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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

School Counseling Office

In honor of all of my fellow School Counselor bloggers, I am sharing pictures of my office.  I am so blessed to have such a huge space! 

I have a love/hate relationship with my conference table.  It sometimes gets used for meetings, but I also use it for my 5th grade groups.

My kid friendly area

If you look carefully at my small round table, you can see my flower pencils...I just filled a flower pot with dried beans to help them stand up, and used gardening tape to put the flowers on the pencils.  We use these for small groups and the kids think it's the coolest thing ever!

My desk area

Likes:  It's huge! I have my own sink; I have a huge desk with tons of storage; I'm centrally located in the school, not in the main office so kids can get to me easily. There is a clear seperation of my desk area and the area where I work with students.

Dislikes: My hospital white walls. My principal said that I could maybe paint them.  Any paint color ideas??  My tiny window is a tease.  I have 2 doors that go to other offices.  The space was intended to be a counseling suite, but with limited space, the "offices" are being used by others in the school.  Oh well! I get the huge therapy room!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When Things Don't Go as Planned...

    Or in other words...when life gives you lemons.  It's always amazing to me how group dynamics work.  Some groups go so smoothly, everything as planned, while others go off track and have you scrambling at times.  One of my favorite groups is my self control group.  Right now I have one going with five 5th grade boys...all completely different, but all with issues focusing and controlling themselves.  Today I had an awesome lesson planned out which stemmed from our discussion last week on anger.  We began talking about some strategies we can use to cool off when we are feeling angry and the boys were coming up with great ideas!  I was so impressed with what they came up with.  Today, we were going to make "chill cubes," and activity from Small Group Counseling for Children: Grades 2-5.  One of our group members has had a very sad day today.  So, instead of making our chill cubes, we spent the majority of our group listening to him share his experience.  My group of boys impressed me so much! They were listening with care, and even sharing some of their own similar experiences.  I commended them so much for being so caring and I could tell that the upset student felt understood by his group. 

This really taught me how much this job is all about "going with the flow."  Things don't always go as planned, and you know what....I wouldn't have it any other way!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Mouth is a Volcano!

My Mouth Is a Volcano (Children's/Life Skills)

I'm already writing about another Julia Cook book.  I just can't get enough!  This time I used the book My Mouth is a Volcano in 2nd grade.  This book is about a boy named Louis who has a big problem with "erupting" (interrupting).  His "important words slide down from his head onto his tongue.  His tummy starts to rumble, and then it starts to grumble.  His words begin to wiggle, and then they do the jiggle.  His tongue pushes all of his important words into his teeth and his volcano erupts!"  This  a cute story that children really enjoy.  Toward the end, Louis's mom teaches him a technique to keep him from interrupting.  I have used this book in classroom guidance, small groups, and individual counseling!  Anyone can use a reminder...

There is also an accompanying activity book called My Mouth Is a Volcano Activity and Idea Book. In the book, there is a project called "Button Up"  I tried this with my students this year and it was a success!  Each student is given a button and an index card.  On one side, they color their card green and write "Speak with good purpose" and on the other side, they color the card red and glue their button.  Beside the button they draw an up arrow in black.  The card is taped to their desk (button side up).  The teacher can use the card during instruction.  When it is the teacher's turn to talk, she tells students to flip their card to the button side (to remind them to button up!) and when it is time for student talk, they are asked to flip their cards to the green side.  I love this activity because I think its a great way to extend the lesson into everyday learning.  I'm a fan of anything that serves as a visual reminder!  So far, the teachers seem to like the idea and are using it. 

What types of visual reminders do you use for classroom guidance?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bully B.E.A.N.S.

First of all, let me state that I LOVE all of Julia Cook's books.  Her books have a very clever way of discussing issues.  Not to mention, they have accompanying activity books (purchased seperately) so planning is super easy!  I'm sure I will be writing several posts about her books.  With that said, my absolute favorite is Bully B.E.A.N.S.  Whenever I introduce this book to a class, they all say "What?!" A lot of them think I'm going to teach them how to be bullies.  In the book, the reader meets Bobette, the bully.  I always point out how the illustrator draws Bobbette so that she looks bigger than the rest of the kids.  We talk about why he must have done that.  We come to the conclusion that the author wants to show us that she has the power.  The kids (the bystanders) in the book learn that they must find the confidence inside themselves to stand up to the bully.  As a reminder, one girls mom gives her bully beans.  She tells her they are magical beans that help her stand up to the bully.  They finally figure out that the beans are just regular jelly beans, but just serve as a reminder of what they already can do. 

This book has promoted some awesome discussions in the classrooms I use it in.  Kids just open up and talk about the characters and immediately start making connections to real life.  We focus on the power of the bully vs. the power of the bystanders.  Then we do an activity from the Bully B.E.A.N.S. Activity and Idea Book to show the importance of the bystander.  The bystanders can take away the power of the bully when they work together.  In the activity book, there is an activity where you use a blanket and have students demonstrate this power struggle.  You label one student as the bully, one as the victim, and 3 as the bystanders.  They line up like this: bully, bystanders, victim.  The bully starts out with the blanket and then slowly the bystanders start pullying the blanket (the power) back over to the victim.  We talk about how the power needs to be equally balanced.  It's a really powerful lesson!

I also keep a jar of "bully beans" on my desk as a reminder for students.  Sometimes students come in to see me and say they need a bully bean.  They are asked to tell me how they're going to use it before I give them one.  This is one that the kids still talk about!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The 7 Habits of Happy Kids

As promised, I am posting more about the 7 habits.  This is a school wide initiative at my school that we have been doing for the past 3 years.  The 7 Habits of Happy Kids is written by Sean Covey, son of author Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and is aimed at elementary school age readers.  The book is composed of 7 short stories with a colorful crew of characters that students can relate with.  The stories teach the reader about each of the 7 habits by using nonfiction characters.  We started our initiative by beginning a Synergy Team.  This team was composed of several teachers and other certified staff at the school who would pilot the program.  These teachers were asked to cover the first 4 habits in their classroom.  Read the story, teach the skill, practice the skill.  It spread like wild fire!  Now, not only have we adopted all 7 habits in EVERY classroom, but our principal has made a block of time in our schedule daily for prosocial skills.  We call it Wildcat Team Time (WTT for short) and it lasts 20 minutes at the beginning of each day.  Teachers use the 7 habits along with other resources  to teach children about these skills that are so important to becoming leaders.  (That's our focus here...we're leaders and learners!)  The kids love the books, use the language, and refer to the skills on a daily basis.  It's amazing to see! 

The 7 Habits are:

Habit 1:  Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Habit 6: Synergize
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Not only do our students succeed socially using these skills, but academically as well.  Teaching them to leaders has helped to teach them to take ownership for their learning and to be self-assessing.  After the initial success of the 7 habits in our school, we decided to give the parents an opportunity to learn more.  The Synergy Team hosted a parent night called "Growing Leaders With the 7 Habits."  After the information session, parents were given the opportunity to attend a 7 night workshop focusing on how to implement the 7 habits at home, hosted by yours truly!  I had so much fun discussing how these skills can be implemented in the home with several parents.  In the future, I'll have to rethink the time/dates because there weren't as many parents in attendance as we'd hoped.  I wish I had time to list all of the amazing things our teachers have done with the habits but I'd be sitting here all day!  A great resource to check out on the 7 habits is

How have you used the 7 habits?  What lessons have you implemented using the habits?