Friday, August 8, 2014

A Smart Start for the School Year

The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time! For most kids, it is fun to move into a new classroom, meet new teachers and friends, and reunite with buddies they haven't seen all summer. But for a few others, these same experiences can bring anxiety, frustration and fear. Because we want every child to have a good experience with their new adventure, I'd like to share a few tips to help the first few days of school go smoothly for both parents and students.

  • Keep a Positive Attitude! When you talk about school, focus on the positives. Share only the good memories you have about earlier school years and let students know that this is a good time for fresh starts. Kids can pick up on any fear or anxiety you have on their behalf very easily. 
  • Keep Goodbyes Brief! Farewells can be hard, especially those first few days, for both kids and parents. One thing that can help is to set up the routine right from the start. Talk to your kids about what to expect when it comes time to separate. For example, let them know you will be walking them to class, taking a picture or two, a hug and a kiss and then it's time for parents to go. Even if your kiddo gets emotional, the sooner you leave the sooner they can adjust to their new classroom and teacher. It's never easy to leave your children crying or upset but don't worry, they are in the hands of professionals who care about your little ones too! Most times, before you are out the front door, they'll be settling in just fine!
  • Make a Plan. If you expect your child to have a hard time, it might be a great idea to talk to his or her teacher or counselor to set up a plan and a routine to minimize any drama. Many of the teachers I have worked with have been happy to offer smart start incentives, greet a child at the bus or drop-off, or find a small job for students to help with before school starts to keep them busy until the bell rings. Counselors can help with these things too! 
  • Listen to your child's fears. Sometimes letting kids talk about what's bothering them can help them process through the what-if's. In the case of legitimate concerns, parents can help guide these scenarios focusing on practical things students can do. Remember to focus on teaching the coping skills and positive ways students can handle the different fears they may have. 
  • Maximize Resources. Talk to your friendly Professional School Counselor, yours truly, about Friendship Groups or Social Skills Groups that may be available to teach the skills they need to help make meeting new people, making friends, following rules, and keeping routines a bit easier. We can work in small groups or individually to meet the students needs. 
Please never hesitate to contact the school about any concerns you may have for your child. We are here to help! The best way to start the school year is with good communication and keeping the goal in sight. We all want the year to be fun and exciting for EVERYONE! Together we can make it happen. :) 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Whirligigs-A Fun Group Management Technique

I found a similar idea to this on Pinterest (of course!) and I adapted it to use in my small groups last year to encourage good behavior. It worked wonders with all my groups K-5, but especially with the younger ones. If you are looking for a good way to motivate your students, this is a good one to try. It also incorporates a Mystery Motivator, which comes from the Tough Kids series by Bill Jensen. 

I call these little guys Whirligigs. They are made out of pipe cleaners, very simply, by twisting one around your finger in a spiral and twisting the ends to make a circle base. I picked three bright colors and you could put googly eyes on them, which is an addition I plan to make this year. You will also need some kind of "home" for them. I have a paper basket. You could use a jar, a cup, a box...whatever your Whirligigs like best. 

I introduce the Whirligigs to the students on the first day of group. I put them on the table and tell them that the Whirligigs love to watch our group but they don't like noise, they don't like it when the group rules are broken, and they definitely don't like to be touched.  We then go over each of the group rules and we model appropriate behavior. If even one of the Whirligigs stays on the table until the end of group, the students will earn a chance to see their reward. I'll get to that in just a sec.

On the other hand, if the group rules are broken, or if it gets too loud, it scares the Whirligigs and they run away home to hide. That's okay if one runs away. That's a warning to us that we need to remember the rules. It's even okay if two run away...we just need to be extra careful not to scare the last one away. If the last Whirligig runs away, that's not okay. We review the rules and the group is over. I ask the students to think about what happened to scare the Whirligigs and to try to do better next time. In the past two years using this technique, I have only had to end a group twice. It's never fun to end a group early because of misbehavior but the students learn quickly. This is my variation of a Magic 1-2-3 intervention and it's been very effective. 

To keep it positive (the way I like it), I incorporated a Mystery Motivator to keep the students excited about coming to group and learning and following the rules. For each group, I print a chart which has 6-7 square spaces to which I attach an envelope which contains a paper with a prize printed on it. This can be anything you choose. Some I have used: Pick from the Prize Box, Let's Eat Popcorn, Choose a Game, No Shoes Day. 

During the first year, I drew a star in two of the boxes and covered each box with a sticker. If even one of the Whirli's were on the table at the end of group, I allowed a student to choose a sticker to peel. If the box reveals a star, we open the envelope to see what reward they have earned. If it does not, we try again next week.

Last year, I switched to Color Change Markers....these work beautifully. I use the white marker to draw two stars and the students use the colored markers to fill in the boxes...the star magically appears if they choose the reward box. 

Drawing two stars in the boxes allows me to use the same chart for an entire 6-8 week group and most groups will find both stars before group is over. My students have loved this system and have worked hard to earn their prizes! 

Feel free to use and adapt this idea to fit your own groups! I'd love to hear how it works for you. Leave your comments below! Happy School Year!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Welcome Back to School!

We are ready to start a new school year here at Coral Canyon Elementary! The teachers are prepared, the students are shiny and smiling, and I am very excited to keep building the PBIS culture we began implementing last year with our Principal's 200 Club and we've received a $2000.00 grant to help us do just that. This money has allowed us to dream big and we have some fun new additions in the works!

To begin the year, we have designed and posted bright, colorful posters with our school rules and expectations in various areas of the school. I think they add a fun theme to our school that will really catch the students' attention.

There are specific expectations for each area of the school: Cafeteria, Playground, Bathrooms, Buses, Classroom, etc. that students will learn throughout the year. Those students who exemplify these rules & expectations will be recognized through our Principal's 200 Club. We love to recognize students for great behavior!

I like PBIS for so many reasons but most of all for the positive approach it brings to teaching students the social and behavioral skills they need to succeed in school... and in life.

It's going to be a great school year! Let the PBIS adventures begin! :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wear Blue on 2/22

Our school is joining the Wear Blue on 2/22 movement started by Erik Janke, a young boy from Sandy, Utah. He is asking everyone to wear blue on February 22nd to protest bullying. His website has more information. Erik is also the author of a book that celebrates the unique qualities we have as human beings. Check it out and join us in WEARING BLUE this Friday!  

We are celebrating our SUCCESS as we strive to become a Bully Free School! We have been learning through our Steps to Respect lessons about the importance of friendships and respecting others. We have learned how to recognize, refuse and report bullying to adults at our school. We are learning what it means to be a bystander and what we can do to become someone's hero. 

Parents, ask your student what we've been learning! I'm sure they'll be proud to tell you how they are learning to END bullying at Coral Canyon. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thank You!

My school has spoiled me greatly this week for Nat'l School Counseling Week. I am grateful for all the letters, posters, and tokens of appreciation that I have received. It makes me love my job even more to feel that what I do makes a difference!

I wanted to share a couple of the fun things my students and their teachers made for me!

Many, many children have written me letters of appreciation, which I have compiled into a binder, too. This will be fun for me to look at on hard days to remember why I do what I do!

Thank you, Coral Canyon! I love you too!

Monday, February 4, 2013

National School Counseling Week Link Party

The first week in February has been declared National School Counseling Week and it's a great opportunity for School Counselors everywhere to spread the word about what we do and how we serve the students in our schools. We are lucky in Washington County School District to have Professional School Counselors in all of our elementary schools, either part-time, or for some lucky schools like Coral Canyon, full-time! I love my job and it's a privilege to work with students, parents, and teachers every day!

I am always promoting my services through my website, the PTA newsletter, our school news CCTV, and in various ways throughout the school. Our librarian is nice enough to let me make bookmarks highlighting two or three character traits each month. And, in honor of this special week, I made these bookmarks for students and faculty to take home.

One side declares National School Counseling Week and the other lists some social, academic, and behavior skills that I can help students master.

Feel free to download and adapt these to your needs if you like! Happy School Counseling Week!!

Click on this logo to see other blogs celebrating National School Counseling Week!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Washington County School District is offering a very valuable workshop for families of ADD/ADHD students. Please click on the image above to download the flyer and registration information. Feel free to contact me at the school if you have questions.