W.I.N. time activities, especially for middle and high school students, can be incredibly beneficial. Why? These days, students’ lives are just as, if not more fast-paced than working adults’ routines! Within a 7-hour time range, a student may travel from as few as four to as many as eight academic subjects. That’s not including a 30- to 60-minute window for lunch and/or recess. But wait, there’s more! Many students engage in athletics, extracurriculars, or after-school jobs up through dinner time. Most of them also need to complete homework assignments or projects from class.

Children and teens crave routine and structure. They also need time to pursue their interests, explore their identities, and feel a sense of communal belonging. With all their commitments in and out of school, how are they supposed to attend to these important needs? This is where W.I.N. time comes in. But what exactly is it?

What is W.I.N. Time?

W.I.N stands for ‘what I need.’ W.I.N. time is a period of time during the school day that enables students to get what they need, when they need it. This could include academic support, social-emotional support, enrichment activities, passion projects, and more.

The beautiful aspect of W.I.N. time is that it can be as flexible or structured as schools need it to be. Schools can tailor W.I.N. time to a diverse range of populations and learning environments. W.I.N. can work for large or small populations. It can be useful in urban,  rural, and suburban areas. Private and public schools can enjoy W.I.N. time. Schools can schedule W.I.N. time in remote, hybrid, and in-person learning environments.

W.I.N. Time in Middle & High Schools

School staff organizing W.I.N. time need to consider their students’ developmental needs. How might schools use W.I.N. time to meet students’ needs that aren’t being met in the classroom? Within their social groups? At home? In the community? How might W.I.N. time enhance what schools, teachers, and families are already doing well?

Depending on the population and schedule of the school, it may make sense to schedule a single W.I.N. period in the middle of the day. Another option is to assign larger groups of students to 2-3 blocks of W.I.N. time.

Schools would be wise to involve students in designing a vision for W.I.N. time. At their age, they are becoming more curious, independent, and interested in forming their identities and opinions. Seeking student feedback on W.I.N. offerings and structuring is a great way to give them a sense of agency in their school experience.

W.I.N. Time Activities

Below, we’ve shared a spread of extracurricular activities, social emotional learning opportunities, and other academic interventions or enrichments that schools might offer during W.I.N. time. Activities can be student-led, staff-led, or involve both students and staff.  Potential W.I.N. time activities are by no means limited to what’s on this list.

1. Sports

After spending hours in desks, many students will crave the chance to move and release energy. Depending on available facilities, equipment, and staff supervision, schools can host the following games on a daily or rotating basis: basketball, dodgeball, kickball, outdoor volleyball, badminton, flag football, soccer, tennis, and more.

To incentivize students to make friends outside of their typical social groups, schools or student groups can organize tournaments with prizes for the winners.

2. Performing and Creative Arts

Some students get their energy out on the court; others seek a stage or canvas! The arts can be a wonderful creative outlet for students who struggle to do so in their academic courses.

Creative arts like drawing, painting, and sculpting can be relaxing. Performing arts like theatre, band, and dance can promote collaboration. Students can organize open mic sessions or talent shows that take place during lunch or W.I.N. time.

These activities give students of all backgrounds an opportunity to showcase their talents!

3. Clubs

There are plenty of activities for students with interests outside of sports and the arts: chess club, debate teams, student council, and grade-level groups are just a few. It can be difficult to appease everyone’s schedules after school. W.I.N. time can provide space for student groups to meet during the school day. If there are no available classrooms to hold meetings, the Library is a great place to get together.

4. School Culture

It’s easy to lose sight of school culture between the hustle and bustle of academics. There are endless opportunities to use W.I.N. time to foster camaraderie among students and staff.

Whether it’s through organizing school clean-up projects, designing community service efforts, hosting guest speakers, or setting up tournaments , schools would be remiss not to take advantage of time untethered to academic concerns.

5. Academic Intervention

W.I.N. time provides an obvious chance to build a strong school culture outside of the academic realm. For many students, it may be more appropriate for one-on-one help or small group tutoring. Some schools may make these interventions optional, allowing students to ‘drop-in’ on an as-needed basis.

This might be appropriate for students who have fallen behind in their coursework due to absences, or those who need extra help with a specific assignment or group project.

Other schools may establish thresholds that, when crossed, automatically assign a student to a specific teacher or content area. For example, schools may assign students with a grade below a 70 to attend help sessions on a given day of the week. Monday may be English Language Arts day. Tuesday may be mathematics day. Wednesday may be reserved for electives. Thursday can be dedicated to science. Friday may be for social studies.

This way, students with more than one grade below the cut-off point do not have to choose among content areas.

6. College Exploration and Application

High school students may appreciate time to dedicate to post-graduation research. Schools can organize sessions geared toward specific topics, like completing the FAFSA, writing strong application essays, and distinguishing among scholarships, grants, and student loans.

Students can use school resources to conduct their own research and create college portfolios. The school guidance counselors can invite representatives from college admissions departments to visit the school and share pertinent information during W.I.N. time. This reduces the need for families to use their own resources to travel to and from colleges.

7. Counseling Services

Speaking of guidance, W.I.N. time offers a clear opportunity for students to meet with caring, qualified adults — outside of class time — to talk about the challenges they are currently navigating. Some students avoid using school guidance resources because they’re concerned about missing class time or falling behind on assignments. Others feel that athletics, clubs, or job priorities come first, and thus, their mental health gets put on the back burner.

The guidance department can reserve specific days of the week for groups of the populations. For example, 9th graders may come in on Mondays, and 10th graders on Tuesday. Alternatively, guidance could open time for students based on their last names. Otherwise, an open door, flexible policy is always beneficial. T

The school guidance department can even host sessions geared toward specific topics like anxiety and depression, difficulty making friends, standing up against bullying or peer pressure.

8. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

One of the best ways to take advantage of W.I.N. time is to dedicate time, staff, and resources to the important skills students need — outside of the academic realm — to function and thrive. These skills involve self and social awareness, task initiation, and impulse control. SEL helps students learn about themselves, and develop empathy for others. W.I.N. time is a great opportunity for them to learn and work with mentors to develop these skills and work through their own emotions.

The Benefits of W.I.N. Time Activities

Many schools across the nation are experiencing the benefits of W.I.N. time. These benefits include higher student achievement, fewer disciplinary issues, an increase in prosocial behaviors, and a major shift in agency and responsibility from the teachers to the students.

Of course, a well-executed plan is necessary for students and staff to experience the benefits of W.I.N. time. Schools should maintain a regularly-updated schedule of W.I.N. time offerings. The schedule should be accessible to all students. All activities should be supervised by a school employee in order to keep students safe. Finally, it is wise to anticipate potential conflicts that may arise during W.I.N. time. Such conflicts may include fights, littering, vandalism, being off limits , cutting class, or skipping school. Students will need explicit guidance in how to make the most of W.I.N. time. Therefore, there should be a protocol to teach and reteach expectations for students.

With a carefully designed plan, dedicated staff supervision, buy-in, and wide range of offerings, W.I.N. time promises to be a win-win for students, staff, family members, and communities of all kinds of schools.