Creating A Plan for Student Success

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iconOrganization plays a vital role in having good study skills .  I incorporate study skills through various ways in my school counseling program.  I was glad when I came across the book Annie’s Plan.  This book helps students take charge of their schoolwork and homework by giving strategies to use at school and home.  Annie is a smart girl, but she sometimes is distracted by all the things going on around her at school.  I love the examples the author, Jeanne Kraus, uses to show different ways Annie gets off task.  I’m sure we’ve all seen students drawing when they should be listening or completing an assignment.  How about the student who can’t focus on his or her own work because they are too busy watching what someone else is doing?  Of course when Annie gets home, she can’t remember what the homework assignment is.  Both her teacher and parents know she is smart enough to do so much better.  Therefore, Annie’s plan was born!

Her teacher created a ten step schoolwork plan and a ten step homework plan.  The school plan included cleaning her desk, the use of a daily planner and setting daily goals. During my lessons, I discussed with students why each of the items on the lists were important.  The students were open to sharing items in which they could improve upon as well.  The homework plan included having a scheduled homework time, taking homework breaks when necessary, and preparing for tomorrow.  Many students affirmed that they learned at least one new strategy and that they would begin to implement those strategies in order to take charge of their schoolwork and homework.

Complete Schoolwork Plan

 

Complete Homework Plan

I gave each student a handout titled “What’s Your System?” from the book Spectacular Guidance Activities for Kids by Diane Senn.  This activity tied right in with three of the strategies from the book.  The students wrote about their plan for their desk, book bag, and home study area.  On the back, they could also write any other strategies from the book they would like to improve upon.

This is a great book!  I have used it during a fourth grade lunch bunch as well as classroom guidance with my third grade friends. It can be used for individualized counseling as well for students who, like Annie, are capable but just need a plan in place to keep them on track.

ETA (11-2-13):  Last week, I created a new sheet to use with my students.  I included specific areas of improvement from Annie’s Plan.  My third graders did very well using this sheet and it helped our discussion about the importance of using the book’s strategies for school success.  You can download a free copy of the sheet by clicking here:  Annie’s Plan Worksheet.  You may also click the picture below.

Annie's Plan Worksheet

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2 Great Books About Manners

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I have discovered several great books while cruising the boards on Pinterest for school counseling ideas. I ordered several late in the school year and decided to “test drive” a couple of lessons with my first and second grade friends.

One book I discovered and ordered is If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover.  I used this book during a second grade lesson and followed it with a drawing activity. This story illustrates what would happen if everybody did certain things like plucked flowers, slammed doors, and squeezed the cat.  The consequences brought laughter throughout the classroom. As we flipped through each page, we discussed why it is important to think about the choices we make.  Would there be flowers to look at and smell if everybody plucked them? Even though the over-the-top illustrations elicited laughter, our discussion helped my friends to really think about what would happen if they made poor choices and what a catastrophe the choices could lead too.  This lesson tied in very well with our discussion about our character trait of the month- good judgment.

After listening to the story, I gave each child a piece of drawing paper and asked them to illustrate some “If Everybody Did” statements. Some questions were- What would happened if everybody ran in the hallway?  What would happen if everybody threw garbage on the ground?  What would happen if everybody left their trays on the table in the cafeteria. The ideas they came up with were really cute.  Here is one student’s interpretation of what would happen if everybody was late to school:

Another great book about manners is the cute and funny Do Unto Otters, by Laurie Keller. This book is about a rabbit who discovers that otters are his new neighbors.  Unsure if they will get along, he talks with owl about it.  Owl tells him to treat otters the way he wants otters to treat him.  Mr. Rabbit then goes on to name several characteristics he would want the otters to have including being kind and considerate.  They should also know when to say please, thank you, and when to apologize.  This book reminded me of Simon’s Hook because of the extra dialogue and commentary throughout the book which were created to give examples and to evoke a few giggles!

I printed and copied writing paper from Do2Learn.com and asked the students to write a sentence or two about how they show good manners.  After writing, they illustrated the sentence(s).  I gave them a list with several options to choose from just in case they couldn’t come up with an idea.  Here are a few samples of their work:

 

 

 

 

Those students who finished before the lesson concluded flipped the paper over to a Do Unto Otters coloring page on the back.  I found the picture online at the author’s website.  You can find a Do Unto Otters  multiple choice, word search, and quiz there as well.

I plan to use these books at the beginning of the next school year and would love to hear of other ideas to try! Connect with me!

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Who’s Made a Difference in Your Life?

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Kathryn Otoshi wrote a wonderful book simply titled One.  I first heard about it from one of my colleagues during a regional counselor’s meeting.  After joining Pinterest, I came across this book again, and I decided I would add it to my growing list of books to buy for my school counseling program. Though there were dozens of “pins” about this book, I was fortunate to find a link to the blog Entirely Elementary School Counseling  which had a wonderful lesson to use with the book.  Although this is a picture book, the counselor used this book with her 5th graders to close out the school year.  This was a perfect idea for me to use with my students.  I have used the Steps to Respect curriculum with my 5th graders throughout the school year which addresses bullying in several of the lessons.  Our last Steps to Respect lesson was about bystanders and what they should do when they find themselves in that position.  We talked about reporting versus tattling too.  We discussed why it is important to let an adult know when they witness bullying along with when it is safe to stand up for someone.

As our final classroom guidance lesson, I shared this wonderful book with my 5th grade friends and adapted the lesson plan format I found on the blog.  My fifth grade friends are so cool and “grown up,” but even they enjoy sitting on the floor around a storyteller to hear and look at pictures in a picture book. I shared this lesson five times, and you could hear a pin drop at least 98% of the time.  It really got them thinking, and they made appropriate connections to the story during our discussion after I finished reading.  In the first class, the students shared about the one person who has made a difference in their lives.  Additionally, I showed this great video from YouTube in order to give a visual of the story for the students.  It features the author, Kathryn Otoshi.  When the video ended, I gave each student a 3 1/2 x5 index card.  I asked them to write about how they would be the one to make a difference. Not surprisingly, the discussions about the one person who has made a difference in their lives resonated with me.  So, when I visited the rest of the fifth graders, I asked those classes to write about that one person on their cards instead.  As I walked around and silently read each of their cards, I was thrilled to see how much thought they were putting into what they were writing.  Many wrote about a parent and  a few mentioned current or former teachers. My name showed up as well.  I was really touched by many of the students’ words about the things their parents and teachers have done for them. While they worked, I took pictures of them in groups of three so I could crop the face of each student and add it to the index card for the hallway display. Once I cropped all of the their faces to make individual pictures, I printed thumbnails of each photo.  This was the perfect size for the index cards.  I did a brief description of the display and printed a copy of the cover of the book to display with it.

I decided to make copies of the cards where students wrote about former teachers in order to present them to those teachers.  As much as their words moved me, I knew those teachers would appreciate knowing they made a difference in the life of a student.  Needless to say, happy tears were shed by a couple of them. It was wonderful to see their reactions.

Is it just me, or do you feel a little misty when sharing this book?  I mean… I kept it together, but I had to really focus to do it. What are your thoughts on this wonderful book?  I’d love to hear about any lessons you’ve done with it.  Connect with me!

ETA- April 14, 2013:  I created this sheet to use this year with my students and wanted to share it with you all as well.  It’s simple, but gives the students a chance to reflect on who’s made a difference in their lives as well as how they can make a difference in the lives of others.  Click on the picture to print a copy. (Font by: An Apple A Day in First Grade)


When a Volcano Erupts…In Class!

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As I visited our six first grade classrooms for guidance this month, it wasn’t hard to discern which students had problems with “erupting.”  Many of them “erupted” during my lesson.  It was fun to watch their volcanoes simmer down as I read this great book by Julia Cook.  My Mouth is a Volcano focuses on those little ones who blurt out and interrupt.  This book has an activity guide which has several wonderful activities to use with the kids.

paperback and activity book

The story is another book about Louis.  If you are familiar with It’s Hard to Be a Verb, you already know him well.  When he has something to say, he feels all of his important words rush from his head down onto his tongue. After some rumbling, grumbling, wiggling, and giggling, those words push up against his teeth and before he can stop it, he erupts. Louis doesn’t quite understand why this upsets his friends and family until a couple of his classmates “erupt” him during his moment in the spotlight.  After getting a dose of his own medicine, Louis talks with his mom.  She suggests that when those words push into his teeth, he should bite down hard to keep them in, push them out through his nose, and let them float there until it’s his turn to talk. Louis was so surprised those words waited there until he was ready to breathe them in and speak!

I chose a couple of ideas from the activity book to share with the class.  One activity suggested having the students take 3 1/2 x 5 index cards and coloring one side red and the other side green. On the red side, the students would glue a button or a picture of a button to the left.   An up arrow is placed to the right of the button. This stands for “button up.”  On the green side, the students would write “Speak With Good Purpose.”  Because our guidance time wouldn’t allow for this, I decided to make a larger card for the teacher to use in his or her classroom. When the teacher wants students to wait before asking questions, the red side can be displayed.  Once the floor is open for questions or discussion, the teacher can display the green side.  I reminded the students that although the green card is displayed,they should still raise their hands and wait until the teacher calls on them.  I also shared a tip called “Sqoooze it or Lose it!” This strategy simply suggested that when you have something to say, “sqoooze” it between your fingers (fingers crossed) and place it in your lap until it is your turn to speak.  The students liked the idea and some even began “sqooozing” as I continued on with the lesson.

Front and back of the card

I enjoyed doing this lesson with my first grade friends.  This book can be used across grade levels.  The activity book has a variety of ideas including ways to politely interrupt when it becomes necessary. There are also writing extensions and even directions for building a volcano.

Have you ever had a volcano erupt during your guidance lesson? :) As always, I would love to hear from you.  Connect with me!