Monday, March 25, 2013

Testing Coordinator Tips for School Counselors

As a school counselor, being test coordinator had to be my absolute least favorite responsibility.  I am VERY fortunate and THANKFUL that I no longer have that responsibility!  However, I know that there are many school counselors that take on this very demanding and at times very stressful role.  I've been in your shoes and have some tips that helped me to stay organized and prepared during statewide testing.

-Ask your school to purchase plastic bins (with tops) which makes it easier to pack class testing materials in.  I tried to pre-pack scrap paper, pencils, highlighters already in each bin well before testing (one less thing to do once the crunch starts).

Testing bin (with lid and label)

-Make labels:  I used labels for everything!  I used them to label the teacher/test administrator bins, to label student booklets & to label the bags with answer sheets.  I used both mailing labels and large packing labels.

-Keep track of student answer sheets, test booklet info, special codes.  I used spreadsheet to create this (when you print, use legal sized paper so it will fit on one page).  I copied/pasted most of the student info from our online student information management system.  As I sorted booklets, I wrote test info (like test booklet color, form letter/number) on the sheet.  I use this just in case something doesn't match later on in the testing madness.  The special codes (in NC it's their current performance level), I gave the printed sheet to the homeroom teacher prior to testing to fill out, which they returned back to me.  On the bubble day with the teachers, I handed out these completed sheets, which saved tons of time for the teachers, they already had the info completed.  If you'd like a copy of this spreadsheet (which you can change to your liking), click here.

Student info spreadsheet (don't forget to print on legal sized paper_)

-Recruit parent or community volunteers to proctor early.  I know parents hated to see me coming, during testing time (they knew what I was going to ask)!  I even stood in the carpool line to worked!  Another suggestion that I would give now is to use Google Docs to create an online sign up.  Create a spreadsheet with test dates, times, etc on it where parent volunteers can sign up.  Send your sign up link to teachers to forward to their class list and if your school's PTA has a yahoo or gmail group, by all means use that too.  Having too many volunteers is a good thing!

Example of volunteer sign up (this is from JYJ Gives back)

-Offer an incentive to get students to come to school on-time each day of testing.  I offered ice cream to every student that had "perfect attendance" during testing (my principal paid for it).  This worked, during the 3 years that I did testing, I had fewer than 10 students absent from testing (total) which means less make-ups to have to deal with.

-Have snacks for teachers & proctors:  testing can be a long and draining ordeal for staff too.  I had water and snack items for teachers to pick up once they turned in their testing materials each day.  Last year I shared how we had staff pick me ups during state testing (stay tuned, I'll have more to share closer to our testing dates in May).

-Borrow an apron, I never seemed to have enough pocket room to carry lists, pencils, pens, etc. so wearing an apron was a must.  I could carry tons of stuff with me in the pockets as I moved around the building hands free.  People always knew that I was in "testing mode" they'd said "oh, she's got on that apron".  Ok, the apron thing may just be a me thing, I like aprons!

What testing tips work for you?

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Spice up Your Lunch (Bunch)

Lunch bunch is one of my favorite counselor ways to connect with students.  I used lunch bunch last year as an attempt to meet students and let them know who I was (it was my 1st year at JYJ).  I got an overwhelming response because now everyone wants to have lunch!  I have lunch bunch groups 2-3 times each week (just depends on how my week is going) and although I enjoy lunch with students, adding a little "spice" to our lunches makes it more interesting.  Here are some things that I've added to my lunch bunch groups:

-I invite a student to have lunch with me and they may bring 2 friends from their grade level to lunch.  To remind them of their lunch, I made lunch appointment cards from Vistaprint.  This also lets their teacher know that they will have lunch with me.

Lunch appointment cards

-Add a little color to the room!  I got several plastic tablecloths from Party City ($1.99 each) to put on my table (you could also opt for cloth, but I'm not quite that brave with elementary aged children).  When the weather's nice, I use the tablecloths on the outdoor picnic tables.  By the way eating outside is another way to "spice up" lunch groups.

-Add some music to the mix!  Students LOVE hearing music in the background during lunch.  I use my  (free) Pandora app on my iPad (there's also a computer website) to play (clean) today's pop hits and/or Kidz Bop (in your settings you can disable explicit lyrics from being played).

-Play a get to know you game favorites have been the popsicle stick question game and with my older students the QR questions.

What ways do you add "spice" to your student lunch bunches?

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Monday, March 11, 2013

(free) Relaxation iPad apps

Is it me or is it super busy at your school right about now?  It certainly seems extra busy lately these days.  Something that seems to "calm the storms"throughout our daily counselor lives when dealing with student issues is to have students cool down or relax.  So here are some free (my favorite price) apps for relaxation that you may want to add to your iPad:

-Breathe2Relax (free):  Neat app that I use quite a bit with students individually, small groups and even during class visits!  This app will let you practice your breathing using deep inhale and exhaling exercises.  This is also available on Android devices, click here for link.

-My 1st Yoga (free):  Quick and easy yoga poses for children.  *Note you may need to call this something else other than yoga to be politically correct (maybe relaxation poses).

-Fluid (free):  Cool calming app that gives the effect of running your fingers through water.  A bonus is that you can choose the background (including pictures from your camera roll!)

-Silent Island Relaxation Lite (free):  Ahhh, the relaxing sounds are all here!  

-Zen Space (free):  Create your own zen garden of tranquility!

-Pocket Pond (free);  Looking at fish is nothing but relaxing and since I don't have the space for a tank this will be as close as it gets.

-Relaxing Sounds of Nature Lite (free):  Another soothing and relaxing sounds app!

Do you have any other free relaxation apps?  Please share!
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Monday, March 4, 2013

Bully B.E.A.N.S. Lesson

How many of you awesome school counselors have the book Bully B.E.A.N.S. by Julia Cook in your counselor book collection?  I do (actually have 2 copies and the activity and idea book) but anywhoo, I recently had a class visit using this great book during my lesson (this can be used in grades K-3).  So here's what I did:

Book & Activity & Idea Book

-Opened with the question, what is bullying?  Maybe it's me, but somehow everything (to students) is bullying...someone takes a pencil, accidentally bumps into them, you name it and it's considered bullying.  During this time, I talk about what bullying really is considered so the students will have a better understanding of what bullying is.

-I then read the book Bully B.E.A.N.S. to the class.  I really get them involved during the story having them to practice yelling "BACK OFF" as the characters do to the bully (they LOVE this because they get to yell).

Reading the story

-After the story, we review the tips shared in the story on how to deal with a bully.

-I tell the students that I actually have some bully beans to share with them! But first we have to practice getting rid of bullies.  For bully beans I've used jelly beans, but since the store I was in was out of jelly beans I bought fun sized bags of Skittles (I really wasn't feeling going to multiple stores for jelly beans that day).  However since Easter's around the corner, there will be an abundance of jelly beans to be found at pretty much any store.

-I gave each student a sheet of paper where they were to draw a picture of what they thought a bully looked like.
Bully drawing

Another bully drawing, I especially like that the student wrote that the "bule" was going to push the "prsin" in the  "mud putol"

-I had the students hold up the "bullies" and said now we'll use our beans to get rid of the bullies.  Depending on the class you can give the "beans" before or after the lesson (they get really excited about the "beans").

-We then tear up the drawn bullies and get rid of them while cheering and celebrating that we have the power within to stop bullying (this is the message of the book).

Adios Bullies!

Having "bully beans" nearby 

We do recycle
I really enjoyed doing this lesson and think that the students somehow found courage to stand up to bullies with a little help from their own "bully beans" just like in the book!

Do you have any lessons or ideas that you use with the book Bully B.E.A.N.S. please share!

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