Monday, May 22, 2017

Mindfulness Resources

At the beginning of this school year all our pupil services staff in elementary and middle schools were trained in MindUp mindup.org At the training they recommended having a mindfulness resource display in our offices. I had all my books on my easel but was very happy to get this "free" rack that was in the teacher swap pile this morning (as we are cleaning and organizing our rooms at the end and beginning of the year we share anything we don't want anymore).  My favorite books to read to students are "Peaceful Piggy Meditation" by Kerry L. MacLean and  "Puppy Mind" by Andrew J. Nance that teach slow down and breathe to become calm. I loan these to teachers and have a smaller set I loan to interested parents. Mindfulness is still pretty new in our school so there are many questions about how it is being taught. In addition to book resources I always recommend these sites:
mindfulschools.org and mindfulteachers.org  These sites have for practicing and teaching mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, and Social-Emotional Skills.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Penny for Your Thoughts

These 80 hand-illustrated communication cards will bring new connection to your relationships with students. These cards help kids identify and talk about their feelings/experiences and teach skills that build confidence, help solve problems, and increase emotional connection.  Kids identify how they feel, who's involved, where something happened, and skills they can use to cope with challenging situations and big feelings.  This is a very open ended "game" that I have used students with a variety of presenting concerns. This game integrates social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, helping children to articulate their feelings and learn how to manage them in healthy and adaptive ways. It can be purchased at apennyforyourthoughtscards.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Thumballs

These are 4 of the Thumballs I have in my office. My newest ones are "Catch a Career" and "Mindfulness" from youthlight.com Youthlight offers a reduced cost the more you purchase.  Thumballs can be used in small groups using the basic directions: Throw it. Catch it. Respond to the panel under your thumb. You can vary the level of difficulty by requiring one answer or three to a prompt. Kids love "props" and tools they can touch. I have used Thumballs as an icebreaker and a wrap-up activity for groups in grades 2-5. I have some larger, easier to catch balls, that require less reading for kindergarten and grade 1. My favorite is "Mindfulness" that promotes discussion about key concepts and reinforces awareness including "The Present Is a Gift."

iPad Apps for Stress and Anxiety


I have 2 iPads which I use multiple times a day. The one at the top is a iPad Mini which I actually let kids use in my office and show Apps to parents during consulting sessions. The second is a standard iPad that I use to keep track of my program and also keep me centered. The Apps I recommend the most to families fall into 4 basic categories: a) Mindfulness; b) Breathing; c) Yoga; and d) Sleep. There are so many useful Apps to help people, including children, reduce stress and anxiety. Please comment if you have a favorite, mine is Smiling Mind!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mental Health Awareness Month


This is the bulletin board display we use each May to bring awareness to the fact that 20% of children have mental health challenges in an effort to destigmatize having a diagnosis and promoting treatment. We just change the background, arrangement and the border to keep it looking fresh. It invites kids to ask what does that mean? to me and gives me (and teachers who are asked) an opportunity to have a conversation about mental health challenges. All our staff are being trained a Mental Health First Aider to make them more knowledgeable and comfortable about dealing with students and people in the community who have mental health challenges. We were required to take the course if it is our year to renew our license which for me was this year. To learn more about the course check out mentalhealthfirstaid The goal is for all people in the community (not just educators and mental health providers) to be as comfortable with mental health first aid as CPR. I spoke at our PTA this month on Mental Health Challenges to make parents more aware and answer questions.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Need a Book to Help Children Impacted by Immigration Policy

If you need a resource to help children who are directly or indirectly impacted by deportation this is a good book. It addresses the fear children of undocumented workers have that they will be sent back to their country of origin. It could be used to teach empathy and compassion to students with a topic they hear being discussed but often do not understand.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Games for the Counseling Office


If you are still purchasing materials for your counseling office for next year and you don't have one of these bingo games. I have the entire set but if you can only afford one (they are $25) buy Empathy Counts childtherapytoys.com/products/empath You can play the game like regular bingo and have the students answer the question card that goes with the number on the tile they played. The Empathy Counts game offers and option to build a happy face or the letter E for empathy with the tiles which makes the game go faster and the students really like it. My students know a big part of my job is for them to understand their own feelings, understand the feelings of others, and act with compassion when another person is having unpleasant feelings. These games help facilitate this type of social emotional learning.

Friday, May 12, 2017

New Book on Perseverance

Mulcahy's latest book on social skills shows the attitude needed to persevere. It is part of the 
zach-rules-set/ I use all these books and like that each one has hints for parents and teachers to apply the skill taught. This one teaches grit, the others cover problem solving (apology), emotions (frustration), and mistakes (mindset).

The Power of Mindfulness: What You Practice Grows Stronger | Shauna Shap...


This is such a good overview of mindfulness and how it can be used in counseling. I totally agree with the harmful effects of shame and how it blocks people from growth and development.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wish List: Budget

In my district the school does not have a "counseling program" line item in the budget. Each year I purchase what I need from several "pots" of money. Every counselors (like teachers) get basic supply money and a reimbursement for some of our "out of pocket expenses." We get $120 from our District supervisor to purchase counseling materials. Those schools that have a PTA can access some funds by writing mini grants which I do every year. To get assistance for paying for professional development I have found if I submit a proposal that gets accepted and am a presenter I can usually get some of my conference expenses covered (school, PTA, or District). If you are willing to pilot certain programs counselors can sometimes get grant funds through your district. I used to do this through Safe and Drug Free Schools and now I get some funds through MTSS (tiered system of support). Also I have learned from working in schools for over 30 years, sometimes near the end of the fiscal year a school or Department finds they have extra money that becomes "use or loose." I always keep a wish list ready to go in early May just in case I am asked if "I need anything." Today I was told I could spend a significant amount of money if I could get the details to our budget person by noon this Friday. I had it to her by noon today! I have worked in several schools over my career and have benefited from this end of the year "gift" in every school at least once.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Wrapping Up a School Year

In Virginia we still have more than 6 weeks of school but I finish most of my groups this week (before testing season). I am starting on the dozen activities I do the last 2 months each year. Here are some of my most important tasks to wrap up the school year:
1 Transition activities - for students moving lead good-bye lunch groups, for students moving up to middle school arrange for school resource officer to come and give talk about walking safely to and from middle school, for all students participate in Awards’ Ceremonies.
2 Student School Climate Survey - Google forms survey to assess the effectiveness of bullying prevention and social emotional components of program.
3 Staff survey – Google forms survey to assess topics covered in classroom lessons, groups offered, etc. to serve as basis for planning.
4 Data analysis – Review behavior data (discipline & bullying reports), attendance reports, and academic records of students (report cards and standardized tests).  Analyze pre-post survey data for classroom units and small groups. Write and publish the Counseling Program Annual Report on Web page.
5 Share results – Use DATA format to highlight aspects of the School Counseling Program, especially those related to program goals. Distribute results reports to key stakeholders. We need data to prove the effectiveness of our programs and inform school board members of the critical need for MORE school counselors. Take time to Reflect on findings and determining implications will give direction to program improvement. Next year I am going to try to limit most of my groups to 8 sessions because I did not find that having them meet 10 times made a significant difference.
6 Draft annual calendar – Set dates for 2017-2018 counseling advisory committee meetings, school-wide events, based on overall calendar planning for school and PTA.
7 Inventory and order books and supplies – Prepare orders that will be placed when funds are available July 1. Write grant if need additional funds. I am writing a grant with school librarian asking PTA for more funds for social skills books for teachers to read aloud next year based on grade level.
8 Declutter office – move toward a paperless environment (I only have a half draw of paper files and it is mostly crisis materials). Remove materials that have not been used in 2 years or have been updated.
9 Participate in grouping meetings – give input to class placements to facilitate classes that are balanced.
10 Pick summer project and professional development – pick one group curriculum and/or grade level curriculum to revise.  Set a goal for professional development including online webinars, professional learning communities via Twitter, books, etc. This summer I am going to focus on trauma informed counseling.
11 Notes and forms - Shred notes with student information and send risk assessment forms to central office according to policy.
12 Celebrate successes and say goodbye – Thank all those who collaborated to make the program successful, and acknowledge colleagues who will not be returning in the fall.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Books for Counseling

Stephanie Jensen (author) and Dr. Poppy Moon (illustrator) have teamed up with youthlight.com to make these engaging books that you will want on your bookshelf. Bully-bee encourages a friendly attitude, Beezilla teaches acceptance and belonging, and Mood Ring Rainbow shows the importance of self-awareness and self-management. I use them in small groups with first and second graders but the books are large enough that they could be used in classroom lessons.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Individual Counseling Tool

My students love to play Totika but I don't usually use the card decks that the publisher makes because their questions narrow the focus. I have made category cards with broad topics that allows the student to share what they want. I select cards based on the reason I am seeing the child. For example, if the child's parent have just separated I will select the card with the category family. When the student pulls that color log they are invited to share something true or a belief they have about their family. Using categories also takes away the problem of reading because even first graders can use initial letter clues and quickly remember 1-2 word categories. I always have question as one category so I can ask what I want to know. When the student selects the question color log it is interesting what they ask me. I have learned a lot about students I see in counseling playing this open ended version of Totika.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

National Children's Mental Health Day

We need to model talking openly and respectfully about mental health challenges to help end the stigma and encourage those with a mental health disorder to seek treatment. For many mental disorders recovery is possible. As counselors we need to send a message of hope to those who are suffering!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day - Wear Green


The Bucket Squad

Bucket Filling it is based off of Carol McCloud's Have You Filled A Bucket Today? book. McCloud has authored 5 books in total about Bucket Filling and Tom Rath has also written a book entitled How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids that I share with students in groups as well. It has been around about 20 years but Lisa Hansen, an elementary counselor, published a curriculum of 10 lessons with reproducible activities through youthlight.com in 2015. I have used activities from The Bucket Squad in small groups but they also support the themes of self-esteem, kindness, empathy, and compassion that could be used for a grade level or school-wide if teachers buy in. A nice feature of the curriculum is a weekly parent/teacher update and tips for each session.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mixed Emotions

The colorful Mixed Emotions board is one of the tool's in my office I use the most with students in the upper grades to help them recognize emotions, more accurately name them, and recognize different intensity or energy behind feelings. The board comes with 3 levels of cards: kids, teens, and adults. There are situations on the cards that you and client(s) can discuss; how they think the person in the situation would feel. They board comes with several activities but it can be easily adapted to just have students "check in" at the beginning of a session. The board helps develop empathy and can stimulate some insightful discussion and connections to the situations. You can also make your own cards specific to your students.  If you use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach I highly recommend this tool. Play Therapy Works also offers an online book that goes the board playtherapyworks.com There is also a Mixed Emotions "Junior" version but I have not used it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Is Mental Health Month


As school counselors we need to lead discussions about mental health and work to destigmatize mental illness. There are free kits available mentalhealthamerica I will be speaking to our school's PTA this month on this important topic. Mental health conditions are common among teens and young adults. 1 in 5 people live with a mental health condition—half develop the condition by age 14 and three quarters by age 24. We teach the Breaking the Silence lesson from NAMI in grade 5 btslessonplans

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Still Quiet Place


As the school year winds down many of us are already ordering and planning for next year. We have run some mindfulness groups this year which are very helpful for some over stressed students. Since our district bought us MindUp from the Hawn Foundation that was our main resource but it is really designed to be used in a classroom. Next year I plan to use "A Still Quiet Place" which encompasses many dimensions of mindfulness. It is an 8 session curriculum guide by Amy Saltzman. Learn more about the author, her work, and training she offers at stillquietplace.com The curriculum was designed to teach the most basic elements of mindfulness-based stress reduction created by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It includes the mindfulness concepts of: here and now, kindness, curiosity, striving and letting go, and universal. The book outlines home practice that is essential for this group to make an impact. I am thinking how I will implement that part of the program.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Planning Groups

When I am planning a new group I begin thinking of the students needs and draft goals. I then decide which of the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors I think the group will address. Next I draft "I can" statements which are the competencies you want members to develop. Then I look for evidence-based resources and practices I have access to that fit the concern. If appropriate I will incorporate some of the Second Step or MindUp skills that students referred still have not mastered since those are our tier 1 adopted program. Then I think about a song or book that I can use to help teach the competency and a response that will let me know if the students can do the competency. After deciding the sequence of sessions, I develop individual session plans. I find this simple 4 column table is a good place to plan a framework for groups. I keep this framework at the front of the binder for that particular group with the session plans and all the materials I need behind it. When leading a group the first time I just write my notes on what should be revised right on this framework. Sometimes I do multiple sections with the same goals for 2 separate groups of students. As I get to know them I might observe one group needs more focus on specific behaviors and others need better communication. If this is the case I will note two options for a specific lesson.




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Last Session for Groups


My favorite way to end groups is to do the post-group survey, a round or two sharing what they learned, and then play a review bingo. I do LOTS of groups for students with stress and anxiety and I have made my own bingo games but I really like the one I bought from mar*co for less than $20 marcoproducts.com This one, Stress-less, was written by an elementary counselor, Lisa Miller, who has published a few resources through mar*co. Included with the bingo game are several handouts that could be used during the group. I always laminate the student cards because my groups in grades 3-5 are always at lunch and then they can be wiped down.  I never give prizes for "winning" but I frequently tell the members is they play fairly and don't make a big deal out of winning or loosing they will all get something. I usually give them something to remind them of the group like bubbles to practice slow breathing or a stress ball to squeeze when studying for a test.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Resources for Executive Functioning


These books provide educators including counselors was to help children, especially those with Autism Spectrum Disorders, to improve executive functioning (EF) and flexibility. The Unstuck and On Target! program teaches three EF skills: 10 flexibility; 2) goal setting; and 3) making and checking plans.The program uses four teaching methods: 1) teach and use key scripts and words; 2) teach by doing; 3) use visual supports; and 4) make it fun! Solving Executive Function Challenges can help counselors understand the challenges of teaching EF and flexibility and how to put it in action. The Unstuck & On Target! is a curriculum guide with 28 lessons on 10 topics. If a counselor needs to lead a group for children who need to improve EF and flexibility the lessons are very scripted. I have co-lead groups using this curriculum in grades 2 and 3 with the school psychologist. We have used the lessons over 2 years because we don't run groups that last more than 12-14 sessions. The students like most of the group activities. The CD includes Home Extensions that can be sent home after each session. There is no special training required to use the materials, they are very straightforward.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Amy Krouse Rosenthal


Amy Krouse Rosenthal, author of 28 children's books, died last month at the age of 51. To learn more about Amy go to whoisamy. I just wanted to pay tribute to Amy by mentioning some of her books that I use regularly in counseling. Duck! Rabbit! is a terrific book to teach different perspectives. My favorite is The OK Book  which I use with groups of students who are anxious. Other books by Amy I use are Spoon, Chopsticks, and I Wish You More. She did a number of TED Talks that are very inspiring including 7 Notes on Life.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Katie Kangaroo & Her Awesome Career Adventure

We have begun teaching the 16 national career clusters in all our elementary schools. Katie Kangaroo is an interactive career adventure that can be displayed on the Smart Board to introduce students to a job in each of the 16 career clusters in a fun an engaging way. I plan to use it with my first graders when we return from spring break. A word of caution, initially only 10 clusters appear and you have to go to all 10 before the last 6 open. I found that out by contacting the publisher  https://www.youthlight.com Katie's adventure is structured by her asking each worker 4 basic questions. The program includes 14 follow-up activities to further enhance learning about careers. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Using Music in Counseling


When I went to the VSCA Conference last fall I attended a session on using music in counseling. I have been to a few similar presentations before but generally they involve using popular songs that have to be carefully screened and sometimes certain words deleted. I agree with the theory behind using music (and movement) in counseling with all populations. In the presentation they showed a clip of using music and rhythms with groups of children with special needs. I was in awe of all they did but I am not musical and I don't have the time or patience to screen popular songs. Despite my lack of confidence I did promise myself I would find opportunities to use more music and movement in my program this year. I bought two sets of rhythm sticks and have used them in activities in my self-regulation groups this year. Our school division adopted Second Step and it has songs that go along with each unit so I have used these. I also use some of the CD's produced by Conscious Discipline in kindergarten and first grade groups. I felt like I needed more for the upper grades so I was happy to find Sing-Along Guidance for Grades 3-8 by Young and Schwintek and published by
https://www.youthlight.com I am using "Not Gettin' Paid for Watching TV" in grade 3 for a career lesson, "Don't Tell Me I Can't" in grade 4 for a goal setting lesson, and "It's All Up to Me" in a career lesson. These are songs that are written and performed by professional recording artists written with lesson plans for guidance lessons. I think some of the other songs and lessons, there are 12 in all, belong in the middle school.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rock or Clay Problem

Many students come see the school counselor because a problem has them stuck and they are overwhelmed by an uncomfortable situation that is causing them unpleasant emotions and stress. When talking to my upper grade students about problems I like to use the metaphor (and props) is it a Rock or Clay problem? Generally I start by giving them a rock and asking if they can change its shape. Then I give them Play-Doh and ask if they can change it. Then we talk about Rock problems like parents separating or one parent living in another country. There is nothing a child can do to change this type of situation so they just have to cope. Mindfulness is a great technique for rock problems. We generally generate a list of positive coping strategies: talk to someone you trust, exercise, journal writing, drawing, listening to music, etc. For clay problems they need to use self-regulation (control) and find a solution that will get them past being stuck. Sometimes I have them make a shape from the Play-Doh that represents the solution they plan to try. I have done this with individuals and in small groups. I did it the other day with my group of ELL students who all have experienced living separately from a parent and coming to US with no English. I gave them each a rock and a can of Play-Doh to take home so they could explain our session.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kindness Book


Maria Dismondy has many great books to use in counseling and for parents to read to reinforce social emotional development. As a counselor I am asked a lot about how to help siblings resolve conflicts and treat one another respectfully. Some of the students who are very kind to peers at school fight and fuss with siblings. This book is published available http://mariadismondy.com/ and will be available at Amazon soon. I can't wait for my copy to arrive! If you can't wait on her website the author reads the book aloud. She also has a Reader's Guide and coloring sheet. While you are on her site check out her other fabulous books like The Juice Box Bully, The Potato Chip Champ, Pink Tiara Cookies for Three, Chocolate Milk Por Favor!, and Spaghetti on a Hot Dog Bun.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book To Teach Optimism

We use the MindUp Curriculum from the Hawn Foundation. It has a lesson titled "Choosing Optimism" which I think is one of the most important lessons. Optimism is a learned trait and if practiced, can become a way of thinking. The Curriculum suggests about 4 books as Literature Links and the ones for this lesson are okay but my favorite book on optimism Is Rain Brings Frogs by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. She is a great author and the message of hope in this book is powerful and the illustrations capture the audience. I use this with grade 2.

Group: First Grade Boys Social Skills and Self Regulation



I am starting my final round of groups for the school year, it may seem late but we go to school through the third week in June. Generally this round is more intense tier 2 intervention for students who need more support. They may have been in a group earlier in the year but they are still struggling with social emotional, behavioral, or self-regulation issues. Most of these referrals come from teachers in progress monitoring meetings but a few are from parents. This year I am doing 2 small groups with first grade boys using my Howard B. Wigglebottom group curriculum based on the books, songs, and online resources from wedolisten.org I modify each year. I keep these groups really small 3-4 students in each group and they are 30 minutes long (they are pulled out of content class which means sometimes they miss social studies and sometimes science). I have shown you one boy's pre-group survey. The surveys do NOT go home, they are perception data for me. The pre-group survey helps me tailor the group to their needs. If they all report often "I am a good sport when I lose a game" I will skip that book and lesson. I make packets in advance and include the focus of the lesson and an activity each time. I have to vary the activities depending on their ability to write. I do 8 sessions and each time I have them color a star if they were following the group rules (these boys need this type of feedback). In the last session I will use the same basic survey (modified if we skipped a book). They take their group booklet home the last session so their parents can see what was worked on in group.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Anxiety and Depression: Consulting with Teachers



Our district is requiring all staff to go to mental health first aid training to help prepare them to deal with mental illness. Since the most common mental illnesses in elementary school are anxiety and depression, this is a resource I have available for my teachers. In Anxiety and Depression in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Fostering Self-Regulation in Young Students, Nadja Reilly explains the impact of anxiety and depression and other mental health issues in children. She provides suggestions to build resilience and teach self-regulation in order to help kids to succeed in school and beyond.

Self-regulation, fun, and play activities are natural ways to relieve stress and worry and recharge energy. Reilly discusses how to teach students deep-breathing exercises and various ways to understand their bodies. The book provides detailed instructions for educators who teach children in grades K-5. Reilly lists materials needed, gives step-by-step instructions, and offers variations to accommodate specific needs.

As Reilly explains, the teacher can encourage students to come up with funny or silly names for these sensations to make them less threatening. The class comes together to come up with ideas for decreasing these body sensations, such as deep breathing. The book also provides a chapter on communicating with parents to promote teacher-parent collaboration and assist families with kids who are struggling. For use both in the classroom and with parents of school-aged children, this is a book school counselors may want to purchase and loan out to teachers.

















Sunday, March 19, 2017

Books about Depression for Kids

Like most school counselors I like to have a variety of books to share with students related to a specific concern or a strategy or skill to manage an issue or symptom.  Seeing characters in books going through something similar to the child normalizes it. Most children understand that is they write a book about it, then it must be pretty common. Here are some of the books on my bookshelf I use with students who feel depressed.
Bowden    I Just Want to be Me
Cook        Blueloon
Crist         What to Do When You Are Cranky and Blue (Grades 4-5)
Foley        Danny and the Blue Cloud
Jones        The Princess and the Fog
Malcolm   Meh: A Story About Depression
McIntyre   How Frederick Found His Light
McKee      Elmer and the Rainbow
Miles         Move Your Mood
Mundy       Sad Isn't Bad



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Depressed Students


This year I have noticed that more of our students are depressed and we have already done more suicide risk assessments in mid March than we did each of the past 3 years. Some of these are students who were referred for services in the past for anxiety.  About half of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder www.adaa.org Children with depression may display these symptoms:
Depressed, angry, or irritable mood
Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Change in grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school
Change in eating habits
Physical/somatic complaints
Mood swings
Feeling worthless or restless
Frequent sadness or crying
Withdrawing from friends and activities
Loss of energy
Low self-esteem
Thoughts of death or suicide
When symptoms last for a short period of time, it may be a passing case of “the blues.” But if they last for more than two weeks and interfere with regular daily activities and family and school life, a child may have a depressive disorder. This site is a good resource for parents www.dbsalliance.org

Teachers often overlook children with depression because it has internalizing symptoms not disruptive behavior with externalizing disorders, such as ADHD. Depressed children often don't ask for help at school because of negative thinking patterns: No one cares about my feelings, nothing can be done to help me, and so on (Cash, 2003). Younger students often lack the necessary language skills and self-awareness to report their depressed feelings. Even preschool age children can be depressed. Some students with depression will qualify for a 504 Plan and some may require an IEP.

School counselors can develop a positive relationship, provide emotional support, and teach students who are depressed coping skills.My go to goals for students with mood issues are: good sleep hygiene, healthy eating habits, and plenty of exercise (especially outdoors). There are not many resources for elementary counselors but these may be of some assistance schoolcounselor.org/students-with-depressiocounselingyouthwithdepression

If a student has moderate to severe depression they should be referred out for cognitive behavior therapy and evaluation to see if medication is warranted.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Problem-Solving STEPs Bulletin Board

We use the Second Step program in all our schools Kindergarten through grade 8. The curriculum teaches a 4 step problem solving model. This is my bulletin board that stays up this month to remind the students of the STEPs. It is 3-D and super cute, made by our school base substitute teacher for the school counseling program.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Superheroes Unmasked

Steven Hitt and Ellen G. Stewart have put together Superheroes Unmasked: An Amazing Approach to Helping Children Learn Social/Emotional Insights and Skills that is published by youthlight Stewart is a certified school counselor and art therapist. Hitt is the Managing Director for the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center and Assistant Professor of Dance. The developers researched the theory of superhero stories and play. The curriculum guide includes 15 lessons which are aimed at grades 2-6. I am using it as a basis for an 8 session Tier 2 small group for third grade boys. I did 
Session 1: Superheroes, Self-Awareness & Self-Esteem
Session 2: Listening is a Superpower
Sessions 3-7 based on "SUPER" (there are multiple activities for each letter so I selected based on needs of my group members) 
S=Slowdown
U=Understand the situation
P=Place yourself in their shoes
E=Encourage other ideas
R=Respond appropriately
Session 8:Super Mission Quest
Superheroes Unmasked would make a great after-school club curriculum because there are well developed lessons and many supplemental activities. There are 70 activities and games included aimed at kids becoming positive change agents.

Problem Solving Theme: Reading About Problem Solving Bulletin Board

This is the bulletin board outside our school cafeteria which shows the books I use in classroom lessons and with groups to teach problem-solving steps. We used parts of the Kindness board from last month to simplify the task of swapping out our boards monthly.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference (EBSC Conference) 2017


The Fifth Annual EBSC Conference hosted by the University of San Diego was just as rewarding as the one last year at the University of Georgia. I think the only counselors who were disappointed were those who discovered they waited too long to register since it sold out several weeks ago. I learned about things I knew nothing about like the counselors' role in linked learning. A break out session I found very interesting was led by last year's host (the University of Georgia) on their research "Who Is RAMPing and Who Is Not?" They had very interesting data and facilitated an interesting discussion about the current state and what might impact who RAMPs in the future. The highlight of the Conference for me was the Keynote address by a practicing school counselor in Arizona, Christa Mussi.
Christa has RAMPed at multiple schools and shared many valuable practical tips to manage an effective Evidence-Based School Counseling Program.
Our district presented a break out session Districtwide Initiative to Rock Tier 1 with
Evidence-based Classroom Lessons to a packed room. As promised here is a link to our presentation Districtwide Initiative to Rock Tier 1 with Evidence-based Classroom Lessons https://www.livebinders.com/edit/index/280076# Go to the Evidence-based tab. 
I encourage you to watch for more information about this Conference that will be held in New York in March 2018!


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book to Explain Brain to Help Children Self-Regulate


Julie Mendenhall, School Counselor, has written and published another great resource for counseling. "Sunny Shifts His Brain". The book teaches students in grades Prekindergarten to Grade 3 a little about the brain and then explains to children how to use two simple strategies: 1 Check: Learn when I need to change my behavior. and 2) Crisscross and Shift: Learn how to cross arms/legs and "shift" to clearer thinking. Crisscross is a concept I have been sharing with students, teachers, and parents for years that I believe comes from Brain Gym (learn more at braingym.org). I have shared these strategies with several teachers of children who need help developing self-regulation. This book is very useful to some of my students who have OCD type symptoms if not a formal diagnosis. It is one of several terrific resources for explaining and teaching self-regulation available at youthlight.com
Julie has presented this brain-based research to counselors and her PowerPoint is available on her website juliemendenhall.com

Monday, March 6, 2017

New Book on Mindfulness for Young Children


Squirmy Learns to be Mindful by Joree Rosenblatt, a therapist and mindfulness educator, tells the charming story of Bella the butterfly who earned the nickname "Squirmy" for her impatience. Her mother teaches her to be mindful, calm, and focused. Squirmy teaches young children how to be mindful. Read how the author explains mindfulness on her website joreerose.com/tools-for-living This book could be used in a class lesson, in a small group, or with an individual student to explain the value of being mindful. Order a copy of this flexible resource from youthlight.com

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Suicide Prevention Resource


"Tell Me More"
Tell me more... are 3 hard words to say but extremely important in assessing a student who has talked about committing suicide. Check out all the valuable resources at www.sptsusa.org

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Books for Social Problem Solving

Our theme this month for classroom lessons is social problem solving using the 4 STEPs from Second Step. The Committee for Children has great video clips but in case technology fails I always take a book into classes. I can do the lesson with the poster and a book. These are some of the ones I use in groups to reinforce problem solving and as back up teaching tools in classes.

Arthur’s Eyes by Brown
But It’s Not My Fault by Cook
A Chair for My Mother by Williams
The Doorbell Rang by Hutchins
I Did It, I’m Sorry by Buehner
I Have a Little Problem, Said the Bear by Janisch
It Wasn’t My Fault by Lester
Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by Davis & Soman
Prudy’s Problem and How She Solved It by Armstrong-Ellis
Stuck by Jeffers
Swimmy by Lionni
Talk and Work It Out by Meiners
What to Do With a Problem? by Yamada & Besom

Friday, March 3, 2017

Uniqueness


Every child has a unique way of feeling, thinking, and interacting with others. I often start groups with one of these books to get to know more about one another. "I like myself! I’m glad I’m me. There’s no one else I’d rather be"... Karen Beaumont's words send kids a powerful message. After reading her rhyming book I Like Myself  to kindergarten or first graders I usually have the last line "I like myself because I'm ME!" on a paper and have students draw and right what they like about themselves. Odd Velvet by Mary Witcomb is a great book for second grade to encourage celebrating being yourself. (It can also be used for name-calling.) In a small group you can do a round and have each student say something unique or special about yourself then keep going around until all members can recall everyone's name and something special about them. Self-portraits are also a good activity for most of these books,

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Self-Regulation Books



One of my favorite books on self-regulation is Listening to My Body by Gabi Garcia a school counselor. It is available in English and Spanish and learn more about the author at listeningtomybody.com/  This engaging picture book introduces children to the practice of listening to their bodies which is the first step to developing self-regulation. My students love the "horse lips" strategy where you take a deep breath in through your nose and blow out through your lips like a horse. It can change someones brain from being mad to silly in a few seconds. It is loaded with ideas so I frequently use it in 2 sessions in both individual and small group sessions. It will be one you use frequently!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Problem Solving Theme


We use Second Step for Tier 1 and Tier 2 lessons and groups. The Problem-Solving Steps are taught at every grade level and social problem solving is our theme for March. This poster hangs in my office most of the second semester because I like to reinforce these steps in groups and some individual sessions as well where appropriate. Second Step teaches a 4-step problem-solving procedure (see poster) for social problems: 1) Say the problem without blame; 2) Think about solutions that are safe and respectful; 3) Think about what could happen if I do this - explore consequences; and 4) Pick the best solution and make your plan. We teach the problem solving steps by role playing different scenarios to help children understand and use this process. In kindergarten the 4 steps are mentioned but the focus is on the first 2 steps. Mini versions of the poster are kept in the grade 1-5 classrooms so students can refer to the steps frequently during daily interactions.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My Many Colored Days Bulletin Board



For Dr. Seuss' birthday March 2 I frequently turn My Many Colored Days into a bulletin board or door decoration. The books associates moods and emotions with colors and animals which is depicted on the display. This year we added the animals because I found the outlines on line at many_colored_days The outlines are the last few pages of this pdf. If you look at the Bulletin Board page you can see how we used this in the past along with our Empathy theme in November.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

I am sure all elementary counselors use some of the many books Dr. Seuss wrote. The ones I use on a regular basis are: Horton Hears a Who!, The Lorax, Oh, the Places You'll Go!, The Sneetches, and The Zax. 
My Many Colored Days is my favorite by Dr. Seuss because it is useful in expanding students understanding of a variety of emotions. Being able to name or label emotions is key to self-regulation. To learn more about this read labeling-feelings-is-so-important
The book can be used for a variety of lessons or group sessions on feelings and there are many activities to choose from including those described here my-many-colored-days or many_colored_days

Self-Regulation Resource 6-inch Voice


I work with two groups of first grade boys who have limited self-regulation, including volume control, even when they are in a small group and remind them of our rules. My most successful session was based on this great book by Julia Cook. They were not able to estimate 6 inches which I had guessed so my worksheet has a ruler then they draw their hand (pinky to thumb) and write about where they should be using their 6-inch voice. The books has a built in "practice" for the 5 levels of volume from whisper to outside. I wish I had used this in my second session so I could refer to it each week. I plan to use a replica of the handout as a reminder for my next session.