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!