Wednesday, October 21, 2015

No Bullies Allowed!

It is October and time for bullying prevention awareness activities in schools everywhere! Should October be the only time we talk about bullying prevention?! NO! But, is it a great time to teach students how to handle bullying and prepare them for the potential threat of bullying?! Of course!  At our school, my co-counselor and I created a schedule of events for the month.  We sent out a memo to parents and staff at the end of September so they could gear up for the  upcoming bullying prevention activities.

We chose to wear blue and STOMP out bullying on October 5th as part of the national recognition day. Then, we held our spirit week October 12th-16th.  Check out our daily themes above and how students participated below!

Those were fun days especially crazy sock day with my Wonder Woman cape socks (yes, you need some!), but the bulk of my emphasis has been on weekly guidance lessons in first, third, and fifth grade classrooms.

I showed my all-time favorite RESPECT RAP on the morning show to students and was able to use it as a jumping off point when I made FRIENDSHIP PIZZAS with my first graders. I have written about this lesson before here and finally put my lesson plan and SMART board notebook file on TPT. Download it NOW because the lesson plan is FREE for the next 48 hours!!! 

In third and fifth grades I used the Steps to Respect Curriculum from the Committee for Children (makers of Second Step). I still haven't found anything I like better!  I created my own Smartboard lessons teaching the 3 Rs, Recognize, Refuse, and Report. I love incorporating movie clips when we are learning how to RECOGNIZE the  bullying definition.  This year I used two video clips --the Sneetches and A Christmas Story-- to process the three essential bullying definition questions:
1)  Is it one-sided?
2)  Does it keep happening?
3)  Is it hurting, frightening, threatening, or leaving someone out on purpose?

The Sneetches clip was a new addition, and it worked out  really well. I even added the cartoon figures to my bullying prevention bulletin board so students would have a visual reminder of the 3 Rs and the refusing words.

I intentionally left a lot of clear space on this board because 3-5 students have been challenged to integrate what they have learned in the Steps to Respect lessons into original work products like posters, cartoons, poems, songs, raps, or any other creative work.  I will post any entries I get and PTO donated "bucket filler"  spirit sticks that I can give for participation prizes. Do you know about spirit sticks?! They are ultra popular at my school this year!

I brought back my Friendship Pizza bulletin board, too, with a few changes like teacher pics....the kids always get a kick out of them!

Our final week in October will include sharing bullying statistics on the morning show and a scavenger hunt on the playground for "NO BULLYING" cards just to keep bullying prevention on students' minds.  What have you been doing this month?! I would love to hear!
Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Saturday, October 3, 2015


I hope John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, will forgive me for hijacking his quote and changing it to convey the emphasis I place on the school counselor's role in a school,but it's important to reflect, how are you affecting your school's climate as a school counselor? Are you being a motivator, welcomer, change agent, and lifeline for the students in your schools? 

This year the theme of the NC School Counselor's Conference is "Game Changers" (awesome theme, Christy Welch!), which is a perfect way to depict what school counselors can represent to the students they work with each day. So, how have you been changing the game the first six weeks of school? Are you the quarterback leading the charge to try new plays, pull out the Puntrooskie (FSU fans will know what I mean. Can't believe I got to use that in a blog post), and score the extra point? Or, are you waiting around for the fourth quarter?  Part of being an effective school counselor is preparing your students for the game before they have to do the two minute drill.  

Glimpses from the Field.....
As I work to proactively prepare students for the new school year, I have been working on many different school success habits.

Goal setting:  Several weeks ago, I got this great tweet.  I was just about to start my annual goal setting lessons, and it reminded me how much fun it is to do this goal setting icebreaker, especially when students can go outside and have some fun tossing around beanbags. Although I usually save this activity for small groups, I have awesome fifth grade teachers and students this year who could totally handle a fun "hook" before we got into the nitty gritty of our SMART GOALS lesson. In discussing "just right" goals we simulated goals that were too easy (basket right beside the student), goals that were too hard (basket 30 feet away), undefined goals and action plans (eyes closed to throw the beanbag in the basket), a "just right" goal (6 foot toss in the basket), and goals with support (adult holding the basket as the student shot).

I also changed my fifth-grade goal setting sheet (coming soon to TPT) into a 3-column tracking sheet so that I can have better follow through during the year to help students monitor their goals. How often have I had students set goals and then not facilitated going back to them to see if their action plans are successful? On my new sheet, students defined the SMART acronym so they don't forget it and then wrote their goal and action steps in column 1. Columns 2 and 3 will be used for "minute-meeting" check-ins in Nov/Dec and March/April to make sure students are still on the right track. As the year passes, new goals will be written or current goals will be modified. I have a copy of every students' sheet and so does the student.  At the end of the lesson we brainstormed the best places to keep the sheet so students will be reminded of their goal on a daily/weekly basis.

For third-grade students, I incorporated a new goal game into my Perseverance/goal setting lessons to provide better modeling of all the different types of goals students can and will have throughout their lives.  I introduced the categories of personal/hobby, career/college, and academic goals and also distinguished between true specific goals and a wish (winning the lottery).  It was a concrete, fun way to check for students' understanding after introducing the idea of goal-setting.  We still used lemons to represent obstacles and ended the lesson with lemonade as we brainstormed strategies that would help students reach their goals and never give up. 

Attendance Awareness: Good attendance is a true game changer for kids with unnecessary, chronic absences. I always implement attendance interventions as a school counselor, but this year was the first year I participated in "Attendance Awareness" month. My county recommended the website for some great resources. Each week I shared attendance statistics on the morning show and gave "shout outs" to classes with no absences or those who only had one student absence. The first week we only had 1 class with perfect attendance (blue letters on the bulletin board) so the class got an extra special recess with ME! By the end of the month we had the most class "shout outs" with 13 classes the final week, almost 1/3 of our total classrooms. Classes also received badges on their door to recognize their accomplishment each week. One lucky class made it on the board EVERY WEEK in September and will be spending a fun recess with me to celebrate.

As the weeks progress and absences increase, I will also be starting an Attendance Club to see if daily monitoring, lunch groups, attendance goal setting, and organizational strategies can positively impact attendance data.  

New Students: How are you supporting the new kids on the team?  It is amazing how new student lunch bunches or any lunch bunches quickly help you develop relationships and figure out what is happening in classrooms. I often get referrals for individual counseling from conversations that occur during these lunch groups. This year, I met with all of the new students in my upper grade levels (3rd/5th) after presenting my Introduction to the School Counselor lessons. We did an icebreaker, played new student bingo, discussed the transition with a few small group question rounds, and ended by having students add their names to this bulletin board welcoming them.  I found some great white and metallic chalk markers so names would "pop" out from the black bulletin board paper (in the space to the right of the map).  They also added a sticker on the state/city they had moved from on the map as our administration and school counselor bobble heads cheered them on!

I love football and have enjoyed this analogy to help me stress the importance of a school counselor's role in making each day a great one for students. You may be the one coach that can get through to your players so I hope you will "lace up" and get in the game as the school season continues. #notimefortimeouts #gamechangers

Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

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