Friday, September 28, 2012

Counselor Tech Shout Out: Great (free) website & app to use in cyberbullying lesson

Technology is a wonderful tool when used correctly.  For a lesson on cyberbullying & Internet safety,  I plan to use the website Professor Garfield & the Infinite Learning Lab.  Which is an awesome website about how to be safe on the Internet.  There are 10 kid friendly video lessons that cover: Cyberbulling, Self-Esteem, Self-Control, Peer Pressure, Listening, Online Safety, Fact or Opinion,  Giving Back, Diversity and Forms of Media. 

If you're using your iPad, the videos are replaced by a comic strip (iPad doesn't support flash which the videos are on).  Click here to download the app.  I will say that the comic strip stories are kind of long so I'll most likely be showing the video clips from my laptop.

Comic strip version (for the iPad)
What I also like about this website/app is that there's quiz on the topics discussed where the students drag the correct answer in the box (great for those of us that use Smart/Promethan boards, which makes it totally interactive for the students). 

Here's your post test plus there are many questions where most students could take a turn and come up to the Smart/Promethan boards and answer.  I like this website/app and think that it will be a great addition to my lesson on safety using the Internet for students.

Do you have any great cyber safety websites or apps that you use for classroom lessons? Pin It

Monday, September 24, 2012

Spotlight Character Ed Books at Your School

Each month my school focuses on a character trait for the month. These traits (responsibility, respect, courage, kindness, self-discipline, integrity, perseverance & good judgment) are chosen by my school district.  I thought of a neat way to remind students of what the character trait of the month is by making a featured character trait of the month book spotlight shelf in the library.  I spoke with the librarian and asked if I could have a shelf to display books based on the character trait of the month for students to check out.  The librarian at my school is fantastic and is so very helpful with my numerous counselor "projects".  She gave me a shelf to use in a library prime real estate area (right in front of the checkout computers) so you can't miss it!

I made signs for each character trait of the month using Word and printed and laminated each sign.  I did have to measure and trim the edges of the signs to fit in the frame.  I used the frame insert as my guide to measure.  I put the signs in a "fancy" frame I found on sale from Pier 1 Imports ($8.00).  I pulled about 10-15 books (for all reading & grade levels) to put on the shelf to display. 


Trimming edges of sign so they'll fit in the frame.

Edges trimmed

Wow, what a difference a frame makes!

So here's a picture of my shelf before the "transformation":
Before the character ed "transformation"
So with a few book stands and a new picture frame here's the finished product...

Book stands, $3.99 (w/coupon) Bed, Bath & Beyond.  I bought 4 stands. 

Character Books Spotlight: Responsibility

I made the "Character Books Spotlight" sign using Word, printed & glued the words on a sentence strip (courtesy of a 1st grade teacher).  I glued a colored backing on the back of the sentence strip and laminated the sign (so it will hold up better from wear and tear).

I can tell that this book showcase is working very well.  After the 1st week of setting up the "character books spotlight" most of the books displayed were checked out by students, so I had to pull more books to keep the shelf full.  I'll update the shelf each month (or as needed) with books based on the trait of the month.   

To get my book list, the counselor intern found some character book suggestions online and I asked for suggestions from my librarian.  I email the list of books for the month to the librarian.   The parent library volunteers pull the books that we have from my list for me and I set up the display.  It took about 10 mins (or less) to set up. 

Just in case you're wondering what books I used for Responsibility, here's my list:
-My Penguin Osbert (Kimmel)
-Big Words for Little People (Curtis & Cornell)
-Judy Moody Saves the World (McDonald)
-Because of Winn-Dixie (Di Cavilla)
-Shiloh (Naylor)
-The Biggest Bear (Ward)
-Angelina's Birthday (Holabird)
-Ramona the Brave (Clearly)
-Chair for my Mother (Williams)
-The Lemonade War (Davies)
-Frank & Ernest on the Road (Day)
-Miss Rumphus (Cooney)
-Mr. Popper's Penguins (Atwater)
-There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom (Sachar)

This was an easy and simple project to do.  I think that this will be another great way to reinforce the character trait of the month. 

Do you have a way to recognize character education books at your school?
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Starting a Counselor's Book Club

My counselor led book club is an ongoing, year-long "group".  We read books with a counseling related plot/storyline in it (examples: homelessness, divorce, bullying, friendship, dealing with disabilities & feelings).  I really enjoy reading and having book club is something that I really look forward to.

I actually run 2 book clubs.  I have a 4th grade and a 5th grade book club.  The 5th grade book club was with me last year in 4th grade book club so they continue with me for this year (they're with me for 2 years).  So you may ask, how can I start a book club at my school?  Here's what I did: 

-I choose 8-10 4th grade students based on reading scores from state end of grade tests (data is from the previous year).  Students slightly below (with the potential to be on grade level), at or above grade level are selected.  Teachers also give me recommendations. The group is very diverse, with students from various cultures and from both genders. When you ask for teacher recommendations, it's up to you what kind of student behavior concerns you're willing to deal with.  It's been a case by case situation for me.  Some students that have had some behavior concerns have done very well in book club and have been very engaged in the books and discussions.

4th grade book club invitation.

-I discuss with the librarian books that she would suggest to read with the students (I also keep a running list of great books myself).  This year I ordered 4 (new) group sets of books (2 book sets for each of my groups) through a grant from my school's PTA.  I can reuse previous book reads for another group who hasn't read the book before.  Both the librarian and my school are great by ordering book club books for us. We actually have established a nice selection of book club books to choose from (about 20 different book titles in sets of 12).

-I select the 1st book selection for the year, then all other books are voted on by the group.  As we near the end of a book, I select 2 books (from the book club library) for the students to vote on for our next read.  They feel as though they have ownership of the book selection and have fewer complaints when the feel that they "choose" the book (they don't realize that I actually chose the 2 book choices to vote on, but I won't say anything to them about that).

-We meet once a week during lunch in the library (lunch time works out perfect, because it does not interrupt any class schedules).  I meet with 4th grade on Wednesday's and 5th grade on Thursday's.  We read aloud and discuss the book during this time.

Meeting during lunch eliminates most scheduling conflicts

-I made my own book marks with a reminder of which day & time we meet for book club. I laminated the book marks and have the students write down what chapters they are to read independently during the week with a dry erase maker (can be wiped off and updated weekly).  Click here to download your own printable bookmarks (from Pinterest, not the ones below).  Most remember though as they are very excited about book club and I often have to remind the students not to read ahead of the assigned chapters.

Reminder bookmarks

Students write what page we are to read to by the next week w/ a dry erase marker on their bookmark.

Here's a few of the books that we've read in the past that I highly recommend and books that I hope to read with the group this year (new books this year were based on student requests, book reviews that I read & recommendations from the school librarian):

4th grade

-How to Steal a Dog (We're currently reading this now, deals with being homeless, poverty)

-11 Birthdays (deals with friendship)

-Bud, Not Buddy (new this year, haven't read yet: deals with family, having an absent father)

-Rules (new this year, haven't read yet: deals with a sibling that has Autism)

5th grade

-Long Walk to Water (deals with growing up as a refugee, broken family)

-So B. It (deals with a disabled parent)

-Shiloh (animal abuse, bullying)

-Blubber (deals with bullying)

-A Week In The Woods (new this year, haven't read yet: deals with getting to know people, assumptions, friendship)

-When You Reach Me (new this year, we're currently reading this in 5th grade book club: deals with friendship, bullying)

We usually read 4-5 books during the year (depending on the length of the book).  I usually start book club in September and we finish by the end of April (before the craziness of the end of the year rolls around).  I really enjoy my book club groups and can tell that the students do too.  My 5th grade book club was so popular I had several students ask could they join.  I have a hard time saying no to children that want to read so our group of 9 has grown into a group of 13. In cases where I don't have 13 copies of a particular book we're going to split the group into groups of 6-7 and read a different book with myself and the counselor intern each taking a group.

Do you have a counselor led book club?  Please contact me if  have other books to recommend for a 4th or 5th grade book club? Pin It

Monday, September 17, 2012

Great Group Ice-Breaker Activity

Getting to know your group, oh there so many ways to do that and here's another one:

I got ice-breaker questions (examples: What do you do for fun, What annoys you, What makes you laugh and so on) from my counselor intern from last year who did a very similar ice-breaker activity.  

I typed the questions into an excel spreadsheet, printed and cut them out. For a printable copy of the questions click here

Questions, typed in Excel (before cutting)

Questions after being cut

I painted Popsicle sticks (on both sides) different colors using craft paint and a sponge brush.  I painted sets of five sticks in each color.  I tried to paint 2 sets of colors each time (ex yellow then pink) because craft paint dries fairly quickly. As I finished the 1st coat of paint on 10 sticks I could then turn them over and finish the 2nd coat (if that makes sense).

Craft paints & sponge brush

Painted Popsicle sticks
After all the Popsicle sticks were painted and dried, I glued the cut out typed questions on the sticks using mod podge and also painted a top layer of mod podge to seal the paper on the Popsicle stick.

Glued questions on the Popsicle sticks

After they dried (I let them sit for an hour or so) they were all set to be used!  I put them in a small bucket that I already had (Target $1 spot).  Total cost for the project: $0!  I already had all these things, free is my favorite price!
Finished product!

These can be used in a group by assigning each student in the group a color based on the color of the Popsicle sticks. The students can go around the group and answer the questions on their sticks (this is why I painted 5 of the same color for a group setting).  This can also be used on individual sessions too (no need to worry about assigning colors, the student can just randomly pick).

 It took me 2 days (not full days) to complete.  I painted the sticks one day and glued another day.  For someone that isn't that crafty (but loves to read crafting blogs) this was a pretty easy project for me to complete.  With each "project" my counselor craft confidence is growing.

What ice-breaker or getting to know you activities to you use?
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Set up school news & alerts via text

Another great way to keep parents & students "in the know" is to send school messages via text messages.  In the past my school used the phone messenger, email and teacher created newsletters to share school news and info.   My school has a Twitter account and I shared with the person managing the Twitter account (not me) the tweet to text feature.  My school administration was all for using tweet to text too!  So here's how to get your parents at your school on board to use it:

-Your school must have a Twitter account (parents DO NOT need Twitter accounts to get texts).  Whatever you tweet through Twitter will be sent via text to the parents at your school.

-Have your parents text follow @...whatever your school's Twitter name is, for example it would be @jyjcounselor to 40404.  They will be able to immediately receive messages via text!

Send a text message to 40404
Text follow @your school's Twitter name,  tap send
Receive school texts immediately!

So how did I get parents to sign up for this feature?  I used school events (meet the teacher night & open house ) where lots of parents would attend to tell them about the feature.  I was a greeter for both events and got parents to sign up right on the spot.  I had a flyer to hand out explaining how to use & set up the text feature.  I will admit, in most cases it was just easier for me to set up the text on the parents phones myself versus trying to explain it to them. The vast majority of parents were excited to have the text feature and actually said that they preferred it versus the phone messenger (we'll still be using that too).

Handout I made and gave to parents about receiving texts.

 After our school events, several parents contacted me about getting signed up for the school texts and even more parents wanted the to add the feature from word of mouth from other parents.  We had over 100 parents sign up for school texts.  I also made step by step directions (the same screen shots in this post) and had them added to our school webpage to get more parents signed on.  The principal has almost made mention of getting text on her weekly phone message home and we've asked teachers to make mention of the feature in their parent newsletters (can we say PR overload).

If your school isn't using Twitter, there's another site that has this feature.  Remind 101 also has a text feature to send messages to parents & students.  Once you set up your account, you give the parents a code to text on their phones to receive texts. 

The good thing about this feature is that even though it may be difficult to get in touch with some parents via phone calls home, most parents some how manage to keep a (working) cell phone.  We're using this text feature all the time now.  For example, when a bus is running late or a school event is coming up a tweet/text is sent so parents are aware.  I'm really excited that my school is making strides in using technology to communicate with parents.

Does your school use the tweet to text feature?

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Counselor Blog Shout Out: Entirely Elementary Counseling

This month's counselor blog shout out is....

The Entirely Elementary School Counseling Blog is a fun & fantastic blog from Sue from PA.  I've been a reader of this blog for quite some time and have gotten so many great ideas from her.  This site is a must see for us elementary school counselors (although there's lots of things that can be modified for middle school counselors).  Need ideas for a cool bulletin board, organization, class lessons...this blog has this and so much more!  Here some great things that Sue has shared:

Thanks to Entirely Elementary blog for my next bulletin board idea:
(thanks so much for the printables...lifesaver!)

Your own real-life Hunter & His Amazing Remote Control:

Motivation medals:

Add Entirely Elementary to your counselor blog roll, you'll be glad that you did!
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Monday, September 10, 2012

Minute Mtgs w/ a Tech Spin!

Want a great way to connect even more with your students?  Minutes meetings are for you!  Counselor buddy Danielle Schultz of The School Counselor Blog told us all about her concept of minute meetings and I thought the concept was absolutely brilliant!  These short but meaningful meetings consist of asking questions to students individually as a sort of check in.  These questions cover the ASCA Academic, Personal/Social and Career domains.

Here's some background planning that worked well for me on doing minute meetings:

-Make a schedule of which grade level(s), homeroom(s) you plan to visit each day.  It took me about  3 weeks to meet with all my students (in 1st -5th grades).  I scheduled 45-50 minute blocks to meet with each class. I usually meet with 2-3 classes each day.  The younger students usually don't have as much to say, so you may need less time.  As we got into 4th & 5th grades they have more to discuss, so we usually had to do 2 sessions of meetings. 

-Once your meeting schedule is done, email the teachers and let them know what day(s) & time you will be coming to their class.

-Print a copy of the class list for each homeroom that you plan on meeting with (to keep track of who you've seen, who's absent, make notes, etc).  I am very fortunate to have a counselor intern so we can split the list and we can work more efficiently. 

-Before you begin your meetings go in the class and tell them what will be happening.  Assure them that it's nothing to be afraid of, that minute meetings are a way to check in and have one-on-one time with the counselor.

-When you visit a class for your meetings.  Borrow 2 chairs from the class (1 for you, 1 for the student) and sit outside of the classroom.  When you finish your meeting with a student, ask them "can you please ask Michelle to come out for her meeting" this flows very well and you won't be a distraction by going in and out of the classroom.  In some cases, I've sat in the very back of the classroom and held my check-ins there (usually with the younger students).

-For students that tend to talk a little longer than others (we all have them, but I love seeing them), I put them towards the end of my list so that I can they can have longer than the few minutes I see the other students.

Minute mtg w/ a student

So of course I had to add my jyjcounselor tech spin as I did my minute meetings.

-I used Google Docs to create surveys for each grade level with the questions for the minute meetings (it's easier for me to sort through grade level data this way, however do what works best for you).

Creating a survey in Google Docs
-The survey questions are:
1.) How is your day going?  Very good, Good, Ok, Bad, Very bad
2.) How is your school year going?  Very good, Good, Ok, Bad, Very bad
3.) What do you want to be when you grow up?
4.) Do you know where the counselor's office is? Yes, No
5.) Is there anything you want to talk to the counselor about?

-Once you've completed creating your survey(s) and published it (on Google Docs), open the survey link provided from Google on your iPad (or if you're using your laptop or other tablet device make it a favorite) and add the link to your home screen (it looks like an app!)
Add link to the home screen (iPad) or make a favorite (laptop/computer)

-I created a folder on my home screen for all of my minute meeting surveys for each grade level. I just tap on the grade level that I'm working with and I'm ready to roll.

Create a folder on your iPad with all your min meeting surveys

-Students can answer the questions on the iPad and you don't have to keep up with a bunch of paper. The students LOVE answering the questions on the iPad.  For the younger students, I read the questions but they still tap on the response.  Trust me after a few days of minute mtgs, you will know the questions and answer choices by heart!
Screenshot of survey questions on iPad

Once you've met with all the students you can simply compile the data from your Google Docs.  You can view it in spreadsheet view or by responses view.

Spreadsheet view
Survey response view

I try to incorporate the use of the iPad in my day-to-day counselor activities as much as possible.  Using the iPad for minute meetings was very easy to create and implement.  It almost eliminated the need for paper and saved both mine and the counselor intern's sanity. We are currently doing minute meetings now for the month and will do a 2nd round of meetings in January as a mid-year check in.

Do you use minute meetings in your school? Pin It