Saturday, October 31, 2015

Red Ribbon Week Faculty Survey

Whew! A busy, but successful, week has come to a close.  RRW is a lot of fun and a lot of work!  Over the years, as standardized testing has overshadowed every single thing that happens on our campus, our RRW festivities have dwindled.  It is a very basic celebration which requires nothing more from teachers than passing out red ribbons on Monday, creating a class pledge poster, and dressing up each day for our theme.  It is simple, low stress and every one SEEMS to be enjoying the limited activities.  But as with any program you provide, you never really know how people feel unless you give them an opportunity to tell you, anonymously of course.  The best way to gauge the success of your RRW and your faculty response is to conduct a teacher survey.  Here are two I have used.  One is a paper survey which you can edit as needed and can put in their mailboxes. The other is a Google survey you can send as a link in an email.  Remember, with the Google form you must FIRST make a copy and rename it before sending it to your faculty or you will NOT be able to access your faculty responses.   To copy this form click on the black "edit this form" box.  When you see the gray "editable" version, click on the far left on "File."  Under the "File" drop down menu is "make a copy."  Click on "make a copy," rename your document, click OK and it will be in your Google Drive ready to access and edit and share.  Both the paper survey and Google form may be edited to fit your particular RRW activities and theme dress-up days.

It is sometimes hard to hear what others have to say about an event on which you have worked so hard, especially if there are things that did not go well or were not well received.  However, it is always a good idea to get feedback from your co-workers if you wish to earn/maintain their respect and support for future activities. This is one of the ways we learn and grow and create a program that meets the needs of our school.  So ask for their thoughts and suggestions and be prepared to make some changes for next year if necessary.  Also, make sure to publicly thank them for a great week. Maybe a staff email or morning announcement thanking everyone for their participation. Nothing goes further than an outward expression of gratitude.

I hope you find these tools helpful in assessing your Red Ribbon Week.  I'll be interested to hear what my faculty has to say.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Quick and Easy RRW lesson: Pills vs Candy

I was searching today to update some images in one of my PowerPoints for RRW, when I stumbled across a remarkable find that I just have to share with you! I had been thinking about how much some medicine looks like candy and we had talked about this idea quite a bit in several of my classes.  I was also thinking how awesome it would be if I could create a game where students had to guess which was the medicine and which was the candy.  Well, someone has done that and shared it on-line! No need to re-invent that wheel!  I have taken the link  I found while searching Google images and hyperlinked it in a simple PowerPoint that you can use with your classes.  There are 3 levels of play and it asks you to guess on each screen which item is candy or medicine or poison.  When you click on your answer choice, it tells you if you are right or not and what each item really is.  It also keeps track of your right and wrong guesses and gives you a score at the end.  There is also a Spanish version.

I am really excited to share this new RRW activity with you.  Personally, I was fascinated with the comparisons and think this could be done with any age groups K-12.  There are not many resources out there that can say that. I can't wait to try it with my 1st, 2nd and 4th grade classes tomorrow!

Click on the Pills vs Candy link to download the PowerPoint.

Happy Red Ribbon Week!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

3 Simple Ideas for Managing Classroom Behavior

As a new counselor I struggled with how to successfully manage a classroom of students and teach my lesson at the same time. Mostly, I would just keep teaching in spite of whatever foolishness was happening in the room while I was talking.  My goal was to teach my lesson and get to the end of it no matter what!   Students who were calling out, talking while I was talking, off task, disturbing, and distracting others were the norm in my classroom. I didn’t know what to do. Those early years were a frustrating and disheartening time. How was I going to discipline them in the classroom setting and then expect students to connect with me as their School Counselor?

Fortunately for me, I worked with some outstanding teachers who became my mentors, which was a very good thing, because they sure didn’t teach classroom management in my graduate program! In the beginning, I was more concerned with getting through the lesson, so I would let the misbehavior slide just so I could get to the end.  But, my mentors pointed out, if the students were misbehaving, the entire time I was “teaching,” what had my students really learned from my lesson?  And what had they really learned from me?  Sadly, all they had learned from me was what they could get away with when I did a class.  By my failure to stop and reinforce my positive expectations for their behavior, I was silently reinforcing their negative behavior.

Communicating your Procedures and Positive Expectations
 To help with learning to manage classroom behaviors, my mentors recommended I visit different teachers whose classroom management I admired.  In each classroom I observed, I saw different styles of teaching and management. Strict or laid back, dramatic or quiet, creative or by the book, in those classrooms where the students were well behaved and respectful there was a common theme. What I learned was simple, it’s all about clearly and consistently communicating your procedures and positive expectations.

1)     Have a clear idea of what your procedures and positive behavioral expectations are.  Before you can communicate your procedures and positive expectations you must think about what you want to see in behavioral terms in the classroom. When you are teaching your lesson do you want students to raise their hands? Listen when others are speaking?  How do you pass out and return supplies? Is it okay if they get up and walk to the trash can, sharpen a pencil, lean back in their chair, text, chew gum, eat, drink, brush their hair, apply make-up, or talk quietly with a neighbor while you are teaching?
So think. What is important to you?  What are you willing to consistently enforce?  What do you need from your students for teaching and learning to take place?  Remember, that will look different for each of us and that is okay.

2)     Teach, model, practice, repeat.  In order for students to know what you expect, you must teach your positive expectations. NEVER assume they should "just know" how to behave with you.  Spend some time teaching what your positive expectations look and sound like. Model it for them, then have the students practice your positive expectations.  Repeat as often as necessary.  At the beginning of my “Meet the Counselor” lessons each year, I always start with the procedures for my room and my positive expectations for their behavior.  We are a PBIS school and have four positive behavioral expectations we teach all around our campus; Perform Personal Best, Act Responsibly, Work and Play Safely, and Show Respect.  These are the foundation for my first lesson and I talk about what each one will look and sound like in our time together.

In doing this, I think it is important to understand there is absolutely nothing “un-counselor like” in clearly stating your procedures and positive expectations for student behavior when you are together.  As School Counselors, we talk about creating and teaching lessons on respect, responsibility, and social skills.  Teaching our students how to attend to the speaker, monitor their own behavior, and choose and demonstrate appropriate social skills required for a situation are the most basic of skills for success in life.  What better way to conduct your classes?

3)     Consistently reinforce your procedures and positive expectations in EVERY lesson.
In EVERY lesson, you must put consistently reinforcing your procedures and positive behavioral expectations above teaching that lesson.  No matter how hard you worked on creating the lesson or how fun the activity or awesome the story may be, there is no learning if students are involved in disruptive or disrespectful behavior.  You may have to stop your lesson multiple times, you may not get to the activity or story, but it is more important to consistently reinforce your procedures and positive expectations as often as is needed in order for your classes to learn your expectations for them.

So, if you expect them to raise their hand to speak, don't accept answers from those who call out.  Politely remind them by always restating the rule.  “You show respect to your classmates by raising your hand if you want to speak."  Then call on someone who has been sitting quietly with their hand up, thanking them for raising their hand.  If someone is being silly or talking to a neighbor, stop and remind them the rule is to show respect and we do that by having one person talk at a time. If someone is not participating appropriately in a group I might ask if they are acting responsibly and what they could be doing instead.  If materials are passed out and collected in a specific way and students are grabbing and arguing, remind them what the procedure is and how we work and play safely. And if necessary, stop and re-teach and practice that procedure.

Great classroom management = Being respected as an authority figure
I know there are some School Counselors who think having a well-mannered class means you have to have the teacher in the room with you or you have to be a negative authority figure the students then won’t be able trust.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is possible to be both a figure of authority and a trusted and respected School Counselor. Think about a favorite authority figure; a teacher, coach or relative for whom you have a lot of respect.  If you stop to analyze why you have respect for them I would guess it is because of things like they were kind, fair, consistent, positive, had high expectations for you, and held you accountable for your actions.  My students know I love them, but I can go in the cafeteria of screaming students and give the quiet sign and they get quiet.  I can give a look in my classroom and restore order.  It’s not because I am a large, threatening presence or have any special power over them in terms of disciplinary actions.  It is because I have clearly communicated and consistently taught and reinforced my positive expectations.  Students need structure, they need boundaries, and they need to know what your positive behavioral expectations are too.

So there you have it.  My three simple ideas for managing classroom behavior.  It takes practice and you will have set backs.  But keep on giving it your best.  You, your students, and your school counseling program will be better for your efforts.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Red Ribbon Week lessons

October is one of the busiest months of the year for School Counselors who are trying to do Red Ribbon Week and Bully Prevention all in just 31 days.  Here are two intermediate lessons I have created to teach during the month of October using a variety of information off the web and ideas from the formerly free website, now $149 a year)

The first lesson called "Over the Counter and Prescription Medicine" teaches students drugs are powerful chemicals that change the way our bodies work.  These can be good or bad, illegal or legal, prescription or Over-the-Counter (OTC) or street drugs.  This lesson uses thinking maps and Kagan structures to help keep students interested, engaged and focused on the similarities and differences in prescription drugs and over the counter drugs.  I have used this lesson with 3rd, but it could easily be used with 4th, 5th and possibly 6th with some adjustments. Depending on your discussion and use student thinking maps, this could be be two 30-45 minute lessons.  Included here is the PowerPoint and lesson plan.

The next lesson is "What do you know about drugs?"  This lesson is for my older students and I use it only with 5th grade. It is definitely a lesson that could be used with 6th -8th.  You can do this as a PowerPoint  quiz and presentation/discussion, Personal Response Clicker lesson, or as a Kahoot! lesson if you have the technology or allow students to bring their own.   The "What do you know about drugs?" PowerPoint has 15 questions which function as a pre/post test with answer key and information slides at the end of the slide show.  After giving the pre test, have groups teach the class the information about drugs from their slide(s) and maybe something they did not know or was surprising to them.  After sharing, have class take the post test on paper or perhaps do the Kahoot! This lesson can take two 30-45 minutes class sessions depending on the amount of discussion generated from the information slides.  Included here is the PowerPoint and lesson plan. If you have access to technology here is a very similar version (18 questions) of the Powerpoint on Kahoot!  you may want to try this with your students as the pre/post test.  My students always want to play Kahoot! again, so pre/post it is!

My RRW Overview

Prior to Red Ribbon Week I  give teachers an overview of the week and send home our theme and a list of dress up days to parents in English and Spanish. Two weeks before I create a large template that goes with our theme and give one per class for students to decorate and sign as their pledge to practice healthy choices and stay drug free.  These are due to me by Friday before the start of RRW so I can hang them up around the school. (Last year we did "I mustache you to be drug free.")
 After hanging up class pledges, I put ribbons and safety pins in mailboxes for teachers to pass out on Monday.  On the Monday of RRW my 5th grade Leadership students  and any of their parents who would like to help, show up an hour before school to tie red ribbons on all the poles in the parent and bus loop and all the poles outside our classrooms.  (We are  in Florida, we are an "outside" school.) Afterwards, we have a doughnut and juice breakfast before sending them off to class.

Each morning of RRW I have a short message I read on the morning news show about the history of RRW, healthy choices, peer pressure, etc.  These messages are sent to me periodically as a bonus for our purchase of the Project Wisdom program.  Due to the copyright, I am unable to share them here. However, here is a brief summary message I wrote using information off the internet from the Camarena Club to explain the reason Red Ribbon Week was started.

With more standardized testing and Common Core pressure on classroom teachers, I have severely cut back our RRW activities to just the dress up days, wearing ribbons, class pledge, my classroom lessons, and morning messages.  These are about all my faculty can handle and for these I get support.

To me, RRW is all about increasing awareness of using medication correctly and wisely, focusing on healthy choices and lifestyles, and learning to handle peer pressure. RRW is not something for I which we have any school generated data, but we know students who make good choices, lead a healthy life and resist peer pressure are going to do better in school.  Now if I could only figure out how to show that with data!

For more RRW lessons check out this link to  primary and intermediate lessons I have previously shared.

Enjoy your RRW!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

DATA Talks: Defining and Demystifyng DATA

Welcome to "DATA Talks!"  This  will be an ongoing series designed to answer questions about DATA!  Future posts will focus on where to find data, disaggregating data, tools for collecting data, identifying goals based on data, writing an action plan, and more. Feel free email me with questions or ideas for future "DATA Talks."

Before we begin, I am very interested in researching how well School Counselors have been prepared to use data in their school counseling programs.  If you would, please take a few minutes and answer the 9 question survey linked below.  Your participation would greatly appreciated and I will be sharing our results in a future "DATA Talks" post.
School Counselor Training, the ASCA Model, and the Use of Data survey.

First, let me say I am not an expert, not at all.  I'm just someone who finally has an understanding of  DATA and an eagerness to share what I have learned.  Dr. Trish Hatch and her book The Use of Data in School Counseling  have been the primary influence in my understanding of data and its usage. Hearing her in person and reading her book have compelled me to learn all I can about the use of data.  If you do not own this book, I strongly urge you to spend the $25 to buy it.  It is a "must have" for every School Counselor's library.

We hear this word thrown around a lot.  We know we need to do something with it, but are not really sure what. A number of years ago in my district, we were given a form called the MEASURE  and told to use data to show our effectiveness.  But, to be perfectly honest, until a year ago, I DID NOT HAVE A CLUE how to do that.  NOT ONE BIT!  But as many of us do, I faked it.  Not the data, I used real data, but it was the wrong data and I didn't know and neither did anyone else.  Because no one I knew had any idea about how or where to gather and use the right the data.  Nope, no clue.   I don't know what my other  30+ colleagues did because we never talked about it.  Talk about a conspiracy of silence!  We used that form for probably 4 years. It really is a pretty good tool for measuring program effectiveness, but not if you don't understand data.  So, during those years I continued to dutifully fill in all the boxes, without any real idea about what I should have been doing. And sadly, without making any real change in my school counseling program.

"DATA" Defined and Demystified
Let's start with some basic definitions.  When people throw around the word DATA it can have many different meanings, however, it is used as if there were only one.  In order to understand those meanings, you must understand the context in which the word DATA is being used.  There is school generated data and School Counselor generated data, achievement data and achievement-related data.  Then there is process, perception, outcome and competency data. Unfortunately, most people do not use a descriptor when talking about DATA, they just say DATA.  And unless you have an understanding of the various contexts it can all seem quite confusing.

School generated data: data automatically generated by the school such as reports regarding attendance and tardies, discipline, suspensions, report card grades, conduct grades, "at-risk" students, climate surveys, standardized test scores, GPA, changes in achievement levels, retention rates, drop out rates,etc. 
School generated data can be divided into 2 parts, achievement data and achievement-related data.  School Counselors need to stick with achievement-related data.

Achievement data:  Data that is used to measure the progress of students and the success of a school. It can impact school grades, funding, administrative and teacher/counselor employment. These are things like standardized test scores, graduation rates, ACT/SAT scores, drop-out rate, GPA, changes in achievement levels, retention rates, pass rates for HS exit exams, etc. 
It is impossible to show how School Counselors directly impact these types of data.

Achievement-related data:  (Listen up Counselor Friends! This is for us!)
The data elements that impact student achievement. When students attend school, behave, do HW and take rigorous classes they perform better in school which in turn will show improvement in achievement.  Achievement related data are things such as discipline referrals, attendance and tardies, report card grades, conduct grades, "at -risk" students, and climate surveys.

All of these are elements that can be directly impacted by the services of the School Counselor.
Achievement-related data is your starting point.  This is the data you want to analyze for patterns, deficits and needs to help inform your program goals. Your school may have other data they generate that you may wish to reference like ethnicity, gender, and ESE student data. This will be helpful when disaggregating  your data, but that is something we will cover in another post.

School Counselor generated data: data a School Counselor generates from pre and post tests or surveys for assessing student perceptions following lessons or groups.   Also, parent, teacher, and student needs assessments for informing school counseling program goals.

More DATA terms
Three more data terms you have probably heard are process, perception and outcome data. I used to always get these three mixed up!

Process data  think "just the facts."  This tells what the School Counselor did and for whom.  It is proof an event occurred.  Process data tells the who, what, when, where, and how.

September: 37 classroom lessons, 600 students in  K-5 for 45 minutes each to introduce the role of the School Counselor
September: 72 students, 10 small groups of 6-8 students each for one 30 minute  Meet and Greet to provide new student orientation
April: 18  8th grade homerooms lessons for 40 minutes each to 275 students to discuss registration for high school

Perception data measures how students attitudes, knowledge and skills are different as a result of your lesson or group.  Have beliefs changed, students learned a skill, or their  knowledge increased?  This is  all about what the students have learned.  Hatch tell us to shift the words around to remember to "ASK,"  that is measure what students learned as a result of an activity.  By using pre/post tests, surveys, exit tickets, role play,etc. you can assess what students have learned from your time together.

Before class 84% of students believed a single incident of name calling was bullying
after the lesson 12% believed a single incident of name calling was bullying.
Before class 20% of students believed studying with the TV and music on was ineffective, after class this belief increased to 98%.

Skill attainment ( Competency data)
90% of 5th graders could role play 2 Upstander techniques for handling a bully
100% of 7th graders completed a career interest inventory

Before class 17% of students knew the difference in bullying and conflict, after 89% knew the difference.
Before a series of group sessions 5% of 7th grade girls knew 3 ways to reduce drama with friends, after the sessions this knowledge increased to 98%.

Results data   This is the  proof a class or intervention worked or didn't work. It is the data that shows whether their is a change in student behavior.  This is the data that shows how students are different because of what School Counselors do.

Bullying incidences were reduced by 10% from Q1 to Q2
Attendance of Hispanic males improved by 24%
D's and F's by 6th grade students were reduced by 37%

Is the term DATA making more sense now?  Do you have a better understanding of the context  in which you have been heard it used?  I hope this little "DATA Talk has helped."  Feel free to share questions, comments, or suggestions for future "DATA Talks."