Sunday, March 29, 2015

How to do Homework Without Throwing Up!

Perhaps you've seen this catchy Trevor Romain title that deals with getting kids over the homework hump (there's also a DVD version!).   Many kids and their parents would agree with this sentiment, especially my upper elementary students. There are so many philosophies out there about homework: Should we have it, should we not? How much is helpful? How much is too much?  I like this article about homework and especially the two reflection questions about whether the assigned homework is getting kids more excited about learning and supporting deeper thinking on the subject matter.

So, why am I talking about homework as a school counselor?! You may remember my post about report card conferences and my interventions to support academics this school year.  There has been a recurring theme in my talks with students and teachers.  Missing homework assignments and lack of effort on homework is significantly impacting students' grades.  It seems as if it's time for a pep talk (and yes, I have shown this video to my students!):

Did that  make you feel better?! Now, get ready to complete and UNDERSTAND some homework in Groovy Mrs. Poovey's homework club!  In previous years, I have always implemented homework clubs for 3 or 4 weeks before I begin my EOG groups (group booklet coming to TPT soon!) so I can get a clear picture of what students are excelling on or struggling with before we work on EOG strategies. This year, I am supporting students in homework club for a longer amount of time.  We have already been meeting for three weeks and will probably meet 2 or 3 more times before we start our formal EOG sessions.  In addition, I usually only include students in my homework clubs and EOG groups that have missed the passing scale score for the Reading or Math EOG by one or two points.  This year, I am allowing teacher referrals for my fifth grade homework club and have 20+ students each week. Only the "bubble" students will continue to the EOG sessions, but everyone will have classroom EOG lessons.  So, how am I running homework club?

1.  Start with data.  Talk to your teachers, go through PowerSchools with them, and identify the kids who truly need homework club support.  My third and fourth grade homework clubs are only the 5 or 6 kids who were identified as "on the bubble" with EOG scale scores, and it is manageable. My 20+ kids in fifth grade homework club require more energy so make sure you have the kids who will benefit most.  Another unfortunate source of data may be "write-ups". My school's discipline policy states that students with 3+ missed homework assignment will receive a parent notification, and I receive copies of all of those infractions so I am always aware of the students who are struggling to turn in homework.

2.  Talk to the students.  I gave my fifth grade homework club kids this Google survey (right) during our first

meeting because I think it's important to hear what STUDENTS think is the problem. It was interesting to read what they thought was hardest about homework and what was keeping them from doing homework (distractions, sports, pets, video games).....very enlightening!

3.  Use incentives and make it FUN.  Doing homework during lunchtime once a week is probably not on the top of my students' favorite things list so I try to make it fun.  I started homework club by giving out V.I.P., Very Intelligent Person, passes the first week to set the right tone (see above example). I also pick a Person of the Day who has shown the most focus and determination to complete work.  They receive a STAR ticket (our positive reinforcement system), which results in an automatic prize from my office. This week I am going to try some fun background music from my favorite station on Pandora, Eklipse (check it out!).  I am also keeping weekly attendance and students who make it for a fourth consecutive time to club this week will receive an extra special Easter treat.
Hit me up via email  - if you have additional questions about my homework club structure.  I am happy to share any other details I may not have covered in this post.
Enjoy and Happy Counseling!
                    ~ Angela

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's MADNESS......

March School Madness
I'm not just talking about bracketology, my friends.  This is the time of the year when I feel like I need an extra shot of espresso in the morning (I don't even drink coffee) and wheels on my feet, and I am not the only one.  Everyone is counting down to spring break and needs a pick me up! So, here is what I am doing to keep the spirit alive for the next 15 days until our abbreviated (thank you SNOW) Spring break occurs.


Do you remember my Easter egg hunt from last year?  It is back and better than ever thanks to my principal coming through with some delicious treats.  I am still including my funny and inspirational quotes (e.g. Ryan Gosling among others) and hope to spread some cheer the week before break.

We are also doing our own March Madness brackets for bragging rights (and maybe a small gag gift) with staff.  The brackets were due today and points will be updated after each round in our staff mailroom.  I'm hoping to get my College Madness bulletin board back up like last year with the team mascots, but did I mention my "to do list" has its own madness going on right now?! (#nopromises)


Ever since attending a session at the November NCSCA conference with the entertaining Mr. Kip Jones (Tweet him at @AuthorMrJ), I have had my heart set on coming up with a school pledge and school theme song.  Back in December I proposed an essay contest for any students who wanted to answer the following questions:
       1- What does it mean to you to be a Cleveland STAR?
       2- What is special about being a Cleveland STAR?

I got great answers from a group of third and fourth graders who have amazing school spirit. We have been working the last couple of months to summarize their essays into a concrete and succinct school pledge.  After it was complete, our art club decorated the pledges (pic coming soon), which were then laminated and handed out to each classroom to be posted.

Next was the more difficult part. One of our third graders picked the perfect tune for our theme song, and we got to work writing lyrics.  We used Audacity (free download) on the computer to record and edit our vocals.  Then, we imported the track into the iMovie app and added video clips of the performers.  Fifth grade students applied to be dancers in the video and added the perfect dance moves to give our video some extra flair.  It was a lot of work with the limited technology available, but I hope you will enjoy  our final product. The kids worked really hard, and I am super proud of
them!   Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

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