Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Students...Now What: School Counselor Introducation


It is import for our students to know who we are and how we can help. This rings especially true for our new students.

Leaving old friends and familiar surroundings can make students feel alone and isolated. Typically, meeting a new friend (or two) and learning the procedures and layout of the building can do wonders to ease their anxiety. Meeting with your new students in a small group setting is extremely helpful in getting the biggest bang for your time.

New Student Small Group Session:

Step 1: Obtain your new student list

Step 2: Determine how many new students you have and consider how much time you have to devote to the groups. I enjoy having groups of 6 or less, but this is a luxury (especially when running from building to building). Typically, I have 8-10. I have done more than that with 3rd-5th and while it can be done, it severely reduces the participants to form a sense of community. I would much rather have two groups of 7 & 8 than have a group of 15. But like I said, if you must...then you must.

Step 3: Schedule one 30 minute group session with the teachers.

Tip on Scheduling: I send out a spreadsheet at the beginning of the year so the teachers can mark their DO NOT DISTURB (DND) time, with the understanding that I will do my best to avoid this time. Keeping the teachers' DND time along with specials, computers, and library times in mind, I find a two or three time slots per group and ask the teachers which they prefer. I have found that the scheduling seems to go smoother if the groups are organized by grade level.

Step 4: Pick students up at the scheduled group time & begin your group

Here are a few activities that I do during my New Student Group:

Icebreaker: Name Game

Play this fun memorization game to encourage interaction, help improve name retention, and have fun!

Tell the students to do the following:
  • Put their thinking caps on and think of their first name
  • Think of the first letter of their name
  • Now think of a type of food that begins with your name (You can mix this up a bit & make it more challenging by having older students think of an adjective that starts with the same letter. Since I am not always aware of their academic ability during our new student group, I tend to go with something that works with all ages.)

Start with the student on your left and have them say their first name and the name of the food -> the next student then says the first person's name and food and then adds their name and food -> the third student starts with the first, then the second, and then adds theirs. Do you see where I am going with this?

Continue all the way around the table. Provide enough wait time for students to answer but feel free to provide hints as necessary!

Guess who the lucky duck is that gets to go last? YUP! It's you!!!! Kids love this part of the activity and are pretty impressed when you get them all right. I've had a few students keep their "food name" as a nickname throughout the year. Hey, kids these days...go figure.

M&M New Student Game

Prep: Print out M&M New Student Game, glue onto card stock or file folder and laminate.
  • Give each student a snack size bag of M&M's. 
  • Have the students pick only 5 colors...they can eat the rest later 
  • Reveal one color of the M&M New Student Game board at a time.
  • If the student has that color, they can answer but they have to wait for all of the answers to that color before they can eat it. I have chants for each color. <-chocolate and goofy rhymes...ah, yes please!
  • Lastly, if they do not have the color they say "pass". Not having one of each color tends to promote the attention span and involvement of the students.

Download M&M New Student Game Here

New Student Autograph Book

The last thing I do is give them a New Student Autograph Book and send them on a scavenger hunt of sorts. The autograph book has pages for various roles around the school.
  • I recommend talking to everyone that can get approached for an autograph (including all of the aides) and letting them know what is going on when they are asked for their "autograph".
Set a few ground rules with the students:
  • Before school, after school, during specials, and at lunch
  • Bring a pencil
  • They can turn it into my box any time through the year, but if they loose it they will need to start all over.
  • You may not interrupt a class or adult to get an autograph. 

    Closing Activity

    I give the students a copy of the School Counselor Introduction Brochure to take home and share with their parents.

    I've also included a checklist. If you notice, it has a spot for inviting the students. Time is usually too tight for this to be feasible, but it is nice to send them a small "invitation".

    Wonderful New Student Ideas Found on the Web:

    New Students are O'Fishily Awesome Activity

    Michelle over at Creative Counselor posted a really cute scavenger hunt idea to welcome new students: You're O'Fishily Awesome.

    The students start off with a clue, that leads them throughout the school building. At the end of the scavenger hunt they have a snack of fishy crackers. Fun & Yummy!

    New Student Welcome Baggies

    Angie over at Two things in Common whips up these new student welcome baggies so she is ready to go when a new student arrives at her door.

    I have done this one before, but with items that relate to the counseling program and transitioning into a new area:
    • Welcome Letter
    • Counseling Brochure
    • My Business Card
    • School Brochure
    • Fun Pencil & Eraser*
    • Parks & Rec Activity Guide*
    • Local Map*
    *Your local Chamber of Commerce may donate free maps and other items (pencils, pens, magnets, coupons, etc.)

    I would love to hear what you do with your new students in the comments section!

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    School Counseling Introduction - Get the Word Out

    To run an effective school counseling program, people need to know the who, what, where, and how of the services we have to offer. It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that people know about our programs. This is not always the case. Heck, in some situations parents may not even realize that there are counseling services in their child's school.

    Given the current financial crunch our schools our facing, it is increasingly more important that our presence is felt in the school environment. Letting parents and teachers know what services we provide and how to access those services is a crucial step in strengthening your counseling program.
    Maybe being a school counselor is old hat to you…but don't fall into the trap of thinking that all teachers remember from one year to the next (or several years down the road) what kinds of services your provide.

    The truth of the matter is that teachers that have had several of the students on your caseload will be far more familiar with how you can help them and their students than a teacher who has had less students on your caseload. In addition, new teachers or transfers may be "working the kinks out" their first year and may need to have a handy reference to access your help when it is needed.

    The problem of being an "unknown" resource is further complicated when you are split between three buildings. It is even a bigger mess when you start mid-year (as I did in 2006). Yikes!

    You know the old saying: You don't know what you have, until it's gone? Well, parents and teachers won't have to experience that feeling if you proactively advertise your services.

    Informing others of what you do transforms your role into more than just someone who helps students; you become a valuable resource that makes the lives of teachers, administrators, and parents easier.

    To help "get the word out" about my counseling program, I created an overview of my program into an easy to read brochure for teachers and parents.

    After I printed them out, I delivered them in person to each of my 48 teachers. Hand delivering them is a nice touch as it shows that you are willing to work at helping them and their classroom. (Plus I find that it is really nice to personally know everyone that works in your building!)
    If the image below does not show, click "previous page" inside the viewer or click the download link to be taken to the google doc.

    I tweaked the brochure to remove my schools' info but I left my schedule and a few other things in case you wanted to check it out a bit. I included the link to the Publisher file so you can just plug in your info & print up a few of these to support your program.
    I hope you find the brochure helpful! I would love to hear from you. How do you promote your counseling program?

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Response to Intervention: Attendance Support

    Michigan law has become more and more stringent in regards to student attendance. Starting with this year's current freshmen, all students are required to attend school until they are 18 years old. In addition, parents are held criminally responsible for truant students.

    I developed the following forms to follow the requirements of our state's attendance policy and to document the interventions and supports I utilize to assist the student.

    See below for download and contact sheet.

    I would say about 75% of the attendance issues I handle are eliminated with a phone call to the parents. I use that first phone call to reach out to the family. They may be dealing with a tragic life event or their child may be experiencing school anxiety (bullying, friendship issues, etc). This first phone call allows me to notify the parents that their child's attendance is being monitored, inform them about state requirements, and identify any roadblocks the child or their families may be experiencing.

    I hope you find them helpful!

    (The frame isn't showing up completely in the preview but it is a complete in the download.)

    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    Daddy Skills - Parenting Rap

    I think the following rap about "Daddy Skills" would be a great conversation starter for teens, especially when addressing all of the "little things" that it takes to care for a child.

    Saturday, August 18, 2012

    School Counselor Introduction Power Point

    I created the following School Counseling Intro Power Point when I first started in my school district. I started in Febuary and had to find a way to quickly introduce myself. I used the following presentation in grades 2nd-5th.

    See the full presentation at the bottom of this post.

    Scheduling Tip for multiple buildings:

    • Organization is key when you are covering more than one building. To keep on-track I typically schedule the same grade level presentations during the same week (or two). 
    • My K & 1st grade presentations are between 15-30 minutes & 3-5 are 45 minutes. I can typically fit Kindergarten and 1st grade presentations in the same week.
    • I try to have two or three different presentations to cover similar topics. This allows me to rotate my presentations every year (i.e. 4th & 5th grade receive the same presentation)
    • I keep a sign up sheet (with available time frames) on our staff's shared drive. I then send an email out (with instructions on how to reach the drive & sign-up sheet). As the saying goes, early bird gets the worm!
    • After the teachers have signed up, I send out an invite on Microsoft Outlook to confirm the time/date. If a teacher does not sign up or accept the invitation, I send them an email or check with them in person. Email tends to work best, in this situation, as "non-tech teachers" prefer this method and will wait for me to come to them. Meeting with individual teachers in person is important, but it is not the best use of my 1 1/2 days in their building. (I would rather spend that time discussing student concerns!)
    Download the following Power Point by selecting to view on Slide Share (upper left hand corner).

    I hope you have found these tips helpful. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Anger Management - Anger Gage

    Sorry! This post has moved to thehelpfulcounselor.com .
    You can find the anger gage here.