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