School Counseling Group: Test Preparation

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School Counseling Group:  Test Preparation - Savvy School CounselorEach school year, as part of my National Model plan, I conduct school counseling group sessions for my third grade friends as we get closer to End-of-Grade (EOG) Testing time.  This year, we met once a week for five weeks, and I really enjoyed this time with them and felt it was beneficial.  During these sessions I’ve used some of my favorite products already mentioned on my blog previously as well as some of my own products.  Today, I am sharing what I did for each of the sessions.

First of all, National Model action plans must be data driven.  Since our students have started taking a Beginning-of-Grade (BOG) Test in September each year, I am able to use those results to create my small groups. This test is a predictor or indicator of sorts as to how students may do on the EOG.   I usually pull students who missed being proficient (Level 3) by one, two or three points.  Once I determine who those students are, I let their teachers know who must be in the group.  Any empty spaces may be filled with students chosen by the teacher.  Our group focus is test taking tips and decreasing test anxiety.

This year I had 31 students. (5 groups)  Once the EOG scores are available, I’ll be able to see my results.  I hope to see those BOG Level 2’s become EOG Level 3’s.

So, here’s an idea of how each of my group sessions went:

Session 1:  When the students arrived for the first session, they completed this “How do you feel about the test today?” sheet.  This is just one of many great resources you can find on The Ned Show website.  It helped start our discussion about test anxiety.  A good number of students circled nervous and concerned.  Of course there were some confident students as well.

Ned1After completing and discussing this sheet, I read Julia Cook’s The Anti-Test Anxiety Society.  Most of my students were excited to know this was the same author of a book I had shared with them in first grade called My Mouth is a Volcano.  We always referred back to the book during our future sessions tying in the “Dynamic Dozen” and using the “Get to” part of your brain instead of the “Have to” part.  This book was a perfect opener for my small groups!

The Anti-Test Anxiety Society by Julia CookAfter reading and discussing the book, the students began working on their test taking foldables.  I had already printed them and cut the flaps for them, so they just needed to get the information written on the front of and under each of the flaps.  They had time to complete and discuss three of the flaps during the first session.  I told them they would do a few flaps each week until it was done.

Session Two:  When the students entered, I had GoNoodle Flow pulled up on my laptop and facing them on the table.  I wrote about GoNoodle Flow last year as a great tool to use for school counseling.  Flow has great brain breaks that tie in well with helping students decrease test anxiety.  I used On & Off with my groups.   On & Off involves managing stress by making parts of the body tense and then letting go to relax.  Students turn on the energy in their toes, legs, hands, arms and whole body.  They really enjoyed doing the brain break.  On & Off is something they can use discreetly anytime they are feeling some stress.

Flow by GoNoode-

We reviewed the things we learned from BB, the main character from The Anti-Test Anxiety Society.

Next, we completed and discussed three more of the flaps on the test taking foldables.

Session Three:  My laptop was on the table when students entered for session three.  They thought they were going to do another brain break, but today it was time for Ned’s Test Prep Rap Song.

This was a fun way to incorporate all of those very important testing tips.  After watching the video, each student got a copy of the Ned’s Top 10 Testing Tips activity sheet.  We reviewed the tips learned in the test prep rap. Students took a few minutes to recall some of the things they heard in the rap.  They also took a moment to do tip #10 which was to plan something fun to look forward to after the EOG Tests.  Some memorable ideas were “just do nothing” and “eat fried chicken.”  They were too funny!

Ned's Top 10 Testing Tips from The Ned Show

We used the rest of the time to complete and discuss the last four flaps of the test taking foldables.

Session Four:  When the students entered the room for this session, they saw a Treasure Chest on the table.  I had them guess how each of the items in the chest related to test taking.  You can read about what was in the chest  in my post A Treasure Chest of Test Taking Tips.  Next, we played Testing SMART Bingo.  Although the students had fun playing Bingo, this gave us a great opportunity to discuss dozens of important tips to remember.

Testing SMART Bingo - Savvy School Counselor

After Bingo, we discussed the final tips pre-printed on the inside of the foldables.  The students were given a few minutes to put any final touches on their foldables.

foldable foldable2









Session Five:  This session was essentially the Big Test.  I wanted to see if they could use all of the tips and strategies we had learned about and discussed during the previous four sessions. I used the book Excite Me! Motivate Me! Test Me! (One of my favorites!!) They entered the room to find a sample scan-tron sheet.  Their first “test” was to see if they could simply follow directions when bubbling.  The test questions said things like “Fill in answer C for #4, #10 and #15.”  Once they finished the test, they were supposed to have items 1-20 completed on the scan-tron.  I would say 95% of my students did this successfully.

scan-tron practice

Next, they took “The Smart Test.”  Many of the test questions had to do with test taking strategies.  I gave them another bubble sheet and the test paper.  I told them they may find something strange, but to just do what they had learned to do.   The strange part:  The test was missing #1.  So they needed to make sure they bubbled beside the correct number or they would become misaligned.  This is something that can easily happen when students are not paying close attention to what they are doing.  During our time together, I always told them to look at the number of the test item and make sure it matched the number on the bubble sheet before they filled in the bubble.  I found that 2-3 of my six students in each group would catch this immediately and skip #1 on the answer sheet.  The others would eventually realize the further along they went, and they had to do some erasing.

practice test2


As the students worked on their tests, I would give stickers as I saw them using the tips we had discussed throughout our time in group.  It was wonderful to see them checking each question and making sure their bubble sheet answers were matching their test papers.

I gave them a final test from Focus on the Test which consisted of random reading and math skills.  Nothing too difficult, just enough to practice the testing tips.

When all tests were finished, we went over and discussed each of the answers.  The students then received all of their completed work from the previous sessions.  I gave each a paper clip and a laminated bookmark with test taking tips.

I enjoyed these group session just as much as I believe the kids did.  Twenty five small group sessions later, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year!

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You can also follow my  TpT Store to keep up with my latest products and freebies.  Additionally, you can participate in in my Test Taking Link-Up below!  Add your link and let’s watch the resources grow!  I’m looking forward to seeing all of the ideas you all share here.

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Traits of Good Character Freebie

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Traits of Good Character Freebie - CitizenshipHappy Saturday, everyone!  I know some of you are already enjoying your summer break.  I’m entering into my last full week of school.  I’ll be working until June 10.  I still have so much to do, but it will all get done some how.

In the midst of all the busy days, an idea for character posters came to me and I had to create it!  The posters talk about how you can use different parts of your body to show the different character traits.  I created eleven of them, so I took one and made it into a FREEBIE for you.  Citizenship is the trait used in the freebie.  The actual pack of ten traits includes responsibility, respect, courage, kindness, self-discipline, integrity, perseverance, good judgment, fairness and empathy.  Each character trait comes with a poster in both color and black/white telling how to use your body to show the trait. It also comes with an activity sheet for a more hands-on approach. Students cut and glue the descriptions to the sheet, draw lines to the parts of the body they describe and create their own sentence about the trait using a different part of the body or one that has already been mentioned.

There is a Facebook giveaway for the entire pack which will end at 9:00 tonight and the Traits of Good Character Pack is marked at 50% off all day today.

Click HERE to get your Citizenship Freebie!

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A New Savvy Look and Sale

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Blog Button - New2I’ve updated my button and tweaked the “look” of my blog page.  Can you tell what’s different?  I’ve moved from stripes to polka dots!  I wanted a little change without making too much of a change…at least for now.

I’m excited to announce the next site-wide TpT sale happening at midnight tonight:  May 5.  The sale will run through Wednesday, May 6.  During those two days, you can save 28% on all items in my store and most other stores on TpT.  All you need to do is use the Promo Code:  ThankYou for the complete discount.  However, I will be continuing the sale in my store through Thursday, May 7.  Please Note:  The promo code will no longer work on May 7.  You will receive a 20% discount only on Thursday.


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Savvy Guest Blogger: Carol Ekster

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Guest Blogger: Carol Ekster - Savvy School CounselorI taught fourth grade for 35 years. I remember delighting in the times when the guidance counselor came into my room and gave a whole class lesson. Classroom teachers are overwhelmed with curriculum, tests, and the weighty responsibility of educating children today. Counselors are trained to be able to handle certain topics sensitively. Making a schedule to visit different grades at different times during the year is a win-win situation.  And here’s one perfect lesson that is needed by most students…one dealing with divorce. If a child’s family isn’t divorced, then they have a friend whose parents are separated or divorced.

Begin by reading the book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-(A Story of Divorce), Carol Gordon Ekster, Boulden Publishing, 2008.  A good read aloud is a fabulous way to introduce any topic. It reinforces language skills and models good writing as well as dealing with the issue you want to bring to the students.

Guest Blogger: Carol Ekster - Savvy School Counselor

You can ask for responses to the story and see what the children reacted to. Ask questions about divorce and why it’s difficult for children.  Those children with parents living together will gain empathy for those in a divorce situation. Those children from divorced parents will know they are not alone.

You can do a follow-up activity relating to goals. Teaching children goals is a way to help them achieve success. Have students write, illustrate, or discuss goals they want to set and how they can meet that goal.

You can also enlist the classroom teacher to help with an art project. Tell the children that in the story Mark was learning to be responsible. That’s a positive character trait.  Draw students’ silhouettes on large white construction paper, using an overhead, and inside the silhouette, have students list their positive traits from A-Z.  (Of course, a rough draft of the traits should be done first, using a dictionary whether on-line or hand-held, in class or assigned for homework.) Cut out the silhouette and place on a background of black construction paper, each child titling it, __(Student Name)_______from A-Z. This makes a beautiful display.  And if you’re a counselor who does not do whole class lessons, try having small divorce groups in your office.

Guest Blogger: Carol Ekster - Savvy School Counselor

Carol Gordon Ekster taught for 35 years and became a children’s author at the end of that career. She now does daily yoga and works on her writing, happy to be able to continue communicating with children.

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Thanks for your guest post, Carol.  Thanks also for providing copies of your book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? for two winners!  This giveaway will run through Wednesday, March 25, at 12:00 A.M.. EST.

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Service Learning: Pasta for Pennies

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Pasta For Pennies - Savvy School CounselorA service learning project my school counseling program coordinates is Pasta for Pennies.  You may also know it as Pennies for Patients.  The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society teamed up with Olive Garden to present this great fund raising campaign for children with blood cancers.  Our school has participated in this worthwhile campaign since 2013.  This is our third year.  We’ve been very proud of how much we’ve raised  each year.  In our first and best year so far, our elementary students raised almost $3,000 in three weeks!  We are currently in our final week of this year’s campaign.  If you’ve never heard of Pasta for Pennies, or if you have and just haven’t participated, I want to share a little bit about how it works.

Everything you need to run the campaign is provided for you.  This includes the collection boxes for classrooms and students, posters for classrooms to chart how much money they have raised, daily announcements to read each day, ideas you can use to help increase donations and much more!  A Peanuts DVD, Why Charlie Brown, Why, is also provided to help young students get a better idea of what they are really raising the money for.

Pasta for Pennies - Savvy School Counselor

Campaigns last for three weeks.  Before you begin, you will receive boxes with all the materials you will need to run your school’s campaign.  You will have letters to send home with each of your students along with individual collection boxes for each child.  You’ll have classroom collection boxes to assemble and labels to affix to the front of each box.  I usually put the last name of each teacher on the labels.  I also label one for the office and one for the cafeteria.

Pasta for Pennies - Savvy School Counselor

Pasta for Pennies - Savvy School Counselor

Pasta for Pennies - Savvy School Counselor

This year was the first time we had a campaign kick-off assembly.  Our area’s Senior Campaign Manager came to speak. With the help of students, she gave a visual example of the white and red blood cells and platelets in the body and what happens when cancer cells cover up and crowd out the healthy cells.  Captain Chemo (a teacher volunteer donning a cape and wig) finally came to save the day.  She went on to explain how the money our school raises will be used to help kids fight blood cancers.

Our campaign will end this week.  In our first two weeks, we’ve raised over $1,500!  I’ll do my final collection at the end of the week to find out our final 2015 total.  Which brings me to counting the money.  This is probably the most challenging part of the campaign.  The good thing:  Our local bank has a coin machine.  The challenge:  I have to transport all of the money each week and pour the coins into the machine one classroom at a time in order to record the individual totals.  This can be a little time consuming, but I’m always excited to see the end result.  Additionally, I count the dollars and record the amounts for each class ahead of time so I can just hand them to the teller.

Pasta for Pennies - Savvy School Counselor

Classes earn Gold, Silver and Bronze Champion pennants for raising $300, $200 and $100 respectively.  The class who collects the most money during the campaign wins a pasta lunch catered by Olive Garden.  The restaurant delivers salad, bread sticks and spaghetti to the school.  Which brings me to a great perk:  I help the teacher of the winning class serve the lunch.  So, I get to enjoy the Olive Garden lunch each year!  It’s a really delicious perk!

Pasta for Pennies is an excellent service learning project.  It is a great way to instill good character in your students as it reinforces kindness, compassion and generosity.  So if you haven’t already, think about participating in this great campaign.  It is truly for a worthy cause.

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Middle School Transition

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Middle School Transition - Savvy School CounselorMy school counseling lesson for 5th grade this week is all about transitioning to middle school.  I really enjoy talking with my 5th grade friends about going to 6th grade.  There are many things they are excited to experience, but there are also some things they are unsure about.  This lesson simply serves as a time to discuss all the feelings they have about transitioning from elementary to middle school.

To start the lesson, I gave each student a copy of the Middle School Transition form I created for discussion.  The form has three feeling faces, and the students chose the one face that best describes how they feel about going to 6th grade.  Next, they explained why they feel that way.  The majority chose the smiley and straight face while very few chose the unhappy face.  I asked several of the students to share with the class.  Some of the reasons they stated were:

“I am excited to meet new friends.”

“I don’t have to stay in the same class all day.”

“I get to choose electives.”

“I’m excited about meeting new friends, but I am going to miss my old friends who aren’t going to my new school.”

The last statement is key for students in my district because it is very large.  My 107 or so 5th graders are going to 15 different middle schools.

Middle School Transition - Savvy School Counselor

After the students shared, I asked them to work with a partner to brainstorm lists of all the things they are excited about and all the things they are unsure about.  The conversations I heard while walking throughout the classroom were interesting and seemed to be sincere thoughts about how they are feeling.  After a few minutes, I asked them to share from their lists.  As they shared, I squashed any “myths” and explained some things in further detail.

Middle School Transition - Savvy School Counselor


Middle School Transition - Savvy School Counselor

Click the link below to print your copy of the sheet I’ve used in my classes.

Middle School Transition

Next, we watched a video I found on YouTube which was made at a school in Texas.  Even though the video mentions some specifics about their particular schools and district, it worked perfectly for my lesson.  It included both 5th graders and 6th graders.  There are lots of great tips shared by staff members as well as students.  The students in the video give advice and also share their fears about going to middle school.  There were times during the video where I would pause for more discussion or to restate comments as they would relate to our school district.

After the video, many of the students had thoughts to share about what they learned from watching the video such as how organization is important when it comes to keeping up with homework and assignments.  We used the remainder of our time to discuss open house dates for the different middle schools and our 6th grade registration night.

Over the next few weeks before our 6th grade registration night in April, I will hold lunch bunch groups for the individual middle schools.  During these sessions, we will talk about information that is specific to each school and look at elective forms.  I usually have about 6 groups for our 3 largest feeder schools and combine most of the rest into 1-2 more groups.  Students leave with copies of the elective forms so they have time to think things through with their parents before they complete and sign the official paperwork in April.

What are some activities you use for middle school transition lessons?

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