Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Say YES to MTSS!

TPT is having a sale- Click the image to see what you can scoop up for a discount at the Life on the Fly TPT Store!

RtI. MTSS. SST. SAT. A-Team.  The evolution of documented interventions and progress monitoring in school systems has been long and full of  paperwork. And no matter the acronym used in your county, Response to Intervention (RtI)/Multi-Tiered System Support (MTSS) is a process school counselors need to be involved in.  However, talking about RtI/MTSS isn't particularly exciting.  In fact, many school counselors prefer to not be overly involved in the process or only interact with the RtI/MTSS team when a student behavior issue arises.  You may only be called in to do an observation or help out with a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).  Wow.....there are A LOT of acronyms!

My experience with MTSS has been long and varied depending on my school and the personnel available. I have always been a part of the team but was not the coordinator until I switched schools a few years ago.  Although it does take up more of my time, I have found ways to turn my coordinator position into a win-win for my school counseling program.  Here's how:

1.  Use the Data:  Remember the post about my     3-5 report card conferences and my Stuey Lewis book club with second graders?  Those interventions were all based on MTSS data at the Tier 2 or Tier 3 level.   My co-counselor and I are also meeting with first and second grade students on Tier 2 about general academic habits such as homework hygiene and paying attention in an attempt to keep them from moving to Tier 3.  At my school, primary students have a developmental report card that is not as conducive to report card conferences. In addition,  many of the students I see in individual counseling have come to my attention through Tier 3 MTSS data.

2.   Collaborate and Consult with Teachers:  My monthly MTSS PLC time is often the only time I get to sit down with an entire grade level at one time.  Everyone's schedules are hectic and it is difficult to grab more than 5 minutes with someone as you walk down the hallway to your next lesson, much less an entire grade level.  We have set aside one day/month when all grade levels meet during their planning periods to discuss student data, intervention plans, and the MTSS process.  These conversations have been the catalyst for a new homework club I am starting with fifth graders (more to come on that in a future post!) and additional attendance interventions for students as teachers express their concerns.

3.   Learn About Academic Interventions:  Many school counselors were not teachers prior to entering this profession and sometimes we feel like we are at a disadvantage when we can't throw out educational jargon like TRC (Text to Reading Comprehension), ORF (Oral Reading Fluency), and phonemic awareness or talk about bubble maps with ease.  MTSS is a great place to learn! I didn't know a lot about Symbaloo's until I was in a MTSS meeting with a reading interventionist and now I use a Symbaloo Webmix for e-books when I do a computer lab lesson with my Kindergarten students. I certainly hadn't heard of the Florida Center for Reading Research prior to being involved in MTSS and now I can talk about reading interventions with any grade level.  No school counseling graduate program would have ever taught me that!

The point is, no matter the roles you undertake at your school, you can use them to your advantage in your comprehensive school counseling program.
           So think outside the box, keep learning, and Happy Counseling!
                             ~ Angela

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


                               File:Snowflake-black.png         File:Snowflake-black.png         

I'm home for a lovely #SNOWDAY!! If you are, too, check out the SNOW DAY SALE at my Life on the Fly TPT store.  I have already been doing my own online shopping this morning and thought I would include you in a Snow Sale.  If you have been eyeing one of my book club activity packs, lesson plans, or Smartboard files grab it for a 15% discount NOW!!! I also just added a Fairness Activity COMBO pack that I have been using in classroom lessons recently and will be adding other items throughout the day.
   ENJOY and Happy Counseling! ~  Angela

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom in STEM

Who doesn't love that catchy refrain "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom will there be enough room" in the children's classic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? The book  is one of those beloved stories that many children have on their bookshelves and most primary educators read to their students at some point in the school year. Back in the fall I got two grants for STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)  projects at my school, which included delivering some STEM lessons in the classroom. I decided to kick off my 2015 STEM lesson series in Kindergarten using Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  You may remember this 2014 STEM lesson I wrote about here.

My goal of the STEM lesson was to encourage creativity, teamwork, and problem solving while introducing the career of engineer.  I started off with this great YouTube video from a MIT student.

Although it used a lot of higher level vocabulary words and concepts, it kept the students' attention with its humor and engaging topic of creating a volleyball launcher. After all, what Kindergarten student wouldn't want to play with something like that?! The video did a great job of reviewing the design process and could easily be used all the way through 5th grade, if not further into middle school. To ensure it worked with Kindergarten students, I paused periodically throughout the video to explain what was happening and ask my Kindergarten students comprehension questions as they learned about becoming a design engineer for the day. 

Next, I read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  We did choral reading for the refrain to incorporate some literacy elements. After completing the story, we identified that the main problem was the letters falling off the tree. Then, we put on our imaginary design hats to become design engineers for the day! We got to work with the following steps to design our own letters that would NOT fall off of our tree (yes, there was a tree cut from my yard to bring that "wow" factor to the lesson--see below). Students worked in pairs to complete the project.

1)  Assigning the letter:  Each pair received a picture of an animal  (like the one to the right) and had to figure out the initial sound and letter to begin their project.

2)  Planning:  Each pair received a planning notebook for students to create their letter prototypes.  We talked about drawing "bubble letters" so we could create letters that we would be able to cut out of paper or cardboard like an ornament.  Some students used the planning drawing as a template and traced it for the final product while others used it solely for brainstorming.

3)  Designing:  Students received paperboard for their letter final product (think paperboard from cereal boxes, fruit snacks, etc. donated by parents) and completed the letter design.

 4)  Problem-Solving:  Students cut out their final version of the letter from the paperboard and had to brainstorm how they would use glue, yarn, and other scraps of cardboard to create something that would allow the letter to stay on the tree.

5)  Reflection/Modification:  Students tested their products.  We stopped often to do "sparkle alerts" to highlight students who were completing the steps and to show successful versions of hanging letters.  We also stopped to help teams brainstorm if they were struggling.  Once a few teams were able to come up with ideas, I encouraged students to try different ideas so they didn't all use the same yarn loop solution and continued to be creative.  The most common ways the students solved the problem were to tie the string through a letter opening (think P), tear a small hole in the letter for the yarn to create a loop, and use glue to paste one end of the yarn to the letter while tying the other end to the three. However, there were some "out of the box" ideas like using extra cardboard to create a hook for the letter or designing the letter in a way that created a hook for hanging.

6) Final Touches:  Students decorated their letters and hung them on the tree (check out a few examples below. It was flush with letters by the time all of my classes were through with the lessons).

This lesson took two to three class meetings depending on the class but was a fun way to talk about the job of an engineer and the engineering design process.  It also helped Kindergarten students practice teamwork, which is pretty hard at this age.  At the end of our lessons students had to rate their teamwork skills with a thumbs up, down, or sideways, and we reflected on how they could improve teamwork the following lesson using this teamwork checklist.

You may also enjoy this Voicethread I made as part of a professional development Moodle course I am completing in exchange for a Chromebook I was awarded earlier in the year.   Check back soon at my TPT store to see STEM center cards and these lesson resources if you want to incorporate STEM into your comprehensive school counseling program.
Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~  Angela

Saturday, February 7, 2015

SCW Days #4 and #5

The final days of School Counseling Week 2015 were a blast!  I finished making Kindness-Grams with my Kindergarten students during specials on Thursday and all the other grade levels had finished earlier in the week thanks to our awesome art teacher.  I love involving our specialists whenever we can! The Kindness-Gram postal ladies were in full force delivering the special messages around the school on Friday.  I know I absolutely loved reading the messages I received, and several other teachers shared how touched they were after receiving them. All in all, it was a great morale booster around the school!  I hope all of you enjoyed #NSCW 2015 and were able to highlight the importance of school counseling at your schools. Enjoy my final collages and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SCW Day #3

Today was our big event, the Kindness Cocoa Bar.   My co-counselor found this great recipe, and I made three crock pots full of hot chocolate overnight. The best part was the toppings, though:  caramel bits, peppermint, Ready-Whip, and jumbo heart marshmallows. It was a sugar lover's dream!  I even had some coffee-shop music from Pandora in the background.  Tons of staff members stopped by, so many that we will have to make at least four crock pots next year! This idea was so easy and fun that I can't wait to do it again. Here is my Day 4 collage for you to enjoy!           
                                                                                ~ Angela

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

SCW Day #2

Happy Tuesday! My highlights today were getting my first two complete RAK bingo cards.  I also began to put up the hearts that students have filled out during library time with words or pictures showing a Random Act of Kindness they have done this week.  Some of my favorites were "appreciating my family,"  "helping kids find books in the library," and "giving someone a hug."  Enjoy my collage from today! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

SCW Day #1

I'm going to try and give a day-by-day glimpse into my School Counseling Week 2015 this year.  Today the highlights were tweeting out my ASCA sign to #NCSW15 for the photo challenge, putting "Working with YOU makes us JOLLY" treats into the staff boxes with my co-counselor, and hanging compliment card sheets (find them on TPT), which were a big hit with the kids! I loved seeing a little Kindergarten student tear off a card that said "you are nice" and give it to our custodian. Priceless!! 

                                      Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

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