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 attendanceworks.org/ 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. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

National Suicide Prevention Week

Last fall we had a high school student who died by suicide after experiencing deep emotional pain, hopelessness, and mental illness. Such pain does not make someone a criminal. But the word “commits” makes suicide sound like a crime. My school had two family members who died by suicide last year and I was very careful about the language I used with the family to not further stigmatize their family member. Educate yourself about suicide prevention and advocacy at:

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Spread the Word: September is Attendance Awareness Month

Attendance is one of the outcome measures school counselors implementing the ASCA National Model use for outcome data. A great resource for ideas about how to promote on time and on target school attendance is available free at attendanceworks.org/ They have the whole compliment of resources for Attendance Awareness Month including a free webinar, toolkit, great graphics, sample tweets, and materials in Spanish too! We have done this annually at my school. We have each teacher put a slide in their Back-to-school Night PowerPoint addressing our attendance policy. We have a very visible bulletin board in place for the first day of school so parents can clearly see what time we want our students at school (10 minutes before school actually starts so they can get settled and ready to learn with the bell),

Back to School Books

Read alouds make children feel comfortable sharing and making connections to characters in text. These are a few of my favorite books about starting the new school year. It is a good time to introduce concepts about feelings that build empathy and emotion regulation. You can talk about pleasant and comfortable feelings the characters had (and the children willing to share about themselves) and unpleasant and uncomfortable feelings. Typical pleasant feelings about starting school are excited, happy, surprised and unpleasant include scared, nervous, worried, and disappointed. You can also teach the concept that feelings change over time by pointing out how characters felt the day before school starting vs. after the first day. I place books related to my "theme" of the month on the ledge of my white board so they are handy to grab if I need one or a teacher wants to borrow a book related to the theme.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Empathy and Manners Game

Dr. Poppy Moon is a practicing school counselor and counselor educator who writes books and develops easy to use resources for counselors. This game can be used with individuals ages 6-11, groups, or in the classroom. Empathy is a key foundation skill for all students so I am happy to have another tool to help develop empathy. I bought it at  https://youthlight.com

Friday, September 2, 2016

Mandalynths for Stress, Anxiety, and Attention

These Mandalynths are traced with a stylus like a fancy chopstick. The design is laminated so it can be used over and over. Tracing focuses the mind and is a great grounding technique for stress and anxiety. You can begin tracing anywhere on the pattern. This type of open design is relaxing; medium designs promote attention; and tight mandalynths offer challenge. It is good to switch hands every so often when tracing promotes neuroplasticity by crossing the brain's "midline" which is good for students with attention disorders. You can purcahse Mandalynths cards at celticartstore.net/