Sunday, March 29, 2015

Small Boat in a Big Storm

With our students in the upper grades I do mostly activity-based psychoeducational groups.  We frequently lead "Chill" groups for students 10 and older.  One of the more meaningful activities students indicate on their post-group assessments if the "Small Boat in a Big Storm."  This is an activity that was originally credited to Bratton and Ferebee in 1999.  It is a relaxation exercise and drawing response.  Invite the group to close their eyes or look down.  Do a few minutes of mindful breathing then ask them to shift their focus from breathing to imagination.  "Imagine you are a small boat in a big storm.  The waves are really big and they are getting bigger.  The wind is howling and blowing fiercely.  You are rocking back and forth.  You are fighting the wind and the waves, but you are struggling to stay afloat.  Keep your eyes closed (or down) and think "How does it feel to be the boat? What is happening as you are blown by the wind and the waves? What is going to happen next? Then invite them to slowly open their eyes and draw a picture of themselves as the boat in the storm.  After the members have completed their drawings ask processing questions like, "What is happening as you are blown by the wind and the waves? What real-life experiences had like the wind dying and the boat fighting and winning.  You can add music to enhance this activity.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are created during the instruction of the lesson or part of a group session. As you present the lesson or strategy, key points are written on chart paper. Once the lesson/session is complete, the chart is saved. This is another vehicle for academic support, especially for the visual learner. The beauty of an anchor chart is that it can be displayed again the next lesson/session. I have anchor charts for each grade level and group. I store them on the easel in my office and use as needed.
For example. the one in the picture is for a session on being assertive in a small group with boys in second grade.  In this group I use a different book for each session from the Shubert series by Conscious This is the anchor chart we went through together before reading the book.  It will be available as a review at the beginning of the next session, then as needed as we work on various problem solving skills throughout the group.  Beginning in third grade I would distinguish Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive but this is what I have found most effective for second graders.

Monday, March 23, 2015

People in My World

This is one of my favorite group activities to get students to talk about the important people in their lives.  The original author suggests specific symbols for people who are close as well as people who have caused hurt or upset.  My students like to use dots and various stickers.  The students always place those people they love the most on the center. It always promotes rich discussion as they share about people in their lives with the group.  These are the plates of students in my grief group.  All of them placed their deceased family member in the center.  It is good for them to see how many people they have that provide them support along with a few people they find challenging.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Exercise Before School Helps ADHD and Anxiety

Research has shown that regular (daily) exercise for people with either ADHD or Anxiety is effective in reducing negative symptoms.  I have found that when students with either one of these challenges walks or rides their bike to school they have a better start to the school day.  I suggest walking or biking to school to parents frequently. I also encourage them to get children with ADHD and anxeity out in nature as much as possible. Here are 2 resources they may help you convince your school to offer more exercise breaks for students and

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Rainbow Fish - Sharing Leads to Friends

My 3 kindergarten friendship groups all enjoyed the story, got the message of the book/lesson, and loved the activity of making a scale.  Many children know the book so it is easy to reread and stop every few pages to discuss some key points. What is the problem? What kind of attitude (or how was rainbow fish acting) towards the other fish at the beginning? What advise did the wise owl give rainbow fish? How did he feel when he gave away his first scale? (Surprised he was not sad. Sharing makes both the giver and receiver feel happy.) After he gave away all his scales how did he feel? (Better about self, pleased he had so many friends). The shining scales made rainbow fish special.  We all have something special about us we can share with others.  For example, I love growing flowers so I share some of my plants with my neighbors. If you are good at singing, you could teach a friend a song...or a gymnastics trick, or how to play a game. 
Activity: I drew an outline of the rainbow fish on bulletin board paper.  I precut scales out of construction paper. I had some large shiny spangles (Lakeshore) that were left from a previous project. I gave each member one scale to draw something that makes them special they could share with a friend. I gave them each 5 spangles to glue on their scale when they finished their drawing and then they got to glue it onto the rainbow fish.  
I am displaying this in my office until spring break. It would be a cute bulletin board for the hall if the lesson was done whole group. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Twitter Chat to Discuss Book

Last night my school tried a Twitter Chat for the first time.  The librarian, the technology coordinator, and the student services team met to organize it and agreed on the questions we would discuss about the book, Growing Up Social (Chapman and Pellicane).  We had two purposes: 1) to discuss aspects of the topic how to find balance in a tech driven world; and 2) to drum up interest in our in person book chat next week in the evening.  The six of us that organized the chat and each posed one question during the discussion all loaded Tweet Deck on our machines so we had a feed to our specific #NESbook. If you have never done a Twitter Chat what-is-a-twitter-chat-and-how-to-make-the-most-of-it We were only successful in having another 6 persons tweeting but others could have been reading the feed. The best thing we did was have multiple people pose the questions, because it flowed like a normal conversation. Our biggest mistake was the time slot we picked (7-8 pm) which in hindsight was terrible for parents with children at home.  We realized in our debrief this morning that time slot is fine for evening meetings at school when parents are free of child care responsibilities (because they have a babysitter or spouse doing things with kids), but the wrong time for this type of activity. The staff that participated all loved the discussion so now we are thinking how we could use it for staff discussions. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Organizing thinking and writing: School Success Skills

In my Step up to Success groups with third and fourth graders, most of them do not construct decent paragraphs.  I have adapted this from the color scheme used in Step Up to Writing where these colors are used to highlight sentences.  I have found that a visual like the house helps some learners understand why the first and last sentences are so important, rather than just highlighting them with a green marker.  I do like the Step Up to Writing program because it is multisensory and meets the needs of more learners.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Friendship Is Like a Seesaw

I love the title of this book by Innes and Agocs (2014) that discusses how to rebalance friendships.  In a small group on friends a good way to introduce this concept is have each member try to balance a pencil on their fingertips. When there is a unevenness in a friendship the book suggests ways to fix the friendship and others can be suggested depending on the age and levels of the members. I think all elementary counselors will want a copy of this book.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Problem Solving 4 Step STOP model

Our theme for classroom lessons in March is problem solving.  It is helpful to teach one model to the entire school at all grade levels.  Obviously this facilitates repeated exposure to the concepts an a higher likelihood the students will know if when they need to solve "kid size" problems.  Most schools use a 4 step model like STAR Decision Making or STEPs (from Second Step).  We use STOP because I prefer the key terms and since we use Steps to Respect for our bullying program I want to keep them separate.  STOP stands for Stop, Think, Options, and Plan.  As the students get older we encourage them to come up with more options and introduce that compromise or win-win is often the preferred option. You can introduce problem solving with a skit, a short video, use the picture cards from Second Step, or make a Smartboard or PowerPoint lesson.  I am always on the look out for good books on problem solving but I have not been as successful as with our other themes. Here are the resources I pull from to create my lessonschallengingchildren/problem-solving-with-stop second-step/elementary

Monday, March 2, 2015

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! My Many Colored Days

This is my favorite Dr. Seuss book with no words on the actual cover (the publisher put the title on the book jacket).  It is a great stimulus book for a lesson on feelings K-grade 2.  There are a wide variety of art and writing responses after reading and discussing the link between feelings and color.  It is easy to trace the little person and make an outline for handouts.  You can ask students "What color is your day?" and they can color the person and write something about it.  You can also make an anchor chart that shows common matches for colors and feelings adding some that are not in the book.  If I use this with kindergarten this week I have them fill in the blanks " ____ makes me feel _________."  With first grade I have them may why so the model is "____ makes me feel ________ because ________." For example, blue makes me feel calm because it reminds me of being at the ocean and relaxing. For other ideas to use with the book check out my-many-colored-days or

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Children's Books About Anxiety

Something Might Happen by Helen Lester is one of my favorite books to help young children understand anxiety and that there are ways to cope with it.  Depending on the age of the child here a dozen others I use on a regular basis:
What to Do When You Worry Too Much
David and the Worry Beast
Is Worry Worrying You?
A Boy and A Bear
Don't Panic, Annica
Wemberly Worried
Wilma Jean The Worrying Machine
When My Worries Get Too Big
The Kissing Hand
Something Might Happen
Just in Case
Scaredy Squirrel

Get Repetitive to Decrease Anxiety

Repetitive motion calms the brain and the body.  Doing something enjoyable will provide a pleasant distraction and decrease anxious thoughts, worries, and the jittery bodily sensations.  Find out what a client enjoys that is highly repetitive and tell them to do that for 10 minutes when the anxiety part of them tries to take control.  It could be swinging or shooting free throws in the back yard or dancing to their favorite tunes. The more repetitive and fun the better.