Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's the Final Countdown......Part I

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It's the final countdown (cue drums and bad 80s hair)....fourth quarter. I have 33 school days to support my students in reaching their goals, whether that means we are trying to improve a report card grade, pass the EOGs, avoid behavior referrals, or have better attendance; the time is now. So, what am I doing?

Right now 
I am using my report card conference form to review third quarter report cards and help students make fourth quarter goals for specific subjects. I will also be starting my test success small groups with third and fifth graders who need that extra push to pass the EOGs. The fifth graders are students who missed passing last year's EOG by one to two points, and the third graders are "bubble students" as determined by the "Beginning of Grade" (BOG) test data and mock EOG data.  

Do you see a theme here? All of these interventions require looking at data to determine who I should be supporting; they require data to determine what the next steps should be for students as they move toward their next goals.  The focus is on making progress, moving forward, and having a growth mindset.  Good teachers do a great job of using formative assessments to inform their interventions and drive instruction.  Counselors can do the same.

You may remember this goal-setting post from the beginning of the year where I used my new goal-setting form (FREEBIE NOW at my TPT store), SMARTboard slides,  and lesson plan to help fifth graders create goals for the year.  Most years, I help students create goals in September and then I move on, hoping, wishing, and crossing my fingers that they will reach them. This year I challenged myself to return to goal setting and do more.

Using Data:  The Objective
I decided I wanted to use minute meetings to follow up with students about their goals and collect qualitative data that would inform my next steps in supporting them with academics.  I knew I wouldn't have enough time to interview ALL 120+ fifth graders from ALL six classes so I worked to get a majority sample from a majority of the classes. I ended up talked to students from four out of the six classes.

The Plan
I had hoped to begin my minute meetings as soon as first quarter ended (end of November), but "school counseling" happened, and they didn't begin until December with the bulk of the meetings being completed in early January.

I created a Google survey to review goals with students and asked the following (see below):

  • Did you meet your first quarter goal?
  • If not, why not?
  • Do you have a new goal for third quarter?
  • What would help you most in reaching your goal?

The Outcome
Here is some of my survey data (I love the summary of responses view in Google!).  It was helpful for me to see that 37% of the students I interviewed did not meet their first quarter goal and 21% couldn't remember what their goal had been.  It validated my decision to return to goal setting and take time to collect formative data on how to support students best in my next steps.

As I talked to students about what skills would help them be most successful for the rest of the year (below), several habits became prominent:  Organization of Time, Study Skills, and Listening Skills. The "other" responses were typically students saying they needed help in TWO areas, which I typed out. After reviewing the percentages, written responses, and getting feedback from the classroom teachers, I decided to focus on study skills and organization of time.

Next Steps
I created two academic habits lessons for my fifth grade students, personalized to their needs. Teachers were given the option of having both lessons or choosing the one that best met their students' needs. Most of the teachers chose both lessons.  Part TWO of this post will review those lessons.

I was proud of the growth I made in using my data collection as a formative tool to drive my instruction and interventions.  Feeling comfortable with data and using it effectively is one of the great challenges that most school counselors face, myself included. I have gone from groaning when I am presented with data to getting excited about  it. My perception has shifted. I now realize that student data is not the end of the story; it's the the first paragraph of the next chapter as students continue their story.

Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What's Inside Your HeART??

Well, hello again.....I hope these spring months have been good to you and you have been recharged and rejuvenated over spring break. I know the break was a welcome chance to unplug and relax for me!!! I have been committed to prioritizing family & friend time and "ME" time in 2016, and I have really stuck to it!  Remember my New Year's post?! Of course, this commitment means the blog posts have not been plentiful, but when I do write, I hope you will find it useful.

March was a BUSY month for me, and I think that is typical for most school counselors. Students (and staff) are tired and ready for a break, and problem solving skills tend to deteriorate. There was a lot of student conflict, and I found myself using my mediation form and problem solving card OFTEN! I also taught some really fun diversity lessons to my grade levels, which I will share in a future post.  I saw a lot of students individually and got a chance to implement some of the skills I wrote about in my post from the ASCA conference last July.  In particular, I loved using the feeling heart from the Counseling with HeART session by Julie Ford to help students, especially younger ones, process their feelings

I start out by having students draw a heart and choose colors to represent each feeling. Then, they color in sections of the heart to represent how much of each feeling they currently have.  After brainstorming behavior strategies, disputing irrational thoughts, coming up with a solution-focused plan (or whatever theory I am currently using to help!), the student re-colors the heart to show if any feelings have changed.  You can also have the student reflect on the chart from one session to the next if it's a more complicated problem and needs more time to address. In addition to allowing the student to be growth-oriented and giving them a concrete visual that feelings can change and improve, it also provides awesome pre and post data for counselors! Check out some student examples below.

Heart Example #1:  In this example there is no feeling key, but the student colored in the following feelings:  Angry (red), Sad (blue), Happy (Purple), Scared (Green).  After our session, the student colored over half the red and all the green with purple to show increased happiness. We still had work to do on the rest of the anger and sadness, but it was a start!

Heart Example #2:  My second example does include a feelings key, which I really liked creating while the student and I talked about different feelings you can have. This student was feeling very angry when we started the counseling session. After working together, the student colored in about 75% of the heart purple to show we had figured out appropriate ways to get rid of angry feelings and feel more happy.  Again, we still had to work on that last 25%, but we had definite progress.

I liked this art feelings activity so much that I created a template I could pull out of my individual counseling folder anytime it would be useful for a student. I have found that having resource folders for common issues ----conflict, anger, friendship, family, perspective-taking, etc.---- in a hanging wall organizer helps me be ready when students come in with concerns. It also saves me a ton of time because I can quickly find a visual resource to help focus our individual session instead of creating something new each time and spinning my wheels. With so many students and so little time, it has become a great time-saver! 

For this template, you might have a younger student that only lists two or three feelings in the feelings key or an older student who is able to discriminate 4 or 5 feelings with different colors that need to be represented. I included six boxes for different colors, but you can always add more boxes. Hundreds of you got this freebie in its first weeks on TPT, and you can still find it here as part of my DOLLAR DAY items on my Life on the Fly TPT Store

Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

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