Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I've got the MAGIC in me...........

I know we have a few more days before National School Counseling Week officially starts, but I feel like CELEBRATING early! It's a snow day in NC, which doesn't happen very often, and we actually got a decent accumulation. So, as I sit by my fireplace and write about school counselor's week, I want to celebrate you!!!  Next week, I hope people give you big high fives and write you notes telling you how great you are.  I hope kids draw you pictures and you get special treats. I hope your principal buys you lunch! However, even if no one else acknowledges you  (I speak from previous experience), know that you ARE making a difference and planting the seeds of change for many students.  Each time you greet someone with a smile during arrival, give a crying child a hug, or help a student solve a problem, you are making your school a happier, more caring place for kids.  So, think about how you want to highlight the great work you are doing and ponder these tips if you are still planning for School Counseling Week 2014.

1. Include students in your celebration.  Last year I handed out puzzle pieces to each of my classrooms and asked them to draw or write a picture of something they had learned from the school counselors. I got so many GREAT pictures back and then put the puzzle back together on a bulletin board. This year I am doing something similar so that everyone is included, but my individual pieces are going to create a different type of image. Just wait and see................

2.  Thank your teachers for being part of your SUCCESS as a school counselor!  It is very difficult to be a great school counselor unless you have good relationships with your teachers.  They are the rock stars who are on the front lines every day noticing the subtle changes in their students, seeing who walks in without a coat, alerting you if grades suddenly drop or if a child has a mark on his or her cheek.  Sure, we notice these things too, but we can't lay our eyes on every child every day like 40+ teachers can.  Good relationships with teachers also make planning your classroom guidance lessons, small group sessions, and individual counseling meetings SO.MUCH.EASIER. I appreciate my teachers who say "sure, take them" each time I ask for a student more than they know. So, thank them.  My co-counselor and I have been busy making preparations so we can host a small breakfast celebration the first day of School Counselor's Week. It is nothing fancy, but I hope my teachers know it is done with much love. Picture to come.......

3.  Have a theme!!! Let's just put it out there....themes are fun and get people excited. So, pick a theme. You can go with the ASCA theme ---- School Counselors: Building Magical Futures (hence the title of this post), borrow an idea from someone else, or come up with your own!! I piggybacked on the "magic" part of ASCA's theme this year but put my own spin on it.  You can DRESS UP to go with your theme (yes, I will be, of course!), use it to make something cutesy to put in your teachers' boxes, or simply incorporate it into a bulletin board. It can be simple! ASCA has some ideas here and you can join the ASCA SCENE discussion even if you are not an ASCA member.  Of course Pinterest has tons of ideas, too, so get pinning!

4. Say "Thank You."  Next week, if people tell you how great you are as a school counselor, just say "thank you" and smile. Sometimes school counselors don't own their "magic."  We would rather fly under the radar and just keep giving like we do every day. Resist the temptation to downplay yourself next week. Let your bucket be filled and enjoy it!

And just in case you need anything else to pump you up for next week.............
Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Challenge to Collaborate

The power of collaboration is one of my core beliefs as a school counselor. It is the reason I love being a PLC facilitator and was the driving factor for starting a blog. Every time I get an email from another counselor across the country or someone asks a question or comments on one of my posts, it creates a connection and exchange of new ideas that benefits everyone.  The power of social media and technology truly creates unending opportunities for educators (or any hobbyist or working person for that matter!).  It makes me wonder what I did before Pinterest, school counseling blogs, Twitter, and online!

On that note,  I wanted to share what some great school counselors are doing and have shared with me recently. I am flattered that my posts have prompted others to implement similar ideas, but more importantly, I am inspired by how others have taken ideas I have shared and made them even better!!

Anne Caudill, an awesome veteran counselor at Laurel Hill Elementary in Scotland County, NC,  emailed me and shared these pictures of a bulletin board she had made after reading about connecting Perseverance to goal setting in this post.  She also gave me a great kinesthetic lesson idea for careers and linking educational achievement to higher pay, which I will be sharing when I focus on careers again next year....fantastic!

Sarah Klimek from Centennial Elementary in North Dakota was in contact with me following my post about book clubs.  We emailed several times sharing resources, and she came up with an EXCELLENT question guide for Strange Case of Origami Yoda, which will add tremendously to the discussion of themes and social strategies that I already use with my students. Check out these cute activities she shared that can be incorporated into a book club session:

Turn these sentences into Yoda-speak:
 --You must read the book to find out.
--Learn to speak Jedi.  
--Clean your room.
-- Ask for a new bike.
--Go to bed early.

Compose an acronym with sentences that describe Dwight’s appearance and personality.







I'm also taking collaboration to heart as the editor of the NCSCA News Magazine.  I know not everyone has time or feels comfortable with writing a long article for our news magazine so I decided to try something different for the Spring issue. I am asking for "best resource" examples from counselors across NC in order to include a "Top 10 or 20" list from the experts who use these materials each day. Counselors can include bibliotherapy books, videos, counselor workbooks, or anything that has become a "go to" resource for them. I would like to open this up to my blog readers, too.  If you have a resource you could not live without in your professional work, please fill out the information below and share it with me.  I will include all shared resources in an upcoming blog post so EVERYONE has a chance to save the list for future PTA funds or school counseling purchases.  Happy Counseling Y'all! ~ Angela

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

QR Crazy!

It is official. I love QR codes and enjoy the creativity of using them to communicate with people in our school building.  In a previous Grants post , I shared that I had received money for mini iPads for my Technology Club. My fourth grade students have been using them a lot to show we are "tech savvy" with teachers, parents, administrators, and classmates.  We have had two parent nights recently and posted "Welcome Parents" QR codes as well as QR codes giving upcoming event information and ways parents could help our school (Box Tops, soup labels, etc.). 

I also have been using QR codes to do trivia challenges related to the character trait of the month.
Teachers can scan the QR codes to hear an audio file from the app Croak.It! I mentioned that app on my Tech-tacular  post awhile back and use it all the time for short messages.

However, the most intensive project I have done with QR codes is my "Scanvenger Hunt" lesson I used when teaching Holland's Theory to fifth graders during my Career Unit.  I spoke about this lesson at the NCSCA Conference in November and several people asked me about it afterwards, even asking if they could buy the PDF from me.

My first lesson of the Career Unit introduced Holland's Hexagon and explained how jobs and personality categories can match to help make individuals happier and more successful at work.  Then, students took an interest inventory to see what their two highest personality categories were. I gave them a few examples of jobs that could fit in each category.  

My second lesson was held in the media center during specials and my media specialist co-taught the lesson with me.  Each class was divided into six groups, one assigned to each personality category.  Each group received the following items:
  • A folder with the QR Scanvenger Hunt for their personality type inside
  • An iPad or iPod
  • A summary sheet to record the information they learned (a great way to document an increase in knowledge from the beginning of the Career Unit)
Students used their Smart device to explore their group's personality category and learn about a possible job or famous person in that specific category.  Each QR code took them directly to a website (like Wikipedia) for research information, a video, Bureau of Labor and Statistics information, an employer website, or audio files with messages about the personality category.

The media center ended up being a great location for the lesson because my school's security settings prevented the iPads from going to YouTube videos directly. Instead, students accessed the videos from desktop computers and then returned to their tables to continue work.  A classroom would also work well if you needed a desktop computer for this issue. However, I never experienced this problem at my previous school so I think it is just the way the WIFI is set up at my current school. I will admit, it was a LOT of work to create the "Scanvenger Hunt" for each of the six personality categories initially, but now I can use it every year.  The kids loved it, and it was so exciting to do something differrent and use "Smart" technology...the way  of the future! Many of you have 1:1 initiatives starting in your school districts so you could do something similar with your students.  If you are interested in getting the PDF file with all six personality "Scanvenger Hunts", summary sheets (pic above), and a User Guide, you can purchase it here
Feel free to email me if you have questions-
Happy Counseling! ~  Angela

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Disability Awareness

The character trait I highlight at my school in December is COMPASSION, and I typically focus my classrooms lessons on showing compassion even when people are different from us.  This year, I shifted my focus specifically to disabilities that can present differences among students or adults.

I have done lessons on disabilities in the past, but it has been several years so I started searching for activity ideas to supplement what I already knew I wanted to include.  I found two great PDF packets highlighting "Ability Awareness" activities.  One is from the Indiana Governor's Council for People with Disabilities found here and the other was written by Bev Adcock and Michael L. Remus and can be found here.

I presented the 45-50 minute lesson to all of my fourth grade classes and a couple of fifth grade classes.  However, I think it would also be successful with third graders towards the end of the school year and would be fantastic for middle school students.  My lessons were given during the students' lunch period plus 20 minutes, so I started out with a video clip as my "hook" after I introduced the idea of compassion with differences and disabilities. It was a great way to get the students' attention and also provided time for them to quickly eat before we started our "Ability Awareness" centers.  The video can be found at and viewed below.

 Pretty great, right?!! Following the video I asked the discussion questions below to address awkward or uncomfortable feelings the students had, especially if they have never been around students with cerebral palsy or other significant physical disabilities. I had several students in each class giggle nervously when the real Tyler started talking, and I found it helpful to bring this up instead of ignoring it. 

-  Was anyone surprised by this video? Why?
-  How did you feel when the real Tyler started talking?
-  How did you react when you had those feelings?
-  What could you do to show compassion towards Tyler or anyone with a disability? Is treating him like any other friend a way to show compassion?

We then began centers organized around the room. Each center had two or three activity choices and students were able to complete as many as possible in the 4 to 5 minutes they spent at the center. They had to complete the activity listed on their Center Activity Sheet (picture below) before moving on to additional activities. 

Center #1 --- Visual Disability
Students wrote their names in Braille on their summary sheets.  Then, they were able to work with a partner and guess the names of objects in the pumpkin pail while being blindfolded.

 Center #2 --- Physical Disability
Students had to put one hand behind their backs and pass out papers to their group members. They also had to attempt to tie their shoes using only one hand and answer a question on their center activity sheet about the experience.

 Center #3 --- Hearing Disability
Students had several choices of activities at this center. They could practice sign language with their name or other short words.  They also could practice lip reading with a partner using the questions provided.  Finally, I had a PBS movie playing with no sound, and they had to figure out what it was talking about.


Center #4 --- Language Differences
Students surveyed different languages spoken in schools/neighborhoods
at this center and discussed which ones they knew.  They also were
challenged to take a German test and asked to reflect how that felt on
their summary sheet.

Center #5 --- Learning Disability

Students deciphered backward sentences and also took
the Stroop Effect test at this center. This center was one
of my favorites because the impact of having to read more slowly and increase concentration to process words on the Stroop test was a powerful illustration of what it might be like if you had a reading disability.

Center #6 --- Disability Awareness in Pop Culture
The final center was created to help students be more aware of accomplished people, both past and present, who dealt with disabilities and overcame them.  Students had to match the person to the disability on the Smartboard.  The computer monitor view is below.  I used a variety of people such as Bethany Hamilton, Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Stevie Wonder, and Julia Roberts.

A focus on Disability Awareness could be incorporated with many character traits including RESPECT, FAIRNESS, or COURAGE.  Also, October seems to be Disability Awareness Month according to several websites...not that you have to wait until then!!!  As Tyler said in his video- you are probably in a position to make a difference in someone's life by practicing (and teaching) Ability Awareness.
Happy Counseling! ~ Angela
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