Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas

From AFellowSchoolCounselor to all my fellow school counselors, friends, cohorts, and readers- I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. I pray you all have a GLORIOUS New Year full of blessings and achievement! 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where to put all these Board Games?!

I'm not sure if any of you have this same problem... but I am acquiring a large amount of board games and only have so much space to put them. At my Wildcat's school it's especially bad- I have one small bookshelf for student to pick off of and one large bookshelf with doors (that I keep all my counseling books, lessons, workbooks, etc.). I have asked for a bigger bookshelf to keep student activities on but have heard nothing... *chirp chirp*.

So I determined if I can't make the bookshelf bigger, I'll make the stuff smaller... Here's how:

I took a second to see where my games are.

Here are the majority of them (the ones students use most)
Here are some more tucked away in my bench seat.
Plus I have ordered four more and have some at my parents' house I was going to bring in. But I am running out of room. So here's what I did during my lunch today... I first assessed which games needed kept in boxes (Don't Break The Ice, Topple, Mancala, etc.) and set them aside. With the remaining games, I took ALL the pieces, boards, and instructions out of the boxes and cut the boxes down. I felt so wrong cutting a game's box :) But I knew it was for a good cause. I kept the top of the box (minus all the sides cut off) and one of the sides. I threw the bottoms and the scraps away.

Here are some of the edge pieces I cut and kept.
I put all the pieces in small Ziploc Bags and put a piece of the edge (from the box) in the Ziploc with it. This way I would know for definite which pieces went with which game.

Chess and Checkers
I only had Snack Sized Ziplocs so some of them had to be separated or clipped together.

The spinner was too big to go in the bag- I'm going to get some bigger Ziplocs to fix that.
Then I put all the Ziplocs in a basket I had sitting around empty in my office.

However, I may need a bigger basket at some point :)
So then I took all the boards and stood them in an empty thirty-one organizer my wife bought me. 

It's a little too narrow so I may look around a see if I can find an empty milk crate or something.
Since some of the boards were black and easily mixed up, I put the top of the original box in front of it. I have a label maker and may label the boards instead of relying on the box's top... not sure yet...

I want to play... um... Chutes and Ladders!
So now I have all my "board games" sitting my my trunk (which is handy, since that is where my kids like to sit anyways)...

Plus it freed up a TON of space on my bookshelf and in my trunk!
Some games stayed but a huge space is empty now!

All the instructions to the games are in the trunk in a file-folder in case we need them!

Useless trash and space I don't need!
So now I'm thinking I may do the same at my Falcons school... and maybe at home! 

Hope this helps some of you clear out a little more space in your offices! Don't be afraid to take games out of the boxes... A lot of them had SOOO much wasted space it was ridiculous. And I need all the space I can get!

Have a great Holiday and a very Merry Christmas!!!!


Monday, December 16, 2013

How To Teach Integrity??

When I started this career, I knew certain character traits would be more difficult to teach than others. How to Respect others, taking care of our Responsibilities, and Caring for others were some I knew would be easy. 

But Harmony- yea that one was harder. 

Excellence- hard to teach how to be Excellent.

But our Character Trait this month is Integrity- and one of the more difficult concepts to teach. It's really hard for students to understand the concept of doing the right thing for no specific reason other than it's the right thing to do. Why should I "do the right thing even when no one is looking". They can spout it off verbatim but do they really live it? It took a lot of searching but I found some awesome activities to use. Plus, since our district just finished with Math and Science Nights, I made my activities focus on Integrity through a science viewpoint... And two of my favorites (so far) are these:

My First graders got to read The Empty Pot by Demi. 
An AWESOME book that teaches the importance of telling the truth and doing the right thing even when no one else is.
After discussing key concepts from the book, students wrote a sentence about Integrity on a napkin, folded it and placed it in a small Ziploc. The kids then got to place a magic seed (a Pinto Bean) in their bag and we watered it. We talked about how the Integrity washes off the napkin and onto the bean and the kids get to watch other the next few days the bean sprout roots (and how we all grow with Integrity)! The kids love doing it and they think it's cool how the seeds germinate almost overnight!

Next, our Third Graders learned that when we do the right thing (even if no one is directly impacted), it changes the atmosphere, the composition, and the makeup of the entire school. We read The Principal's New Clothes by Stephanie Calmenson.

It's a funny school-related take on The Emperor's New Clothes and it's an older book but for some reason my Third Graders really like it. We talk about how the entire school learns to do the right thing no matter who sees or what others think. But then we talk about Invisible Cloth... and Invisible Ink. :)

"But Mr. Allen, there's no such thing!"

Oh yea?! Well I love science. So here's what we do. I give them all a piece of paper, have them write their name on it, and then flip it over to the blank side. Every student then gets a new writing tool...
Wax makes an awesome writing medium... :) EWWW
Students get so defensive that it's not a writing tool. So I ask for an example of a writing tool... and I get "a pencil!"

I ask them what a pencil is made of and they respond "wood". But does it write with the wood or need something else. Well duh, it needs something else- The lead graphite! So then they all get a small cup of liquid to write with (much like our Forefathers used quills and ink, my students used Q-Tips and an acidic liquid- either lemon juice, orange juice, or vinegar... whichever I have in my house).

I then ask them to dip their Q-Tip and write on their paper HOW they show Integrity in school (a specific example). And slowly students realize they can't se what's written. Neither can I. Neither can their neighbors. Neither can their teachers.
Their papers done and dried "blank"
However, we show Integrity everyday EVEN IF NO ONE CAN SEE IT! Why? Because it's still there and it still affects other students, teachers, parents, etc. And sometimes, a little change can reveal that Integrity and can show how much we care about others.

I take the papers home that night and place them four-at-a-time in my oven set to Low Broil.

And something amazing happens...

The writing burns quicker (because of the acid) and their little acts of Integrity show through!

The next day I hang them in the hall so EVERYONE can see how Third Grade is showing Integrity (even if they THINK no one can see!)

Science meets Counseling! New twist on an old concept. Gets them thinking and engaged. I LOVE IT!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Setting Goals... and Keeping Them!

As I think about goals, I think about my goal to write a post once a week... BWAHAHAHA! Yea, that has slipped. But I have not given up and will continue to try my best for the six of you that actually read my blog :)

But in thinking about Goal Setting, I wanted to share something that my Falcons school does for goals (and that I would love to implement at our Wildcats school).

When I started last year, our Principal and Librarian had a program going for 9-week goal setting. 

During Library time, every 9 weeks (at the end of the grading period) our students would come up with an academic goal and try to achieve it. If they achieved it, they got a sucker and we took their pictures and hung them on a bulletin board by the Library. They would also get an extra recess (free-time in the gym or outside) during the next week's Library time. It's a fantastic way to get them accustomed to setting goals and working towards them and some positive reward for a job well done!

However, when I started, our Principal kind of "handed" the program over to me and I am in-charge of it now. And we have made some technological changes :)

Student would have a sheet of 8.5x11 paper that said:

1st 9 week goal:_____
2nd 9 week goal:_____
3rd 9 week goal:_____
4th 9 week goal:_____

We had one sheet for every student, 1st-6th. All split up by classroom in a filing cabinet in the Library. Every nine weeks, we would get out the almost 300-sheets of paper and check each student to see if they had met their goal or not. This also meant that for nine weeks, the students had NO idea what their goal was because frankly, let's admit it, they forget! And with them closed up in a filing cabinet in a closet in the Library, no one wants to ask to see it and frankly, no one wants to go rummaging around to find it.

Not an effective system.

At the beginning of this year, I asked our Librarian how long she keeps the goal sheets (for data purposes). She told me that at the end of every year she pitches them... Every year almost an entire ream of paper trashed. Holy Smokes!

So we came up with a new plan. 

I created a Google Doc (yea, these things are SUPER useful!) that looks a little something like this:

I call up students one-by-one during their Library time (while they're finding a book) and we select their teacher (drop down menu), which 9-weeks it is (drop down menu with 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th), put their name, and type their goal. Older grades get to type their own and little kids are AMAZED at seeing their name and teacher on it. Then we hit submit and the information goes into a spreadsheet that looks like this:

All I have to do is print it out and I get a 1-page document with everyone's goal per class (I added a check-mark column to be able to check off if they made their goal or not). 

So I now have a 10-page document per grading period that is about 1/30th of what we had before. I give one copy of each class' to the teacher (in case their students want to know) and I keep a copy.

Next 9-weeks, we do the same process and at the end, I can sort by name to be able to see each students' progress with their goals. 

I LOVE this process and the students love seeing their progress with goals and really enjoy trying to beat each other. Going tech has really cut down on the time and, let's face it, it's pretty cool too! Plus all the paper we save!! It also gives me track-able data to show what I have done with students and I count it as a classroom lesson (since every time we meet we go over what makes a good goal, how we can achieve our goal, etc.)

Do you do any school-wide goal setting at your school?

Let me know!

And as always, have a great day!