Friday, February 26, 2010

Tropical Treat Day!

Wow, have I been busy this week! Today is a special day at our school, it is Tropical Treat Day! All week I have been busy planning with the student council and the teachers in our character committee this school-wide activity that focuses on the Character Counts pillar of Caring.

On Tropical Treat Day, our school celebrates all of the acts of caring our school has done this month. In the guidance curriculum for 3-5 grade, we have been focusing on showing that we care about our schoolwork. At the beginning of the month, we learned about ways to show that we care about doing our best on the ITBS with the Test Busters curriculum, and the last two weeks we have been learning about good study habits and classroom behavior that show that you care about your school work. The students have been working hard to do their best, get their assignments in on time, and showing that they care about their school work!

We also held a fundraiser this month to raise money for an orphanage in Haiti to show caring towards people put in this unfortunate situation. Other caring activities during the month have
included writing thank you notes to people who have "filled a bucket" in 3rd grade, writing thank you letters to teachers and staff members who have made a difference in 4th grade, and cleaning up the planters uptown to get our community ready for spring in 5th grade. Tropical Treat Day is a culminating activity that celebrate all of these acts of caring our students have done throughout the month of February, both inside and outside the classroom.

The students and staff at our school have all donned their best 'Tropical' attire to celebrate today, and in the afternoon we will all head over to the gym to play some games and enjoy some treats! The teachers have set up stations in the gym where students can play different tropical themed games, and there is also a station where they can get a tropical treat! For our tropical treat, we bought a few cases of freeze pops - an economical but delicious tropical treat! Our student council has been working hard this week to decorate the gym with help from our elementary art club as well.

Looking forward to a great Tropical Treat Day!

Monday, February 22, 2010

You Can Succeed in Middle School

Spring is almost here, and that means that it is almost time to send our 5th grade students on to middle school. To prepare our 5th grade students for this journey, I begin with a middle school study skills curriculum during the month of February. We are using a curriculum from Sunburst called You Can Succeed in Middle School. It includes a video about the changes that 5th graders will experience in middle school, and teaches the students organizational skills that they can use to stay on top of their homework and activity schedule when they get to middle school.

In our guidance unit we are focusing on the organization skills, so that we can continue to practice things such as making a monthly calendar, using your assignment planner throughout the rest of the school year. In 5th grade the students begin to have more long term projects due in their science and social studies classes, so this is a great time for them to begin to settle into a organizational style while they still have the support of their elementary teacher.

The video also addresses changes that will happen socially, such as making new friends and joining after school activities. The 5th graders are really excited to start middle school next year, and this curriculum will hopefully give them the preparation they need to be successful academically and socially as they start this new chapter in their lives!

Another great place to look for information on how to prepare students for middle school is on the "I Can" website, sponsored by the Iowa College Access Network. The "I Can" website focuses on preparing students to go to college, but the middle school section has some great advice on preparing students for the work load in middle school as well. Plus, it's a great way to begin introducing college into the conversation and connecting how the skills they learn now will help them in middle school, high school, and beyond!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Adios, Anxiety!

Another small group intervention that I have been using with a group of 4th grade students at my school focuses on managing anxiety. As students begin to move into upper elementary and to middle school, many students begin to feel the pressure of keeping grades up, staying on top of homework assignments, and of course dealing with the new social world that comes along with growing up. To address this issue, I began a small guidance group that addresses managing anxiety.

Since I couldn't find a small group curriculum that addresses anxiety, I have been adapting activities from the What Works When with Children and Adolescents book by Ann Vernon to create small group guidance activities for the group. The What Works When book is a wonderful help in individual counseling activities too, especially with upper elementary students. The author addresses almost any and all things you may tackle in individual counseling as a school counselor. This is the book that I grab when I have an issue with a student and am not exactly sure what to say or which direction to go! It has worked wonderfully for this small group as well.

Today we did an activity where the group members had to say "adios" to anxiety. Each member of the group made a list of the thoughts they have concerning whatever they feel anxious about. On the floor I used masking tape to make a hopscotch board. As I read off each anxious thought, the student identified something they could tell themselves to make them feel less anxious. When they reach the top of the board, each group member said "Adios, anxiety!" Afterwords we talked about positive self talk as a way of coping with anxiety, and how when we feel anxious we often assume the worst, which at times can be a lot different than reality.

The group was great, we got to move around, play some hopscotch, and have some fun while we said adios to anxiety!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hearts for Haiti

For a school-wide service activity during the month of February while we are studying the Character Counts pillar of caring, the 4th and 5th grade students at our school are hosting a fundraiser to raise money to send to orphans in Haiti. Each day after school, our student council walks around the building selling heart-shaped suckers for 50 cents a piece. We got the suckers at the Dollar Store for an extremely good price, so any money raised off the sale of the suckers is purely profit.

It is so wonderful to see how caring and generous our students really are. Many students have used their allowance money, or money they were saving for a toy or a movie to donate to Haiti. One student donated five dollars and asked for only one sucker - he said the rest could be a donation. How big the hearts of these 4th and 5th grade students are!

The fundraiser was easy to put together, and didn't take a great deal of time or money. It was a great school wide activity to support the Character Counts Pillar of Caring. At the end of the month we are going to announce how much money we have raised, and will celebrate acts of caring by having a Caring Cruise party.

S.E.A.L.S. Group

One of my small guidance groups in 5th grade guidance focuses on helping students at school with low motivation. To create an intervention for students who have trouble staying motivated to complete homework or to do their best in school, I started the S.E.A.L.S. (Self Esteem and Life Skills) group. In the SEALS group, we are using activities from the S.E.A.L.S. + Plus by Korb-Khalsa, Azok, and Leutenberg.

In the SEALS book, our group has been working on the activities that focus on Goal Setting. Today we are working on conquering the "Sofa Spud Syndrome" - letting homework, reports, deadlines, and household chores pile up by spending too much time with the t.v., video games, or even just sitting on the couch staring into space! Our district is focusing on vocabulary instruction this year, so we will also learn about what the word "lethargy" means.

After learning about the "Sofa Spud Syndrome", the group members will focus on making one short term goal - one they can achieve before the next meeting. We will celebrate at our next group meeting any progress made towards these goal - big or small! My goal as the counselor this week is to get the students to take at least one step in the right direction.

Dr. Charles Fay of the Love and Logic Institute has some tips for parents who battle with their children over homework. To help children at home get their work done, instead of begging, pleading, bribing and lecturing, he suggests the following:
  • Set aside a time and place for your child to learn
  • Tell you child that they can either do their work or learn by thinking about it
  • Say that you will help them only as long as you don't start arguing
  • Tell your child that you will help only as long as they work harder than you do
  • Allowing your child to take total responsibility for their homework
Most importantly, Dr. Fay emphasizes that parents transfer their energy used fighting with their child into making sure the child is respectful, does their chores, and know that they are loved regardless of the grades they earn. If you are interested in more information, you can sign up for Dr. Fay's weekly Love and Logic emails on the Love and Logic Institute website.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

This month at our Elementary School we are studying the Character Counts pillar of caring. In my third grade classroom, we are studying the pillar by focusing on the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud. The book is great because it talks about acts of caring and feelings in a language that kids of all ages can understand. The imagery of "filling" someone's "bucket" with acts of kindness is a powerful piece of imagery as well!

The lesson I am using for the book came to me off of an email I received from the mailing list from Bucket Fillers Inc. If you use this book in your guidance program I would suggest that you join, they have some great ideas!! After we read the book together, we talked about ways that students can fill buckets at school, especially their teachers buckets! The students made a list of good behavior choices that would fill their teacher's buckets, and drew pictures inside individual buckets of things they can do in the classroom to fill their teacher's buckets.

I also brought a bucket full of "snowballs" and did a demonstration of what happens to a teacher's bucket when too many students "scoop". The students listed bad behaviors that scoop from a teacher's bucket as I scooped the snowballs out of the bucket, and then listed good behaviors
as we filled the bucket back up. This lesson was a great way to tie our Character Counts pillar of the month, Caring, into a lesson in the ASCA academic domain - good classroom behavior!

Welcome To My Blog!

Hello, and welcome to my blog! I am a 3-5 elementary school counselor in Denison, Iowa. This is my second year as an elementary school counselor, and I couldn't love it any more. I am excited to be in a position where I get the opportunity to encourage and inspire young children to develop into the best people they can be! I created this blog to share a little bit about myself, and about my journey as a school counselor.

While earning my masters degree in education from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake Iowa, I had the great opportunity to collaborate and share lesson plans and ideas with my classmates throughout the program. After being in the field of school counseling for a couple of years now, I realize that I miss the opportunities the program gave me to collaborate and share with others. I am hoping that this blog will be an opportunity for me to share what I have been doing in my classroom as a school counselor, and hopefully collaborate and build upon the resources that I have with the rest of you!

Thank you for viewing my blog, I hope you enjoy it!