Saturday, April 27, 2013

16 days......That's how many school days are left until the first End of Grade (EOG) test at my school.  Now if that number quickens your pulse or causes you to feel anxious, you are not alone!  I think most teachers, administrators, and school counselors are feeling a little overwhelmed at this time of year (or a lot!) because there is SO MUCH to do between now and the final day of school.  I, for one, just finished coordinating the final MAP assessments at my school for second through fifth grade students and now am trying to fit in all of my school counseling interventions before the next wave of testing hits.  Luckily, I have a fantastic co-counselor who is able to keep our comprehensive school counseling program on track during the testing times.  One of our ASCA (American School Counselor Association) plans this year is focused on creating small EOG groups for students who did not pass the third or fourth grade EOG the first time but did pass it the second time.  We figure those students are on the cusp of passing and our extra attention and support may be enough to help them pass on the first try.

 I used EOG initial and retest data to create the fourth and fifth grade groups.  My school had 15 fourth graders and 14 fifth graders that fit into our target group. My co-counselor sent parent permission letters home and we planned a 4-5 session group, depending on how quickly we can get through each topic.
My co-counselor made each student a small group book (something I do for every small group I run) so that they would have the information in a handy reference guide and could remember what we talked about after our group was over. The groups are being run during recess time and lunch time, depending on the grade level. The main topics we are focusing on are:

  • Routines for the nights before and days of the EOG (foods to eat, how to dress, when to go to bed and wake up)
  • Multiple Choice Strategies
  • Coping strategies if you get nervous 
These are all basic pieces of information that help students feel more confident and prepared when going into the EOG testing days.  They can also be presented as whole group lessons if you are able to get into third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms for guidance lessons prior to the EOG. My favorite parts of the group are:
The Test Plan
Each student has the opportunity to visualize and construct their ideal plan for EOG testing days after we discuss each topic.  By the end of the group, the test plan will be completely filled out and ready for students to review on the days leading up to the EOG.  We also encourage students to share their test plan with their parents so everyone can be on the same page on EOG days.

The EOG Fortune Teller
Even if we don't have enough time to complete AND fold the fortune teller in group, it is a FUN and EASY way to review all the strategies we have brainstormed in group.  The kids LOVE these paper games, and I have used them with everything from EOGs to conflict resolution strategies to friendship skills. The students often will take them to recess and help each other fold them after they have filled out each triangle in group. You can find an editable template here.

"I Have, Who Has?" Vocab Game
Icebreakers, games, and other fun activities keep EOG small groups from being another classroom lesson for kids whose favorite thing is probably NOT talking about tests during their recess or lunch period.   This vocabulary game emphasizes the keywords that students should be paying attention to, underlining, or circling when reading passages or word problems on the EOG.  You can make your own game by picking 25 common EOG vocabulary words.   Decide which word you will start the game with.  For example, you might put "In All" on the front of the card.  On the back you would write "I have In All.  Who has the word that is the answer to an addition or multiplication problem"?  The person with the word PRODUCT would stand up, show their word and read the back of their card.  "I have product.  Who has the word that is a number sentence"?  Then, "I have equation....." and so on until every student has the chance to stand up one or two times (depending on if you are using this game for a guidance lesson or small group).  The last person will say "The End" after they have shown the last word.  Kids get to stand up and down, everyone talks, and they have to pay attention to which word is being defined so it's a really engaging game!

End of Group Encouragers
Leave it to Pinterest to have the best ideas for encouraging and motivating students during the EOGs.  In our last session, my co-counselor and I will give a little treat to our small group students for working so hard to prepare themselves for the EOG.  Here are some of my favorites:

I also found THE BEST website called Keep Calm-O-Matic where you can create your very own "Keep Calm" poster and order other merchandise, too.  How cute will this image be on some postcard-sized cardstock with a positive thought message on the back from the school counselor???? Maybe the EOGs won't be so bad after all!

Happy Counseling!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Individual Data: KISS- Keep it Simple, School Counselor!

Data, data, data.  If you have been a counselor over the last 10 years, you have witnessed an EXPLOSION in the use of data with school counseling programs and the ASCA National Model.  It isn't enough to say that you met with 50 kids in one week, delivered ten classroom lessons, and met with five small groups.  You have to show that progress was made; students feel different, are acting differently, or are achieving different results because of YOUR interventions.  It can be daunting as a school counselor when you think of every student interaction in this way, and it can be easy to try and make data complicated.  But the key really is KISS- Keep It Simple, School Counselor!

Individual counseling is one of the areas where I have found it is difficult for me to consistently track data that is simple and easy to gather, especially if this issue is more social/emotional.  I am often fitting in students in 15-30 minute slots whenever I can and am responding to student crises before running to the next lesson, conference, small group, or testing session.  My tools for documenting change in students have evolved through the years, but I have finally found some that work for me.

The Kimochi Doll 

Students love my Kimochi doll! I don't know if it's the squishy body or the interactive pocket, but they are drawn to this cuddly stuffed animal. During the beginning of  individual counseling sessions, I explain what the Kimochi doll is and use it to see how students are feeling.  I document which feelings the student chooses and then compare the student's feelings between sessions or pre/post within one session. I ordered the Kimochi box set, which includes the doll, three basic feelings of Happy, Sad, and Mad, and a book entitled Cloud's Best Worst DayI also ordered the Kimochi mini mixed bag because I knew I would need a wider variety of feelings for my students.  The bag set includes feelings such as surprised, guilty, sleepy, excited, and embarrassed. I also LOVED the fact that there was a blank feeling face included so my students wouldn't be constrained by specific feeling choices.  I really haven't used the book, but that's mainly because I haven't taken the time to go through it. I feel certain there are applications for small group, classroom, or individual use once I make time to read it.

Playdoh Feeling Faces
I love using playdoh with younger students (sometimes older, too!) so I decided to create a sentence starter sheet that incorporates playdoh faces.  I ask students to create a happy face if things are going "great", a straight face if things are going "OK", or a sad face if things "are not going well" in each of the areas.  As a data tool, I document the faces students draw for the three areas each time we meet and compare the faces between sessions to ensure things are improving. In addition, this sheet really helps me to assess and pinpoint the areas of school that may be bothering a child the most.  Instead of spending 20 minutes talking about friends when home is the issue, I can zero in on the student's main concerns.  And in school counseling where our limited time is so valuable, that is key! 

Scaling Number Line
I use a lot of solution-focused counseling with my students.  I find that it is perfect for my busy schedule, which requires short individual counseling sessions, and for the majority of issues that come up with elementary students.  Scaling is a major component of solution-focused counseling, so I created a HUGE number line to use as a tool during my individual counseling sessions.  After students tell me what they want to happen with whatever problem they have, I ask students the "Miracle Question"- what if you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened? What would your goal look like if everything was perfect? What would I see you doing, hear you saying, etc.? Who would notice a miracle had happened? I explain to students that this miracle is the "10", and I have them rate for me where they currently are on the scale. Sometimes, I have students create a unique clothesline clip that they can use for months if I think I will be meeting with them more than a couple of times. Other times, I have them use my generic magnetic clip to show how thing are going with their "miracle".  I then document their scale on my Student Individual Counseling Sheet and we brainstorm strategies based on the student moving up ONE number on the scale.  I find that students love charting their progress on my number line, and it is a concrete way to track perception data for students (and for teachers- but more on that later!).

Happy Counseling!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Character Education Remix

If we are going to talk about character, then I need to be honest.  I love having fun in my job, and I often have no problem making a fool of myself in the process. It is clear that I was meant to be an elementary school counselor because the students still think I am cool no matter what crazy idea I try during their lessons.  I realize this fact would probably not be the case in middle or high school, so I'm thankful to be working with little ones who reward me with hugs no matter what.  Here are some fun ways you can spice up your character education lessons if you want to try something new!

Fairness - Judge Poovey

 It's amazing how excited students get when you come into their room in character.  For my Fairness lessons in second and third grades, I donned my graduation robe (knew that would come in handy again), borrowed a blow-up gavel, and transformed into JUDGE POOVEY to teach students what it means to be fair. We linked fairness to situations at our school and to situations in the news (Lance Armstrong) to decide what is fair and unfair.  Then, students brainstormed fair behaviors they should use at recess, in the classroom, at home, and on a team.  The best part, however, was when I entered and exited to the People's Court music using my IPAD, some external speakers, and an adapter.

People's Court Music

If you have an Ipad and want to play music during a lesson so that students can hear it, you just need a few things:  an external speaker that has a power cord with one USB end, an Ipad Camera Connection kit (or any adapter that can plug in and has a USB slot), and your Ipad.  Here is a picture to show how I set it up. 

Respect Rap

Another way I have used music to hook students at the beginning of a lesson is with the Respect Rap, an AWESOME YouTube Video that was created in neighboring Chapel Hill by the Fearless Lions at Frank Porter Graham Elementary.  Students from Kindergarten thru fifth grade absolutely  LOVE this video! It can be used in a respect lesson for character education, or I often use it when starting my bullying unit.  We spend a lesson talking about respect so that students will understand what replacement behaviors they should be showing if they are having a problem with conflict or bullying.  I always say that if we are only showing respect, we would never even have to talk about bullying.

Movie Video Clips -  Honesty and Courage

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video clip must be worth a million.  Any educator who has taught in school has seen how students perk up whenever they get to see a movie or video clip as part of instruction.  Again, I think that using video clips as a "hook" to start a lesson or illustrate a point can be really powerful for students (and teachers).  Here are a few that I have used this year for different character lessons.

Pinocchio:   I use this video clip to introduce the character trait of honesty.  I tell the students they are going to guess which character trait we will be discussing that day and then let them watch it.  We relate Pinnochio's nose growing to consequences you can receive at school and at home when you lie or steal. 

A Bug's Life:  If you start the video around 2:07 and show it for a short amount of time, you will see Flick and the princess show courage to stand up for themselves and the other ants.  I also made this cute activity sheet for my kindergarten students to help relate the lesson to their lives following this video and other discussion.

There is so much more to say about games, experiments, and more video clips, but I will leave that for another post. Happy Counseling!

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