Saturday, November 22, 2014

School Counseling Lessons - Importance of Curriculum Mapping

     An excitement begins.  Students have shared a topic with you that they feel is important to know. Your creative thought process begins and you identify a lesson.  What a great topic, you may think, and so the organization of the topic delivery, activity, and plans develop.  When done, you ask a teacher to let you into their class.  After reviewing their calendar, you get an opening and off you go.  The students have fun, you enjoy adding the lesson to your portfolio as a school counselor and you can check off that you covered an important topic that students brought to your attention.

     Reactive lessons are always "dangerous" for the school counseling profession.  Why?  It is a lesson for the moment because a few students may have brought the idea to your attention.  How does it connect to the comprehensive school counseling program, the counseling mission, as well as the school's overall vision?  In simple terms, and what I state all the time, "SO WHAT?"

     Rewind.......let's take one step at a time to understand what I mean about connected lessons vs. reactive lessons.  Connected lessons have a purpose and have been carefully developed to align to the professional standards of school counseling, the comprehensive school counseling program foundation, and the school's vision.  When mapped out, it allows teachers to see the lesson, topic, activity and relate to a possible topic they are delivering, bringing a collaborative approach to school counseling core curriculum!

     Here are a couple of guiding questions when developing a lesson:
         1) How do you know it is a needed topic?
         2) Did the topic come from an initial need assessment to students, teachers and parents?
         3) What is the essential question being addressed? (National Standards of School Counseling - select a standard)
         4) What are the skills that students will learn as a result of the lesson? (Selected Standard Competency)
         5) What content will students get to know as a result of the lesson? (Selected Standard Competency Indicator)

     I have drafted a table that shows the above mapping.  Yes, initially you may think it takes a long time to put together.  Actually, it is quite simple.  Using, the lesson creator tool quickly does the drop down answering each of the questions above.

I am providing you with a visual of a table I created to assist me in mapping the lessons.


Goals for each unit…….What do we want kids to:

Essential Questions
Skills (Do)
Content (Know)
Career Cluster Inventory
What is the relationship between student interests and careers?
Discussing importance interest inventory results.
Utilizing online resources to research career

Programs and majors related to careers

Completion of career cluster on Naviance.
Learning Styles Inventory
What is the relationship between learning style and academic success?

Utilizing inventory results to obtaining learning preferences.

Review results to understand how to be successful academically.
Using study strategies based on learning style.

Self-reflection of learning style habits.
Completion of learning style inventory.

Academic improvement based on knowledge and utilization of techniques geared toward learning style.

     Once you have this all written out either on School Counselor Central or a simple table, then it is important to showcase the curriculum map to your administrators, teachers and community.  This allows for everyone to know the important topics being presented, as well as support the ongoing learning for students on academic, social/emotional or career/college skills.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Addressing At Risk Behaviors - What Does It Mean?

     I have been waiting to post ideas on this topic for a while as I did not want to offend anyone or any specific program.  Instead, I wanted to reflect on the great work school counselors do in the month of October on the topics of Anti-Bullying and Red Ribbon Week.  However, for me, there is still a missing link to all of the prevention activities for these thematic days: the social emotional foundation of negative behaviors.

     The visuals are amazing and a reminder to students of themes for the month.  The more students see posters, bulletin boards and red ribbons, the better the connection.  As soon as the month is over, do students engage in the same cycle of negative activities and school counselors become reactive?  What happened to all of the prevention done through lessons and activities?

     I wonder what would happen if instead of the "Don't Do Drugs" bulletin boards, we as school counselors took time to create a visual that shows how students engage in negative behaviors?  Have more open discussions and presentations on the fear and repercussions of being an upstander and how to overcome it?  I understand that these are painful and difficult topics, but if we are going to make a difference, then helping students recognize and understand their pain, connect it to decision making and work on strategies to think and act differently would be a different approach!

     Here are a couple of resources for future lessons that would focus on the social emotional foundations of students:

Being an Upstander has infographics and worksheets that allow students to reflect on empathy and how it applies to anti-bullying.

From the same series, (I am not endorsing any product, just found it as a relevant resource to the blog topic!), here is one on recognizing the bully in yourself - I would use this in a level 2 Response to Intervention individual process:

This quiz for students on decision making is connected with drug/alcohol use and how the teen brain reacts to decision making:

     How do you know if it works?  Data of course!  How did you know the previous lessons/activities had an impact on students?  If you did not measure it, then data is non-existant!  Try now.  Use a different approach and see what happens!  
     These changes in activities and lessons have to have a component of connection to an adult with whom students can talk to if they need help.  Don't forget the importance of relationships and supporting students!