Saturday, July 11, 2015

ASCA 2015: My Conference Highlights, part 1

What an amazing time I had at ASCA, meeting online friends in real life, networking, attending fabulous sessions, and hearing incredible keynote speakers!  It was a wonderful 4 days and for anyone who has not been to ASCA before, or it has been a long time since you last attended, start saving your money now for ASCA 16 in New Orleans July 9-12, “The Recipe for Success.”

ASCA Day–At-A-Glance
My ASCA 15 experience started on Saturday.  I arrived the evening before in order to attend the pre-conference RAMP camp session. That evening I was able to make a new friend from Colorado and meet up with some Twitter folks.  We went for dinner at a local Thai restaurant where we shared about ourselves and our schools and just enjoyed good food and good company.

Pre-conference sessions started first thing Sunday morning.  I signed up for RAMP camp and was so glad I did!  Last year when I first heard about RAMP camp I couldn’t imagine myself doing RAMP.  But this past year has been an amazing time of professional growth for me and I realize my school and I are ready to pursue the Recognized ASCA Model Program designation.  It’s all about using data to inform your goals and programming for your school and how to do it. I learned about School Counseling Advisory Councils, creating yearly, monthly and weekly calendars, and writing SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound).  We also covered action and results plans for class, group and closing the gap group lessons.  There were lots of great suggestions and tips and a presenter and RAMP reviewer who were happy to have us contact them as resources along the way as we pursue the RAMP process.

Building a Dream
Our first keynote was by Phoenix Science teacher, Fredi Lajvardi, from Carl Hayden Community High School whose undocumented HS students won the underwater robotics competition against colleges like MIT and Virginia Tech.  The movie “Spare Parts” is based on their story exploring their personal struggles and ultimate accomplishments.  Lajvardi tells us how the robotics club has grown and impacted the students at his school; the students no one expected anything from and who expected nothing of themselves.  He talked about breaking down barriers, shifting paradigms and embracing the diversity of your population in order to build success in your organization.  He tells us, “If life doesn’t give you a dream, build one.”  Check out this preview of "Spare Parts" below.  It is currently available on demand through AT&T U-verse. Be sure to watch!  What an inspiring story!

Ready to check out all the vendors and fill my treasure map!
Sunday evening the exhibit hall opened!  It is a School Counselors dream!  We had a Treasure Hunt card to take to various vendors to be stamped and later entered for several special drawings.  The vendors had the usual free stuff like pens, sticky notes, squishy balls, brochures, hand-outs and lots and lots of information.  Some great free websites I learned about you will want to check out are as follows: is a great career resource telling students about the world of accounting and the huge demand for accountants in every type of organization. There are videos and virtual field trips and a tab for educators with cool tools. with lots of free resources and downloadable curriculum for middle and high school but I’m sure there are some things here I will be using with my 5th graders , especially about sexting.   is a great website many of you probably already know about.  The Great Kindness Challenge  will be January 25-29, 2016.  Go to their website to register your school and download their kindness checklist and free toolkit.   "Career Girls is a free, noncommercial, online platform which showcases video clips of diverse women role models sharing career and educational advice to inspire young girls to expand their horizons, improve their academic performance and dream big about their futures.  We are dedicated to providing girls of all income levels and ethnic backgrounds with the academic tools and support they need to achieve their professional aspirations.”  These awesome, high quality videos and lessons plans are mainly for middle and high school girls, however I can see using few of these with 5th grade and possibly some of my 4th grade girls.  free evidenced based program whose goal is to teach tobacco prevention.  There are 3 instructional modules grades 5-6, grade 7, and grades 8-9.  Go online to order your free tools. lots of free lessons plans and educators guides for lessons on diversity, bullying, and bias.  Check out information about no name calling week and the Ready, Set, Respect elementary tool kit to help all children feel safe and respected and to share those attitudes with others.

Monday Sessions at ASCA!
Let the learning begin! I have to be honest, it was tough to choose between so many great sessions!  There were always 3 or 4 or more sessions going on simultaneously that I wanted to attend.  ASCA did a superb job of gathering together an awesome selection of presentations.  

My first choice did not disappoint. I attended Technology Based College and Career Lessons by Rebecca Lallier and Amy Wheeler.  I knew this was the workshop for me when Rebecca told us ahead of time to bring our devices so we could create. Then when I heard her say, “This is not another fire hat, not another worksheet,”  I knew I was in the right place. Anyone can use her model to create units and not just about careers, but for any topic, at any level. 

Rebecca has created a website for her students called Career Smarts.  In her presentation she explained the methods and tools she used and showed us how to create something similar.  Using ASCA and Common Core standards Rebecca set up a digital platform, and curated resources like career videos, state colleges, information about multiple intelligence, and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.  She taught the lesson basics and then had the students explore and create their own knowledge. 

By creating the Career Smart site these ladies were able to engage students in all modalities, differentiate learning, give kids an innovative way to show their work, and build their tech skills. Students were also working on their reading, writing, collaboration, and organization skills, all while learning them about careers!  Sounds amazing doesn’t it?  Now before you get all excited and think this is a ready-made site you can use for your students, you need to understand this is closed site she created for her students with their work, so even in our ASCA session we could not view or access the entire site due to privacy.  The point of the session, to borrow from the proverb, was not to give us a fish, but to teach us to fish and Rebecca and Amy did just that.  They talked us through the entire process of  how they created  their site, gave us a list of awesome apps they used, talked about using various web tools,  curating videos and  web resources, and then gave us a chance to begin creating something of our own.  If you want to know more about “Career Smarts,” check out Rebecca’s blog at

In the afternoon I did a little session hopping as there was too, too much I wanted to see and hear.  I stopped in at the Amazing Data Race: An ASCA National Model Scavenger Hunt with Jeremy Goldman, which was quite good but I had just been to RAMP camps and he was talking about much of the same things we had just covered the day before.  So next I stopped in to see Dr. Carolyn Stone in her session on Critical Court Cases of the Last Decade.  As always she is funny and oh so smart and well versed in the court rulings that impact School Counselors.  When I arrived she was talking to a standing room only crowd about the Super Highway to Losing your Job.  And even though I had heard her speak at my state convention in the Fall I had to stop in for a few minutes and listen.  
I finally landed in 35 Creative Solution-Focused Strengths-Based Activities by Dr. Carol Buchholz Holland.  She was wonderful and there were actually 47 strategies.  I arrive at number 24 so I heard half of them.   Here are some of my favorites:
#30  Skeleton Key activity: help a student identify past successes, use and old key as an anchor for a student to keep in their pocket as a reminder of past successes.
#33  Power Hands activity: students draw and outline both hands (get a friend to help) write or draw on each finger things they are good at doing.  Spend time highlighting their strengths.
#36  Weathering Personal Challenge: divide paper in half and have student draw a difficult situation on the left side.  On the right side draw what got them through the tough time.  Have them caption how they made it through the tough time.
#38 Survive/Thrive Chart: have student think of a hard time, draw a T chart, label one side survive the other thrive.  Have the student list or draw what they did to survive the tough time. On the thrive side, ask the student to list or draw what they do to grow/thrive.  What has brought new meaning to their life?

My final session of the day was Games and Self-Assessments for Stress Management with Grace Wilhelm.  There was no PowerPoint in this room, just a rapid paced and humorous session with Grace demonstrating how she uses regular board games as tools for stress management with individual students, groups, classes, faculty, parents, and community members.  Games she uses frequently are Jenga, Don't Break the Ice, Kerplunk, Barrel of Monkeys, Topple, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Barking Bruno, and Connect 4. I especially loved how she used two of the games she shared with us, Jenga and Kerplunk.  

Grace uses Jenga as a meet the counselor activity.  For this lesson only, she asks the teacher to stay in the classroom with her to record the student responses. She numbers the Jenga blocks and calls out the numbers. As students come to the front of the room one at a time, they must say their name, where they live, who they live with and tell a story about a pet. All the while the teacher records this information.  Grace says this is a good opportunity for the teacher to get to know her students a little better too.  Once the Jenga tower is build she asks them to come up again and start taking the blocks out. She jokes with them that the longer this takes the longer they are out of math. Now  when they come up to remove a block they must say what they want to be when they grow up.  

Keplunk is used to talk about stress, but can also be used to talk about friendship or study skills or whatever you need it for.  In Keplunk, the marbles at the top of the container are the stress points,  the sticks in the middle of the container are the stress relievers. She asks what is something you can do to get rid of stress ?  As the student names something they pull out a stick.  Did that one thing release the stress? No.  What else is something you can do?  Pull out another stick, and continue to pull sticks for each stress reliever named by the student until the marbles are released. Did student get relief with one thing.  No there are lots of things you must do everyday to get rid of stress. Marbles can also be points to make an A. Sticks are what I need to do to get an A.  Marbles can represent friends.  Sticks can be all the things I can do to make friends.   To learn more about how Grace uses games and play check out her website at Counselor Games.

School Counselors After Hours  
The sessions are over for the day and so what's a School Counselor to do?  Now it's time to get out there and network with your follow School Counselors at the Meet-Up!  You know all those creative, helpful people you talk to on the Counselor Facebook pages and tweet with on Twitter chats?  Monday night was the time we all got to meet in person!  Carol Miller, our Facebook page founder, organized our gathering and created a fun Bingo game card for us to use as a way to mingle and meet each other. It was great to actually talk face to face with the people I have been chatting with online and some I haven't.  I even met some new School Counselor friends who are working overseas.  What interesting jobs and lives they have! As the Meet Up wound down, I headed out to dinner with some of my new friends and later joined them for Trivia night in the ballroom.  It was a full day and tomorrow promises more of the same.  Stay tuned for part 2 of my ASCA conference highlights.

The talented Traci Brown so nice to meet you!
Our awesome FB page creator and Meet-Up organizer Carol Miller.

New friend and fellow elementary counselor Kelly.

The "Meet-Up" Gang

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