: 25 Fun Mindfulness Activities for Kids & Teens
- Coping Skills for Kids: Resources for Calming Anxiety in Children
- Coping Skills for Kids: Deep-Breathing Exercises for Kids
- ChildSavers: Self-Care Exercises to Try with Kids
- ChildSavers: Calming Breathing Techniques for Kids
Resources to Help Families & Caregivers Cope with the Pandemic
- Child Mind Institute: Resources for Parents and Families
- ChildTrends: Resources for Parents and Caregivers
- ACEs Connection: Resources for Parenting with ACEs in a Pandemic
- ChildSavers: De-Escalation Tips for Parents and Caregivers
- Search Institute: How to Use the Pandemic to Teach Kids to Be Good Citizens
- Child Mind Institute: How to Avoid Passing Your Coronavirus Anxiety to Kids
- Child Mind Institute: Avoid Tantrums and Disruptive Behavior in Kids by Focusing on Transitions
Self-Care Resources for Parents, Caregivers, & Youth-Serving Professionals
- Child Mind Institute: Self-Care for Parents & Caregivers During Coronavirus
- Zero to Three: Mindfulness Exercises for Parents
- VCU: Free Artfulness Series for Self-Care
- Shine: Care for Your Coronavirus Anxieties
- Stay Home Take Care: Interactive Website for Social Distancing Self-Care
- US News: 35 Destinations You Can Virtually Explore
- InsightTimer: #1 Free App for Sleep, Relaxation, & More
- Digital Trends: The Best Yoga Apps for Android & iOS
Talking with Children About the Pandemic
- National Assoc. of School Psychologists: Talking to Children About Coronavirus
- NPR: Comic for Kids: Exploring the Coronavirus
- Virginia Public Radio: Tips to Help Kids Adjust to the “New Normal” of the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Cricket Media: Children’s Magazine on Pandemics
- BrainPop: Interactive Coronavirus Lesson for Kids
- Youth Service America: How Youth Can Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak: Ideas for Good
Supporting Young People While Standing Up Against Racism
The Search Institute has released a tipsheet on how to respond to fear and scapegoating with young people during the Coronavirus, rooted in the Developmental Relationships Framework . This tipsheet highlights how mentors and other nurturing adults in a child’s life can continue to express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities throughout the health crisis.
Virginia-Specific Resources for Children & Families
Health & Education Resources
- Virginia Department of Health: COVID-19 Information and Resources
- Virginia.Gov’s Resources for Coronavirus–includes resources specific to healthcare, public safety, education and childcare, benefits, employment, and business operations for Virginia residents
- Virginia Department of Education: Resources for Children & Families
- 2-1-1 Virginia: Search for Services in Virginia
Food Security Resources
- No Child Hungry: School Meal Finder
- Federation of Virginia Food Banks
- USDA: Find Meals When Schools are Closed
Equity & Access Resources
- #EdEquityVA’s COVID-19 Newsletter—contains coronavirus resources for students experiencing homelessness, EL and immigrant students, and students with disabilities
- Virginia Board for People with Disabilities’s Facebook Page–contains coronavirus resource links and posts for people with disabilities
- ChildSavers’ Ultimate List of RVA Coronavirus Resources–contains links to RVA resources for food distribution, assistance with bills and housing, and accessing other services during coronavirus
Coronavirus Resources from MENTOR National
MENTOR National’s Coronavirus Resource Page
Mentoring programs seeking additional resources can visit MENTOR National’s new Coronavirus Tips & Resources for Mentoring website page, which will be updated with new resources as they become available.
MENTOR National’s Virtual Mentoring Portal
The Virtual Mentoring Portal is dedicated to MENTOR National’s new initiative in response to COVID-19, which aims to provide mentoring programs with access to safe, monitored platforms for E-Mentoring. Access the Virtual Mentoring Portal here, and find information about the iCouldBe virtual mentoring platform and also find answers to many frequently asked questions about MENTOR National’s current and future efforts to support a national E-Mentoring movement.