Sunday, December 18, 2016

Diversity Lesson Grade 1 or 2

Maria Dismondy is one of my favorite authors. She has several books that address diversity but my favorite is Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! My first and second graders love her books and she explains abstract concepts like empathy and diversity in a way they understand. She also provides a whole reader's guide with lots of follow-up activities. Another blogger has developed some high quality free downloads for this books as well  books-teachers-love This one includes a vocabulary frame for both empathy and diversity. This is based on the Frayer Model which we are encouraged to use at our school. If you don't know about the Frayer Model watch the video here http://www.theteachertoolkit.frayer-model
By the way if you get a new ELL student that does not speak much English this is also a great book to prepare the rest of the class. We are getting a new first grader who just arrived from Turkey today and I did this lesson with the class yesterday.

If the World Were a Village

This year I moved my lessons on diversity to January. In third grade I am using the video (about 12 minutes on YouTube) or reading the book "If the World Were a Village" as the basis for the lesson. I ask the students to make some predictions and mark their opinions at the beginning for a pre-survey and then respond to the same questions for a post-survey plus one on defining diversity. The students are always shocked by some of the information and hopefully makes them more aware of the world and appreciate how good they have it. It gives some of the spotlight our ELL students who come from parts of the world with many more people than America. I use a chart with the Frayer Model to teach the meaning of Diversity: definition; image; synonyms; and sentence.

If The World Were A Village

Here is my pre-post survey for this lesson:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Perception Survey: Do you have the ASCA Implementation Guide?

I have written before about the need for ALL school counselors to have these 4 guides to implement the ASCA National Model with fidelity. The latest release the "ASCA National Model Implementation Guide" is an absolute must if you are planning to apply for RAMP. I am a RAMP reviewer and was very disappointed reviewing the applications of 4 schools this fall because it did not seem that any of them had looked at the Implementation Guide. It is very useful to help school counselors develop brief high quality perception data surveys. Perception data is what informs us if students acquired the skills, knowledge, and beliefs of our target learning objectives (based on the ASCA Mindsets and Beliefs). My colleagues frequently complain that surveys take up a whole lesson but ASCA encourages to measure a few things well not give students long assessment instruments. I only pre-post a few units at each grade level annually but I try to gather quality perception data for each lesson or small group session. Below is an example of a Post-Survey I used after teaching a third grade Second Step tier 1 lesson. This would have to be modified if you wanted Pre-Post data because they would not have seen the stimulus. You could ask the last 3 questions Pre-Post if you are required to do that for every lesson. You could also do an informal pre-assessment by just a show of fingers (1 never to 4 almost always) "Do you think showing compassion makes the person doing it feel better?" The Implementation Guide stresses to use an even scale and not give students a middle (unsure) choice. This sample survey is completed by 80% of students in 5 minutes (there are always a few that need more time). It is important to give clear directions before students complete this type of survey if they are not used to scaling questions. This will speed up if you routinely assess knowledge, skills, and beliefs as recommended in the Implementation Guide.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Build Program on Evidence-based Social Emotional Learning

Programs like Second Step developed by Committee for Children have research to show the proper sequence and have developed tools and lessons to teach pro-social and emotional skills. Other popular concepts like Grit, Growth Mindset, Mindfulness, Resilience, and Self-regulation are all similar to SEL but not all are skill based and the research on how to teach them and how to measure them is still being developed. According to Committee for Children these terms can be defined as:

Grit “Grit” is having the disposition to pursue and achieve long-term goals with passion and perseverance. It is having the self-control for sustained, focused effort to follow through and endure through obstacles and discouragement.

Growth Mindset “Growth mindset” is the idea that intelligence can be developed through effort. It is having belief in one’s individual capabilities and seeing one’s own control over the present and future. It is having confidence that abilities can improve through hard work and seeking challenging learning opportunities, viewing them as moments to learn.

“Mindfulness” is being aware of one’s own feelings, thoughts, body sensations, and the surrounding environment. It is having a deliberate and conscious focus on the present moment by directing attention to one’s experiences without labeling or judging them in any way.

Resilience “Resilience” is the ability to adapt well to change, recover from setbacks, and keep going in the face of adversity.

Another idea that is getting lots of attention is Self-regulation. “Self-regulation” is the ability to monitor and control our own behavior, emotions, or thoughts, altering them in accordance with the demands of the situation. It includes the abilities to inhibit first responses, to resist interference from irrelevant stimulation, and to persist on relevant tasks even when we don't enjoy them (

We include all of these concepts in our school counseling program but depend on Second Step as the anchor for the tier 1 and tier 2 components of the program because it is evidence-based. To further teach children about their brains and  develop mindful awareness we use the MindUp Curriculum from the Hawn Foundation because it has been studied in schools. We use MindUp in both tier 1 and 2 but not as extensively as Second Step. We are always looking for evidence-based programs and practices to improve the school counseling program.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Blocks with Clear Plastic Sleeves

I have bought and made cubes to use in groups for a variety of topics and issues over the year. I have feeling cubes and story cubes. I just got these 4 inch square cubes each have 6 clear plastic sleeves (from Amazon). These are so flexible I might use them in every group I lead. They could also be used in a classroom lesson as a hook for review or with individuals to get student talking. You just have to make 3-1/2 inch square cards to slip in the sleeves. There are activities you can use just one cube, two, three, or all four. This week I am using 2 of them (at a time) in a group with 3 students who are recent arrivals to the country. I am doing a version of an activity I do in kindergarten on the Smartboard. One cube will have pictures and labels of 6 animals (dog, bird, monkey, cow, bear, horse) and the other 6 feelings. The member roles both cubes and acts out whatever lands on top (like sad cat). These cubes are perfect to make tailored ice breakers like for a social skills group e.g., ask an open question about an activity, interest, entertainment, school, sports, and book or movie. They could be used in a new student or friendship group with just some basic get to know you questions. They could be used in a final session of a Study Skills group for a review session - give your best advice about homework, studying for tests, taking notes, group work, memorizing, and attention. Since I do all my groups in grades 3-5 these cubes have the advantage of being easy to wipe down in case they get food or germs on them.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Save the Date

I was so impressed last year with the quality of all the sessions at the Evidence-based School Counseling Conference. I was determined to go again this year. We found out last week our proposal to share our experience transitioning to evidence-based tier 1 lessons in every school K-8. Please check out the upcoming conference March 10-11 in California.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mindset Matters

This counseling curriculum guide by Dr. Lisa King is a great resource for elementary and middle school counselors. It can be used in classroom lessons, but I use it with groups in grades 3-5. It is perfect for a small group because you set the stage in session 1 and then select a lesson from the chapter for each of the letters in MINDSET:
Identify how Your Brain Works
Not Yet is OK
Everyone is Unique
Teach What You Know to Others
I use it in my resiliency groups. There are several lessons for each letter so I select the one I feel is most appropriate based on my group members. The book also has bibliotherapy lists, websites, and video clip lists for each chapter.It contains student pre-post tests but I modifed it to allign with the type of perception data ASCA wants us to collect (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) and using an even number scale (no neutral as you have with a 3 or 5 point scale).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Family Resource Packs

In the counseling office we have over 60 of these Family Resource Packs that were created by the counselors or other student services staff at my school. The one pictured is on adoption. We keep track of common issues parents consult with us about and if it becomes a frequent topic we develop a resource pack that includes a binder with an overview, lists and copies of good articles, web sites/blogs on the topic, and Apps. When appropriate we include ideas for activities that promote a parent - child exchange about the topic. All the packs contain at least one book for parents to read and one for the students. There is an evaluation form for parents and one for students in each pack. We ask parents to return them in 2 weeks. we track the sign outs and submit an evaluation of this effort every few years to the Counseling Advisory Committee.
For some of the topics we develop a primary and upper elementary pack (e.g., anger). For some we have several packs because they represent slightly different issues and need different strategies and books. We have multiple packs for anxiety: Anxiety (general), Anxiety (primary), Anxiety (separation), Anxiety (upper), Social anxiety, Perfectionism, and Selective Mutism. 
These resources save many hours each quarter - we are not repeating the same information to parents. Our learning community has very educated parents but reading is not everyone's preferred learning mode. We have to be respectful that this resource is not going to help all parents. We began this initiative by writing a mini grant with our PTA. It took close to 5 years to develop the 60+ packs we have now. We originally developed 5-8 a year and now usually add 1-2 and update the resources in 5 a year.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Individual Counseling Check In Sheet

This is the sheet I use to determine how counseling is progressing with students I see individually. I record the date and meeting number then I ask "On a scale of 0-10 with 10 being outstanding and ) the pits, what number would you give School since we met last...Friends...Home..." For my students who shift between mom's and dad's home I note which place they are rating (and sometimes get 2 ratings). I love this scale that I download from R. Sabella's site I really believe in positive psychology and that we solve problems using our strengths so I then ask for 5 good things that have happened since out last meeting. It is good for students to focus on the positive because the ones I see individually already have plenty of negative thoughts. I try to use the term challenges rather than problems to determine what we need to discuss. Usually the challenges relate directly to the area of their life that is rated with the lowest number, but not always. If not that is something else I explore. I always have a stated goal students are working on with me and we jointly determine if that is still something they are willing to work on between sessions or if it needs to be revised. I do not show the students this sheet (its on a clipboard) but I would if asked. I want to see how their numbers and challenges change over the course of counseling. If a student would say all 10s for 2 sessions in a row and have no significant challenges, I'd be moving to terminate our work together in individual counseling.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Explain Anxiety to Students Who Have Too Much

This book by Dr. & Mr. Zelinger (revised in 2014) explains using a dinosaur what is happening when anxiety becomes a problem. It is my go to book when the clinic staff refer a child to me because they are not physically sick but feel too anxious to return to class. It explains the link between the 
Children will be left with an understanding of “anxiety” consistent with their various developmental levels. Something I highlight when using this book in individual and groups sessions is the use of an on-off switch to depict the sympathetic nervous system that is carried throughout the book -- from the dinosaurs to the child who is working on the rhymes to train his or her brain. I give the student(s) a copy of the summary of the rhymes as a reminder of the strategies we have discussed. The book handles the topic in detail so I generally break it up into two or three sessions with students depending on their ability to pay attention and retain the key points.
I loan this book to parents (in one of our Family Resource Packs) so they will have the tools they need to discuss and explain anxiety issues to their children. Reading and re-reading this book with children will demystify anxiety, and provide families with the understanding needed to manage these uncomfortable emotions. 

Friday, December 2, 2016


To go along with lesson on grit is my December bulletin board on Perseverance. This board is an adaption of the one in Rosanne Sheritz Sartori's book Counseling On the Wall. You just down load the quotes from the CD that comes with the book. I used it several years ago and just updated it with a different background, border, and sparkly stars (from Target dollar section). It was super easy and reinforces what I am covering in classes and my resiliency groups.
Check out bulletin boards for every month of the school year on the Bulletin Board page of this website.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Understanding Bragging

Frequently fourth graders like to brag and put down peers. Julia Cook's book. "Well I Can Top That" really gets across how this habit can be a real turn off to friends. In the session members sort statements into bragging and not bragging piles. After reading and discussing the key points in the book, each member thinks about the message of the book and applies it to a personal situation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Empathy Bulletin Board

The MindUp curriculum has a lesson on Expressing Gratitude. It is based on research that shows when we think about someone or something we truly appreciate, our bodies calm themselves. I did this lesson in all our second grades this month. The MindUp curriculum guide suggests growing a gratitude tree where each child writes what they appreciate on a leaf. I decided to create a turkey bulletin board instead and each student made a feather expressing appreciation. They were encouraged to think about people and things we usually take for granted. Several students wrote they were grateful for a clean school, others to their nanny for picking them up each day, and many for their family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Expressing gratitude

First grade group shared Todd Parr's The Thankful Book and made handprint turkeys with at least 4 things they appreciate. I hope everyone enjoys the break!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Use books to build empathy and compassion

Books like this one help build emotional vocabulary, share and compare feelings, and build empathy. ABC books lend themselves to stopping and saying the author chose confused for C but what other emotions do you know that start with c (confident). You can compare frustrated to mad and point out how this is different from disappointment (related to sad). This book has a how to use guide that offers a great tip. When sharing the book stop a few times and ask how they would respond to a friend who is experiencing this emotion. For example, what could you say or do for a friend who was embarrassed because they spilled something in the cafeteria. Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others and show compassion.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Social Emotional Learning Resource

If you are not familiar with these delightful books by Dr. John. According to their creator, these characters (books) enable kids with all types of personal issues to talk about their emotions and understand that they are not alone. The earlier students learn about their own feelings, the more they can recognize and sympathize with how others feel too.  With knowledge comes power, and with emotional understanding comes empathy, self-respect and resolution. Dr. John wants us "all embrace our inner “Woo”!" I use the books in Tier 2 groups in second grade for emotional regulation. The website has lesson plans that could be adapted for classroom lessons taught by the counselor but since we use Second Step and MindUp for Tier 1 I use these for Tier 2 intervention groups.The website has an informal anxiety checklist that could be taken by children and parents. It also has a tip sheet for parents.  My favorite is "Don't Feed the Worry Bug" which could benefit anxious students in grades 1-3.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Empathy Is the Key

Here is a good article that talks about why empathy holds the key to transforming 21st century learning empathy-holds-key-transforming-21st-century-learning/

Monday, November 14, 2016


We use Second Step and MindUp as the basis for out Tier 1 evidence-based classroom lessons. This month my theme for all lessons is Empathy. I use the lessons I can't cover in classes because of limited time in some of the small groups I run. Empathy is a foundational skill for relationships and problem solving. Showing compassion and expressing gratitude are was of putting empathy into action. As a simple ice breaker in small groups, I have each member pick 3 links out of 6 colors. It is like you would do if yo were using candy but I NEVER use food in lessons or groups. After each member has 3 I then show them this chart and they share what they appreciate or feel grateful related to the category. For example if I took red, purple, and orange I would say, "I am grateful to my mom for all she did for me, I am grateful for the beach because that is my relaxing place, and I appreciate my ability to listen because it makes me a good counselor." I then encourage members to express gratitude to someone who is not usually thanked during the next week for "homework." I typically give group members the assignment to work on the skill we discussed in group.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lisa King, an elementary counselor, has designed an engaging College Day and everything needed to execute one is in the book and on the CD from www.youthlight The resource is great if you want to plan a college day, college week, or infuse the idea of college readiness throughout the year. The CD includes a PowerPoint for a class lesson and a PowerPoint to present on college awareness to stakeholders. The book uses the College Board's National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA) framework /pdf/nosca/

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How will you be the One?

One by Otohsi is one of my favorite books to use to teach students to REFUSE bullying behavior. I have used it in my bullying lesson in October for the past 5 years. This year we were required by our district to teach the Second Step evidence based bullying lessons developed by the Committee for Children. But I know literature based lessons are powerful so my school is continuing using literature at all grade levels to address this bullying. My librarian has been reading a book each year to all grade levels on bullying as part of our school-wide program but she did not love the book she was using in grade 3. I suggested we have her read One and she then developed a great activity to go along with the lesson. She had each student respond to the prompt shown above and she got some heart-filled responses. She then turned them into this great simple bulletin board that is in our main hall. I am so lucky to have a staff that think they all play a part to teach children to spread kindness.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Mandala Magic

A student’s family bought this book for me at our school’s book fair. The child has been in a stress busters group with me and we colored mandalas during one session. When people create or color mandalas, minds become absorbed in the current moment. According to Nancy Curry and Tim Kasser, “When individuals color complex geometric forms, they are provided an opportunity to suspend their ‘inner dialogue’ and to deeply engage in an activity that removes them from the flow of negative thoughts and emotions that can sometimes dominate their lives.”
In both eastern and western cultures, the mandala has come to symbolize harmony, unity, wholeness, and healing. Providing students an opportunity to infuse mandalas with color reduces stress and research shows it lowers expressed level of anxiety. Coloring mandalas (possibly with calm music in the background) can produce a state similar to meditation. Coloring can calm the brain and allows creativity and self-expression. Offering students a choice of mandalas seems to increase the perceived “fun” factor.

I introduce mandalas as a choice students can do when they are in individual counseling.  For some students the structure of the circular mandala is less intimidating than a blank sheet of paper to color. Older students might choose to create their own deigns when provided an empty circle outline.  For some students coloring seems to promote a deeper level of discussion. I have also sent home blank mandala coloring pages for students to do as “homework” to further reduce stress and anxiety. I have suggested classroom teacher have a selection of mandalas available for “Quiet Time” for all students, but especially during periods of high stress like the beginning of the school year or testing season.

The Inner-Beauty Secret

Keisha Howard is a school counselor and a girl's self-esteem coach. You can follow her on Twitter @MyCoachKeisha. The Inner-Beauty Secret published by addresses character and body image. It emphasizes the importance of kindness and caring over "beauty." I have used it with a self-esteem group and a girl's empowerment group. The message and illustration are appealing to Pre-Kindergarten through third graders. The people in the book are racially diverse. At the end of the story are 10 discussion questions and tips for parents and educators. There is also information how to download free follow-up worksheets. There is also a comprehensive list of other resources on this topic including and

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Annual Goals

Since my school is in Virginia I have to have a SMART goal for my teacher evaluation. This year all elementary counselors in my district are using the first goal above which is a program goal. As education specialists we have some flexibility in our goal. Our district counseling supervisor worked on this goal with our head of teacher evaluation. A few principals did not like it but it got approved. Our teachers all do one directly related to academic achievement and some area and group. We are using Second Step and MindUp as the foundation for our Tier 1 lessons. Teaching 10-15 new lessons is a lot of work but I am happy that finally if a student transfers from one school in our district to another we can assume they have been exposed to lessons on empathy, emotion management, and problem solving. I will meet after the first semester to update my evaluator (principal) on this goal and my final data has to be turned in at the beginning of May.
The School Counseling Program Goals are the ones I developed with my administrator and advisory council. They are the ones in my Annual Agreement my principal and I discussed and signed earlier this month. They are based on data from last year. We had a drop in the number of students who felt our staff listened to them when they reported bullying. We had an increase in the number of students who were absent or tardy more than 10 days. Referrals for anxiety and emotion regulation continues to be the number one reason students are referred for counseling. I will use my attendance goal for my Closing-the-Gap Action Plan and my goal for students needing more help (Tier 2) with emotion regulation for my Small Group Action Plan. The Results Reports for these goals are done in June.
We had a lively discussion of our goals at our October district Elementary Counselors Meeting. I appreciate having an engaged Professional Learning Community to share ideas and strategies face-to-face.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Music Reduces Anxiety and Stress

I went to a great workshop at VSCA on using music in counseling and since then I have been experimenting more with music, movement, and rhythms in my office and lessons. I have lots of CDs but since I do not consider myself musical I have always been hesitant to use much music. After researching this topic for a few weeks I am even more convinced that many students would benefit from music being incorporated into counseling (and their daily life). I intend to recommend music more to parents of my students with high levels of anxiety. The research shows music tracks that are peaceful and serene are the most effective in reducing anxiety.  If you are working with students who are poorly self-regulated music with a steady beat is better. I like this article that suggests combining music, movement, and meditation should be combined for 10-20 minutes a day to reduce stress 12-ways-to-reduce-stress-with-music. I encourage you to experiment more with music in your practice. If you have a good suggestion, please share in Comments.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My favorite new parenting resource and web site is "Self-reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life" by Stuart Shanker self-reg
He also teams up with Raffi to offer a free song download to help children learn to self-regulate. The web site also has a toolkit for educators. Stuart explains the difference between self-control and self-regulation. He also talks about the importance of distinguishing between misbehavior and stress behavior. If a parent or educator responds to stress behavior with some of the common tools for misbehavior it can actually make the child more overloaded and the situation worse. I am doing self-regulation groups in kindergarten through grade 3 right now and these resources are very useful.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Helping Children Understand Depression

Depression is a type of mood disorder. The main sign is when children are sad, discouraged, or irritable for weeks or even months. Another sign a child might have depression is negative thinking. This includes focusing on problems and faults, being mostly critical and self-critical, and complaining a lot. To learn more see
A great resource to explain depression and the need for counseling to children suffering from depression is "How Frederick Found His Light!" by Katherine McIntyre available at It could also be used to explain the depression of a family member to students in Kindergarten through grade 3.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Calm Down and Release the Amygdala

I think it is important to teach students about their brain. This video does a good job of summarizing 3 key strategies for self regulation: breathing, relaxation, and positive thoughts. This video uses the same language I use in groups including square breathing and green vs. red thoughts. It even uses the spaghetti analogy that I often use with a simple warm-up exercise called spaghetti toes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Unity Day

Today is wear orange to make it end, unite against bullying. We have been celebrating Unity Day at my school for the 10 years Pacer has been sponsoring this activity. It is a great way to get the message out to all students that bullying is against the school rules. Teachers review the definition in their morning meetings and the 3Rs Recognize, Report, Refuses. We also do a big social media campaign on this day, the highlight of Bullying Prevention Month. To learn more about Unity Day see

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to UnMake A Bully

There is a whole series of these videos that were developed by fourth and fifth graders. They are a great resource for Bullying Prevention Month.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Movement and Mindfulness

This group that makes practicing mindfulness and yoga moves for for young children is certainly worth checking out. Many of  their suggested activities are perfect for teaching self-regulation and some for emotion management. A friend did the training and said it had lots of activities that counselors can use in classroom lessons or small groups. Check it out. My favorite is the Mondey Wisdom chant that goes along with doing cross crawl. I am trying to incorporate more movement, music, and rhythms in my lessons and groups that are compatible with the MindUp curriculum from the Hawn Foundation. 

Jaylens Challenge Teen touring country seeking to end childhoo FOX 26 ...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

VSCA Presentation Groups fro Students

I am excited to be leaving for VSCA today to spend time getting PD face-to-face. It is also such a great opportunity to network with counselors from all over my state. Our Director paid our VSCA dues this year if we go to the conference. We all need to join our state organization because that is who lobbies for better counselor:student ratios and how our jobs get defined. Your state organization needs to be able to say they have XXXXX members! I am happy to be presenting on my favorite topic Anxiety, Stress, and Worry. If you would like to see my very long (that is what happens when I get a 3 day weekend before presenting) PowerPoint it is posted on my Livebinder While you are there you can access my session plans for the groups I am discussing like Worry Wise (Grade 2) and Its OK (Grade 3). If you are going to VSCA please come to my session and let me know you read my blog. I always enjoy speaking to readers face-to-face.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Girls Group to Increase Leadership and Empowerment and Reduce Drama

If you need a group curriculum for upper grade girls check out StarBound by Carol Miller. Carol is a major member of my online PLN. Her Middle School Counseling blog is a terrific resource too. This 8 session group is linked to ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors and even has the ASCA Small Goup Action Plan. It has a CD for all reproducibles to make it super user friendly. We will be using it with fifth grade girls starting next week. Check it out at https://youthlight

Monday, October 10, 2016


Anxiety is the number one reason students and parents come to me for help. I frequently use the free resources located at The STOP Plan is one of the ones I use the most. When people are anxious they need to be taught to become aware of their unhelpful thoughts and think more realistically to lower their distress. Children need to be coached to change unhelpful automatic thoughts into those that will be helpful. This form helps guide that discussion. You can also send home a copy to parents if they want to use the same tools you are using in counseling. With upper grade students this could be used in a group for emotion regulation.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Breathe in for 4, hold for 7, out for 8

This relaxing breath technique has been around for centuries. I teach it to students in grades 3-5 who need more emotion regulation, especially those who get anxious. It should be practiced twice a day so it is a habit that is available when a trigger presents (like a test). I encourage them to practice when they get in bed at night because research shows it is a great way to fall asleep. Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in the roof of the mouth behind the teeth the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. You count silently in your mind. The App pictured above can be used as an aide if needed. I use it myself because most of us do not fully exhale which is key to promoting relaxation.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Teaching the ABCs of Attention, Balance and Compassion: Susan Kaiser Gr...

Teaching children Attention: focusing & choosing
Balance: quieting & seeing
Compassion: caring & connecting
Susan Kaiser Greenland explains her approach to teaching mindfulness to children. I love her hand motions!

Social Success

Here are 2 great resources to teach children to be more successful socially. The First Steps book and CD includes: Know Myself First; Initiate with Others; Learn Conversation Skills; and Read Social Clues. The Next Steps helps them develop social problem solving skills: Building Friendships; Managing Friendships; Handling Friendship Problems; and Social Skills in the Classroom. We use Second Step and MindUp as our Tier 1 evidence-based curriculum so I will use these in Tier 2 small groups for children who need more support to interact successfully with peers. The First Steps book has 25 lessons and Next Steps has 30 lessons. For counselors who get forced into the specials rotation these books are MUST HAVES! I especially like the CD that has an interactive summary, handouts, and graphic cue cards for each lesson. I think the graphic cue card which is a visual summary of the lesson is such a great learning aide. It can be used at the beginning and end of the lesson or session to review what was covered and sent home so parents know what happened in classroom or group. They could also be used for a quick review the next lesson or session and at the end for cumulative review. I strongly urge elementary counselors to consider this valuable resource by Diane S. Senn and published by

Friday, October 7, 2016

Counseling Advisory Council

I was originally trained as a school counselor in Missouri the home of comprehensive school counseling programs, including advisory committees, back in the day. Fast forward to my career as a school counselor in Virginia where our supervisor told every school they must have an advisory “committee” yet most of our schools did not. In the past 5 years our district has been pushing for ALL schools to implement the ASCA National Model and encouraging schools to RAMP but the advisory council remains a hurdle for many both experienced and new to the profession. Each time I have started an ASCA Model program at a school I had my Advisory Council meet 6 times the first year and 4 times every year after we got the program up and running. I am the full-time counselor at a Re-RAMPed school and I enjoy and get something out of every meeting with my Council.
The purpose of the Advisory Committee is to:
provide advisement concerning program development and annual goals;
review progress toward program goals through examination of data and the program audit;
support the program via advocacy (i.e., PTA funding for projects);
provide a two-way communication link between the school counseling program and school and community stakeholders.
The membership of my committee is half staff and half parents/community members. I solicit a range of staff to represent primary and upper grades, special education, and a specialist. I invite parents that have children who are young and older, members of our biggest minority group, and those who have a special interest in education or mental health. I also include the PTA leaders who organize parent workshops which we co-sponsor.
I send out the agenda before our meetings. This week we had our first meeting of the school year (picture above) with the focus on reviewing last years data, draft program goals, and plans for parent events sponsored by the counseling program. I send out minutes about a week after the meeting and invite any additional ideas.
Members typically serve for 3 years so about 1/3 of the committee is new each year. One of the administrators comes so they both attend 2 meetings a year. I always get good suggestions for things to add or refine based on the input of this dynamic group. I encourage all counselor to establish and take advantage of an active counseling program advisory council.

Study Habits

This is a great resource for small tier 2 groups for learning, study skills, and organization. It has 8 sessions which is the length of most of my groups. The activities are engaging and helpful. It is written by a former ASCA school counselor of the year. Check it out at

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Bullying Prevention

The Committee for Children continues to provide excellent evidence-based resources to schools to make schools safer. The online training schools receive when they purchase the Second Step Bullying Unit is terrific. I wish every administer would watch Module 1 to really understand this problem and their responsibility in making sure ALL staff are properly trained to handle bullying. The second Module is for ALL staff. This year all our new staff had to go through Module 2 and watch videos and take quizzes. It takes about an hour but it really teaches them how to take a report and if they are a teacher (or counselor) how to develop a plan with a child. Module 2 is for staff who are going to teach the student lessons which in our district is the counselors. National Bullying Prevention Month is a perfect opportunity to engage families in awareness of bullying behavior and how to help children respond if they are bullied or if they are aware bullying is happening (bystander). Check it out

Saturday, October 1, 2016

National Bullying Awareness Month - October

Every October, schools across the country join in observing National Bullying Prevention Month. The goal: encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages. Throughout the month our learning community will be raising awareness about bullying behavior and how important bystanders are to reduce bullying behavior.
During October the counseling lessons will all be about bullying based on the Second Step Bullying Unit. Administrators will be visiting all kindergarten through third grade classes to read a book about bullying.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 we will celebrate UNITY DAY: Together against bullying — united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Make it ORANGE and make it end! What are your true colors when it comes to bullying? If you care about safe and supportive schools and communities make your color ORANGE on Unity Day. That’s the day everyone can come together – in schools, communities, and online – and send one large ORANGE message of support, hope, and unity to show that we are together against bullying and united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. To learn more about this day see All staff and students are encouraged to wear orange that day.
In place of a morning message in morning meetings on Unity Day we ask classes to work together on a simple Unity Tree. The Unity Tree is a powerful symbol reminding everyone that bullying can be prevented when we all come together – united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Creating a Unity Tree is an interactive and hands-on activity, a shared experience in which all students can participate and everyone can watch the tree grow. Each person contributes their own unique experiences, creative ideas, and strategies by writing positive messages on leaves that are attached to the tree. As the number of leaves increases, it creates a visual reminder, demonstrating that when we are united we can create social change. On the class easel or bulletin board, create the trunk of a tree and branches. Pre-cut leaf shaped pieces of orange paper large enough for students to write a message will be provided to teachers. Here are three options for types of messages, or create your own: If you planted a seed, what would you tell your seed about bullying? What can you do change/impact your school’s culture about bullying? How can you support a friend/peer who is being bullied? Each student writes down their response on a leaf. Attach each of the leaves to the tree. Display the tree in your classroom for the remainder of October.

SCA representatives will be making a poster for each classroom about Bullying Prevention Month. The display case in the front of our school will feature anti-bullying this month.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

On time on target for success

This is one of my September bulletin boards that was on the main hall for the first day of school and Back-to-School Night. It goes along with Attendance Awareness Month. At our school the classroom doors open at 8:50 and school officially starts with Pledge at 9:00. We try to encourage students to be lined up outside of their classrooms by 8:50. Along side are 2 QR Codes that link parents to articles that provide hints to get children to school on time. Most of my parents have smartphones and they would rather scan these to their phone than take a print copy. The small sign in yellow at the bottom is September Counts! downloaded from that has lots of great resources.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Blog for Parents

I am very happy my district improved our system's web site and made it easy to do a blog for parents. In the past I did a monthly e-newsletter on my school web page but I prefer having a blog. It is more timely and easier for me to keep current. I felt like the newsletter had to be based on research or have citations. Check out my initial posts

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Welcome New Students

Yesterday was our first day of school so I just pushed into classes. Today I will attend a kindergarten morning meeting that is part of Responsive Classrooms and then will go into the other 3 K classes the next 3 school days. I also start teaching class today, first up fifth grade. But my most important hour today will be hosting a Welcome reception for our new students in grades 3-5. I have them complete a short survey about themselves (which I save as a memory aid), they share with a partner, they share 2-3 facts about self with the whole group, we play trivia (about our school), I get them started on the BINGO game I made to help them get to know staff in our building, and they leave with a New Student Survival bag. Tomorrow I will do the same thing but not the written survey with our new second graders, I replace it with a book about a new student. On Friday I will do the same thing (but a different book) with our new first graders. I combine different grades depending on the numbers. This year I will have about 15 students each day. My principal stops by to introduce herself and my school psychologist helps with logistics if she is her those days. My librarian takes each new students picture and these will go up on a bulletin board in our main hallway along with pictures of new staff. During the next 2 weeks I do 2 follow up lunch bunches in smaller groups (either by class or gender - like all new first grade girls) and use the book "New Kid on the Block: A Story About Working Through Being New" for discussion questions. Then in early October if any new student is not reporting feeling connected yet they are invited to be in one of my tier 2 small groups. I have had parents who move frequently because they are military, State Department, etc. and they say our school counseling program did more to make their children feel welcome than any other. That is my goal to make not only the student to feel welcome but the family as well.