Sunday, November 23, 2014

College Visits

It has been too long since my last post, and it is not for lack of things to share and talk about.  Typically my fall semester is not quite as busy as the spring, but I must say this fall has been bustling.  One thing (out of many) that I set out to improve on this year is college and career readiness.  I am fortunate to work in a college town, so it would be crazy not to utilize the resources that are at my fingertips.  I contacted the Texas Tech University Community Outreach Office to schedule college visits.  They were instrumental in seeing out my vision on educating the students about future choices.  The college visits were an amazing experience.  If you are lucky enough to work near a college campus, then take advantage of their community outreach office and start to plan your trip.
Each group that visited TTU had a purpose.  The picture above is from our second trip, which was made up of 30 student athletes.  One event that was planned for us was to visit Jones AT&T Stadium.  Due to confidentiality, I am not sharing the pictures that I took of the students.  However, I am sure you can imagine the excitement of getting to run around on the same field that the Red Raiders play on...a highlight of the year for sure!

Here are some things to consider when you are planning a college visit:
  1. The size of the group and the amount of adults needed to chaperon.  Each group that I took had 30 students and there were 3 adults from my school, giving us a 10:1 ration.
  2. Consider the time of year you schedule the trips.  About half of our time was spent out doors touring the campus, so weather was important for us to consider.  You can't predict everything, but I knew October usually provided nice temperatures.
  3. Group your students by a common interest or similarity.  For example, the third group of students that I took were either involved in student counsel, NJHS, or our volunteer organization.  I name this group "Leadership".
  4. Get input from others on which students to take.  Teachers and the schools administration were instrumental in helping identify good candidates.
  5. Have an idea of what you want your students to take from the trip, so the activities that are planned align with your group of students.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Community Outreach

October is here, and the 1st 6 weeks of the year is complete.  I don't know about you, but I am glad to be past all of the "beginning of the year" tasks.  Another added bonus, when I help dismiss students it's not 100 degrees!

As a counselor, often times I deal with the things that are heartbreaking.  However, I try not to focus on that.  I am so lucky to have a job that I can help with some of those heartbreaking things.  Notice I said help and not fix!  I had to learn a long time ago that I cannot fix everything that I want to, but I can always help.
The picture above was taken after my fellow counselor and I went shopping for food to help students in need.  My school is fortunate enough to work with various churches and community agencies that also have a passion to help children.  These groceries were bought by a local church that has a mission to help feed hungry children.  Always remember to reach out when the needs of your school and your students exceeds what you can do alone.  The generosity of others is truly amazing. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Documentation Binder

Three weeks with students down, and I am finally feeling somewhat organized.  I am trying a binder system this year to document important encounters.  If you would like to start a binder of your own all of these pages can be found in my packet: Forms & More for the Counselor's Office.  However, these pages can easily be created by anyone that takes the time to do so.  Here is a peak inside my binder.
Binder Cover
Above is the cover of my binder. 
Passes to Class
On the left inside pocket I keep a stash of back to class passes.  These are passes that let the teachers know that I have seen the student and what time they left my office.

Counseling Log
The first section is my counseling log.  I do not keep detailed notes, but I do log students that are in and out of my office.  This has been very beneficial in cases of bullying, proof of crisis response, and documentation of counseling as an intervention.

Contact Log
The second section is my phone call log.  I keep this to mostly track and document parent contacts.  Also, it is a great place to record phone numbers that are hard to track down or that have changed.

Special Information
The third section is the page that I shared in my last post.  To read more about it click the image above.  Once you are linked you can download the page for free. 

Referral Form
The fourth section of my binder is where I keep teacher referral forms for counseling.  These are the forms that I give to teachers at the beginning of the year to use when they want to refer a student for counseling.

Inside the back pocket of my binder is where I keep my "Counseling in Progress" poster.  This is just a simple sign I put outside my door if I am working with a student and cannot be interrupted. 

Even though it has only been three weeks, I must say that I am liking my organized binder system.  I hope these ideas help get you organized too!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Getting Organized!

I love post-it notes...really I don't know many educators that don't have an obsession with them.  Here's my problem though - I use them to stay organized, but then having a million post-its all over the place ends up driving me nuts.  On top of that I have parents and agencies that give me business cards, and I don't have a great place to put all of this stuff.  I guess I finally got annoyed to the point that I decided I needed a better system.  Click on the page below if you would like to download and use my special information page for free! 
Special Information
Each box is big enough that I can attach business cards.  I will also use this form to note special phone numbers and contacts and other random information that I am given throughout the year.  I printed about ten pages and added a new section to my counselor binder.  I already feel more organized, and I am happy to report that so far my new system is working much better.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Social Story Poster

Well, I am back at school and things are in full swing.  At my school the teachers are busy getting their rooms ready, I am working on scheduling students, and we are all racking up our professional development hours.  This past week we spent time discussing student rules, common area expectations, and a positive approach to classroom behavior management.  It was just a great refresher on how important managing student behavior is in creating a safe and successful learning environment. 

I want to expand on my last post discussing social stories.  Social stories are a great behavior intervention tool to use for those students that are showing us that they need a little extra help.  I want to take social stories one step further though.  What about turning the pages of the story into a poster specific to the student?  It doesn't have to be anything huge or fancy, just something small that you can tape to a desk, locker, folder, etc.  What a great way to provide a friendly visual reminder.  I used the pages from my Classroom Behavior Social Story to make an example poster.
I wish all of you the best of luck getting this school year off to a good start.  Don't forget how important it is to establish your rules and procedures from the get go.  Spend the first 2-3 weeks practicing your expectations.  Hopefully it will save you some time and frustration dealing with behavior problems down the road!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Social Stories

Social stories are simple, short stories that help set social skills and self care expectations.  They are beneficial to use with special education students, those struggling with behavior, and/or students on the autism spectrum.  If you are writing your own social stories here are a few tips:
  • Keep the language simple and easy to understand.  Consider the reading level of the student that you are targeting.
  • Keep the text literal.
  • Pictures are important.  You can insert clipart or have the student illustrate the story.  Also, taking pictures of the student correctly demonstrating the behavior and then inserting those pictures into the story is an effective method of providing visuals.
  • Keep in mind the purpose of the story.  What behavior or social skill is being targeted?  How it might make the student feel?  What might the student think?
I recently have added a packet on TpT that provides a bank of pages for classroom behavior social skills. 
CB Social Story

This packet includes illustrated pages:
CB Social Story
This packet also includes editable pages to allow students to illustrate.  Or, the user can insert actual pictures of the student in the story.
CB Social Story

For more information on what is included, visit my TpT store.  If you are writing your own social story good luck and have fun creating!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2014-2015 School Calendar is Here!

Happy summer everyone!  I have had some interest on a school calendar for the upcoming school year.  For those of you getting a jump start on the next school year, just click on the picture below.  The link will connect you to TpT, where you can download the calendar for free.
Editable Calendar
This year I made the calendar editable.  What this means is that you can insert your own text and add your own pictures or clip art.  Hopefully this calendar will keep you organized, provide a source of communication with parents/staff, or come in handy with student calendar activities.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

ABC's...Not Just For Kinders!

Is this school year really almost over?  While I am ready for the summer, I am not sure how it got here so fast.  Time flies when you're having fun...right?!?!  To wrap up the school year, I wanted to do a little something with my IEP counseling students that was fun, but would also make them think.  I decided to do an alpha lesson titled A Year in Review.  Feel free to click the image below to use this with your students.  This will give you a little sneak peak of a packet I am working on. 
A Year in Review
I decided to keep the form generic so they could really think about what they learned in all aspects of their school day.  I told them their answers could be about core content, behavior, friendships, get the picture.  I then gave them a time limit to try to think of something they learned within the year that started with each letter of the alphabet.  I told them they could answer in any order.  Not any one student was able to complete the alphabet, but this activity really made them think.  Once the time limit was up, the students shared what they came up with.  From there, we identified the most important lesson learned academically and behaviorally and the hardest lesson learned academically and behaviorally.  Using the ABC's is not just for kinders.  The older students love it too!
Here are a few examples that students came up with:
C - Coping skills for when I start to go into shut down mode
I - Ignore people that are trying to distract me
S- Set good examples
M - Math is still hard
B - Basketball
C - Calm down when I get mad
D - Don't listen to rumors
A - Ask for help if I need it
And the list can go on and on, but you get it.  Have your students try it.  You'll be surprised what all they have learned.  When you think they weren't listening, they were!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Testing Table

Well, now that we are through the biggest testing administration, I feel like I can breathe.  What a busy, busy month it has been!  I just wanted to take a second to share a table that I created to help organize my small groups for standardized testing.  There are three things that I consider when forming small groups.
1. Version of test (ex: modified test or regular test)
2. Oral testing (ex: all, part, or none)
3. Time (4 hour session or extended time session)
I use special education paperwork, 504 paperwork, student support team paperwork, and input from teachers to fill in the chart above.  I have a chart for each subject/grade level being tested.  So far this chart has been a very simple tool to help keep testing organized, efficient, and accurate.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Testing Tools

Testing season is in full swing in Texas ~ YEEHAW!  If you are the testing coordinator at your campus, then you know how important it is to have plans in place so a high stress day can run smoothly.  Here are a couple of tools that I am using to help with procedures at my school during our state mandated testing days. 

1. Color Coded Passes
Signs and Passes
Each classroom has one pass for girls and on class for boys.  Each grade is a different color.  The cards help the hall monitors track how many students are in the restroom at once.  The colors help to make sure there are not too many students from the same grade level in the restrooms at once.

2. Communication Cards
Signs and Passes

Each test administrator has a set of communication cards.  They post these cards outside of their door to communicate with the hall monitors (who communicate with other administrators and myself) when they need any of the following:
~School Nurse Needed
~Test Administrator Needs a Break
~Test Administrator Needs Assistance
~Testing is Complete

Today was our first day of testing and both systems worked well and kept things organized.  I am sharing these tools on my TpT page for free.  So, if you like the idea, then you can download the cards from here: Testing Signs & Passes.

Monday, February 24, 2014

TpT 3 Million Teachers Sale

Hello!  If you haven't already heard TpT is having a sale to celebrate the 3,000,000 teacher milestone.  Take advantage of the savings!  Everything in my store will be 20% off, plus an additional 8% from TpT, for a total of 28% off.  What a deal, right?!?!
The Idea Hub
Just like the ad above, enter the promo code TPT 3 at the checkout.  Thanks for supporting TpT and The Idea Hub.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Conversation Hearts

It's always fun to incorporate the current holiday into lessons.  In this Valentine's Day activity I tied in social skills topics with conversation hearts.  Feel free to use this sheet with your students that need a little extra practice in the manners department.
Conversation Hearts
If the students are having difficulty decoding the messages, then have them earn letter hints by answering questions.  Playing hangman is also an exciting option.
Conversation Hearts
I use activity sheets like this as a source for conversation starters.  In this one page you can address the following social skills:
  • Giving gifts
  • Receiving gifts
  • Not being included
  • Saying please and thank you
  • Appropriate signs of affection (friends vs. family members)
  • Recognizing feelings
  • Taking turns/waiting your turn
*Download this sheet by clicking on the image.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Yes/No Behavior Charts

Behavior in the classroom can be tricky!  One tool that works consistently is a Yes/No Chart.  This chart focuses on ONE target behavior at a time in which "yes" the student meets the target, or "no" the student does not meet the expectation.  Here are the top 10 reasons to use a Yes/No Chart:
1. It is very specific
2. It is quick and easy to document
3. Creates a great avenue for communication between home and school
4. Focuses on the positive with a reward incentive
5. Goals can easily be set and then increased as the student experiences success
6. Can be used for both elementary and secondary students (see examples below)
7. A picture schedule can be incorporated into the chart
8. Creates a way to track patterns of strengths and weakness in the students day/week
9. A wonderful way to collect data to make data driven decisions
10. My students have a high success rate, and I hope yours do too!

The example above is a chart that I would use for younger students.  In the first column you will see a visual schedule.  I used my Picture Schedule Icons.  Next, you will see ONE expectation for each class.  In the third column you will see happy faces to circle for a YES and sad faces to mark for a NO.  Lastly there is a place for additional comments.  At the bottom of the page there is a space to set a goal (# of happy faces) for the day.  There is also a place to record what the reward will be if the goal is met.  Option: if the student has met their goal all week, then a larger reward can be honored. 

The chart above is an example for older students.  This one page can be used to document behavior for the week.  At the top put the student's name and the target behavior being addressed.  Each table is labeled with the day of the week and a place to mark how many points were earned for the day.  Below the Y/N box there is a blank row where the teachers can initial or sign after circling if the student met expectations.  At the very bottom of the page the weekly goal (# of yes's) is set on Monday, along with the reward.  The total points will be recorded at the end of the day on Friday in hopes that this number is greater than or equal to the weekly goal.  If so, the student will enjoy their reward!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Many Colored Days

Reality has sunk in, and Christmas break is over...BOO!  Just like most of you, I have spent this week getting back into my school routine.  Over the break I spent time thinking about what I wanted to share next.  I realized that I have not mentioned or suggested any books, and I use bibliotherapy often.  One book I use consistently is My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss.  This book targets a younger reader, but it can be used with older students as well.  Students of all ages can have a difficult time talking about their emotions and identifying feelings or triggers of feelings.  The simple words and vivid colors used in this book allow students to connect with emotions in an imaginative way. 
 My Many Colored Days is also a great book to use in a group setting.  After reading the book, the students color in a puzzle according to how each piece would make them feel.  The color key in the puzzle coordinates with the colors in the book.  At the following group session the students would compare their puzzles and notice the similarities and differences of how like situations could cause different feelings.  They also notice that one puzzle piece could be filled with multiple colors.   For example, they might feel sad and mad at the same time.  What a great way to start a group discussion!

The printable puzzle "Emotions Can be Puzzling" shown in the picture above is included in The Feelings Hub packet available in my TpT store.  I will have this download on sale in my store until January 16th.