Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Using Music in Counseling


When I went to the VSCA Conference last fall I attended a session on using music in counseling. I have been to a few similar presentations before but generally they involve using popular songs that have to be carefully screened and sometimes certain words deleted. I agree with the theory behind using music (and movement) in counseling with all populations. In the presentation they showed a clip of using music and rhythms with groups of children with special needs. I was in awe of all they did but I am not musical and I don't have the time or patience to screen popular songs. Despite my lack of confidence I did promise myself I would find opportunities to use more music and movement in my program this year. I bought two sets of rhythm sticks and have used them in activities in my self-regulation groups this year. Our school division adopted Second Step and it has songs that go along with each unit so I have used these. I also use some of the CD's produced by Conscious Discipline in kindergarten and first grade groups. I felt like I needed more for the upper grades so I was happy to find Sing-Along Guidance for Grades 3-8 by Young and Schwintek and published by
https://www.youthlight.com I am using "Not Gettin' Paid for Watching TV" in grade 3 for a career lesson, "Don't Tell Me I Can't" in grade 4 for a goal setting lesson, and "It's All Up to Me" in a career lesson. These are songs that are written and performed by professional recording artists written with lesson plans for guidance lessons. I think some of the other songs and lessons, there are 12 in all, belong in the middle school.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rock or Clay Problem

Many students come see the school counselor because a problem has them stuck and they are overwhelmed by an uncomfortable situation that is causing them unpleasant emotions and stress. When talking to my upper grade students about problems I like to use the metaphor (and props) is it a Rock or Clay problem? Generally I start by giving them a rock and asking if they can change its shape. Then I give them Play-Doh and ask if they can change it. Then we talk about Rock problems like parents separating or one parent living in another country. There is nothing a child can do to change this type of situation so they just have to cope. Mindfulness is a great technique for rock problems. We generally generate a list of positive coping strategies: talk to someone you trust, exercise, journal writing, drawing, listening to music, etc. For clay problems they need to use self-regulation (control) and find a solution that will get them past being stuck. Sometimes I have them make a shape from the Play-Doh that represents the solution they plan to try. I have done this with individuals and in small groups. I did it the other day with my group of ELL students who all have experienced living separately from a parent and coming to US with no English. I gave them each a rock and a can of Play-Doh to take home so they could explain our session.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kindness Book


Maria Dismondy has many great books to use in counseling and for parents to read to reinforce social emotional development. As a counselor I am asked a lot about how to help siblings resolve conflicts and treat one another respectfully. Some of the students who are very kind to peers at school fight and fuss with siblings. This book is published available http://mariadismondy.com/ and will be available at Amazon soon. I can't wait for my copy to arrive! If you can't wait on her website the author reads the book aloud. She also has a Reader's Guide and coloring sheet. While you are on her site check out her other fabulous books like The Juice Box Bully, The Potato Chip Champ, Pink Tiara Cookies for Three, Chocolate Milk Por Favor!, and Spaghetti on a Hot Dog Bun.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book To Teach Optimism

We use the MindUp Curriculum from the Hawn Foundation. It has a lesson titled "Choosing Optimism" which I think is one of the most important lessons. Optimism is a learned trait and if practiced, can become a way of thinking. The Curriculum suggests about 4 books as Literature Links and the ones for this lesson are okay but my favorite book on optimism Is Rain Brings Frogs by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. She is a great author and the message of hope in this book is powerful and the illustrations capture the audience. I use this with grade 2.

Group: First Grade Boys Social Skills and Self Regulation



I am starting my final round of groups for the school year, it may seem late but we go to school through the third week in June. Generally this round is more intense tier 2 intervention for students who need more support. They may have been in a group earlier in the year but they are still struggling with social emotional, behavioral, or self-regulation issues. Most of these referrals come from teachers in progress monitoring meetings but a few are from parents. This year I am doing 2 small groups with first grade boys using my Howard B. Wigglebottom group curriculum based on the books, songs, and online resources from wedolisten.org I modify each year. I keep these groups really small 3-4 students in each group and they are 30 minutes long (they are pulled out of content class which means sometimes they miss social studies and sometimes science). I have shown you one boy's pre-group survey. The surveys do NOT go home, they are perception data for me. The pre-group survey helps me tailor the group to their needs. If they all report often "I am a good sport when I lose a game" I will skip that book and lesson. I make packets in advance and include the focus of the lesson and an activity each time. I have to vary the activities depending on their ability to write. I do 8 sessions and each time I have them color a star if they were following the group rules (these boys need this type of feedback). In the last session I will use the same basic survey (modified if we skipped a book). They take their group booklet home the last session so their parents can see what was worked on in group.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Anxiety and Depression: Consulting with Teachers



Our district is requiring all staff to go to mental health first aid training to help prepare them to deal with mental illness. Since the most common mental illnesses in elementary school are anxiety and depression, this is a resource I have available for my teachers. In Anxiety and Depression in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Fostering Self-Regulation in Young Students, Nadja Reilly explains the impact of anxiety and depression and other mental health issues in children. She provides suggestions to build resilience and teach self-regulation in order to help kids to succeed in school and beyond.

Self-regulation, fun, and play activities are natural ways to relieve stress and worry and recharge energy. Reilly discusses how to teach students deep-breathing exercises and various ways to understand their bodies. The book provides detailed instructions for educators who teach children in grades K-5. Reilly lists materials needed, gives step-by-step instructions, and offers variations to accommodate specific needs.

As Reilly explains, the teacher can encourage students to come up with funny or silly names for these sensations to make them less threatening. The class comes together to come up with ideas for decreasing these body sensations, such as deep breathing. The book also provides a chapter on communicating with parents to promote teacher-parent collaboration and assist families with kids who are struggling. For use both in the classroom and with parents of school-aged children, this is a book school counselors may want to purchase and loan out to teachers.

















Sunday, March 19, 2017

Books about Depression for Kids

Like most school counselors I like to have a variety of books to share with students related to a specific concern or a strategy or skill to manage an issue or symptom.  Seeing characters in books going through something similar to the child normalizes it. Most children understand that is they write a book about it, then it must be pretty common. Here are some of the books on my bookshelf I use with students who feel depressed.
Bowden    I Just Want to be Me
Cook        Blueloon
Crist         What to Do When You Are Cranky and Blue (Grades 4-5)
Foley        Danny and the Blue Cloud
Jones        The Princess and the Fog
Malcolm   Meh: A Story About Depression
McIntyre   How Frederick Found His Light
McKee      Elmer and the Rainbow
Miles         Move Your Mood
Mundy       Sad Isn't Bad