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.