Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How To Help Students Transition To High School

Middle school is a time for young adolescents to learn to navigate from child to young adult.  Many boundaries are tested, and independence is acquired.  8th graders are the big guys on campus, but they are still those sweet, young, innocent, scared kids who began their middle school career just a few short years earlier.  The transition to high school, for many is a scary time.  They won't be the big fish any more and they are starting over in the feeding chain.

So, how can we best help our students make that transition?  What can we do to make sure they are well prepared for their new adventure?  Have a transition plan.

1.  Students need to know what to expect.  Go over the basics--important people to know, where to go if they have a question, what is the principal's name, what a high school schedule look like, what to do when they are having difficulty in a class.  I played Classroom Squares with classes to go over these important need to know tidbits.  

2.  Students should also know their graduation requirements.  What does it take to graduate high school?  What electives are available, and what classes are available to freshman.  We have our high school elective teachers in business, art, and technology visit our middle school and describe the offerings available to freshman.  In addition, they bring some current students who describe projects and assignments they did in the class.  It gives the 8th graders a real life example of what to expect and what they will be doing if they choose a particular course.

3.  Make a plan.  Students need to look into the future and determine what they would like it to look like.  It's important to talk about values.  What is important to them?  Values are important as they determine a career, but it is also important as they plan their high school program.  Values include:  Do I need a study hall?  How rigorous a course should they take?  How many extracurricular activities should they try?  I spent three days with the 8th graders talking about values and goals a few months ago.  Having meetings with the students to make a 4 year plan is important too.  I always tell student that they can't just plan one year, they need to look at all four.  

4.  Visit the high school.  Nothing settles nerves more than getting a test drive of the new surroundings.  Our students will visit in June during Regents week.  It's not as crowded as students only attend high school if they have a Regents exam for a specific class, so there will be days that our students can visit without disrupting the regular day.  High school students also make excellent tour guides and they are always happy to share what they have learned along the way.

5.  Allow students to ask questions.  The more questions they ask, the more they learn.  No question is too small, or little importance.

6.  Spread the discussion about the transition to high school over a period of time.  The more you talk about it, the more familiar it will become.  

What ever you do to get students ready, take your time, be patient, and find multiple opportunities to discuss it.  The more prepared they are, the more they will feel prepared to make the change.

Let me know how you help students to transition.  What's your success story?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Guest Post~ The Size of the Problem lesson

My friend, Kylie, wrote a blog post for me about the Size of the Problem.  Aimed to help middle school boys with coping skills and understanding the cause and effect relationship of behaviors and reactions, this is a really helpful lesson for ALL students.  I hope you check out her TpT store too, The Creative Social Worker.

Hi!  My name is Kylie (The Creative Social Worker), and I am currently a school social worker for early childhood - 8th grade.  I have also worked in a treatment center for addiction, clients 18+, and work at a craft store on the side.  Needless to say, working with such a wide range of students, and being the only social worker in the district, definitely keeps me on my toes!  Those two things are also what is driving this post today:
Struggling to keep the interest of some of my 7th and 8th grade boys, I knew I had to pull out some creativity and make something that not only would benefit them but also increase their engagement.  The first activity I created was directed to address the topic of “Size of the Problem.”  But what it turned out to be, was so much more than that.
For this activity, I made a symbolic mountain for a visual, and placed 4 open spaces to sort cards: problem sizes of no problem, little problem, medium problem, and big problem.  I also made a key card, that includes the different sizes of the problem and reaction for reference.  I ended up making 48 prompt cards, which include realistic situations (some we have discussed already), for them to relate too.  

The “more” part?  My students are not only using their identification skills of the different categories, but because of the prompts, they are using perspective-taking skills, using empathy, and there are opportunities to discuss coping skills!  And, in addition to the sorting activity, I also created an add-on for this activity inspired by “20 Questions.”  To further challenge students with a great understanding of the different sizes of problems/reactions, one player must first pick a card.  Then, the rest of the group can ask 10 questions to try to figure out the size of the problem.  For example, is it something you can’t solve without an adult?  Or, would you be crying?  Students are also given a tip card with examples of types of questions they can ask.
The next activity I created was kind of a spin off of some of my most favorite lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I don’t think it comes as any surprise that turning some of the most popular board games like JengaⓇ into a counseling game is usually a winner for upper elementary and middle school.  Or, for elementary school, turning Bingo into a counseling game.  I’ve used some of the question sheets on Teachers Pay Teachers, some of the specialized Bingo games, and have made a few myself.  But I wanted to be able to use these games more often and longer, and in a really easy way.  So, I made question sheets with Bingo in mind.  I have started out with 3 topics: icebreakers, self-esteem, and size of the problem (again for my 7th & 8th grade boys!).  My favorite part?  Each question sheet contains a whopping 75 different questions!  With that much information, it makes these sheets pretty much universal with every game, and personally the least amount of prep for me (considering traveling between two buildings).  I not only reuse JengaⓇ and switch out the topics, but reuse Bingo cards, as each question goes with a number.
Both of these activities have turned out to be a huge success for me and my students.  I hope you enjoyed reading about them!  If you would like to read more, or check out similar resources, you can find them here:
Size of the Problem Sort & Discuss +20 Questions Inspired Add-OnGrowing Counseling Game Prompts Bundle 6th-8th
The Creative Social Worker (1).jpgLet’s connect!  TpT  Pinterest  Facebook  Instagram  Email   Blog

If you have a great lesson that you would like to share, let me know!  We are at our best when we work and learn from others!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Get Ready For National School Counseling Week

National School Counseling Week is a time to advocate and educate to parents, faculty, administration and stakeholders what our school counseling program is all about.  While a lot of people view it as a day of recognition for counselors, that is not the purpose of this week.  It truly is about getting the word out about what we do to help students.  

National School Counseling Week 2017, "School Counseling: Helping Students Realize Their Potential," will be celebrated from Feb. 6-10, 2017.  You can get a lot of information from the ASCA website about how to celebrate in your school.  

I love participating in all the photo challenges on Twitter.  

Because NCSW is such an important week, I've rounded up some free resources to help you let your school know what you do.

I put together a poster of the 7 Ups of Counseling and daily messages for mailboxes.   You can get them in my TpT store.

I also have an editable crossword puzzle that's perfect to leave in the lunchroom for students.  

Counselor Keri, also has some great kits to help celebrate.

Find it here

Find the Valentine's theme one here.

And, the Hollywood theme here

Keri also has a Guidance lesson for elementary school.

Brandy Thompson, The Counseling Teacher has these NCSW Bookmarks, which are perfect for the kids.  

Find the bookmarks here.

School Counseling Resource Junky has a neat bulletin board display to let everyone know your superpowers.

get your Super Powers posters here.

There's also these gift tags from Traci Brown.

I hope these help as you celebrate NCSW.  Be sure to join in the Twitter photo challenge and share your pictures and celebrations from your school with me.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Goal Setting For Success

Day 2 with the 8th graders and I wanted to expand on the values lesson from yesterday (click here for the values lesson).  We talked about the quote, "Values are like fingerprints.  Nobody's are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do."  But first, we talked about goals.  This class had already talked about SMART goals in health class last year, but it was definitely time for a refresher.  I asked them to think about 3 life goals that they had for themselves.  I gave them each 3 colored copies of worksheets I had made, and then I gave them directions on how to fold them into a flipbook.  When they were done, they each had their own booklet.  

Inside we talk about the importance of setting goals.  I asked them to name 3 life goals they had for themselves.

Then we reviewed their goals.

Next we talked about the importance of having a positive mindset and the affect it had on your goals.

Then I introduced a few business terms: SWOT or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  I explained how our SWOT could make or break our success.  In the business world, not recognizing your weaknesses and threats could overpower the opportunities and strengths, but if we know ahead of time what these hurdles are, we can make plans (using our positive mindsets) to prepare to get past them.  They become speed bumps instead of barricades.

Lastly, I asked students to write their own SMART goals.

At the end of class, students shared some of their SMART goals, and once again tied it in to high school transition.   I have one more day in class with the 8th graders and tomorrow we will talk about "How long is your lifetime."

I'd love to know how you talk about goal setting with your middle schoolers.  What lessons do you do?  Leave a comment below, or email me if you would like to be a guest blogger and share your lesson with others!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Starting to think about high school transition- Day 1-Talking about Values

Last week I had the opportunity to spend 3 class days with our 8th graders.  I wanted to combine career planning, goal setting, mindsets, and values all in with starting to think about high school.  In a few short months, I will be calling each 8th grader and his/her parents in to talk about future planning and high school course selection.  

DAY 1--Values

I started day 1 talking about values. I introduced the concept of values by holding up a $10 bill and a $100 (OK. . .so I used play money. . .).  I then asked them if they could choose one because I was giving them away, which would they choose.  

All of the students, except one, said "I'll take the $100."  When I asked why, the reasons were all the same.  It's worth more.  The one who said $50, had a great answer.  Because everyone else took the $100, she would be sure to get the $50, and that was $50 more than she started with.

I asked them why the $100 was worth more.  It was printed on the same paper, the same ink was used.  So, it had one more zero?!  

Value, we decided, was what something was worth to us.  What we determined to be important.  After defining value, we talked about how our choices and actions, and our really big plans, usually were decided upon because of our values.  I told them that we would be looking at these values because they will have some importance as we move forward with high school planning.  

Then, we held a values auction.  I gave them a list of values that we would be putting up for auction.  They needed to determine if it was something they would bid on and determine their maximum bid.  When they were set in determining what they were bidding on we started the auction.

I was interesting to see what each class valued.  There were a lot of trends, and even a few surprises.  

Here are a few pictures of what the kids had to bid on.

If you are interested in a copy of this lesson, you can find it on my TpT store here.  It really was a great lesson, and can be used for discussing transition, careers, or character education.  

What we talked about was how our values impacted our choices and decisions.  So if we valued education and going to college, then it might be important to keep taking a foreign language in high school because it was an admission requirement to many colleges.  We also talked about how our values could affect our career choices.  One of the highest selling values for every class was "a career I love" so trying to figure out what we wanted to do for a career is important.  

How do you talk about values?  When do you get students excited to think about what matters most to them?  Leave a comment below and let me know!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

You've Been BOOed

Yes, I have jumped on the BOOed Bandwagon.  If you've been following my blog for a while, you will know that I really try to create a warm and caring environment--both for my students and our staff.

I was at Target yesterday and found these cute You've Been Booed candy bars.  I bought 4.  One for each grade level (5,6,7,8) to start the boo rolling.

I printed out the "I've Been BOOed!" door sign and attached it to the candy bar with a black ribbon.  I then took the directions and the candy and placed it into four different mailboxes.  The goal is to have teachers and staff members get a candy, hang the poster on their classroom door and then pay it forward by BOOing someone else.  The ultimate goal is to have the whole school BOOed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Our Hidden Beauty

My lunch bunch groups were talking about what makes us special and unique.  Here is a recent lesson that I did with them that teaches about looking beyond our first glance and looking deeper.

To begin, I had students take a piece of paper and their favorite color marker.  I asked them to them hold their marker just above the center of their paper and close their eyes.  I then said "Go" and gave them about 5 seconds to scribble on their piece of paper before telling them to "Stop!"

When they were done, everyone held up their scribbles.  The girls giggled as they looked at how "funny" or "ugly" some were.  

Next I asked them to really look at their DRAWING and to turn it into a piece of art they would be proud of.  I watched them as they rotated their scribbles and searched for something they saw in them.  

Color was added, a few extra lines, and soon each one had a masterpiece.  

When they were done, I asked them these questions:

  1. What did you think when I first asked you to turn your scribble into a piece of art?
  2. How difficult was it to look past the scribbles and find something special in what you had drawn?
  3. How are our scribbles like people?
  4. How are our masterpieces like us?
  5. What have we learned from this?
It was neat to hear them talk about how we all have hidden talents inside of us.  One 6th grader told me, "Some people may think you look ugly, but they're only looking at the surface.  Others will look deeper and see you as beautiful."  This is, exactly what I wanted them to think about.

Here are their masterpieces.  Each one is as unique, individual, and beautiful as my girls.

In this picture, I wrote down some of their thoughts next to their drawings.

Let me know what you think of this lesson.  How do you help students see their inner beauty?  Leave a comment below and let me know.