Career Day Speakers - Nitty Gritty Details

Friday, September 5, 2014

Last school year I attempted to orchestrate career speakers for the first time. I'd found some other posts that wrote about how they did it, but every school is really different and I found that no one else's logistics matched our needs. In the event that what we did may work for you, here's some of the nitty gritty details of ours.

I had recently done a multiple intelligences lesson with my 4th graders and so while I wanted the students exposed to a variety of careers, I wanted them to keep thinking about careers that aligned with their interests and strengths. From the beginning, my intern and I decided to group career speakers into career clusters. We used:

  • Healthy and Body
  • STEM
  • Community Helpers
  • Music and Art
  • Other/Etc.

We knew that we also wanted a plan where:
  • Students didn't move
  • Students got to hear from 3+ speakers
  • We didn't need one gazillion speakers (most students' parents are employed but not necessarily in "careers" so it was a little tricky to get speakers)
  • All 375ish 3rd and 4th grade students could participate

This was how we did it:

1. Email all of our staff, faculty, friends, and family in the area to ask for referrals for speakers. As we received them, we entered them into a google doc spreadsheet with their name, contact info, whether they'd been contacted, and whether they'd been confirmed. 

2. Email/call referrals and ask (beg) them to come speak to our students. As they were confirmed, I started to form rooms (for example Rm 9 - STEM - Biomed Researcher, Civil Engineer, Physics Professor, Audio Technician) and then emailed them more info.

3. About two weeks before the event, all students in 3rd and 4th grades were given a slip to indicate their top two preferences for career clusters. I sorted them a few different ways and created a pile for each. I then created a little business-card sized "pass" with a room # and the students name and teacher name. Next year, I will have the room compositions created ahead of time, have the students rank the rooms in order of preference, and I will just highlight the room they are assigned to.

4. The day before the event, I sent information to all of the teachers involved so they knew how to help orchestrate things that morning. I also had a "room host info sheet" that I sent to teachers whose classrooms we were using.

5. The morning of the event, all the speakers checked into one place where I gave them donuts, coffee, and a schedule for their morning. After a brief welcome speech, we escorted them to their rooms and got the show on the road! 

6. Students had a worksheet to fill out while listening to help keep them engaged. I admit, I was worried about some of my special friends acting out a little but all the students were on their best behavior and seemed to really enjoy the morning.

I received more direct positive feedback from teachers about this than about anything else I've ever done - they were so grateful for their students to have had some exposure to different careers. Several suggested I do a few smaller versions of it throughout the school year (along the lines of blogosphere's famous "career cafes"). My hope for the future is to find a way to provide career speaker programming to all of the grades.

Through the wonderful connections of my school's staff (and an amazing intern with strong ties to the community), these were the careers represented:
-civil engineer
-physics professor
-audio technician
-physical therapist
-recreational therapist
-case worker
-news reporter
-police office
-elephant sanctuary workers
-professional hockey team sales reps
-fashion designer
-graphic designer

My Brain is Awesome - Academic Confidence Lesson

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The same month I did multiple intelligences with 4th grade, I did academic confidence with 3rd grade. This is a breakdown of our lesson:

·         Read A Walk in the Rain with a Brain to the students.

·         Discussion Qs:

o   What lesson(s) is Fred the brain trying to teach us? (we’re all smart in our own ways, it’s important to try, persevere/keep going, believe in yourself)

o   How can you take care of your brain to make it stronger? (asking questions, trying new things, being healthy, thinking positively)

·         Give students the "My Brain is Awesome" worksheet:

Cartoon drawing of your brain (can use color, can do whatever you want because it’s YOUR brain)
3 things your brain is really good at (not including sports); encourage specificity (examples such as “multiplication facts”, “solving problems with friends”, etc.)
-  3 thoughts you can think while taking a test to be more confident (I had to give examples of the OPPOSITE to help them understand this)

Any time I have students do a worksheet, I try to come up with an "early finishers" extension activity because I know they will be finishing at various times. Because I had an upcoming career event, I asked students to brainstorm as many careers as they could think of on the back of their sheet when they finished, even if they weren't careers they were interested in. Some of these kiddos struuuugggglled with this! I also got some very amusing answers. Of note was the fact that the majority of students listed companies that people could work for, not understanding that there are lots of different careers one can have within a company.

Social Support After Loss - Activity

Monday, July 28, 2014
One of my really mature 4th graders faced a lot of loss and turmoil during this past school year, the worst being the death of a grandparent. A large portion of her grief was due to feeling as if no one else could fill their role in terms of how they made her feel and the support they provided her.

The first thing we did was write up a list of all the ways this person supported her, as well as their personality traits that meant the most to her. Then we made a list of other people in her life that could provide her with these things.  This student likes anything crafty/artistic, so the last thing we did was match the characteristics of her grandparent to the people in her life that could fill some of this void.

She understood that no one could really take their place, but this activity helped her view the loss as less devastating.

Space Protectors vs. Space Invaders

Sunday, July 27, 2014
The idea of teaching kids the social skill of personal space through space protectors and space invaders is nothing new - but I'm going to share the worksheet I used and how I did this with my group in case anyone is looking for additional inspiration.

I co-ran a social skills group with our SLP for students with ASD, ADHD, and ODD. One of our 30 minute sessions was on personal space. If I would have had more time, I would have begun by reading Personal Space Camp. Instead, we first talked about the concept of "space bubbles" (appropriate physical boundaries) for different groups of people. I drew out concentric circles on chart paper and the boys wrote examples of people and settings on post-its that they would keep at the various distances away from.

Next, we discussed what space protectors and space invaders would do given what they knew about appropriate space bubbles:

We ended with the boys applying what they had learned by writing and drawing about a space protector:

To download/edit this worksheet for yourself, click here.

Test Taking Skills Exhibit

It seems like there is never enough time in the year to hit every topic in every room, so I have to get a little creative. Something I became interested in last year is programming that delivers the core school counseling curriculum without me doing classroom lessons (though this could absolutely be done as a classroom lesson, you would just need to bring all the materials with you to each room). My first major attempt at this was through a "test taking skills exhibit".

First inspired by this test-taking skills foldable at Savvy School Counselor, I decided to create an exhibit of sorts; something that teachers could bring their classes to that would really run itself. The gist of it is that students (in pairs or trios) would cycle through different test-taking skills stations, adding to their foldable at each one. Teachers and students both love this because it provides a much needed change of pace from the "drill and kill"/review that they're doing in the classroom, plus it provides an opportunity for movement!

At each station they:
     1) read about the skill,
     2) add it to their foldable (draw on the outside, glue the description on the inside), and then
     3) practice the skill.

In consultation with my teachers, these are the skills for the exhibit:
  • Fly Over First (look quickly at the questions before reading the passage)
  • Own the Operation (think right away about which operation(s) the problem calls for)
  • Slash the Trash (eliminate answers you know are wrong)
  • Bee Prepared (get a good night's rest, eat a healthy breakfast, etc.)
  • Dodge the Difficult Ones (skip and go back to the hard ones)
  • Jail the Detail (underline/highlight/circle important words in questions)
  • Believe in Your Brain (think helpful/positive thoughts)
  • Review Your Responses (check your answers)

At each of the 8 stations was a cup of markers (for writing and illustrating the skill), slips of paper describing the skill in more detail scissors (for trimming the folder or slips), glue sticks (for the slips), and a trifold board all about the skill. Here's an example of one of the boards:

As you can see, the left has an example of how to write/draw the skill on the foldable, the center has a brief description of the skill (the same thing that's on the paper slips for the inside of the foldable), and the right has directions for practicing the skill. Here are all of the rest of the boards:

As you can see on the directions side, I made questions/problems for most of the boards that students practice the skill with. Although our achievement test isn't 100% common core based, our curriculum is, so I used CCSS to develop both ELA and math questions.

If you're interested in any of the "Directions" sheets or practice questions, leave a comment with your email and I'll send you what you have - it's a bit much to upload right now.

'The Self-Esteem Game' Board Game Review

Sunday, July 20, 2014
Improved self-esteem is a goal of most groups I run, and many of my individual sessions as well. When a found a children's board game that focused on this, for less than $30, I jumped on it. Here is The Self Esteem Game:

Players roll the die which instructs them to go to one of the positive affirmation spaces (and repeat the affirmation), pull a problem card, or pull an esteem card. After pulling a problem card (examples below), players spin the spinner which tells them how they "solved" the problem (positively or negatively). Esteem cards are positive affirmations paired with a personal discussion question.

 This game is not great. In my opinion, self-esteem is not an accurate focus. The esteem cards seem more geared towards making positive behavior choices. The problems in the problem cards are very vague/generic, and the "solutions" on the spinner are as well. The game is marketed for ages 8+ and while there are certainly some 8 year olds that are on this level, it seems like it would be more appropriate for 10-14 year olds.

Possible edits someone could make to improve the game:
-create new problem cards using the type of problems your students/clients face
-create a new spinner with more specific positive and negative coping skills
-either add an additional element for focusing on self-esteem, or use the game as more of a "get to know you" or termination game

Coping Cards

Saturday, July 19, 2014
One of my 3rd graders became somewhat of a frequent flyer in my office about a particular anxiety she was having. We weren't able to lessen the anxiety or get rid of the worry thoughts after 2 or 3 sessions (and it wasn't severe enough to warrant an outside referral), so I suggested that we focus on her handling or coping with the anxieties instead of trying to get rid of them. We'd practiced some coping skills the previous year for a separate issue, so after a brief review, we created some "coping cards" for her to put on her nightstand. Here's what we came up with together:

  • Think of a safe place or a place where you feel really good. To feel like you're there, think about what you would see, taste, feel, smell, hear, and touch there. This kiddo picked a local amusement park.
  • Take 6 deep breaths. To make it more fun, we added the "in through your nose, out through your mouth, slow like a turtle, blowing bubbles out" poem to help her remember what a deep breath is like.
  • Think more helpful thoughts! One of this student's problems was that she believed that feeling scared was a terrible thing. Coming up with a couple thoughts that didn't dispute the fear but instead disputed the meaning of the fear was helpful.

A few notecards, some smelly markers, and a pipe cleaner later - and she no longer had problems with this fear!

Multiple Intelligences Lesson - Part 2

Friday, July 18, 2014
Part 2 of the Multiple Intelligences lesson is here! See Part 1 here.

-Review the 8 kinds of “smarts”. First asking students to list which ones they remember, then read the descriptions below and ask them to identify which smart they go with.

o   Enjoys solving difficult word problems, likes to work with numbers, likes to organize facts and information.
o   Enjoys reading for fun, likes to write stories or letters.
o   Can read maps and diagrams easily, likes to draw or paint.
o   Likes to care for the earth and nature, likes to be outside.
o   Likes to listen to music, good at singing or playing an instrument.
o   Likes to be alone, needs time to think over ideas, thinks about their own feelings.
o   Enjoys sports, dancing, or using their body to learn.
o   Gets along well with others, friendly and helpful, likes to meet new people.

-Give each student a copy of the smarts survey and explain how to take it.
     A note about the survey: I needed something that was black and white,  super simple and fast to administer, and  appropriate for below-grade level 4th graders. Nothing I found was perfect, so I used and create my own. Link at the bottom if you want to download/edit.

-Hand out the processing/scoring worksheet, show students the scoring key, and ask them to fill it out.

It took a lot of creativity (from myself included) to think of careers that used some of these combinations, but that made it all the more interesting.

This lesson was so much FUN! It was a lot different from the usual skills I teach my students and I really enjoyed getting to see them make connections to themselves and to the "real world". Some sticky points:
     *Self Smart is really hard to understand - even for adults
     *Some students were upset when they didn't score as "Body Smart". I had to do lots of explaining about how just because we love doing something and think we're good at it doesn't necessarily mean that's our "top" smart.
     *I had originally planned on having the kiddos all sign their name on a poster representing their top smart. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. This could have been a neat way of them gaining even more ownership of their "smart".

Want to use this as is or edit it for yourself? Here it is!

Smarts Survey

CBT Homework - 3rd Grader

Monday, July 14, 2014
I gave one of my 3rd grade girls a mini-notebook to journal in and within days, I had many more of my little ladies requesting their own journals/diaries. One such student was struggling with being very critical and very negative about people and situations around her. After a session where I introduced the basic concepts of CBT to her, I gave her a little journal and challenged her to do some "thoughts homework" for me - with the promise of eating lunch with me if she completed it. Challenge accepted! I took a page and made spots for her to give 4 examples of a positive and negative thought.

Negative: "I want to have the red one."
Positive: "Blue is a good color."

Negative: "She got the last one. No fair."
Positive: "I will get one tomorrow."

Negative: "It will take forever."
Positive: "I will be patient."

Negative: "She is not my friend".
Positive: "Maybe she doesn't want to hang out."

Not too bad for an 8 year old who had only recently been introduced to these concepts! I was lucky that this student doesn't have an aversion to homework, because having her think through these ideas at home lead to greater generalization and faster improvement of her feelings.

In vs. Out of Our Control

One of my 4th grade classrooms had a ton of conflict between a handful of the girls. One of them really struggled with appropriate social skills and was often being rude/mean. The other girls struggled between being frustrated by her and still wanting to be her friend. A couple of them self-referred and together we created this:

The girls and I brainstormed things in their lives that were both out of their control and in their control. The hope is that after doing this, they could focus more on their own choices and less on the choices of a classmate...and maybe think more about whether or not its in their best interest to continue friendships with people that hurt them.

Personal Safety Using "The Kid Trapper"

I'll admit - I was pretty anxious about finally delivering a personal safety/sexual abuse lesson. Rebecca of School Counseling by Heart has lots of blog posts about how she does these lessons and they were a LIFSAVER. In particular, this post which has a little script of what to say to the kiddos to prepare them was incredibly helpful.

This lesson topic fell right before a major test so I only had 30 minutes to deliver it. I knew that, even more than with my other lessons, I wanted to use books. While the books I selected for 2nd grade (I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping your private parts private) and 3rd grade (My Body is Private) were alright, it was my 4th grade book that really rocked it for me.

*Side note: I Said No! was very, very repetitive and much of it felt a little young for my second semester 2nd graders. My Body is Private was pretty good, but super outdated with illustrations that weren't even remotely engaging.

Julia Cook's books don't always live up to their claims in my opinion, but The Kid Trapper was everything I'd hoped it would be and more.

The main character spends time playing video games at the house of an adult male neighbor loved by everyone. Eventually, the man begins to blackmail the boy into drinking beer, posing for pictures, etc. The book alludes to sexual abuse without actually stating it. My 4th graders were so engaged during this story! They were quieter during this story than most. I also had a lot of participation afterwards when I asked them discussion questions.

One of the things so awesome about this story is that it touches on safety and "sticky situations" issues beyond sexual abuse; it opens the door for discussions on the courage to tell an adult, the importance of stopping things before they go too far, and trusting your gut.

Multiple Intelligences Lesson - Part 1

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Academic Self-Competence" is the general category for all our grades in January. When my 4th grade teachers were asked what topic within this they were most interested in their students receiving, many said they wanted their students to learn about their personal strengths. It seemed like the PERFECT time to do a lesson on multiple intelligences!

Fourth grade Life Skills lessons are divided into 2 sessions, each 20-25 minutes. Here's what part 1 looked like:

Show this Einstein quote and then ask for student interpretation. Then write “How smart are you?”, cross it off, and write “How are you smart?”. Explain that everyone is smart but we’re all smart in different ways, and that this month we’re going to learn about different kinds of smarts.

- Keep the discussion going with these questions:

  1. If someone is really good at math but is a terrible writer, are they still smart?
  2. Imagine someone who lives in a small village in Africa and can’t read or write, but is really great at hunting and finding food for their family. Are they smart?
  3. Do smart people always get good grades?

Introduce all 8 of the “smarts” using mini-posters on the ELMO. At each one, ask students to say when they use that smart in their current life and what career might require that smart the most.



Smarts Mini-Posters for Download

Discussion Qs if time:

  1. What smarts do you think were most important 100 years ago?
  2. Do you think there might be other smarts? What would they be?
  3. Quick poll of students predicting their own "smarts".

Stay tuned for part 2 of the lesson, which includes a multiple intelligences ("smarts") survey 
and career-tying worksheet!

"Stand in My Shoes" - Empathy Lesson

Saturday, January 25, 2014
Inspired by this lesson, and the fact that my 4th graders are choosing to be unkind on an all too frequent basis, December's social skills lesson for 4th graders was on empathy.

The Lesson

In the first part of the lesson (4th grade lessons are split into two parts), we read Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy and discussed the two parts of empathy:

1) Think about what the other person is feeling. How would you feel in that situation

2) Think about what that other person/needs wants. What would you need or want from others in that situation?

In the second part of the lesson, we reviewed the definition and two parts of empathy. I also brought 6 shoe boxes to the room. I sadly did not have real shoes inside (partly due to cost, partly due to the immaturity of my students - I didn't want to hear "ew") but I did print and color pictures of different kinds of shoes. I asked for brave volunteers to come up and open a box. I held up the shoe picture while they read the scenario inside. Volunteers then followed each step of empathy from before (how does the person feel and what do they need from others).

Here were the scenarios:
  • I am staying home today because my stomach doesn't feel right. Actually, mom and dad broke up this summer and I don’t get to see my dad very much now. Everything has changed so much at home and it is all I can think about. This is my third day to miss school so far and my mom says she’ll lose her job if she has to keep taking off of work to stay home with me.  Put yourself in my shoes.
  • I am a baby and something’s not right so I’m going to the Doctor. I haven’t been sleeping well so I’ve been kind of fussy lately. It could be that I’m cutting some teeth, but mom’s not sure. I cry all the time and it is driving my brother and sisters crazy. I’m too young to explain how I’m feeling because I don’t talk yet. Put yourself in my shoes.
  • I am a fourth grader at Lakeview Elementary. I really struggle with math assignments and it takes me longer than everyone else at my table to finish our worksheets. Sometimes I steal their pencils so that I don’t have to waste time looking for one. People at my table try and talk to me when I am working and sometimes I snap at them and say mean things. I am trying to concentrate because I know I am not going to do well anyway. Put yourself in my shoes.
  • I just moved here from a foreign country. My English is not very good yet and I have a strong accent. I don’t understand a lot of the classroom rules so I keep making mistakes. My teacher gives me a lot more chances than other people in my class because I am new. But it makes people not want to be my friend because they don’t think that’s fair. Put yourself in my shoes.
  • I am a teacher and I really want my students to learn and reach their goals. I have 25 students in my class that are all very different and all need me to help them. When I was working with a small group, students kept coming to the table with questions and accidentally interrupted what we are doing. I stood up and demanded that all of my students return to their seats and to not get up in an angry voice. Put yourself in my shoes.
  • I am a fourth grade girl and I got a REALLY bad haircut. I got gum in my hair and my mom had to cut it out. The person at the salon couldn’t even fix it! Everyone has noticed and it has put me in a really bad mood. I just want to be by myself. I don’t even want to be around my friends. Put yourself in my shoes. 

The Response
Though students didn't connect with the book as much as I'd hoped, they really enjoyed the shoe box activity (as did the teachers). The most interesting thing about this was getting to see how very different my 4th grade classes responded to this. A couple of my classes really struggled to use empathy and instead continued to focus on how the individual in the scenario could solve the problem. On the one hand, it's great that they want to be problem solvers (and some had great suggestions). On the other hand, it showed that developmentally, some need more scaffolding before they can discuss empathy in this way.

Book Club: Justin Case

I had a great intern this past semester, and I made good use of her. I'd been reading wonderful things about counselors doing book clubs (see here and here) and really wanted to give it a try. To make the most of the group time, the group was created to 1) increase school motivation/effort and 2) improve literacy skills.

At that time in the semester, I felt like I was servicing 2nd and 4th grades the most so I chose 3rd grade as the target for this. Here is how students were chosen.
1) I reviewed test scores for a recent standardized assessment they took that was meant as a predictor for our big end of the year test. I made a list of all students who scored as a high "Basic" for the English and Language Arts Test (basically, the "bubble" kids that were very close to being "Proficient".
2) Then I separated out the students who also scored "Basic" for the literacy sub-section (since this is the only sub-section that our book club could realistically improve scores on).
3) I emailed my 3rd grade teachers the list of students and asked them if they believed any of these students would have higher grades/test scores of they had increased school motivation/effort. Voila - these became our kids!

Because I use picture books in my school counseling practice, I consulted with my school's librarian to find a chapter book that 1) would appeal to both genders, 2) was within a low 3rd grade reading level, and 3) could be a jumping off point for school motivation/effort. She finally sold me on Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters. It's a bit above the reading level of some of the students, but doing it as a group is fine. Although I've discovered the main character suffers more from school and social worries than low school effort, it is still working for us.

The group (which is still going on - we picked a long book) is run once a week for 45 minutes (30 of which are during the students' scheduled lunch). Each student has a copy of the book as do I or my intern. In each book is a bookmark with a job title on it. We rotate these so that each week, students have a different job. "Settings Tracker", "Character Tracker", "Historian", and "Predictor" were jobs we picked by looking at what sort of questions were being asked in the literacy sub-section of one of our major ELA assessments for 3rd and 4th grade. The "Motivator" and "Connector" jobs are the SEL focused ones meant to aim stir discussion regarding school effort and motivation.

We start each group with the Historian doing their job. We then take turns reading the journal entries, usually reading the last entry chorally. Other jobs do their part and then we're done!

While the students have trouble remembering to come (still...after over 6 weeks...), they are really engaged in the story and their jobs. Better yet, the most recent standardized test they took showed 4 out of 6 of them making gains in their reading scores which is even more impressive considering that most 3rd graders' reading scores went down. We have fun together AND we improve student data?! Win!
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