Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Friday Extravaganza

Gobble, gobble! Happy Thanksgiving to all of my lovely school counseling colleagues and blog readers out there. I hope you had a WONDERFUL day! As a THANK YOU to all of YOU, I am having a sale at my TPT store tomorrow. Everything is 15% off! Starts in 23 minutes........
   ~   Enjoy and Happy Shopping!  Angela

Monday, November 24, 2014

Plickers...Things That Make You Go HMMMMM............

      TPT Life on the Fly Store Black Friday Sale---Get Ready!!

Apparently I have been living under a rock because I had never heard of Plickers until last week when one of my lovely colleagues forwarded me an article about it. So, I feel like it is my duty to write about them just in case there are other poor school counselors like me who need to see the light.  Plickers are one of those technology tools that make me go HMMM.....First, because I don't really understand how they work;  Second, because I think the person who invented them is BRILLIANT;  Third, because I bet the people who sell the ultra-expensive clicker systems are probably pretty annoyed right now; Fourth, because they are going to totally revolutionize my classroom guidance lessons.

You see, I have talked in numerous blog posts about my data collection methods for pre and post tests in classroom guidance lessons. You may remember seeing something that looked like this when I talked about character trait lessons (right). 
I dutifully collect my pre and post numbers in EVERY class whatever the multiple question may be.  Typically, I ask students to put their heads down and raise their hand for the one answer choice they think is correct.  It has always worked fairly well although I frequently have to remind students about voting ONLY ONE TIME, keeping their eyes closed so they don't peek at others' votes, and raising their hands high so I can get an accurate count.  And then came Plickers......

If you go to their website there isn't a TON of information so I want to let you know how I set up this incredible tool for my lessons.  Disclaimer: You WILL NEED a smart device to use Plickers (iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc.)

1. Create a FREE account on
2. Go to the "Library" tab and type in the question you want to ask your students. You can have up to four multiple choice answers or make it a True/False question.
3. Underneath your question click "Add to Plan" and choose if you want to use the Demo class or add a new class.  (I kept it under Demo class the first time, but I plan on creating a class for each grade level I work with and adding specific questions to that grade level to keep it more organized.)
4. Click on the "Cards" tab and print out your Plicker cards. I chose to print the 40 card large font version since I will be using these with Kindergarten students as well as older students. I will use the SAME cards for each lesson.
5. Download the FREE Plicker App on your smart device.
6. In the app, click on the class where you saved the information so that you can see your question.  Then, press the CAMERA icon. 

At this point, you need to be in a classroom asking your question. Students will look at their unique Plicker code and decide if they think the correct answer is A, B, C, or D (I only had A-C answer choices for my second grade lesson so they ignored the D option).  Whatever answer they want to choose should be AT THE TOP of their Plicker code when they hold it up for you to scan (In the Plicker code at the top of this post, they would be choosing answer D).

Before you start scanning the students' answers, you can pull up the Plicker website on a Smartboard or LCD projector and click on "Live View." This view allows the students to see their answers being taken by your smart device as you walk around the room and scan the Plickers (right- Student View). If you only taught one class/one grade level you could also assign names to each Plicker card to assess who needed reteaching or remediation if that student picked the incorrect answer.  For my purposes, that would be way too time intensive so I just note who still doesn't have the right answer in my post test and check in with them later. Typically it is 2 kids MAX. 

The best part is revealing how the students did after you have scanned all the cards.  Click on the Graph View to see a chart like the one below.  If it's the pretest, you can discuss the results with students and have them predict how many students will have the correct answer AFTER the lesson.  Remember to make sure you are really emphasizing the correct answer and giving clear instruction so they have a chance to meet that goal!

So, there is my brief overview of Plickers.  Leave a comment if you think you can use this tool at your school! I would love to hear what you think.  Also, on a side note, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am truly thankful to have this blog to connect with all of you each day. 

Happy Turkey Day and Happy Counseling!  
~ Angela

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Academics are Aca-Awesome!

                                                                 *Image from Pinterest-

Can you believe we are already one nine weeks down for the 2014-2015 school year?! AND, we all know how quickly the weeks fly during the holiday season.  With that in mind, I am really increasing the intensity of my academic interventions this school year.  My fabulous co-counselor, Nicole, and I came up with two academic SMART goals for our comprehensive school counseling program this year in addition to our attendance and behavior goals.  If you are not using the ASCA Smart Goal worksheet to create program goals, check out this previous post and access info from my ABCs of the ASCA National Model presentation.  Links to many of the ASCA forms and examples can be found in it.

Our first overall program goal written in SMART goal format aims to increase EOG scores among third, fourth, and fifth grade students. Each year, I do homework clubs in the spring, which then transitions into EOG small groups for students who missed the passing EOG scale score by 1 or 2 points in Reading or Math. Most educators call them the "bubble kids."  We focus on coping with test anxiety, multiple choice strategies, test preparation habits, and goal setting for the upcoming EOGs.  However, this year I really wanted to include our K-2 students, too, when addressing academic success.  This year's goal, in general, is to decrease the number of K-2 students that come before the retention committee in June.  We have Closing the Gap Action Plans as well as other initiatives designed to meet this goal.  Here are a few of the interventions:

11.  Reading Readiness Book Clubs:  Typically my book clubs address primarily social/emotional issues with reading improvement as a pleasant side effect, but this year I am specifically targeting "bubble" second graders who are a level or two below their MCLASS benchmarks in reading fluency and comprehension.  I am starting with two second grade groups, a boy group and a girl group.  We will be reading the book The One and Only Stuey Lewis:  Other Stories from Second Grade.  I really loved this book when I previewed it because the main character, Stuey Lewis, provides a great model for young readers who lack confidence. Stuey is self-conscious about reading, hates being around "good readers," and needs lots of encouragement from his teacher at the beginning of the story. I  am predicting that  my students will be able to relate to him and will be able to do some vicarious learning as they see him persevere and totally change his attitude about school. I will also be emphasizing a growth mind-set by discussing Stuey and facilitating confidence building activities as we practice reading.
If you have read about my book clubs before, you know I always give the students "jobs" to give them a sense of ownership in the book club. This time,  I have added a WORD MASTER job so we can include vocabulary or word work while we read.  Anytime a student sees a word they don't recognize, they will smash this buzzer (left).  We will then add the word to our list, look up the meaning, and draw a picture to help us remember our new vocabulary word.  Pretty fun, huh?!

The best part of the book club is that I have definitely upped the "WOW" factor by getting new Kindle Fires for the students to use.  I requested six Kindle Fires and cases in a recent Donor's Choose Grant and had it fulfilled in about 24 hours!  If you haven't tried out Donor's Choose yet, you really should give it a try.  The key is promoting your project on Facebook, Twitter, email, and any other social media outlets you use.  I also plan on having popcorn parties, reading camp-outs, and other fun activities during the Stuey Lewis book clubs so I can avoid having these weekly lunches be another dreaded work time. Check out my 24-page Stuey Lewis Book Club Activity Pack here and get started on your own!


2.  Report Card Conferences: I am holding report card conferences with all of my RtI students and others I am concerned about following report cards going home last week. I have always had informal meetings with students about report cards, but this year I am using a specific, standard form with my students to help me stay organized.  Find it on TPT here.

3.  Retention Groups:  2014-2015 is the first year I have conducted retention groups with K-2 students.  I am working with second grade students who were retained and Nicole is working with first grade students. I will be sharing more about the structure of these groups in an upcoming post. 

I would love to hear about any academic interventions you are excited about this year.  Leave a comment!  ALSO, the first person to correctly identify the movie this blog post title is referencing will receive a free item of their choice from my Life on the Fly TPT Store....good luck!

Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~  Angela

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Are You READY?!!!

Rejuvenated.  Recharged.  READY to work hard to make my school the best it can be! That's always how I feel after returning home from the always fantastic NCSCA Conference.  This year was no different, and I wanted to share my highlights with you (in no particular order).

1.  Presenting my session "Help! I'm in the Specialist Rotation.....Now What?!".  I loved every minute of my 70 minute presentation to elementary counselors from all over NC.  My attendees asked great questions, were enthusiastic about the ideas I shared to help school counselors survive being specialists, and even stayed after my session was over to talk to me further. They ALSO indulged me and acted out my behavior management intro, "Body Basics",  that I use with my students (action shot to the right).  Several people asked about the Body Basics wording and you will find a video with the words and hand motions in this previous post.  As promised, my PowerPoint handout is available electronically to those who attended my session and all my other blog readers out there.  I think you will especially like the links at the end of the presentation to video clips, songs, and other multimedia resources that I frequently use in my classroom lessons to engage students.

2.  The Keynote from Dr. Carolyn Stone on Ethical and Legal Issues:  Let's be real, ethical and legal issues don't quicken my pulse or evoke any type of passionate response from me, but somehow Dr. Stone makes it FUN! She was witty, passionate, extremely knowledgeable, and an entertaining speaker.  It was a great chance to brush up on recent cases affecting school counselors, and the moral of the story is that you MUST ALWAYS consult when sticky situation arise in your school building.

3.  Roll-call:  I love roll call.  You get a sense of "oneness" with hundreds of other school counselors while they proudly represent their regional districts.  Capital region (my region) brought some noise with Tamara Gray, but I loved Tim Hardin's southwest region shout out and the TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?! finale from Dena Parson from the Central Region.

4. Mr. Kip Jones:  This TN school counselor is a man after my own heart.  His session was one of the best I have attended in my years at NCSCA simply because you can see how much he enjoys his job and the way he builds relationships with kids on their level.  Between his school raps, iMovie videos with characters in costume, and self-made books, I had lots of note taking to do during his session, and I left feeling ultra excited about incorporating his ideas in my school counseling program.  You can check out a trailer for his newest book The Power of Self- D below.

5.  Diane Senn:  I don't really need to say anything else, do I?! Diane Senn has been a go-to resource for me since I was in graduate school.  Every list of "must have" resources I share with new counselors or my PLC contains several of her books.  I am proud to say we can now claim her as a North Carolina counselor!  She also shared a fantastic resource packet with attendees at her session, which included tons of free activities from her publications.  I already downloaded the FREE Fluid app she shared to use in anxiety small groups or with students who need a calm-down strategy,

So, here's the real question, what do we do to harness all this enthusiasm into concrete actions to take once we return to school on Monday? It's all too easy to hear these great ideas at conference, feel overwhelmed once you return to school with voicemails and emails galore, and never implement any of the ideas that made you feel excited in the first place.  Sound familiar? Yeah, me too! So, I decided to CHUNK my conference notes this year (what's good for RtI/MTSS is good for me!).  I realistically reflected on what I already have going on at my school and committed to implementing a few ideas in the next couple of months, other ideas by the end of the year, and several ideas next year or further into the future.
I feel good about my plan and hope you will also harness your excitement from the NCSCA conference to prioritize the ideas you liked best.  After all, we already know the answer to this blog post title, ARE YOU READY?!!!  Of course you're ready! You just need to get organized, create a plan, and get going!
Good Luck and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October: Careers, College, and Costumes...Oh my!

Whew.....I have not written in three weeks, and I am ready to share! October has been a fun, busy, and eventful month at Cleveland Elementary.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we celebrate Career and College Month in October.  Be sure to check out some of my favorite career resources here if you are planning lessons.  This year, we had two Fridays where staff and students wore college shirts to promote their favorite teams or alma maters.  Teachers also had a blast decorating their doors for our door decorating contests. The winning doors were exceptional with either sound, light, 3D design, and/or student work being incorporated for a phenomenal display. Winning teachers were awarded a small gift card prize to recognize their awesome creativity and hard work, but ALL staff members who participated were given this little "treat" (below).

Our two first-place doors are below (ECU and NC State) as well as our second place doors (Meredith College).  The NC State door had paws going down the hall with recorded student voices making the wolf howl, and the ECU door had purple lights as well as student-made pirate faces to represent each child...very creative Ms. Troxler and Ms. Graham!

The Meredith doors created by our music teacher, Ms. Fitzgerald, were 3D with balloons, an iron gate, and clouds. Lovely!

For some extra fun this year, I asked teachers to complete a career interview so I could present trivia questions on the morning broadcast throughout the month.  It was a big hit, although next year I will have staff (including myself!) type their answers for ease of reading when students look for answers on my bulletin board.  I did add picture clues next to the interview sheets, which helped out a lot! Students were able to find the teachers who matched the trivia questions and put answers in a basket located in the media center.  I drew one correct answer for each question during the week to recognize the winning students, and they received a small prize.  I will add pictures of my bulletin board this coming week!

Red Ribbon Week fell within our Career and College Week so we linked a drug-free, healthy lifestyle to future education and career success on Career Dress Up Day.  I decided to dress up like a NASCAR race car driver and welcomed my "race fan students" with a floor sign as they came into the building from front carpool. It was a great way to start our Friday as I greeted lots of doctors, animal caretakers, professional athletes, business people, lawyers, and builders (as well as superheroes.....who knew you could get paid for that as an adult?!).

We also began our Career Cafe lunch events this week after completing our Holland's Theory lessons with each fifth grade class. Our first speaker, a fire chief,  represented the REALISTIC category.  We had approximely 25 fifth graders join him for lunch, and the best part was when the students got to try on all the fire gear at the end. I have decided to use an exit slip with the students during Career Cafe events this year so I can gather data on knowledge acquired by the students. I will be adding that slip and my Career Cafe invitation to my TPT store in the coming days. We have lined up future speakers to represent the other Holland's personality categories and have some extension activities planned, which I will share when they occur in December.

I hope my NC friends are gearing up for the NCSCA Conference next week in Greensboro where we will be able to advance our education through professional development.  The annual conference is such a great time to recharge and renew enthusiasm about our profession.  I will be presenting the session "Help! I'm in the Specialist Rotation....Now What?!" on Friday at 9am and would love to see you there. It will be a fun time!  For those of you not in NC, I'll be sure to share the highlights in a future blog post.

Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~Angela
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