Friday, December 28, 2012

School Counseling Linky Party 2013


I am proud of my Bulletin Board page!

I like my post on Bullying Foldables (October 2012) because the activity it was so successful with our students.

Our pupil services team is very strong and works well together.  Readers enjoyed the post about Tea-L-C (September 2012) featuring our Back-to-School Night Information table.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy New Year

Bright Ideas for 2013
This is my new colorful, energy conservation promoting, bulletin board for back to school in January.  I just made some fluorescent bulbs from white stack and covered base with aluminum foil.  I just made up some signs with ideas for our students to try in January.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays

I hope all school counselors take time to relax and refresh themselves over winter break!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Show You Care

I was very pleased one of my gifts from a family today was a donation in my name to a fund for the victims of Sandy Point.  Besides sending a donation we can help make the halls of school brighter for the students returning to Sandy Hook in January (in a different building).
When school resumes for Sandy Hook, it will be in a new building. Parent-volunteers are working to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonderland with the entire school decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible. We encourage senders to be as creative as possible, remembering that no two snowflakes are alike. Please make and send snowflakes by January 12, 2013 to the Connecticut PTSA.

The snowflakes can be sent to:
Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103 Hamden, CT 06514

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Keeping Things Normal

It has been very difficult to keep things "normal" in an elementary school this week.  First, it is almost winter vacation and the holidays are upon us.  Second, our national suffered a terrible act of violence at an elementary school that remains the primary news story of the day.  Third, the internet is ever present in our schools not only on computers but iPads and other devices. We wanted to minimize the exposure of our students to the tragedy but simply working on a research project in class can result in seeing the news coverage.  Schools today need to be aware that crisis have a digital component to manage as well as conventional ones.  The librarian, our instructional technology specialist, and administrators are going to have a meeting in early January to be better prepared to deal with the cyber citizen issues the next time...

Monday, December 17, 2012

What should we be telling students?

ASCA, NASP, and many other professional organizations have resources available to counselors to help process crisis.  I am beginning to wonder if we are properly training students for school violence. When faced with an Active Shooter or Violent Intruder of any kind, some schools train using the  A.L.i.C.E. Program (Alert, Lockdown, inform, Counter, Evacuate).  Its web site says it prepares employers, workers, teachers and students who may find themselves facing extreme danger.I know watching the coverage of last Friday's school tragedy in CT more seems to be needed.  In one interview the school nurse indicated she and a secretary remained in a closet for about 4 hours. I hope all school divisions will take a look at their training and security measures to prevent a future disaster.  I also hope the media will stop sensationalizing these school shootings as "the worst so far." At our school today we tried to protect the innocence of the children whose parents had the wisdom to protect them from exposure to this horrible event.  I feel very certain this is the best course for K-grade 3.  It is harder to know what the best thing to do with upper elementary.  We did not discuss it because even talking about an event such as happened last Friday can make children afraid to be at school, the exact opposite of our goal of making school a safe place for all. My heart goes out to those personally touched by last weeks killing spree.  Lets use this tragedy to make our schools safer and our response more helpful.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Boys: Group Totem Pole

My "Knights of the Round Table" Group loved this activity from Operation: Breaking the Boy Code by Dr. Poppy Moon.  The previous session we talked about "My Totem Animals" and the character traits each symbolize and made connections to personal experiences exemplifying the traits. This session each boy selected the one they most connected to and using the templates I premade traced, labeled and colored their own totem animals.  The members were excited I had a pole (2 cardboard packing materials) ready for them to attach their animals.  I have displayed it all week in my office and gotten to talk about the character traits to several other students. For example, the coyote is known for his cleverness.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Individual White Boards

I teach several of my small groups the power of affirmations using one of my favorite books, "I Think. I AM!"  To make sure they can connect the skill to their own need I have the members write at least one affirmation they can use before the next session on a white board.  These were written with Dry Erase Crayons which I love because they come in good colors and don't smell.  An affirmation should be a positive statement that starts with I am, I can, I will, I know... These were written by second graders.

Friday, December 7, 2012

We're All Unique

Our School Counseling Advisory Committee is always looking for ways to celebrate diversity and uniqueness.  Our school psychologist and I had a fun time making this hallway bulletin board.  The children love the lights!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

College Awareness

Looking for a way to talk to young children about college?  Try using this book by a famous actor.

Mahalia Mouse and her family live underneath Dunster House, an old Harvard dormitory. Foraging for food for her younger brothers and sisters, Mahalia gets trapped in a backpack and then finds herself inside a classroom far from home. Mahalia, intrigued by the lecture, starts attending classes and soon becomes a full-time student -- all the while wondering about the fate of her family. But when graduation day finally arrives, Mahalia has a wonderful surprise waiting for her.
Written as part of his keynote address at Harvard's commencement, this book by John Lithgow (class of '67) incorporates his trademark witty rhymes and includes a CD of him reading the text at the commencement. Mahalia's story has an inspiring message for graduates or anyone whose success is worthy of celebration.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Children Are Like Cupcakes

I met the author of this cute book about individual differences at our state counseling conference earlier this month. She was born in Rhode Island, to Ghanaian parents. Being born into another culture outside her parents' native homeland, Ansaba Gavor was raised with both Ghanaian and American values. Now that Ansaba Gavor is a bi-cultural mother to her daughter, she was inspired to write her first children's book Children Are Like Cupcakes, to encourage her daughter and other children to be comfortable with their own uniqueness. It is a great resource for elementary school counselors. The author is currently practices family counseling as a LPC.  Check out her website

Monday, November 26, 2012


This Todd Parr book was a perfect book last week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.  I do think it is important to teach children to show gratitude and appreciation every day, not just on Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Get Kids Thinking About Colleges

As counselors we are supposed to plant dreams and high aspirations.  We want all students to understand they need to plan on pursuing some type of post-secondary education or training.  Most elementary students have not visited a college campus (I surveyed mine) and therefore need  to start being exposed to information about colleges.  We planned this bulletin board based on an idea we saw in “Four Ways to Teach Kids about College.” We made a collage background from catalogs from many different colleges, particularly ones in our state.  We just asked 2 staff members to give us catalogs their high schoolers were getting in the mail for schools they were not interested in … We selected a balance of males and females with minority representation to feature on our “Guess Where…” board.  We tried to pick good role models, people many students would know, and again graduates from some of our state universities.  This bulletin board is interactive, guess then open folders to see the right answer.  It is attractive, interesting and informative.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Military Family Month

Military Family Month shows our appreciation not just for the men and women serving our country but for the sacrifices made by their families. I hope all counselors will do something this month in their schools to acknowledge the contribution of the children whose parents serve.
The proclamation reads in part...
Since our Nation's earliest days, courageous men and women of all backgrounds and beliefs have banded together to fight for the freedoms we cherish. Behind each of them stands a parent, a sibling, a child, a spouse -- proud family members who share the weight of deployment and make profound sacrifices on behalf of our country. During Military Family Month, we honor our military families and recommit to showing them the fullest care and respect of a grateful Nation.
In our military families, we see the best our country has to offer. They demonstrate the virtues that have made America great for more than two centuries and the values that will preserve our greatness for centuries to come. With loved ones serving far from home, military spouses take on the work of two. Their children show courage and resilience as they move from base to base, school to school, home to home. And even through the strain of deployment, military families strengthen the fabric of each community they touch and enrich our national life as shining examples of patriotism.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


With my small group members who were referred for impulse control issues we have to work on focusing.  This book by Randy Cazell (2009) can be used for a whole session.  It requires focusing to pay attention to the issues faced by the 7 characters in the book, what they did to focus better, and make a connection to which of the characters reminds member of self.  For example, one of the characters wonders around the room looking at thinks and does not have work done when it is time for recess.  Another character stays up too late and is tired in class and wants to sleep in school. I think you will find it useful for students in grades 1-3 who need coaching to pay attention better in class.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Group Proposals

I have a binder like this for all my groups.  Right now I am running 23 groups and my part-time counselor is doing eight.  Our school is so large in order to see all the children referred we must see the vast majority in groups.  Also small psychoeducational group work helps children develop skills and cope with many common challenges.  This year I am running several "impulse control" groups in both first and second grade.  I call my first  grade groups Turtle Groups and second grade Remote Controllers.  It is probably obvious that turtles pull their arms and legs in, which many young children need to do instead of touching things and others.  By second grade they can use the "tools" of the remote control to learn to pause, rewind (redo a skit), lower volume, etc.  I do separate Turtle  groups for boys and girls in first grade, but all the students referred for this group in second grade are boys.  Inside the binder is the rationale, objectives, assessments, session plans and handouts, and evaluation tools.  Running so many groups these binders with group plans are a lifesaver.  I reuse them year after year, but also revise and improve the contents.  I generally develop two new groups a year.  Creating a group proposal is time consuming but greatly enhances the effectiveness of delivery because planning is the most important indicator of a group's success.  These binders are also very helpful when I am supervising an intern or breaking in a new part-time counselor.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

4 Rs of Bullying

This is the simple bulletin board I did to remind our students what they need to do to respond to cyberbullying.  It also shows some of the student work products from the counselors' and librarian's  lessons.  On the left if a definition of cyberbullying.

Monday, November 5, 2012

4Rs of Bullying

For the fourth grade the Steps to Respect bullying education program requires the students to be able to recognize what is bullying, refuse the bullying by being assertive, report the behavior to a trusted adult, and adds record the message in the case of cyber bullying.  I taught this lesson using a Power Point but the 4 door foldable that each student completed was the key material of the lesson.  Our students like making these easy to construct summaries of lessons.  In this case they wrote the 4 Rs on the outside, on the inside they wrote the most important words, and under the flap they did a picture to remind them of the key idea of each.  For example, for Recognize they write one-sided, on purpose, repeated, and/or power.  The drawing could be a reminder of the imbalance of power.  My students took their foldables home with a letter to parents about the lessons we are teaching on digital citizenship and cyber bullying and inviting them to a parent event next week on this important topic.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Study: Parents overestimate childhood optimism and underestimate anxiety

Parents want their children to be happy.  New research by Lagattuta (2012), an associate psychology professor at UC Davis, involving more than 500 children ages 4 through 11, found that parents consistently rated their children as being less worried and more optimistic than the children rated themselves.  The researchers found that parents’ own emotions biased not only how they perceived their children’s emotions, but also the degree of discrepancy between the parent and child reports.  Children consistently provided higher ratings than their parents when reporting their worries (i.e., scared of the dark and worries about something bad happening to a family member) and lower ratings than parents when evaluating their feelings of optimism.  Hopefully awareness of this parental positivity bias may also encourage counselors to be more attuned to emotional difficulties children may be facing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fear In A Hat

In some of my small emotion management groups I use this activity during a session at the beginning of the working stage.  The tone could be set by introducing the topic of fear and explaining how it is normal and natural that children are experiencing all sorts of anxieties, worries and fears about what might happen (what if thinking). I have each member write personal fears anonymously on an index card which are collected and put in a hat.  In elementary students worry that someone might recognize the handwriting but if the slips are kept in a hat then handed to counselor after being read it helps keep some privacy. Each member draws a card with someone else's fear reads them aloud to the group to  and explains how the person might think,  feel, and behave. A good way of starting to deal with these fears is have them openly acknowledged , without being subject to ridicule.  Having one's fears expressed and heard can reduce their intensity.  I also found a list of top 10 common fears of childhood and as part of processing this activity shared the list with members and observed if a group member had that one (or expressed it).  A few on the master list stimulated more discussion (especially fear of parents death or divorce).  I always get feedback from parents that members came home and discussed this activity which tells me it makes an impact and furthers discussion of fears with trusted loved ones.