Saturday, March 28, 2015

Evidence-Based School Counseling

 (Part 1 of a 4 part series)
It was pure luck that I first heard of the Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference at Northern Kentucky University in Erlanger. The conference title and website intrigued me and as luck would have it, 2 weeks before the conference, they were still taking registrations. There was even room at the conference hotel with shuttle service to the airport and conference center and I found a relatively inexpensive non-stop plane flight.  Oh, and did I mention, it was my Spring Break? It was meant to be.

The Conference

Visiting the EBSC website I found the following conference description and I was sold.

“The Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference provides school counselors with critical information about successful practice, evaluation, and relevant research to create dynamic and powerful school counseling programs. The conference uses a unique format to incorporate both peer-reviewed research presentations and small group consultation with leaders in the field.”

I have been to my share of professional conferences  at the local, state, and national level, but the EBSC conference is by far my favorite.  The conference was small, I would estimate about 300 participants.  The session selection was of the highest quality and varied. There was time for networking, professional exchange, making new friends, and the opportunity to meet some of School Counseling’s “rock stars."

“Rock Star” Dr. Trish Hatch

Watching Dr.Trish Hatch deliver a keynote is a little like being on a roller coaster. Without your safety belt.  The ride is fast and exciting, but you are also scared to death you are not going to be able to stay in your seat.  Not because you are afraid you are going to be thrown out of it, but because she generates the kind of excitement that makes you want to jump up and get started. Her message is delivered at a rapid pace with passion and enthusiasm.  This is because there is so much she wants School Counselors to know and so much she wants to encourage School Counselors to do.  She will tell you our time is NOW.

The Miracle Question
 Our keynote begins with Dr. Hatch asking us the Miracle question.  If we were to wake up tomorrow and a miracle were to have occurred in School Counseling what would that look like?  How would we act?  How would we feel?  What would be different?  She tells us the miracle is happening NOW.  We have a national model and there are national conversations happening NOW. The spotlight is on School Counselors with the Reach Higher initiative, the First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at ASCA, and School Counselors being mentioned in documents nationwide like Common Core. As exciting as these events are, they are not enough. We must create the miracle. We must show how School Counselors are making a difference. NOW.

Speed Data-ing
Dr. Hatch said this was her first time trying out the term “Speed Data-ing,"  also known as the flashlight approach in her book, The Use of Data in School Counseling.  We are reassured we can’t measure everything, so she tells us to measure one thing- well. By assessing a specific data need and providing an intervention in that one area, we can show in a relatively short time, with perception data, the impact we can make in the attitude, knowledge, and skills of our students.

In closing, we were encouraged to redefine our School Counseling programs by using evidence-based practices. When we do, we start creating the miracle we want to see in School Counseling. Don’t wait for a miracle, she tells her audience, there is no time. Go create one.

Next time, The Flashlight Approach

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Technology APPreciation

Last Christmas it seems a large number of my students got some sort of technology as a gift.  Whether it was a new iPhone, tablet, or a hand-me-down from one of their parents, my students were getting more access to the internet and hand held devices.  In my lessons teaching about digital safety and citizenship, there were conversations about various apps and websites, many of which I did not know.  So what do you do if you want to know what’s cool and "happening" with the kids?  You ask them that’s what!  So ask I did.  My idea was for students to share in class with me and their classmates their favorite app, website, or game.  The enthusiasm was overwhelming and the students did a great job presenting to their classmates!

 Before the lesson:  Know your cords!
For Apple phones 4s and earlier and iPads 3 and earlier .
The biggest prep for this lesson was experimenting beforehand.  In order to have a successful lesson using technology you must, of course, have the right cords.  I used my iPhone 4s and my iPad Air. Each requires a different VGA cord.  Please see the photos below and be sure you have the right cord for your device.  VGA cords can be bought on-line or at places like Best Buy and Wal-Mart and cost around $40.00.  If you have the VGA cord version that goes to the older Apple phones and iPads and a sales person tries to sell you the adapter to convert your old VGA to the Lightening VGA say, "No thank you!"  I bought one of those little babies for 20 bucks only to learn it does not support video so nothing from the app or games sites would come through the device.

The Lightening VGA adapter is needed for the iPhone 5 and iPad 4 and higher.

Plug the cable to your LCD projector into the other end of this VGA cord.

The Lesson 
Two weeks before our class meeting I passed out TechnologyAPPreciation forms for students interested in presenting to the class.  My only requirement was I had to have their forms back by the day before our class so I could preview their choice.  In some cases, I needed to download the game or app to my iPhone or iPad so we could view it from the LCD projector.  Lots of kids took the forms but only a handful in each class returned them, but that was okay because we had more than enough to share in one 45 minute class period. 

I used a VGA cable to connect my Apple device (it can be a phone or tablet) to the cable to my LCD projector and the students were able to view it all on the big screen.  Students got up in front of the class and talked about their app, game, or website and did a demonstration of how it was used.  Afterwards, there were questions and answers and, of course, comments.    The best and most surprising thing to come out of this activity was not just my knowledge of what the kids thought was cool, but to see my students, even the very shy ones who never volunteer an answer in class, get up in front of their entire class and share with confidence something about which they were passionate!  In addition, I learned about several games all the kids were excited about like Subway Surfer and Dragonvale. I got some tutoring on Minecraft,  learned about a texting app called Kik, a website for making the most complicated of rubber band bracelets from the Rainbow Loom people, and a kid’s app for free books.  This class activity along with one of the digital safety lessons from Common Sense Media opened a dialogue about all things digital with my students on a more personal level.  We had several awesome and very honest class discussions about their personal experiences on the internet.  Later, I had four different private conversations concerning things my students had experienced on-line that had obviously troubled them but they had not shared before.   What a great opportunity to encourage students to talk to adults they trust about uncomfortable on-line experiences and reinforce the safety strategies we had learned in class lessons.

So if you are looking for an easy lesson with high yield on student participation and enthusiasm, one that initiates open and honest conversations about on-line behavior,  is “counselor cool,” and covers ASCA Behavior Standards for Social Skills try my Technology APPreciation lesson.  

Let me hear what's popular with your students on-line and how you and your students like this lesson!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Good Choices Chart

I was recently working with a new 2nd grade teacher and was impressed with a daily behavior chart  (or a good choices chart as I like to call them) she was using with one of her students.  The chart was large, broken down into smaller time increments, focused on 2 behaviors she wanted to modify in the classroom, and was related to the popular color-coded clip up/down system.

What I loved about this chart is the picture cues and way she had broken down the day into more manageable bits.  This is exactly what I was needing for some of my younger students who were not having success with the morning/afternoon and hourly charts.  Another of my teachers has started using this chart with one of her very aggressive Kindergartners (with adjustments for her student's goals) and is having good success.  This chart is available also in Spanish.

So thanks to Tiffany Quimby (a 2nd grade teacher at my school) and her sister Renee Moncelsi (a teacher in a neighboring county) for giving me permission to share their creation with you.

I hope you find it useful with your primary age students too!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Test Stress to Test Success

My administration, teachers, parents, and students have been stressing out about our upcoming state achievement tests. And with good reason.  Not only is our school grade and professional evaluation under scrutiny but this year we are giving a brand new test.  Gone is our previous state test, of more than a decade, and in its place is something new. But, not necessarily better. The rumor is the questions will be different than things we have seen in the past, like which two answers are most correct or choose all the answers that could be correct. That boggles my mind and I'm an adult with a lot of test-taking experiences under my belt.  Truthfully, those type of questions just seem developmentally inappropriate to me.  It saddens me for my young friends who, it sounds like, will be subjected more to showing whether they can figure out how to answer the questions, rather than showing any actual academic knowledge or skill related to the subjects being tested.

So what's a School Counselor to do?  How do you help students go from test stress to test success? Some do big pep rallies, give away treats, special pencils, or plan big post test celebrations. Others keep it low key and offer suggestions for reducing anxiety and teach some test taking strategies. I have done both and each has its place depending on your population and other School Counselor job expectations. This year I am keeping it simple.  Students in grades 3-5 will be visiting me for a Test Success Lesson.  That's it. Here is  my Test Success PowerPoint  and lesson plan to help prepare your students for whatever standardized testing is in their future.

Good Luck!  I wish you and your students much test success!

Many thanks David Finkle, creator of Mr. Fitz, for his permission to publish his cartoons in this post.
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