Thursday, December 15, 2011

Personal Safety Classroom Lessons

As mentioned in a previous post, we had a parent program to introduce the personal safety curriculum we used for our last rotation of fall classroom guidance lessons. Parents had the ability to view and provide feedback before we introduced Yello Dyno to their children. It was our hope that between introducing this lesson in a safe environment, having a class discussion about key points, and having parents follow-up with a discussion afterward, that students would have a clear understanding on how to stay safe.

Kindergarten had a presentation by the County Fire Educator on fire safety.

First graders watched a Sunburst video called "I Can Be Safe." Topics discussed included: car and outdoor safety, animal safety, stranger awareness, playground safety, kitchen safety, medication safety, and how to handle phone calls from unknown people. It was also stressed to students to be aware of their address and important phone numbers in case of an emergency.

Second through 4th graders watched the Yello Dyno video "Can't Fool Me" and reviewed safety rules including: Knowledge is Power, Tricky People, Trusting Feelings, I can say NO!, and don't keep secrets that make you feel unsafe.

5th graders watched the Sunburst video called "When Should You Tell? Dealing with Abuse." Follow up questions included: Feelings associated with abuse, NOT keeping it a secret if someone abuses them, the importance of not touching others- especially in areas covered by a bathing suit, the importance of continuing to tell if an adult is told about the abuse and doesn't do anything about it, listening to instincts, feeling safe, and unwelcome touches are not their fault and they didn't do anything to deserve it.

Overall, knowledge is power and it is our hope that through sharing this sensitive topic with students in a developmentally appropriate way, they will know how to handle different types of situations that might potentially arise.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Social Skills with ED class

Each month I meet with the Emotionally Disabled (ED) class to do social skills activities with them. Oftentimes, I cover topics that are covered during classroom guidance but I also take the opportunity to do activities tailored to the needs of these students. Through collaboration with the ED teachers, I determine what the current need is and select activities based on their feedback. One student in particular has been having difficulty with transition (he doesn't want to transition OUT of the ED class). To help support his success and to promote his attempt in transitioning out of the class, I focused on this topic with the students today. We read Julia Cook's book, Don't Be Afraid To Drop and talked about the different mix of feelings we experience with transition. We also discussed the pros and cons of transition and how we experience transition all the time. Students had the opportunity to draw a picture of a time they had to transition. I encouraged the students that since they were able to successfully transition before, they will be able to use those skills learned through their previous experience to help them with transition in the future. We also discussed how transition is important to grow as an individual and to not miss out on fun, new, and exciting opportunities that come along. If you have a student struggling with transition, this book is a great resource to use!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Data & Small Group Counseling

As mentioned in a previous post, in my accountability plan for this year, I'm using data to drive the small groups I implement. With the winter break quickly approaching, I'm beginning to wrap-up my first round of groups for the year. Three of the groups I've implemented (one academic, two behavior) have focused on school success. To determine the participants, I've used my experience on the school data team to assist me. I've also found that implementing groups through data demonstrates how counselors play a vital role in the school, to assist teachers in the academic and behavioral development of students. Using the RtI model is quite simple and user friendly when the components are understood.

Academics- During the data team meetings, strategies to support identified red and yellow zone students are discussed. As a school counselor, I'm able to take note of these individuals and share strategies I'm implementing to support these students. One is through small group counseling of study skills. I'm happy to say, all students that (as of the beginning of the year) were only receiving classroom intervention (while progress monitoring) participated in 30 minutes of small group counseling once a week for 8 weeks. During the group (often during lunch, specials, or recess- I interchanged the times so they didn't miss the same activity each week), we cover different topics including: work habits, listening skills, organization, test taking strategies, preparing your body for learning, and homework plans. I've used a variety of resources to implement this topic in a fun and interactive way. One of my favorite resources for academic group counseling is called, I Didn't Know I Could Be the Child Left Behind. I've used this resource several times now for academic groups and it's easy to use, a quick and easy resource for me, and most of all- something the kids really enjoy from grades 2-5. I'm looking forward to looking at the data again to determine if participation in these groups played a role in increasing academic performance in these students.

Behavior- To determine participants in the behavior group, I looked at the total number of logged behavioral referrals from last school year. There were a total of 590 write-ups among 201 students (school population from last year was 821). The results are very similar to the different tiers of RtI; 93% of our school population was identified as green zone (1-2 behavioral write-ups), 4% are yellow zone (3-5 write-ups), and 3% are red zone (6 or more write-ups). I identified all red and yellow zone students and what the write-ups were for. These individuals have been participating in a school success group focused on different behavioral strategies. Thanks to collaboration with the school librarian, we will begin a book club with students using Scholastic- Muhammad Ali: Go the Distance! books. I used these books at a previous school for behavioral support and the students loved them! Hopefully, follow up data will demonstrate a decrease in behavioral write-ups for students participating in this group.

To learn more about RtI please visit some of my favorite sites/blogs: RtI Network, Musings of an Urban School Psychologist, and Notes from the School Psychologist.

School counselors help make students teachable- facilitating small groups is one component of the multi-faceted job we have; however, it's important for EVERYONE to remember that we all have things going on in our lives (especially students!) that make it difficult to learn and/or make the best behavioral choices. Getting to the root of those problems is necessary before ANY intervention can be successful!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Angel Tree 2011

As our schools unofficial community resource liaison, I have the opportunity to coordinate a lot of activities that support the community and particularly our school community. This year's angel tree is being sponsored by a community business (specializing in home lighting). It was so wonderful (and helpful to me) for them to contact us and ask how they could help! Mid-November (through our school newsletter) I informed families that if they needed holiday assistance and were not receiving support from another organization, to contact me to be a part of the angel tree. I just contacted the coordinator of the lighting business that was so eager to provide assistance and gave her the gender, age, grade, clothing sizes, and wish list items of students and their siblings. I'm so glad to be a part of a community where people are willing to help and give back. Come mid-December the parents that contacted (who were very humble and modest) will be able to pick up the items to give to their children on Christmas. I don't know about you, but it is quite frustrating to see people so focused on "black Friday," "cyber-Monday," and decorating a tree before Thanksgiving (sorry if I offended you)....but isn't giving back and focusing on what we're thankful for what this season is all about (among other things)?! This season makes me hopeful that in the bottom of people's hearts, they wonder how we can give back and help those in need....isn't that what this season is all about anyway!?!

Each angel represents an angel we will help this holiday season!