Monday, May 27, 2013

Easing Into Middle School One Group At a Time

We have a large group of 5th graders anxiously and nervously thinking about their next big step, which for them is middle school.  As we begin our middle school registration process,  I came up with a great idea to help ease some stresses and answer some questions that our students may have about moving up to middle school.

We (counselor intern & I) decided to do small lunch groups (of 10 students) so that each 5th grade student has the opportunity to meet and ask questions about being a 6th grader.  We grouped the students together by which middle school they would be attending (JYJ is a magnet school which means we have students going to 20 different middle schools) so that we could discuss specifics about each school easier and so that they would be familiar with who from our school would be "moving up" with them.  Some middle school groups were combined due to there being just 1 or 2 students going. 

To let the students know about their lunch group, I made invitations using Word and copied them on colored paper.  4 copies of the invitation fit onto one page. 
Original and copied versions of invitation

After copying and cutting the invitations, I wrote the student's names and lunch date on their invitation (gives it a personal touch).  The invitations were delivered to each class.  During the "delivery" we briefly spoke to each class about what was going to happen during the lunch groups and that one group would meet with me and another group would meet with the counselor intern (since there are 2 of us, we could each take a group).  We also made a daily list of which students would be at lunch with us for the teachers (& ourselves).

Finished Invitations!

During our meetings we discussed how to choose electives, how middle school is different from elementary school, changing classes, etc.  These things we discussed a few months ago on our 5th grade classroom visit on going to middle school.  We encouraged the students to use this time to ask questions about middle school and that we would try our best to answer them or contact the counselor from their middle school and get an answer.  In some cases, they were able to ask the questions themselves to other 6th graders at their new school!  Thanks to the magic of FaceTime on my iPad, we were able to connect with other students.  To do this, I contacted the counselors at the school prior to our lunch to schedule a time when we would "connect".

The lunch groups were quite successful!  Over the two week time frame it took to meet with everyone I could tell that the students were really excited about going to 6th grade and having lunch with the counselors didn't hurt much either!  We had lots of questions and discussions which we hope were helpful.  Their favorite part of the lunch was being able to practice opening locks.  I have a class set of locks that the PTA got for me for this activity.  This was a great and fun way for us to spend the last few weeks of school with students who are graduating from 5th grade.  This is something that I plan to continue each year with my 5th grade students.

Practicing with the locks

Lock practice over lunch

What other ways do you address middle school transition questions?

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Exploring Middle School Options

Middle School is a big step for 5th graders and their parents (especially when it's their 1st child going to 6th grade).  In my district there are 36 middle schools and because I work at a magnet school, our students go all over the district to middle school.  Due to the variety of middle school choices, I like to keep both students and parents as informed as possible about "the next step".

 Here are some ideas that have helped with keeping 5th graders & parents in the know about middle school:

-I work with my school's magnet coordinator on scheduling recruiting visits to our school.  We've had several schools speak to our 5th grade classes.  Some visits have been for the entire grade, others have been small lunch info session with a representative from the middle school.  We've also had parent breakfast info sessions during morning drop off.

Middle school students speaking to the entire 5th grade

Middle school students showing elective & club options (African drum circle)
More options...African dance!

Lunch middle school info session

-Emailing middle school open house info to parent email lists.  I actually email the 5th grade team which they forward to their parent email lists.

-I asked the 5th grade team to link my counselor webpage with my middle school info (which I update regularly) to their class blogs so that parents can access the info on the web.

-I send a monthly paper copy of middle school updates (which is also posted on my website).

What ways do you keep your parents informed about middle news and events? Pin It

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ease Testing Worries for Students & Staff

It's everyone's "favorite" time of year...state testing!  Well not really, but it does bring us one step closer to the end of the school year and summer break.  State testing can cause stress, worries and anxiety for BOTH students and staff.  So I decided to do a little something to pump up everyone for state testing.  To see how we did staff pick me ups during testing, click here.

-I had a banner made from Vistaprint (ordered during a sale for just 99 cents) that says "Students do you best on the EOG test".  EOG stands for End Of Grade, that's what we call it here in NC.

Banner from Vistaprint

-Carol from The Middle School Counselor Blog (a fabulous blog by the way) shared this awesome idea of using sidewalk chalk to write positive testing messages at the school entrance.  I shared this idea with the fantastic art teacher at my school and he and several students will be decorating both the front and back entrances of the school.
From The Middle School Counselor Blog (thanks for sharing Carol)

-The AIG teacher gave me a ton of pencils which I tied ribbon with a nice note to give to all the students in 3rd-5th grades (these are the grades who test).

Note I attached to the pencils

Finished product!  I used red ribbon to tie the note onto the pencils. 

-I did a lesson with 3rd graders on relaxation and relieving testing anxiety (same as last year).  To see my post on my lesson for testing worries, click here, but I read a different book The Big Test by Julie Danneberg.

This year I decided to add a testing survival kit activity.  Can you guess where I got this idea from guessed right Pinterest!

-I started out by giving each student a plastic bag and testing survival kit card to complete. 

-I created a testing survival kit card for the students to complete as a part of the lesson (we go over the tips during the lesson).  It's a fill in the blank activity, since students are more likely to remember what they write down, versus me just talking.  I used an Avery postcard paper template so that I could fit 4 on one page.  I also copied on colored paper for a little flare.

Testing survival kit cards (copied on colored paper).  
Copy of slide to complete with test taking survival kit activity 

-As we completed our survival kit card, I passed out the item that went along with the saying.  I got all my survival kit items from Walmart.  Here are the pictures of the items needed and sayings to go along with it for the survival kit.

Starbursts:  You're a star so aim high

Toothpick:  Carefully pick your answers

Gum:  Stick to it and do your best!

Red Balloon:  You are totally REaDy for the test!

Student completing his test taking survival kit, with his kit nearby.  

The students LOVED this lesson and activity and it certainly didn't hurt that everyone got a parting gift.  I hope that this helped to relieve some of their testing worries.

What do you do to help calm testing worries?

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Tips for new school counselor graduates

May brings happy, celebratory times for school counseling graduates.  So now that you've passed your tests, completed your internship & written your last paper you may ask yourself "what's next?"  The next chapter in your career is just around the corner.  I know that many of you are anxiously searching the web for school counselor postings in school districts across the country (try for listings)  The search and wait game can be exciting, disappointing and frustrating.  Here are a few tips that I want to pass along as you enter the school counselor job market.

-Accurately update your resume:  include any school experience that you may have (including teaching).  List what responsibilities that you had as an intern.  Click here to see sample counselor resume templates.  If possible try to hand deliver a copy of your resume to the school that you're interested in working in.  That way the school can place a face & name with the resume. 

-Network: I can't say this enough!  In this day & age it's all about who you know.  I'll share my story with you.  Years ago when I wanted to teach (I was a teacher then with just 1 year of experience) in the district that I'm currently in (I was working in another district at the time).   I thought I was doing the correct thing by sending out my resume to schools that had positions posted, but I never heard anything back.  I just happened to run into a college friend who was in my same teacher education program and was teaching in the school district where I wanted to work.  I told her about my interest in moving into the area and getting a teaching job.  She then spoke to someone else hiring teachers in my subject area and I had an interview and a job by the end of that week!  I've been here ever since.  If you have friends working in the district that you're interested in talk with them, meet the counselor at their school and see if they know of any openings in the area.  Counselors retire, get married, move, have children and transfer to other places all the time, they may know of these things.  Attend counselor conferences/events (conferences are great places to network, rarely will you be able to interact with such a large group of school counselors in one place at the same time) and join the ASCA scene, they have job postings listed from time to time. 

-Research the schools that you're interested in:  Almost every school has a website where you can get a feel of the school vision, staff and students.  Some websites even provide links to find data on test scores, teacher turnover rates, student demographics, etc.

-Ask questions during your interview:  Find out what committees that the counselor chairs, what responsibilities you might have (such as testing coordinator, that's a BIG one to find out).

-Sell yourself: When you have an interview, use that time to sell yourself and your vision for your counseling program.  This is the time where you have the opportunity to show the school what a great asset you will be to their school.  Play up your BEST counselor skills, if you are great at planning school wide events, by all means share that!

-Relax:  Many schools do their hiring during the summer (July-August).  I got my very 1st teaching job 3 days before school started and my 1st counseling job a week before school started so don't worry too much about late hiring.  I've always seemed to be a late hire!

If you have more questions about your school counselor job search or are interested in working as a school counselor in the Raleigh, NC area please feel free to contact me.  Congratulations and good luck to you! Pin It

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May #scchat: iPads In School Counseling

I am super excited to share that I'll be moderating this month's #scchat on Twitter on Tuesday,  May 7th!  Our topic of discussion will be using iPads in school counseling K-12.  Please join us to share your favorite iPad apps, how you use your iPad at your school or even if you're on the fence about using an iPad at your school.

The #scchat will begin at 8pm EST

If you haven't participated in a Twitter #scchat, boy are you in for a treat!  This is great professional development that can be done from the comforts of your home.  These awesome chats are planned and coordinated by Danielle Schultz and Erin Mason who I have the pleasure of presenting with at this year's ASCA conference (shameless plug).

For directions on how to participate in the #scchat click here.  To see previous #scchat transcripts click here.

Don't forget to join us on Tuesday, May 7th at 8pm EST for the chat.  Looking forward to tweeting with you! Pin It