Using Preferred Activity Time (PAT) in OST programs

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Preferred Activity Time in OST

If you’re looking for a way to tighten your transitions, hold youth more accountable for time wasted, or give youth a sense of ownership over your program, implementing Fred Jones’ concept of Preferred Activity Time (PAT) may be the answer.

Many school day teachers implement PAT, as outlined in Fred Jones’ book, Tools for Teaching. The beauty of PAT is that you can easily apply it to any classroom management systems that you already have in place. For classroom teachers, PAT usually happens at the end of the week, but can be at the end of the day for younger youth, and typically involves fun academic games, such as Jeopardy.

Many OST programs implement a Fun Friday, which looks a lot like PAT. In PAT, youth can earn and lose time as a group. The amount of time earned, is how long PAT or Fun Friday will last. It is NOT meant as a way to punish the whole group for individual behaviors (don’t do that). This video demonstrates a few ways PAT can be implemented, but the possibilities are endless. For more ideas on fun academic activities for PAT, check out the PAT Bank.


Maybe you have a group in your program that takes a really long time to clean up after snack. The group leader says, “Class, you have 10 minutes to clean up. Any remaining time will be added to your PAT”. If the group completes the task within the designated time frame, the group leader will instruct a youth to add the time to a running tally on the program’s trifold. Similarly, if the task took the group 11 minutes, the group would lose a minute of their PAT. Just be careful, because you want youth to always come out having a positive amount of PAT.


If your youth are having trouble bringing their homework to program, build it into your PAT system. For example a group leader could structure a system where if all youth bring their homework, the group gets 3 bonus PAT minutes. If the majority of the group brings their homework, the group gets 2 bonus PAT minutes and so on.

The beauty of PAT is that it is flexible enough to work for your program, youth, and group leader’s needs all while instilling the importance of using time efficiently. If you would like to learn more about Preferred Activity Time, check out Fred Jones’ book, Tools for Teaching. 

by: Ariel Zander

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