Monday, April 30, 2012

Great Book for "tween" girls to prepare/survive the middle school years

As my 5th graders end their year at elementary school, they will embark upon a new chapter in their lives...middle school!  This change in itself is difficult but especially more difficult for girls.  A book that I've added to my parent book list is The Drama Years by Haley Kilpatrick which discusses those awkward middle school years for girls:  dealing with drama, bullies,  name brands, body image and more.
Volunteering at the book table
We were very fortunate to have The Drama Years have a tour stop in Raleigh.  Counselor pal, Julia V. Taylor's school was hosting the event and she told me about it.  I thought that it sounded very interesting and would be great for 5th grade mothers/daughters at my school.  I then emailed parents of each 5th grade girl at my school to tell them about the event and how I thought it would be awesome.

The day of the event was great.  Anna (counselor intern) and I got to meet with Haley (who's super nice) and volunteered at her book table.  There was a great and diverse crowd of current elementary, middle and high school students with their moms (and a few dads).  Haley and 3 current high school students told their story of how their middle school years were difficult. Haley then shared how she started her Girl Talk Program despite being ridiculed by her peers.  She told the girls that they were not alone in their journey in growing up and that lessons would be learned as the journey progressed.  There was lots of audience participation and lots of questions from the girls in the audience.  I could tell that the girls and parents really enjoyed the event.  I had about 20 people from my school to attend and the day after the event both the students and parents told me how much they enjoyed the event and couldn't wait to start reading their book.
Girls "signing in" (these are actually some of my students).  If you can't read the question up top it says "what has been the most difficult obstacle you have face in middle school?"

Sharing middle school stories & giving reassurance that it's only temporary

Author Haley Kilpatrick, signs books
Anna (counselor intern), Haley & me
With counselor pal Julia V. Taylor

When parents come to you asking for resources to help their tween daughter deal with growing up, I recommend this book!  I liked this book so much that I asked my school librarian to order 3 copies for the school.  I know that many girls will benefit from reading this book.  They will know that middle school can be tough but know that it is survivable! 

What other books do you recommend for tween girls and their parents? Pin It

Friday, April 27, 2012

Farewell to counselor intern

Anna w/ students
 Wow the school year is truly flying by as it is now time for Anna Decker (counselor intern) to graduate. She has truly grown personally and professionally this year with us at JYJ. She has been a great addition to JYJ and I couldn't have had such a successful school year without her and all of her great ideas, expertise and creativity.  We were a fantastic counselor team and accomplished so much together.  Our students, staff and parents will truly miss her. We wish her well on her future school counselor endeavors. She will be an asset to any school that is lucky enough to have her. Congratulations on graduating Anna! Pin It

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Testing lesson for 1st time testers

Testing time is fast approaching which made an easy choice for our monthly counselor classroom visits.   We've been focusing on test taking tips, calming anxiety & doing your best.  Third graders at my school will experience state end of grade testing (EOG's) for the 1st time.  I can only imagine the pressure that these poor students are enduring.  Many moons ago when I was their age we took the California Achievement Test (CAT).  All my teacher (who was fantastic by the way) talked about was this CAT test and for a while I thought that the test was about actual cats!  The test was so talked up that pretty much every one in the class was a nervous wreck.  We certainly don't want our students to feel this way going into the test. 

I got ideas from counselor blogs from Danielle, Tabitha & Pinterest on test taking tips and did a combo on all three.  We started our lesson by reading the book Testing Miss Malarkey which I found a free e-book copy online.  Click here to download.  We used the iPad to show the book on the Promethan board  (using iPad VGA adapter) while we read the story (we also had students to volunteer to read, which they really liked).  After the story, we discussed test taking tips and strategies (most of the tips the teachers have been saying all year).  We then began to discuss ways to relax when taking the test and not letting the test get the best of them.  From here we had the students write one worry they had about taking the EOG's for the 1st time (we told them not to write their names on the index cards) and put all the cards in a box.  The box was called the EOG's worry box (thanks Tabitha for sharing your idea).  The idea was to allow students to see their worries about the test "go away".   We pulled some of the cards from the worry box and helped by offering suggestions on how to deal with the worry (in a general way).   After the relaxation and worry box activity, we handed out "parting gifts" which included us saying that they were smartie pants and handed out smarties candy and we gave out book marks with test taking strategies.  To download the book marks (free) click here (you will have to create an account but it takes no time. 

To make my worry box, I used an empty cereal box and covered it using wrapping paper.

Cereal box & wrapping paper

 I typed the words "EOG worry box" in Word using Chalkduster font, size 72 with a green font text color.  I used a ruler to measure what to trim while cutting.

Printed copy of Worry Box labels.  I used a ruler to measure what to trim.

Worry box labels cut out

I then printed and glued the words onto the box using mod podge.  I also painted a layer of the mod podge over the entire box.  Total cost for the project = $0, I already had all of the items!  Here's the finished product!

Here are some of the worries from the worry box

Let the testing season begin.  What ideas or lessons do you use when sharing testing tips/strategies with your students?

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Target Dollar Spot = Dangerous!

I usually consider myself a pretty savvy shopper, you know going into stores with a plan, not really an impulsive buyer.  Well friends, that wasn't quite the case in a recent trip to Target.  My original plan was to get 3 bags of smarties candy to use for my test anxiety lesson for my 3rd grade class visits.
So I walk into the store and what's the 1st thing that I see...the dollar spot!  Now I usually (quickly) browse through that section and continue on my shopping plans but there were so many school counselor goodies that I had to tell myself out loud "you need to get away from here!"  Here's my great finds in the dollar spot:
Beach ball to toss & use for ice-breaker questions. 
Easter eggs (these were actually 49 cents, after Easter sale) that I will use for another ice-breaker getting to know you activity.
Fun animal masks, great for role playing in both small & large groups.

Fun dough, I actually bought 2 of these.  1 for me & 1 for the counselor intern.

I actually had more things in my basket, but convinced myself that some things (even if they're only $1) were just not needed.

So will you be making a special trip to the dollar spot?  Have you found any other places that have great affordable counselor goodies? Pin It

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Top 10 iPad counselor apps

Many of us are now getting and using iPads in our schools.  They certainly make a great addition to our programs!  I now find that I use mine fairly regularly (some days more than others, it just depends on the day).  I'm often asked about which apps that I recommend to school counselors and how they are used.  So here's my list (in no particular order).  Most of these apps are free, however,  for the few apps that I bought, I used an iTunes gift card (put that on your school wish list for next year). 

-Scribble Press (free): Story creating app that students really enjoy!  The stories are pre-made and the students can fill in the blanks with their info.  Can be used as a getting to know you activity in both individual and group settings (in a group setting this would be great to use for those of you that have school sets of iPod touches).

-Puppet Pals HD (free but there's a paid $2.99 version): My students LOVE this app, another story creation app where students can take pictures of themselves from the iPad camera roll and insert themselves into a story.  There was so much interest from the students in this app that I purchased the $2.99 version.  It was well worth it. 

-Dragon Dictation (free): Need a break from typing on the smaller (and sometimes difficult) iPad keyboard?  Just speak and dragon will transfer your voice into written text.  I know of counselors that record notes and reminders for themselves using Dragon. You can edit, save & email those notes.  When I taught computer applications classes, we did a unit on using Dragon and it has come a LONG way, it's so much better now.

-iReward lite (free but there's a paid $3.99 version): I've used a sticker chart during my groups to keep track of behaviors of students and offered a reward once they earned a certain number of stars.  Well just imagine that being kept track on the iPad.  You can take their picture, set up each student and easily keep track of their stars.  This also is great to use for groups using iPod touches, because the iReward app can be synched on several devices.

-CloudOn (free):  Awesome app that allows you to open, edit, create and save Microsoft office documents.  CloudOn also synches with Dropbox so you can easily access your files.

-Pulse (free):  This is one of my favorite apps!  Read all your favorite news feeds, tweets  and blogs in one spot.  I use Pulse to read all of my counselor blogs that I follow.  I can't say enough about this app.   
-Dropbox (free):  If you already have a Dropbox account, another way to access your files.  For those of you not familiar with Dropbox, it's free online storage for pictures, files, documents.  I use Dropbox every day.

-Blogger (free): Many us are blogging (or are planning to blog).  This is the app to do so.  I'll admit that I don't actually type my blog posts on my iPad (I like the keyboard of my laptop) but when I take pictures I usually use my iPad and I can easily upload the pic to the blog using this app.  There's also an app for those of you that use WordPress.

-TeacherPal (free):  This is great to organize groups and keep track of who's in which group.

-Breathe2Relax (free): Neat calm app that helps students inhale and exhale with their breathing to relax or calm down.

-You can handle them all ($1.99):  Great tips on how to handle children's inappropriate behaviors.  This app is so popular/helpful that all the school psychologists in my district have iPads and this app is on each one!  

For more apps and info on using the iPad check out the school counselor iPad wiki. Pin It

Monday, April 9, 2012

Goal setting lesson

Our 4th grade classroom visit (some school counselors would call this classroom guidance, but I detest the word "guidance" it's so 80's but just to clarify for anyone confused) lesson this month  is on making and setting goals.  Anna (counselor intern) created an awesome lesson on using the book "Oh the Places You Will Go" by Dr. Seus.  To no surprise most of the students said "oh, I already know this story" but I ask them "so what's it about" and I get the blank stare and a few mumbles.  Anna & I talk about how goals tie into this story and how setting goals is important.  As mentioned in the book sometimes in life things go great and somethings things go not so great, but it is up to you to continue to push and try your best.

Screen Shot of Prezi (created by Anna Decker, counselor intern)
We added a little technology spin on this (of course we LOVE using technology) by creating a Prezi  (using the free Prezi viewer app) on goals and instead of reading the story ourselves we bought the book app in the Apple App Store ($3.99) and chose "auto play" where the book automatically reads and turns the pages, almost like a movie!  This feature reads much better and faster than either one of us could do (& there are sound effects).  After the presentation and book reading (which the students LOVED) we gave them a worksheet where they were to write 2 attainable goals that they wanted to set for themselves to work towards and complete by next year when they are 5th graders.  Spring 2013, I will give the students back these same goal sheets and they will be able to see if they achieved their goals.  Here's a rundown of what was used during this lesson:

-iPad 2
-iPad VGA adapter (adapter will not work on 1st generation iPad)
-Prezi View App
-Oh the Places You'll Go App
-Goal planning & setting worksheet Pin It

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Simple fix for empty corkboard

This winter, we had warm temperatures (I'm not complaining, I loved the weather) so I decided to start my spring cleaning at home a little early. I've also decided that this cleaning can carry over to my home away from home (counselor's office). There are many ideas and things that I want to do and my wheels are spinning full speed! As they spin, I've realized the following things...#1: I'm not that crafty (my solo painting project several years ago resulted in me having to hire someone to fix all the errors that I made) #2: I like to take short cuts (see #1), #3: These projects will have to be done on a serious budget (you know HGTV's Design on a Dime, well this will have to be Design on a Nickel or even a Penny).

So in my spring cleaning at home, I found 2 cork boards that were pleading to be updated. I remember these boards oh so well, I got them for free my very 1st year teaching at a workshop, which shows it's been some time since that I'm no longer a teacher but now a school counselor. After a quick coat of white acrylic paint (which I also found in my cleaning), I sprayed the cork on the board with adhesive spray ($4.00 w/ coupon at Micheal's) let it sit for 1 min, then applied some fabric that I got from Jo-Ann's ($8 w/ teacher coupon).  A quick & fairly simple update project. Since I had 2 boards, I'm keeping one board at each of my "homes".

Cork board (free)
Adhesive Spray
Acrylic White Paint
Finished Product!
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