Monday, April 30, 2012

Worried Students

It is Monday morning and I have already used the "Worry Step Ladder" with two individuals who were experiencing anxiety about separating and coming to school.  These two happen to be in grades 4 and 5.  I often use a ladder to get them to tell me 3 fears and the intensity of each.  I always learn something useful.  Today I learned one student is worried that her mom will forget to pick her up. This allowed me to check in, "Has that ever happened?"  that led to a useful interchange about how this irrational thought was contributing to the worry and stomach pain. This is an adaption from a suggestion in "Helping Your Anxious Child" by Rapee, et. al (2008).  I recommend and loan the book to at least one parent a week.  We then talk about a plan to minimize the "Make me a little worried," then "Hard to do," and finally "Really hard to do."  I use the analogy from the book that learning to manage anxiety is like learning to swim.  We need to start at the shallow end of the pool.  The one student's goal is "To be able to come to school relaxed without worrying about mom and wanting to go home."  Sometimes students need to relearn coming to school.  Her plan includes: Get out of bed when awake and not lay there worrying, Eat a light breakfast, Breathe in the car, Say goodbye using a quick routine, Come into building, (check in with counselor if needed), Think about something positive, Find a friend in line, Eat a snack in morning, Congratulate self for doing it!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Take Your Daughter and Son to Work Today

Designed to be more than a career day, the Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® program goes beyond the average “shadow” an adult. Exposing girls and boys to what a parent or mentor in their lives does during the work day is important, but showing them the value of their education, helping them discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, and providing them an opportunity to share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals in a hands-on and interactive environment is key to their achieving success. Each year, the organization behind this initiative develops new interactive activities and partnerships that will assist us in taking girls and boys to the future they dream of.  Check out their web page

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Feelings Cards for Sorting

    I made this deck of feeling cards because the ones I have purchased commercially have a limited set of emotional expressions.  I think it is an important social/emotional skill to be able to label and express emotions.  I just decided which feelings I wanted to include and used Google Images and typed (feeling term) and face.  Then I selected the one I thought matched clearly the term based on age, gender, ethnicity, added body language cues, and clarity of the image.  I just put them in a word document table and re-sized all the pictures to the same height.  I printed them on the color printer on card stock and laminated.
    One way I used the cards today was with a fourth grade girl who has a limited vocabulary.  Together we went through the words and she sorted them into one of the 3 categories: pleasant; neutral; unpleasant.  I then asked her to discuss a few in each category making a personal connection to the words.  Talking about a personal experience with an emotion is part of the RULER Approach to social and emotional literacy developed at Yale University.  This particular student is a very visual learner; she found it easier to discuss her feelings and how she handled the unpleasant ones she experienced this week much easier with these feeling cards than in prior sessions.
    These cards could very easily be used in small groups, especially groups designed to develop social/emotional skills.  The feeling cards could be used for charades, learning to express feelings using I statements, etc.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Senteo SMART

Today I taught my first lesson using the Smart Board AND getting pre and post lesson data using the Senteo response system.  I tried with my first lesson on careers in grade 2.  None of my second grade teachers use the Senteos so the students were eager but also needed more explanation about how they work and why we use them.  I like doing career lessons on the Smart Board because you can incorporate good pictures and check for understanding with simple exercises and games.  At the beginning of my lesson I simply thought about what I want the students to know and checked to see how many already had the information.  I first asked if they thought second graders should know what occupation they will do and 60% thought that was true.  I then asked what they need to consider in picking a career path (interests, school subjects, where they like to spend time, and talents/strengths).  At the beginning of the lesson only 58% though all of these matter but at the end 80% chose the all of the above response.  When I did the same lesson last week in another class, the technology wasn't working so I asked by show of hands.  That data is not near as reliable because the students are influenced by what their friends vote for and the majority selects.  Setting up the Senteos takes about 5 extra minutes and a few minutes to collect and return them.  I do think having good data showing students learn the material we are teaching makes this worth the time.  You can choose to show the students a graph of how they responded.  This could be an interesting point of discussion.  For example, the percent of students in a class that indicated they are interested in a specific career path could be a good data point to discuss.  I will definitely use this technology again.

Friday, April 20, 2012

PowerTalk 21 - April 21

PowerTalk 21™ is the national day for parents to talk with their kids about alcohol, using the proven strategies of Power of Parents, It’s Your Influence™ to reduce the risk of underage drinking. And as one of the largest victim services organizations in the U.S., MADD also supports drunk driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving one person every 10 minutes at 1-877-MADD-HELP.

Rainbow of Friendship

For the culminating activity for my first grade girls group with the goal to identify qualities of positive friends I adapted the idea I saw on Pinterest.  I cut out clouds, wrote each girls name in a cloud, and precut the rays in rainbow colors.  At the beginning of the session we reviewed positive qualities we had covered in previous sessions and I wrote them on the white board.  Then I gave each girls her set of materials and told them to write 5 positive qualities they have now (red-blue) and on the two purple strips (representing indigo and violet) they think about and write 2 they still need to work on after the group.  I was very impressed with their discussion of which ones they already have, including checking for feedback with fellow members, and which ones should be goals for the future.  They loved the activity and were eager to take it home with them to share with family.  This could be adapted for a classroom lesson in first or second grade.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Square Breathing

My favorite belly breathing method to teach elementary students who need to calm down and relax is square or box breathing. Square breathing produces amazing positive results for most people who are feeling anxious, nervous, excited or fearful and you would like to get clam (neutral feeling).
  • Breathe in to a count of four.
  • Hold to a count of four.
  • Breathe out to a count of four.
  • Again hold to a count of four.
For young children it helps to move their hand in the shape of the square while breathing and holding the breaths.  I tell them to start and repeat the same process four times and then shift to thinking a positive thought (affirmation).

 For example, this morning I was working with a fourth grade girl who gets a nervous stomach on school mornings to the point where she stayed home yesterday.  She clearly has separation issues (the problem has been much worse since returning from spring break).  We agreed the next time in the morning she wants to tell mom "I don't want to go to school because my stomach feels weird," she would first try 4 square breaths and try reframing her irrational thought into "I am good in school/I can go to school and have a good day/I can do school and home will be waiting when I get out."  I like the visual chart I have that facilitates teaching and remembering the basic mechanics of the technique.  It shows breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

It’s simple, easy and very effective. I called my students mom (with her permission) and told mom if she complains about her stomach to prompt using the square breathing and positive thoughts/affirmations.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Poetry and Counseling

April is National Poetry Month so I have been thinking about the ways I use poetry in my school counseling program.  I have used poems because of the metaphorical essence to convey motivation, expression of emotion, etc.  I have used poems in classroom lessons from kindergarten through grade 5.  A poem can capture a concept succinctly, express humor, or serve as a memory trigger.  Poems can also explain the counseling process.  One I like that was written by Gladding (1974) and published by ACA is:

Tea-kettle Song
I know how the pressure can build sometimes
In your own metallic tea-kettle world,

Sporadically you whistle to me,

At other times you explode!

Somewhere beneath that noisy facade

(In silence or stillness perhaps)

Feelings might flow with quickness and strength,

Like the Dan or the Shenandoah,

But now they incessantly boil in your mind

Steam-filling dark shadows and choking conversation.

I'd love to hear how other elementary counselors incorporate poetry into their programs.