Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Lessons

Many of you have probably read my post from last year on Special Snowflakes--a lesson on diversity using coffee filter snowflakes.  There are also a few other lessons that I'm using this year in light of Christmas.  On of my favorite parts of this time of year is that it can easily be tied into lessons.  For Thanksgiving, I love to use The Giving Tree and talk about gifts that don't cost any money.  I like to create a giving tree with my 2nd graders.  Other lessons that I'm doing this year that are related to Christmas are:

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky

Product DetailsThis is one of my favorites to do in Kindergarten because the kids are excited to read anything that has to do with Santa Claus.  We talk about what Santa's job is currently and then read about different jobs that he has tried out before deciding to deliver toys.  He tried to be a chimney sweep, a postman, and even a zoo keeper (which is where he met his reindeer). After reading, kids get to share (by drawing) what they might like to be when they grow up. 

Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett

Product Details
This is one of my all time favorite books because of it's lesson on generosity.  I read this story with 1st graders and we first talk about what generosity means.  The students are eager to tell me about how they have been generous or could be generous to someone else.  We read the story and learn about how Treve teaches the trolls, Tig and Mig, to be generous.  Afterward, students show me how they can be generous to someone.  It always touches my heart to hear them talk about donating old toys, helping others, and sharing with their brother or sister.

As stressful as this time of year is due to the overwhelming amount of families in need of help this Christmas, I love to see how caring and generous the students can be this time of year.  I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas and a restful holiday break!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Playing Santa

Man carrying gifts for ChristmasHello readers!  I apologize that I have been M.I.A.  It is that time of year when we are all getting the opportunity to play Santa.  This year, I am coordinating assistance for 51 of our families--a whopping total of 132 children.  I have done more in the past.  I have been very busy making phone calls, taking donations to go shopping, and pretty soon it will be time to organize it all and start handing it out.  Our local Rotary Club is generous enough to provide one box of food per family, and today I just went to pick up 75 bags of toys from Toys for Tots.  It is a big job, but someone has to do it!  I always tell my staff and donors that I feel like its not fair that I'm the only one who gets to give the actual "giving."  I start out by sending applications to my families who have participated in the past and/or are a part of our Backpack Bunch program.  These go out in October!  Once I have them back, I create a "christmas tree" for each child listing their clothing size, shoe size, and wish list.  I still have about 20 families to fulfill and time's ticking away!  It always seems to come together, but it is definately one of the most stressful (and rewarding) parts of my job.  It's totally worth it to know that all of my students will have a smile on their face on Christmas morning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Behavior Plan Prezi

Often times, I'm asked to help teachers create behavior plans.  I have spent a lot of time creating them for teachers, so I finally decided to create a crash course on behavior plans.  I created this Prezi and e-mailed it out to teachers.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Sorry for all of the changes!  I think I finally have a design that I like :)
Under construction sign

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Class Dojo

As engaging as I try to make my groups, sometimes things don't go as planned.  Students can often lose focus or become silly and rowdy.  Being the counselor can be difficult because there's a line that we dont want to cross.  We want to teach them skills such as self control, anger management strategies, and social skills, but we don't want to be put in the disciplanarian position. 

That being said, I've played around with several different ideas in groups to keep students motivated.  I'm so excited to be starting an idea which I first saw on Pinterest:  Class Dojo.  Several teachers in my school use Class Dojo (a website and iPad app) to monitor student behavior.  Each student has an avatar (a monster) which you can change to the student's picture.  Teachers can modify their behaviors (to add or take away points).  Students will hear a ding when they receive a point and a buzz when they lose a point.  I plan on using the Dojo for each group and points will be awarded for participation, modeling skills (anger management, social skills, self control).  Instead of monitoring each student, I plan on creating an avatar for each group.  They will collectively earn points, and we can even create reports on the program to look at our overall performance and analyze data.  I want to put up a chart on the wall so that we can record their points for each session.  Groups will be able to monitor their progress in comparison to other groups.

What type of behavior management system do you use for classroom guidance or groups?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Data! Data! Data!

Accountability is one of the most vital parts of a successful school counseling program.  It is also one of the most threatening topics for school counselors who are new to it.  I have used data in some ways in the past (such as pre and post self evaluations for students), but I've never really kept track of it the way I should.  This year, our state has changed our standards to be more aligned with the ASCA national standards.  Thus, there is more of a focus on data.  On Monday, the elementary school counselors in my county got together (all day) to talk about our new standards and how we can use data as part of our programs.

Being the only counselor at my school, I was feeling intimidated by the task, but I'm always up for a challenge!  The more I learned about using data, the more I realized that it totally aligns with what my school is already doing through Response for Intervention and Tier!!  A huge lightbulb went off in my head and I definately feel less threatened.  Right now, I'm putting in place an action plan on how I can use data so that it will work for me.  I'm planning on taking baby steps, but I've created a data notebook and here's what I have so far:

1.  I'll be using google documents to create pre- and post- evaluations to be completed by teachers for students who will be in skill building groups (such as self-esteem, self control, anxiety, anger, etc.)  The forms are so easy to create and I really love that when teachers fill out the form, it puts it in a spreadsheet for you (then you can create graphs if you want too!).  I think this will be a valuable resource for me. 

2.  I will be using Leadership grades to monitor progress.  As I've already shared, we are going through the Leader In Me process.  Therefore, we made the school decision to change our "citizenship grade" to a "leadership grade."  I will use this to monitor how much students in my self control group grow.

3.  Calendars!  I keep a yearly, monthly, and daily calendar, all of which I will be saving in my data notebook.

4.  Activity Logs.  In my previous post I shared that I am monitoring my daily activities in a log, all of which will be included in my data notebook. 

5.  Parent Involvement.  I am excited to announce that I will be starting "Coffee with the Counselor."  I have read about several other schools (such as Tabitha at Scrapbook of a School Counselor) who are using this as a non-threatening approach to parent involvement.  I will document this with sign in sheets as well as evaluations. 

I am sure that there will be many more ways that I will learn to use data in my school counseling program, but I am so excited to begin these ideas now so that I can watch my students grow and so that I can grow as a school counselors as well!

What are some ways you use data in your professional school counseling program?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Getting Groups Started

Well, it's the first week of October and i'm finally getting my groups organized.  It's been busy around here, so I'm glad to finally get some "routine" to my day.  Every year, I change something about the way I conduct groups--trial and error if you will.  Sometimes it's the content I teach (depending on student needs, new resources, or fresh ideas), and other times it's the organization and behavior management of groups.  So here's what I've done this year:
Groups I have beginning October 1st:

Self Control (grades 1, 2, 3, and 4)
Family Changes (grades 1 and 3)
Self Esteem (grades 4 and 5)
Anger (grades 3 and 4)

First (after receiving parent permission),  I decide what day of the week and what time we will meet (most of my groups meet at lunch).  I use a document, Group Layout Form, to organize my days.  I will not be conducting groups on Fridays this year so that I will have additional time to catch up with individual students.

Next, I set up my group table (well, 2 desks put together).  I'm hoping to add a tablecloth to make it more appealing.  I'm so excited to have this space for just my group stuff this year so it will be easily accessible.  It's right next to the round table where groups meet.  See below.  It includes a copy of my group expectations, a basket for pawprints and stickers (keep reading), my group layout form, paperclips (for clipping finished work), my 7 Habits talking stick, and all of my group materials/files.

I have 2 ideas going for behavior management.  In all of my groups, each student has a purple pawprint (we're the Wildcats) with their name on it.  When they are following group expectations (see Taming the Test for my expecations), they will receive a sticker for their pawprint.  This idea came from another school counselor, and kids are loving it!

For my 3rd grade anger group, we are in need of a little more structure. Therefore, I've decided to use the angry bird game found on pinterest.  The students will earn cups for following expectations, and will get to play the angry birds game for the last 5 minutes of group.  They are all really into Angry Birds so this should go over well!

As far as organizing lesson plans, I have decided to use a form found in Dianne Senn's Small Group Counseling for Children which lets you list all students and your lesson topics including warmup activity, etc.  This book is a great resource!!

How do you organize your small groups?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Whats your Weather?

As I've already shared, my school has the privilege of becoming a Leader in Me school this year.  Part of Habit 1: Be Proactive is choosing your own weather.  Despite what outside forces are impacting you, we can make the decision to be happy.  This is something I've been focusing a lot of energy on and guess what! IT'S WORKING!  I'm happier than I've ever been, I feel more successful in my work, and it has been much easier to solve conflicts in my personal life. 
So I had a thought...why not use the weather as an assessment tool in finding out how a child is feeling?  So I decided to make the above display for my room:  What's your weather?  The child can pick the weather symbol that best describes how they're feeling and then explain more about what it means.  Here's my thought but it's up to interpretation by each child:

Sunny = happy
Sun peeking behind cloud = feeling OK
Cloudy = not feeling my best
Rainy = sad
Lightening = angry

After the child figures out which weather picture depicts how they are feeling, we will be able to discuss it and then talk about how to make ourselves feel sunny again.  Some other ideas that I've received from others (and use all the time) are the emotions tree, feelings posters, etc. 

What do you use to assess a child's feelings?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's Finally Here!

Tomorrow is the first day of school for the kiddos!  I am so excited to see their smiling faces tomorrow, and to meet some new ones.  This past week has been jam-packed as far as professional development, which has been somewhat stressful, but definitely motivating!  On Wednesday, the counselors all got together to go over our new NC Essential Standards, so that got me thinking about data and what I do to show what I do.  I've decided to re-vamp my whole system, and I'm so excited to see how it goes.  I got a few ideas from fellow bloggers.  I'm going to keep scheduling students, either using Google calendar, or some other source.

I've also been inspired by many other blogs to try some new things. First of all, I've decided to go back to something we were required to do in graduate school.  I will be keeping a log for each day to show how many hours I spent in each activity (direct services, responsive services, etc.).  Also, I was inspired by Lauren Gentry at Cool School Counseling to track my individual students (confidentially) and list what issue I saw them for.  That way, I can create a end of the year report (inspired by Marissa Rex at Elementary School Counseling).

Finally, I'm excited to announce that I will be doing Minute Meetings at the beginning of the year as well as the end of the year.  This idea came from Danielle Schultz at School Counselor Blog.  I was a little nervous as to what the teachers would think of this idea, as it will be another time for me to pull their students, but the feedback has been awesome!  So many teachers have come to me to tell me how excited they are that I will be doing this.  It will allow me to meet with 100% of the students, and provide some excellent data (and referrals).

As I shared earlier, I have been involved in a lot of professional development over the past week.  I'm excited to announce that my school has been chosen to participate in the Leader in Me process!  If you are unfamiliar with the Leader in Me, it is a school wide program based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  We have taught the 7 Habits the past for years, but I cannot wait to become a Lighthouse school!  So far, we have completed the Signature training, which has been life changing!  It has challenged us to look at ourselves and realize our own leadership potential.  I am so excited for this opportunity to grow personally and professionally.  I can't wait to share this with my school staff and my students!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Right on Target!

As many of you have been doing this summer, I'm constantly on the look for items and ideas for the next school year.  I've been making mental notes of all of the ideas I want to try in getting my counseling program running this fall.  Hours have been on pinterest searching for ideas (you can follow my counseling board here  As a thrifty counselor, one of my favorite shopping spots is the dollar section at Target!  I get so excited this time of year with all of the great stuff they have for $1 that I can utilize in my counseling practices.  Yesterday, I found a few things that I wanted to share with you all.  I'm sure I will be back again many times before the school year starts, but here's what I picked up so far:

Exciting stuff, I know!  Here's my plan so far:

1.  Pipe cleaners---I don't know where to start!  I'm sure these will be used for many craft projects in small groups, hmm, maybe I should go grab more?

2.  Sparkly Pom Pom balls---Last year, I decided that in all of my groups, I would start the first session in the same way.  We would go over our group guidelines and then read the story Have you Filled A Bucket Today?  I think its a great way to talk about respect and working together as a group to help each other...we are all there for a similar reason.  Here comes my pom pom a behavior management strategy, we will work together as a group to fill our group bucket (I haven't purchased the bucket yet).  I'm thinking of somehow working this into my guidance lessons too.  Any suggestions on that?

3.  Wipe Clean Double Sided Sentence Strips---I was so excited to find these after reading a pin on pinterest about having students practice writing "I statements" in small groups.  These were a must-buy!

4.  Paper Mouse Pad---a mouse pad I can write on???? Whaaaattttt?!  I really love organization, planning, calendars, that type of thing; so when I found this mousepad that has 20 sheets of monthly grids, I was sold!

What bargains have you found for your school counseling office next year?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Winding Down The Year

It is that time!  We are smack dab in the middle of end of grade testing (which I'm fortunate enough to not have to coordinate) and getting ready to wind down the year.  I decided I should post since I will probably not have much time to before school lets out.  The last few weeks of school are always jam packed with activities for kids, testing, and other events.  This year some of the things we have going on are:
  • A "pawsitive" behavior day on June 6 (this is our school wide behavior plan). Throughout the year, students receive shoutouts for good acts that are read over the announcements.  Once the school receives 500 shoutouts, we get a "pawsitive" behavior day!  On this day, we come up with a theme to revolve the day around..for example, in the past we've had cruise ship day, fairytale day, time-warp, carnival, etc.  This time will be sports spectacular!  All activities in the classrooms are based around the theme, and then during specials (P.E., art/music, etc) the students all rotate through fun stations that the specialist provide.
  • On June 4, the teachers at a nearby elementary school have challenged our staff to a kickball game!  I'm organizing the team and we'll be practicing tomorrow so we can dust our shoes off!  All proceeds will be split between schools
As for this summer, I will be serving on the Synergy Team. As posted before, my school teaches the 7 Habits of Happy Kids to all students as our character education program.  We've decided we need to step it up!  In comes the Synergy Team!  This summer, we will be re-reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Leader in Me by Stephen Covey.  We will also be coming up with lessons to go with each habit and posting them for staff.  It will be hard work but should be fun! 
The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a TimeThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

As for today, it is an optional workday, and I've opted to come in and take care of some business so that I can have a smooth end of the year and begin planning for next year.  I hope that you all have a wonderful Memorial day and a restful summer!  Make sure to Sharpen Your Saw!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Have You Been to Jobland?

Sorry for the changes! I felt like my old template was too busy and hard to read!  I hope you enjoy the new and improved (and simple) look of my page!

This month in 2nd grade, we're taking a trip to Jobland!  In K-2 career lessons, the focus is on getting familiar with jobs and finding out what jobs might match our interests.  2nd graders get to go on the laptops and visit Paws in Jobland.  Paws is a friendly cartoon dog that talks to kids about jobs.  The kids get to explore various careers in Jobland, and even get to take a "jobfinder" survey.  It asks questions about their interests, such as "do you like math?"  Once students have finished with the survey, certain areas of Jobland are hightlighted so they can look at those careers that best match with their results. 

You can find visit Jobland on or click the Paws in Jobland link below.  Some things you might discuss after visiting the site are:
  1. What new jobs did you learn about?
  2. What do you think you might want to be when you grow up?
  3. Do you have to go to college, trade school, or receive some other type of education for this job
  4. What is something you will share with your parents about this activity?
Paws in Jobland

Friday, April 27, 2012

A day in the life

In response to a comment posted by a graduate student, I'd like to share my daily schedule.  Oh wait, I don't have a daily schedule (kind of)!  As the only school counselor at my school of 500, I present classroom guidance once a month to each class, so I prepare a monthly calendar for guidance lessons.  I also start new groups each quarter.  The rest of my time is filled with individual counseling, planning, phone calls, conferences, touching base with students/teachers, and whatever else comes my way.  Just to give you a picture, I decided to provide you with my schedule for 2 different days (since every day is different!)  I usually make my schedule as I go.  Guidance and groups are already added in, and as I get referrals, I fill my schedule for students and other things.  Students give me their referrals (see my post Need to See the Counselor) and I plan according to need.  I like to have it all planned out for the day (which I keep track of using google calendar).  We operate on a block schedule, so there are only certain times I am allowed to pull kids to work with them (usually during their intervention/enrichment block).    I try to stick to my schedule, but of course, things come up! 

Schedule for Thursday, April 26:

7:20-7:40  Duty in the gym (we have walking club for early arrivals)
7:40-8:00  Prepare for my guidance lesson, hand out appointment passes
8:00-8:30  3rd grade guidance lesson on career pathways
8:30-9:00  Individual counseling with a 4th grader
9:00-9:30  Individual counseling with another 4th grader
9:30-10:30  Unscheduled time--Planning, following up with phone calls, updating my notes, working on Tier paperwork, responding to anything that comes up
10:30-11:00  Individual counseling with 3rd grader
11:00-11:30  Individual counseling with another 3rd grader
11:35-12:05  3rd grade test anxiety group
12:05-1:00   Lunch (I always make a point to schedule this, or else I won't eat), meeting with teachers, following up with students as things come up
1:00-1:30  5th grade test anxiety group
1:40 - 2:10  4th grade guidance lesson on stress
2:10-2:30 Follow up phone calls, touch base with teachers, update my notes, and  check in on students
2:30-3:00  Individual counseling with 1st grader
3:00-3:15  Kids dismiss
3:15-4:15  Faculty Meeting

Schedule for Friday, April 27

7:30-8:30  Planning for day, preparing for 5th grade guidance, hand out my appointment passes
8:35-9:35  5th grade guidance lesson on test anxiety/strategies  (5th grade classes rotate, so I presented to 2 classes in this time)
9:35-10:05  Checked in with teachers, made some phone calls, prepared for students
10:05-10:35  5th grade guidance lesson on test anxiety/strategies (the last rotation)
10:35-11:05  Individual counseling on divorce with a 3rd grader
11:05-11:35  Individual counseling with another 3rd grader
11:45-12:15  3rd grade test anxiety group
12:15-12:30  Checked in with a student briefly...will make an appointment with her next week, but gave her some strategies to try in the mean time.
12:30-1:00  Lunch, planning, responsive services, updating notes, added above student to my calendar
1:00-1:30  Individual counseling with 5th grader
1:40-2:10  4th grade classroom guidance on stress
2:20-2:50  Social skills small group (1st grade)
3:00-3:30 (or usually later...) Dismissal, planning for next week, following up with teachers, catching up on notes for the day, etc.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bugs In My Hair?!

Bugs In My Hair?!
Oh, lice.  A topic we are all too familiar with.  My school nurse and I are often entwined in this battle that is all too often lost (it starts as a health issue and can quickly lead to an issue of self-esteem).  We have had several families (especially those who go between houses) who have chronic lice, build up immunities, and often face criticism because of it.  The counselor at the elementary school down the road informed me of a children's book on the topic, so I decided to purchase it and see what it's all about.  The book is called Bugs In My Hair?! by Catherine Stier.  The story is about Ellie LaFleur who is always perfect.  She even washes her hair with Princess Luxury Shampoo.  One day, Ellie gets lice and can't believe it happened to her.  The story goes through all of the procedures that Ellie and her mom have to do to get rid of the lice, and then Ellie learns that it's not such a bad thing after all.  In the end, she even writes a note for kids who get head lice and states "these things happen!"

Reasons I love it:
It takes away the stigma of lice
It debunks the myth that lice only like dirty hair
It helps children feel like they are not alone
It explains what lice are in a kid-friendly way
It covers all of the procedures for removing lice

I think this book will be great for individuals struggling with lice AND classroom guidance!  My hope is that in reading this to a whole class, we can create some empathy and take away the stigma for good!

After all..
These things happen!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Taming the Test

Thanks to Allison from the Counseling Corner for the
blank controller!

Today we are back in school after a restful and relaxing SPRING BREAK!  I put all of my school stuff aside and took a much needed break.  Now that we're back, the focus is on getting prepared for end of grade testing! Yikes!  Cue the scary music.  In the past I have always done guidance lessons in 3-5 classes on stress and relaxation techniques.  We talk about good stress (that motivates us to do our best) and bad stress (that keeps us from doing our best).  This year, I've been asked to present small groups for third graders who have really been having a hard time with benchmarks this year.  I was immediately excited to think of all of the cool ideas I've seen on other blogs, pintrest, and other sites on this topic.  I decided to expand the offer to all grades 3-5 and the feedback was AMAZING!  I am currently facilitating 6 groups on test anxiety, serving 22 students.  I feel so motivated to help these kids learn techniques for reducing stress in testing situations.  I started a few of the groups before spring break, and the feedback from students was great.  I heard comments such as, "this will be really helpful,"  "I can't wait to tell my mom what I'm learning, she will be so excited;" and "I'm so happy to meet other kids who feel this way."  I'm so happy that the kids are just as excited as I am.  I will post more later on what we've done in the group, but here's some of the items on the agenda:

  • Where I feel stress in my body, and how to relax my body
  • Relaxation techniques and other ways to reduce stress
  • Taking Back Control (this uses a game controller to teach strategies for test taking)
  • Thinking positive thoughts
  • Where I feel stress in my body

    Strategies to relax my body

And as I am posting about small groups, I thought I would share my group "Rules", or as I call them EXPECTATIONS...
  1. Be Here.  This means I am an active member of this group.
  2. Be Safe.  I know that what I say in here stays in here.  I know that I have the right to pass if I don't want to share.
  3. Be Respectful.  I will listen while others are sharing and use kind words.
  4. Be Confidential.  I will respect my friends' privacy by not sharing what is said in group.  I know that I can share my group experience with my family or teacher, but not my friend's experience.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Anger Mask

This morning I was trying to plan something to work on with one of my regular students with anger issues when I decided to expand on a lesson I already teach in my anger management groups.  This student has a lot going on at home and we've already been working on the windows activity, but I wanted to get to the root of his anger.  We talked about the anger mask (the activity from Seeing Red: An Anger Management and Peacemaking Curriculum for Kids).  I love this book for so many reasons!  After showing him my anger mask (made out of a paper plate), we made a list of some "unpleasant feelings" on the board: discouraged, jealous, embarassed, hurt, scared, worried, etc.  Next, I gave him his pre-prepared foldable in which to draw his anger mask on the front.  I explained to him that sometimes when we're angry, we're actually feeling something else on the inside.  I give him several examples, such as someone calling you a may show your angry face, but actually you might be feeling hurt.  After drawing his anger mask, we pick out some of the other unpleasant feelings that we may be actually feeling on the inside, and draw them inside the foldable.  It ended up being a great visual (see mine below) and started some great conversations about some of the things causing this little guy to be angry.  I've posted pictures of mine below, but didn't want to show his due to confidentiality, but it was awesome! I'll definitely be doing this activity again!

How do you "dig deeper" to figure out the root of a child's feelings?

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I was recently looking for information gathering ideas for meeting with individual students.  I have my emotions tree, I have my feelings charts, but I wanted something more.  Something to really let me peer into what's going on inside these kiddos.  As usual, I consulted my copy of Creative Approaches for Counseling Individual Children in the School Setting by Diane S. Senn.  (I've posted about this book before).  The activity I was drawn to was entitled Windows to Our World.  I drew a window (complete with curtains) on my white board with panes so it's seperated in 4 sections. Next, I cut a piece of paper into 4 pieces and taped each piece on the board.  I talk to students about what the purpose of a window is.  They will say "to look outside" and I say, "what happens when you're outside and look inside a window?" and they will say "you see what's inside." 

Explain to students that this is a window to our world.  This is a chance to look inside your world at home, school, with friends, and yourself.  I ask students which they would like to begin with, and then we pull down that piece of paper and they draw a picture of that aspect of their world.  I've really enjoyed this activity because kids have really bought into it.  Some of them even like to draw curtains on each of their pieces of paper, so it really looks like an outsider is looking in.  This is a great way to learn more about what is really going on in a child's life and see their perception of it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Personal Space Camp!

Product DetailsI've already posted about this amazing author before, but yet again, I'm already posting about another Julia Cook book!  This book is called Personal Space Camp and it's a fun way to talk to kids about respecting others' space.  In the story, we meet Luis again (same character from My Mouth is a Volcano).  He thinks he is a space expert! "Zoom Zoom, Zip Zip, Buzz the planets, Tickle the sun, Back to Earth, Now that was fun!!"  Luis is told by his teachers that he has a problem with personal space, which is very confusing to Luis since he thinks he is a space expert!  Luis attends Personal Space Camp in the principal's office where he finally learns the difference between outer space and personal space. 

I love this book because it covers all of the bases of personal space:  walking in line, sitting on the rug (instead of laying on the rug), etc.  I also love it because you can easily bring up conversations about touching people, pushing, hitting, etc.  We talk about how everyone has a different amount of personal space that makes them feel comfortable (our personal space bubble, or personal space ship).  Sometimes, we feel OK with someone getting in our personal space (parents, friends who we give permission to), but most of the time, we don't like for our personal space bubble to be broken.  We talk about how part of respect means asking permission to enter someone's personal space (for a hug or whatever the reason might be).  This can also lead to a discussion on personal safety and good touch/bad touch.  I use this book in 2nd grade classrooms, in my social skills small groups, and of course, with individual students as well.  Teachers are always asking to borrow this one.

What could make this any better?  Of course!  There is the activity & guide book which is also available for purchase! Oh Julia, you make life so easy for us!  There are all kinds of activites in the book, such as clumping all of the desks together (to show how impossible it would be for us to work this way), creating personal space place mats, a space freeze game, and many more!  I feel like an advertisemet, but I just can't say enough good things for these books.  Enjoy, Personal Space campers!
Personal Space Camp Activity and Idea Book

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What's the best part of an M&M?

The best part of an M&M is the inside!  I've done this lesson for the past 4 years and it is one of my favorite ones to present!  This lesson came from Puzzle Pieces, a great classroom guidance resource by Dianne Senn and Gwen M. Sitsch, and is an awesome way to make kids understand the importance of not judging our friends by the way they look.

Prepare 2 shoe boxes (same size) with pretty birthday wrapping paper and a nice red ribbon, and the other one with newspaper (with tears) and twine.
Inside the box with the pretty wrapping, put rocks
Inside the box with the newspaper, put M&Ms.

which gift would you pick?
Introduce the gifts to the class and ask, "If it were your birthday and you could pick whichever gift you wanted, which would you want and why?"
Listen to the students share which one they would pick and why.  You will see that most kids will pick the fancy gift.  I really amp this up by trying to get them to guess what's inside!
After they have guessed, open up the box and show them the rocks.
Now ask how many changed their mind. (All of them will raise their hands)
Now open the box wrapped in torn newspaper and show them the M&Ms

Conclude with the class that although the birthday box was wrapped nicely, it wasn't very nice on the inside, but the newspaper-wrapped box was sweet on the inside.  Have a discussion with the class about how this relates to choosing our friends.  Tell them, even though someone is really nice looking on the outside, maybe has the most stylish clothes, it doesn't mean they're a nice person on the inside.  It doesn't matter what color they are or what they look like.  But we don't know, that's why we have to take the steps to get to know someone. 

After the discussion, pass out M&Ms for everyone and ask them what is the best part of the M&M.  They will all say "THE CHOCOLATE!!"  Explain to them that the color of the M&M does not really matter.  Demonstrate this by having a student come up in front of the class, close their eyes, and taste an M&M.  They will try to guess what color it is.  They will not be able to tell!

People are like M&Ms

Explain to them that people are like M&Ms, it doesn't matter what we look like on the outside, it's what's on the inside that counts.  We should choose our friends by the way they act and treat others, not by how they look.

Kids love this lesson and talk about it for a long time! I recently saw in the latest issue of Teaching Tolerance that someone used tootsie pops to teach this same lesson.  Love it!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Peer Pressure Bag of Tricks

A 4th grade teacher came to me and asked if I could talk to her class about positive and negative peer influence in our next guidance lesson.  I was so excited to hear this because I had been wanting to do a lesson on peer pressure anyway.  I did some research online and found a lesson on  aimed at middle school students.  As I read the lesson, I realized that I could easily change this around to work with my 4th graders.  The lesson talks about the "tricks" kids use to influence you to make decisions, either good or bad.  It breaks the "tricks" down into spoken and unspoken.  In the lesson, you introduce the peer pressure "bag of tricks" and each table has a bag with pieces of paper explaining each of the tricks.  I decided instead of doing that, I would make a diagram to show the different tricks (and whether they are spoken or unspoken....I call them verbal and nonverbal).

Next you break the students up into groups and give each group a role-play scenario.  After giving students adequate time to practice their role-play, you ask them to perform them for the class.  After each performance, students have to guess which type of "trick" is being demonstrated.  (I made a sheet with the description of each type of "trick" for each table so they can refer to them easier).

After all of the role plays, you talk to students about the different ways to resist peer pressure.  We will first talk about how you are ultimately responsible for making your own choices.  After giving students the opportunity to brainstorm ideas, we talk about the following ideas:

  • saying "No, I don't want to" in a firm voice, looking them in the eye, and standing up tall.
  • Suggesting something else to do
  • Walking away from the situation
  • Finding something else to do with other friends
I am excited to present this lesson to the class and hear the discussions that it facilitates.  My 4th graders always come up with the best group discussions!  I'm sure I will add some more ideas to the lesson before presenting it!

What are some creative lessons you have presented on Peer Pressure?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Personal Safety & Healthy Boundaries

I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping your private parts privateThe topic came up in our Counselor's meeting yesterday.  What do you do in your classroom guidance lessons to teach children about healthy boundaries and private parts?  EEk!  That topic is always so icky and touchy.  In the past, we've had our local nonprofit agency who works with sexual violence victims present this topic to certain grade levels, but now it is on us, as the school counselors, to teach the topic.  Although we are The Right Touch: A Read-Aloud Story to Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (Jody Bergsma Collection)used to discussing this individually with students, the topic is more difficult with large groups because of the nature of the beast.  How do you say enough without saying too much?  Not to mention the parent permission component.  What is the best way to present this topic without scaring students, and on the other hand, how do we make sure we're not sending the wrong message?  For example, in the past, students would come to us following this type of talk and claim that someone had been touching them inappropriately.  It would turn out that someone bumped into them, or something of that nature.  We decided as elementary school counselors that we would like to have some type of lesson plan across the county so that we know that we are sending the same information to all students.  We also decided to send home facts and stastics about sexual abuse and notify parents of when the discussion would be and what materials would be used.  I've done some research, but I'm still not sure what materials would work best, and I've added a couple of links. I thought you all might have some suggestions!.  It had me thinking..
Your Body Belongs to You
How do you talk with your large classrooms about personal safety and inappropriate touch?  What materials have you used?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Organization makes me :)

Current triumphs...
clipart from
Lately, I've been trying to "streamline" my way of running the guidance & counseling program at my school.  I want to to be sure that I cross my t's and dot my i's.  One way that I've done this, is by recording appointments in google calendar, as posted last week, and keeping electronic personal notes using Microsoft Access: Issues.  This year, I've decided to keep better track of my guidance lessons so I made a master calendar at the beginning of the year which includes each month down the left side, and the grade level across the top.  That way I was able to come up with what lessons I wanted to do for each month.  This year I have also revamped my lesson plans.  It helps me to better organize my thoughts and includes a section to list the ASCA standards being addressed in the lesson.  I feel like I am making sure that i'm addressing the standards more purposefully now. 

Still in the works...
I'm still planning on reorganizing my notebooks.  Right now I have a general binder with lesson plans, but I want to create a "master notebook" that I can put Organize JUST what I'm using for the current year.  I hope to have under each grade level, each of the lesson plans in order by month.  The thought of this makes my heart sing!  Haha nerdy school counselor alert!

As far as small groups, I keep a folder for each current group with my general lesson plans attached.  I want to make my groups more purposeful as well, so I plan on coming up with lesson plans for each one including the standards as well. 

It's a lot of work, but I feel like this will help make my future planning soooo much easier!!

How do you organize your comprehensive school counseling program?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Need to see the counselor?

How do you get your referrals?  I'm sure many of you have parents and many teachers who send students your way, but how do students let you know that they need counseling services?  I was lucky enough to inherit a referral system from the previous counselor at my school.  There is a purple mailbox outside my door where students can put notes in for appointments.  My previous referral form had students indicate whether their concern was a "small rock," "medium rock," or a "large rock (urgent)."  As you can imagine, I would receive 95% large rocks!  Although this is a nice visualization for students when trying to decide how urgent their problem is, I realized that this was very subjective.  Students who were having an issue with a friend would often tell me "It's an emergency!"  I found myself spending a lot of time explaining to students the difference between an emergency (something we need to solve today), and something that can wait until tomorrow. 

At my school, I am not allowed to pull students during their academic times (unless there are emergency circumstances, of course), and in each grade level, these are usually the same. Often times,  I'm stuck with one hour chunk a day to pull students from each grade level, and lunches (usually already reserved for groups).  So I find myself doing a lot of strategic planning to fit everyone in.  I have my master calendar (that I can take with me to meetings, etc.) and then I use google calendar for my more specific planning (for example, daily individual appointments, small group meetings, etc.).  Google calendar has definitely helped me plan my days.  The referral system helps me to prioritize: who do I HAVE to see today, and who can wait until tomorrow or the next day.  I finally decided that I needed more information to use during my decision making. 

My new referral form is a lot more detailed.  It has places for students to indicate what kind of problem they are having: School, home, missing someone, with a friend, with a grown up, etc.  There are also these options: something not on this list, or I'll tell you in private.  I hope that the use of this new referral system will help me be able to prioritize my counseling appointments so that I am better able to meet the immediate needs of my students.  I hope to post more about ways that I try to stay organized, and would love to hear from you!
I need to see the Counselor
Ms. Hart

I am having a problem with…

£    School                                      £ A friend
£ Home                                      £ A grown up
£ Missing someone                   £ Something not on this list

£ I will tell you in private

My Name: _______________________________________
My Teacher: ______________________________________
Today’s Date: _________________________

How do you organize your guidance & counseling schedule?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bowling for Kids Sake

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western NC, Inc.

This Saturday, February 25, myself and a team of 4 teachers will be bowling in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina.  This is an annual fundraiser in which each team member is asked to raise $50 in order to bowl.  The proceeds will go to BBBS WNC.  The program spans across Buncombe, Burke, Haywood, Henderson, and Polk counties and there will be teams bowling at bowling centers in each of these counties! 

This is the first year my school had participated in this event, and I am so excited!  This year, we have worked closely with Jeff Kowalak of Henderson County's Big Brothers Big Sisters program to pilot a new program linking ROTC cadets from the high school with deserving elementary school students here.  It is amazing what a difference one visit, once a week, from a mentor can make on a child.  Almost every day, these students ask me when the cadets are coming to visit.  Unfortunately, the high school is out of funding and cannot afford the bus trip over, so we have not been able to continue this program for the past couple of months.  We are brainstorming a fundraiser for our particular program.  But in the meantime, why not support the great cause of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

If you are unfamiliar with the program, BBBS links adult mentors with a deserving child.  In the school based program, the "big" comes to visit "the little" at school and they spend time together forming a friendship through playing games, working on homework, or having lunch together.  You can find more information about the program by visiting or  I will be sure to fill you in to let you know how my team does and how much money we raised for this awesome program! 

If you are interested in donating, you can sponsor us securely online at (or click on the picture above) and find my team, the Wildcat Wonders!  I hope to see you Saturday where we plan to tear up the lanes and bring home the trophy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Lesson

 I just wanted to share a quick lesson that's fun to do on Valentine's day, if you happen to be visiting a class around that time.  I can't remember where I found it, but I can't take credit! We start by talking about the words we use and how they can make people feel really good, or they can hurt them.  Before coming the class I prepare a big red heart out of construction paper.  As the students are talking about hurtful things that children might say, I start folding the heart (in all different ways to create lots of different creases) and eventually it is a crumpled up ball.  I tell the class that each time they say something that is hurtful, its like it puts a wrinkle in someone's heart. 

We then talk about what we can do to try to make it better (saying kind words, saying "I'm sorry", saying 'just kidding").  As they do this, I unfold the heart.  Eventually it is spread back out, but you can still see the wrinkles.  We talk about how we all have these wrinkles or scars on our heart from things others have said to us, and sometimes they last forever.  I then share a story from when I was a child where I was picked on, and how I've never forgotten it.  We then talk about how it is important to try to make things better if we say something hurtful, but its even better if we don't say it all.
Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink

After the lesson, we read the story Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane deGroat and make connections to the heart lesson and the story.  This is one of my favorites because the kids really see the connection and love the connection to valentine's day and handing out valentines to people.  I leave the wrinkled heart in the classroom to serve as a reminder to use kind words.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Happy School Counselors' Week!

My heart is beaming with pride this week as I'm able to advocate for my profession and educate the teachers at my school about what a School Counselor can contribute to a school.  First, I sent out a few e-mails of news articles that have been printed in local newspapers about School Counselors.  Next, I decided this year to do something for my staff, since they have always been so good to me in the past on this week (poems written by students presented at assemblies, special recognitions, chocolate-yum, etc.) and at the same time I could promote my services (Win, Win!).  I used the concept of legos (many of the other counselors whose blogs I follow are using this same idea) to focus on CONNECTIONS! 

On day one, I decided to use the "guess how many legos" in teacher lounge with a plate full of cookies and a sign about school counselors' week.  On Tuesday morning, the basket was already full of responses! I can't wait to announce the winner on Friday and present him/her with the prize.  Yesterday, I went to check my mailbox and inside was a class set of cards written by a 5th grade class.  I almost cried reading about all of the lessons they remembered, and even some of the personal notes from students I've worked with in groups or individually.  I sent them a thank you note to show my gratitude and to let them know that THEY are the reason I do what I do.  Coming to school and seeing their smiling faces each day is what keeps me motivated and makes me love my job.

Yesterday, I put candy bars in each teacher's mailbox with a note glued on in the shape of a lego. Sorry you can't see the colorful ones I made, I didn't snap a picture before putting them in the teacher boxes.  At the top it says "School Counselors CONNECT" and in each of the circles on the lego I have listed "students, teachers, community resources, staff, parents, and administration."  I got tons of thank yous from the teachers...everyone enjoys a little afternoon treat :)

On Friday, I plan to announce my "guess how many legos" winner and then put out some 3 musketeers.  An idea stolen from Danielle's blog "School Counselor's Blog."  The sign reads "Teachers, Administrators, and School Counselors CONNECTING for Student Success!  In honor of School Counselors' Week, I'd like to thank you for being one of the '3 Musketeers!'" 

Overall, this week has helped reconfirm why I do what I do.  How much I love my position, my school, my students, my coworkers.  Without the support of the wonderful teachers that I work with, I would not be successful.  The way that they care about students and put their needs first helps make my job easy.  I have felt appreciated and loved this week and I wish the same for all of you deserving counselors out there!  We are often overlooked, often the loner (especially if you're the only counselor in the school, like me), the secret keeper, but I know that I am appreciated all year long and that is what this week has shown me!

What are you doing in your school to promote the role of the School Counselor?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Play-Doh Creations

I'm sure for many of you, play-doh is a staple in your school counseling office.  It is so useful in small groups and individual counseling.  I have found that kids open up so much when they have something to play with (whether its legos, play-doh, or a drawing).  Many of us have heard of Play Therapy of course, but not as common is Clay Therapy.  Paul White is a child therapist who offers seminars and keynote speeches on the topic.  Although I've never attended one, I have perused his website, Paul White's Clay Therapy, and learned some things from a fellow school counselor on how to use Play-Doh as a tool in individual counseling.  It's a great hands-activity that takes away the anxiety of a first visit with the school counselor, and also gives the child something to take home!  Paul White can teach you to make just about anything out of play-doh by simply using snakes, balls, and other simple things we all know how to create already! He has a whole gallery of "critters" such as a snail (I use this to teach self-control...slowing down), airplanes (be the pilot of your brain!), and roses (self-esteem, inner beauty?).  Even if you don't get to attend one of his seminars, you can still use your creativity with Play-Doh in counseling.  Below you can see some snails I made with a student that i've left in my office to dry:

How do you use Play-Doh in counseling settings?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Suffering Through The Sour to Get to the Sweet

I thought I would share one of my very favorite lessons that I do each year.  I learned this lesson from my supervisor during my internship, but it originally came from Steve Sandman, the 8th grade counselor at Cane Creek Middle School.  He has lots of wonderful lessons which can be found on the Cane Creek Middle School Counseling website.  You start by telling the students that you have a challenge for them.  You ask them if they have ever tried Warheads (the really sour candy).  Most of them are immediately excited!  You give each child a piece (if they want it) and tell them not to put it in their mouth yet, but to unwrap it and get it ready.  Everyone puts the Warhead in their mouth at the same time and we try to see who can last 30 seconds.  Of course they all look miserable, and the faces are a great laugh! Afterward, we talk about the experience when they first put the candy in their mouth.  They list adjectives such as "really sour! Painful! Explosive! Burning! Horrible!"  And then you ask them if they would like another.  Of course, they all say "YES!!" I act surprised, "What?! Why would you want another one after you just told me how horrible it was?" We go over their list of words.  They come to the conclusion that even though the candy was really sour at first, after a little while, it became sweet and felt better.  You then ask them if the bad feelings at the beginning were worth the good feelings at the end?

Next, you read the story Horton Hatches the Egg and ask students to make comparisons between the story and their Warhead experience.  This leads to a discussion on persevarance and attitude.  You can almost actually the see the lightbulbs going off in theird heads.  I use this lesson in third grade and we make the comparison to school.  They automatically start talking about the EOG and how we have to work hard now to get a good score.  I really enjoy this lesson and its one the students keep talking about each year!

Horton Hatches the Egg