Thursday, March 29, 2012

Howard's Heroes

I am ready for my final session with my first grade boys on problem solving. We have read, discussed, and practiced problem solving strategies based on the Howard B. Wigglebottom books from www.wedolisten
For the final session I made a HELP Bingo game to review the various problems and strategies we have covered. I like using Bingo games to review the last session in addition to doing the post-assessment and having a chance to say goodbye to the group experience.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tech Tools for Counselors 2012

My number one tool is Blogger, which I use to make this blog. I do my school counseling program web page (and online newsletter) through the program used by our whole school division. I have already written about two of my favorite tools Live Binder It to save good resources and share them and Tagxedo to make stylish word clouds. As an elementary counselor, it is critical to get ongoing professional development, gather, and share ideas with other counselors. I utilize the ASCA Scene, Twitter, and Pinterest to keep up and stay energized. I am now a big fan of Google Docs Forms (survey development and tracking with Excel). The Google Docs survey development is so much more flexible than Survey Monkey which I had been using. I remain a very active PowerPoint user. I like it better than Prezi or the Smartboard software. I make PowerPoints for grades 3-5 for lessons I show through the Smartboards and use it for parent and professional presentations. Prezi gives me vertigo and since I use an IBM I can’t save it privately or print. My latest favorite is a cloud free service that allows you to have your documents, photos, and videos available on any computer without carrying around a collection of thumb drives. I actually had a night mare that a computer fried my most loaded thumb drive last week. That was motivation enough to load Dropbox on my computer at home and school so I can begin saving what I don’t ever want to lose. Send me a comment if you have another suggestion for me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Keeping Kids Safer on the Internet

As counselors and educators we continue to promote cyber-citizenship and safety online. Luckily there are good resources available. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children has great tips to share with parents/guardians. The iSAFE web site has many valuable components to use in this important work. Canada has a site playground/ that offers lessons on safe use of the internet that our librarian and I are using right now with third graders. The Canada lesson is in a game format that we did as a class shown through our Smartboard. The goal is to earn stars for responding correctly to 5 key questions. At the end, we had each student do a quick 3-2-1 Exit Slip to determine 3 things they already knew about internet safety, 2 important things covered in the lesson, and 1 connection to cyber bullying. The game did not really cover bullying but I talked for a few minutes after the game about how bullying looks online vs. in person. The assessments so far indicate the lesson is effective because the students can write the key things they need to know about to be good cyber citizens. We are also sending the tips to parents and informing them that we are teaching this lesson. We plan to follow-up in June with 2 more lessons during Internet Safety Month.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

This is a Tagxedo image of all the words on my blog. This is like a pumped up version of Wordle and so much easier to use. It also enlarges the words when you scroll over them and as you can see can be made into shapes. It would be a great tool for noting key concepts in a classroom lesson or having students in a group do them about themselves as a culminating activity. Check it out on It is free!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Client Metaphors

I attended a very good session at VSCA last week on using "clean language" to turn difficult parent conferences around. One of the presenters was a former student (I am a part-time counselor educator) of mine and I really enjoyed learning to focus on identifying the problem, remedy, and outcome from Brett. She presented with Gina who is a trainer for Mining Your Metaphors Gina made the point that there is no such thing as a synonym. Although we can assume we know what a client means by a word like "sad" it may actually mean something very different to that individual. I truly think words and particularly metaphors are very important in counseling. I always teach the microskill, "verbal underlining" which has the counselor repeat a few key words of the client. I also encourage may students (and I do this in my own work) to use metaphors to facilitate client understanding of feelings and meaning. Gina cautioned how important it is to uses the clients personal metaphors, not one that the counselor imposes. Check out the webpage or blog to learn more about "Mining Your Metaphors."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Howard Is a Problem Solving Hero

I am currently running a small group with first graders. My Howard Heroes group is learning to problem solve. We introduced Howard's Rules and a basic problem solving model in session one. We are doing a different book each session (8 of them) and for the final session I am making a Howard bingo game. The students love Howard and look forward to seeing what problem he is having each week and applying the problem solving model to their own concerns. I prefer the hardcover books but they are also animated and available online. I use some of the free posters and songs too. Check out

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Recognizing and Understanding Feelings

For my first and second graders I frequently help them understand emotions with books, charts, and this simple chart of 3 types of feelings (pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral). They really like C. S. Snodgrass(2008) What's That Look on Your Face? I use the companion chart that does not have the labels to check to see if they can identify the feelings using the facial and body language cues. We can always add other words the the 3 Types of Feelings chart since it is laminated and therefore erasable.

Label and Express Emotions

I keep my "Mood Meter" on my easel to use when third and fourth graders come to my office and need help talking about their feelings. This tool is based on the RULER Approach to social, emotional, and academic learning developed by Yale. RULER stands for recognize, understand, label, express, and regulate emotions. (See I like how the meter shows feelings can be categorized as pleasant and unpleasant and by energy level. I add a neutral point in the middle because I want students to find their neutral feelings when faced with unexpected or difficult situations. I frequently let students write and describe the variety of feelings they have been experiencing since our last meeting and place them in the area they experience them. This is important because my meaning of guilt might be different than the client's meaning. I made this Mood Meter on poster board and laminated it. I keep a zip lock bag full of various colors and shaped sticky notes. For other uses for sticky notes and difficult emotions see the blog School Counseling by Heart.

Teaching Children to "Go to Neutral"

I teach children that feelings can be classified along a continuum from unpleasant (fear) to neutral (calm) to pleasant (love). Just like the saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything." "If you can't have a pleasant emotion, don't FEEL anything." In our society today there is a tendency to always want to be happy, of course that is not realistic. When we are faced with what we perceive as a difficult situation, we typically experience unpleasant feelings. I don't use the terms positive and negative with children because I want them to understand all feelings are okay. I am a very visual person so I use charts like the one pictured here to show the continuum to children. I also have good luck with some kids by having them put their hands out in front of themselves, palms facing, and moving their hands apart (up and down) for first a foot and then two feet. I explain that up a foot is pleasant and down a foot is unpleasant. Then we talk about the space in between being neutral. The good thing about using the hands is you always have them with you. I then teach them to make a positive statement (inside their head) that directs them when they face a difficult situation, "Relax, put your hand up, go to neutral, think pleasant thoughts."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Promoting Emotional Intelligence

EI is comprised of four inter-related mental abilities: 1) perception of emotion; 2) use of emotion to facilitate thought; 3) understanding of emotion; and 4) management of emotion. Yale has developed a school-based prevention program called the RULER Approach. It is designed to teach the entire learning community the RULER skills: recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions. The program is described on the web site They have great tools that could be used by any counselor. I love their Mood Meter and Meta Moment. Check it out!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 Prop Interventions: Creative Toolbox

Props are physical objects used to illustrate a concept or facilitate the counseling process. I believe counseling needs to be engaging to be effective. Counseling with props helps children make connections and sustains attention. My favorite props include: - a variety of sizes, shapes and colors of sticky notes The counselor or the client can write or draw key words or ideas and move them around on the table to make connections (Example: Antecedents, behavior, consequences) - small white board with a variety of colored special markers Again either the counselor or client can write or draw (Example: draw the friendship triangle and where conflicts are occurring with wavy lines - rocks (small, medium, large) When discussing a problem ask student is it small enough to carry around in your pocket all day and still function, medium you know its in your back pack but you can manage, and large we need to deal with it immediately because it is weighing you down - toy microphone- Great for role-playing assertiveness - rubber bands Shows if student is being pulled in 2 directions by peers - remote control or video game controller Student can say what they can do to pause, go faster, slow down, etc Try to incorporate props in your sessions and assess whether it has a powerful impact on clients.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Favorite Authors

My favorite authors of books I use for classroom lessons and small group counseling are: Howard Binkow, Nancy Carlson, Kevin Henkes, Helen Lester, and Trudy Ludwig. I also use most of Julia Cook's books. Bibliocounseling involves identification, surfacing of emotions (the catharsis, insight (thinking), and universalization. It is important to select a book to meet the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve in the lesson or session. The counselor needs to help the students see the link to the skill you want them to acquire. It is important to ask meaningful questions about the story to help the children with interpretation. That is one reason I like Ludwig's books because she provides the questions for discussion. Do you have a favorite author you use?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Its A Small World I just put up this bulletin board Try-Angle outside my office that I got from the book,Counseling On the Wall! from Marco. These bulletin board materials come on a CD and you just print, laminate, and follow the simple directions. I matted the triangles on black paper just to get them to pop a little but it was definitely the fastest board I have done. The author, Rosanne Sartori, is a "retired" counselor, educator, and storyteller. She contacted me today because it turns out two of her grandchildren attend my school and she is coming to Virginia for a visit. She was offering to do storytelling at our school when she visits. When I made the connection I had to send her this picture of "her" bulletin board in our school. We are hoping she can meet with the elementary counselors in our district while she is visiting as well.