Sunday, September 3, 2017

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic. We use this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention. nami/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month

While the number of deaths by suicide in younger children is statistically small, the number of attempts in students ages 10 to 14 has increased dramatically over the last few years, especially for girls. And even if they haven’t made an attempt, there are children in every school who are thinking about suicide sptsusa.org/elementary-school  We need to think about suicide as an attempt to solve a problem of intense emotional pain with impaired skills. As counselors we need to have productive way to have a conversation about suicide with any aged student. Never assume just because a person is young that they will not attempt suicide. If a student is talking about wanting to die to a risk assessment and consult with another mental health provider. ALWAYS notify parents and document the notification even if you don't believe there is an imminent threat. Continue to take threats seriously: Follow through is important even after the child calms down or informs you or the parent "they didn't mean it." Avoid assuming behavior is simply attention seeking (but at the same time avoid reinforcing suicide threats; e.g., by allowing the student who has threatened suicide to avoid or get something to make them feel better).

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall so many children and families are impacted by suicide. Using "suicide death" or" death by suicide" is more helpful than saying "successful suicide" or "committed suicide." Often times family members will not tell the child that it was a suicide death. I don't think this is helpful and further adds to the stigma and shame. People bereaved by suicide often experience complicated bereavement. There can be many other feelings in addition to grief including shock, social isolation, anger and guilt. The often sudden and sometimes unexpected nature of the death can also be extremely traumatic for those who lived with or knew the person. 

There are more resources at save.org/ but these are geared toward older students. Suicide prevention programs are becoming more common in secondary schools because of the increasing number of suicide attempts. I am not aware of any aimed at elementary learners. However, it is important to get information in the hands of staff and parents about the warning signs of suicide and always #BeThe1ToAsk. That is basic mental health first aide.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September is Attendance Awareness Month


We use a version of this board every September to tell our learning community what time children are let into classroom so they can be ready and in their seats at 9:00 when the bell rings and we start with the Pledge of Allegiance. We really focus on pushing out the message that we want learners in school #EVERYDayALLDay unless they meet one of the criteria in our policy for excused absence (like sick with a fever about 101 or attending services for death of family member). We use messaging from this site attendanceworks We are a big Twitter use school so we use that to keep letting parents know the importance of establishing a positive pattern at the beginning of the school year. One year we piloted a program to focus our efforts on one kindergarten class. At the end of each month we sent home a thank you note to the parents who had their child in school every school day all day that month. When we evaluated this intervention the parents told us not to bother with the cards because they were "just doing their job as parents." We also did not have a significant difference between that class and our other 4 kindergarten classes. Even though it did not work we published our findings and it did send the message we are taking this very seriously.
We have students who are chronically tardy which we address through our attendance team. Once a month the attendance secretary, social worker, counselor, and administrator meet to review the data. That is when we decide who will get a letter, phone call, chat with counselor, small group, and eventually a meeting to develop an attendance plan. One of the school counseling program goals is always aimed at attendance.  Overall our school has a high attendance rate (above 96%) but each year we address the students who the prior year have been chronically absent or tardy (2 days a month), are chronically tardy, or both. 
We also look at the learners who are at risk to develop a chronic pattern of not being in school consistently. Here is a draft of our goal this year:
 By June 2018, 75% of the students who had 10 or more tardy arrivals or absences in the 2016-2017 school year, will decrease the targeted behavior.
If anyone has a success story please leave it in Comments.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Miguel A Deportation Story


Many families across our country are living under a cloud of possible deportation. There are more than 9 million U.S. children whose parents are undocumented immigrants, the majority from Mexico and Latin America. Half of these children, or about 4.5 million, are U.S. citizens — born to undocumented immigrant parents on American soil. Citizen-children and their undocumented siblings frequently live in homes in which one or both parents are undocumented immigrants.  Read more about research on living under the threat of deportation  http://www.apa.org/

This book is told from the perspective of an eight year old boy who was born in the U.S. but his parents are not in the United States legally and may have to go back to their unsafe home country. Miguel opens up about his fears to his school counselor and takes a proactive approach to his family's and others situation. This is a timely book that tires to take a optimistic attitude about a concern that is very widespread in our country today. Get this 2017 resource from youthlight.com

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Children of Divorce Intervention Program

We are trying to use evidence-based materials rather than random asks of counseling designed by all our counselors.  The childrensinstitute developed Children of Divorce Intervention Program (CODIP) that is an evidence-based prevention program specifically designed to help children cope with challenging family changes. There are separate manuals for students in K-1, 2-3, 4- 6, and 7-8. I purchased the elementary manuals for my school last Spring. The goal of the program is to a) reduce the stress of parental divorce by providing a supportive environment; and b) build skills that can help children cope with various challenges related to parental divorce. The manual proved session plans for 12-15 sessions depending on the age level. Even though I thought the curriculum I had designed for Families in Separate Homes (FISH) groups were pretty good, I am looking forward to using a program that has been proven to be effective.

Friday, August 18, 2017

School Counseling Program Annual Calendar

The ASCA National stipulates that each school counseling program develop and share an annual calendar with all stakeholders and update it regularly.  I like a simple one page calendar that I can post by my office door and easily copy and distribute where appropriate. I include the most important activities and events for the school counseling program for the entire school year.  These include monthly awareness, classroom lesson themes, small groups, and other activities like the advisory committee meetings, conferences, and analysis of data.  This calendar communicates the program's priorities and is a public relations tool that informs stakeholders about specific details like the dates of parent workshops. I update it at least quarterly and adjust for changes in planned activities, snow days that require changes, etc. I have the calendar drafted before the start of the school year so I can get important dates on the school-wide calendar and avoid conflicts.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

School Web Site


We have not gone back to school yet so I spent several hours today updating my school web page. See it here nottingham.apsva.us/counseling/ I still need to tackle the calendar and a few formatting issues but otherwise it is ready to go. The primary audience for my school web page is parents but I do have a Counselor to Counselor page.
We have to use a standard format as part of  our school's web page but after a year I have adapted. I like the Blog embedded feature. The Blog and the calendar are the parts I update most frequently during the school year. When I make a new blog post on my school web site there is a button I just click and it goes to my Twitter feed. My Blog posts are read by many more parents than the monthly newsletters I use to spend much more time writing. There are many more features I can add but last school year our school had no IT support. We have a new staff member this year for that role so check back later, I am hoping to make some improvements once I get some training and technology support.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Back to School: Part 4 - Effective Strategies for Helping Students Reduce Anxiety


Helping students with anxiety is a topic I have researched, lived, and presented on extensively. I share most of my presentations in LiveBinders so if you want to see the PowerPoint from the ASCA webinar, my state conference presentation, or from the ASCA National conference on anxiety check them out on the Anxiety, Stress, and Worry tab livebinders.com/ The binder also has links to some good articles and resources about helping children reduce anxiety.

There are new resources being developed all time to help children manage anxiety. For individuals, I begin by assessing how big a concern anxiety is for them. I do this a variety of ways but one all the students seem to favor is selecting the stone that represents the amount of discomfort their worries are currently causing them daily. I have a small pebble, a 1-2 inch rock, and a 4-5 inch rock that I keep on my window sill and bring out. I say, "you could have a little anxiety and it fits in your pocket and you only notice it occasionally, a medium size rock in your pocket that you would notice every time you moved, and a heavy rock that would weigh down your backpack." Once I know how big a problem the child perceives their anxiety issues to be I start assessing their coping tools. What have they tried so far that works to reduce their anxiety when they are stressed? What did not work? If I do see a student for ongoing short term counseling we set a goal to reduce anxiety and quantify it (for K-1 to make it a pebble and for grades 2-5 to reduce it from a __ to below 5 on a 10 point scale). I have found that students who are highly perfectionist or compulsive do not like groups and will only agree to individual support.

If possible I try to have most students with anxiety issues participate in small group counseling. It has many advantages and students  help one another as much as I help them. For groups, especially in grade 2 my students love worrywoos The books in this series are great and the website offers some good materials to create activities.I have done a whole group based on the worrywoos.  For more resources check out my pinterest/worry--anxiety-stress board. Some of my favorite picture books on anxiety are: Hey Warrior, Caterpillar's Wings, The Huge Bag of Worries, and The Worry Glasses. I generally teach a strategy each session and provide members opportunities to practice (calming exercises, deep breathing, mindfulness, etc.)

Stress is so pervasive in my school I teach a class lesson on techniques to reduce stress in grades 3-5. I think this further helps normalize anxiety issues and gives all students a few tools to self-regulate when experiencing normal stress. Since we use Second Step I use their lessons in the classroom.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back to School: Part 3 - Counselors Supporting Students with Anxiety

Last year I wrote an article for ASCA "Address Student Anxiety" it provides lots of details about how to help  https://www.schoolcounselor.org/address-student-anxiety It discusses how to work with parents, staff, and students in the school environment.

One of the most useful books for counselors on this topic is Working with Parents of Anxious Children: Therapeutic Strategies for Encouraging Communication, Coping, & Change. The author, Christopher McCurry, outlines the behaviors and symptoms to look for in children with anxiety disorders, and offers a guide for clinicians who work with their families.

When working with children who are reluctant to come to school I try to make a deal with the families, you get them in the building and I will keep them here. Many parents have told me how much they appreciated knowing that if they hung tough and got their child in the door I would work out a plan to make them feel safe inside.

If you have been a counselor very long you have probably had a child brought to you after the bell crying and clinging to a parent. Once you can get the parent to leave the building then you need to start your work with the child with the goal to get them in their classroom ASAP. I generally start by saying, "I am here with you and you are safe." Often I begin by acknowledging that right now their body does not feel OK. This begins the psycho-education of teaching them common body responses to anxiety and normalizing what they are feeling but correcting the misconception that they are "sick". Next I address their emotions and generally have them scale their unpleasant feelings. I have many scales readily available in my office from simple color coded and 1-5 scales for the young ones to 1-10 with a range of emotion vocabulary for older students. Finally their distorted thinking needs to be addressed. I acknowledge that they are telling themselves they are not safe in school (away from parent) but in reality they know they are - it is just their "worry brain" sending a false alarm. Once the student begins to calm down I try to get them to walk with me to class. 

I find small groups to be the most effective place to teach skills to students who need help with emotion regulation. I cannot possibly provide individual counseling to all my students with anxiety issues.  I offer groups for students who need to develop coping tools to students in grade 1-5 using both CBT and Mindfulness.  I typically start my first round of groups in late September or early October which means the first few weeks of school I am probably doing more individual counseling than any other month. Students with anxiety issues are my number one referral reason and this is typical for most school counselors from both elementary and secondary levels according to surveys conducted by ASCA.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Back to School: Part 2 - Help Teachers Handle Students with Anxiety


Many teachers do not understand anxiety and need some basic information before they understand saying "Just relax" or "Calm Down" will not help. If students had the skills to do this they would. Anxiety is often confused with other issues like ADHD, willful behavior, and school avoidance. Teachers often blame the caregivers, and although they may play a role in making the anxious behavior worse, they are not the cause. Teachers can provide parents with strategies for preparing the child for school and the classroom. At our school we invite students we know are very anxious to visit the classroom before the regular Open House so they can have a few minutes to meet the teacher and get a feel for their new class privately. This has helped many students feel more confident on the first day of class.

Particularly at the beginning of the school year, or after a long break from school, students with anxiety are going to frequently show signs of increased stress. What helps anxious students can frequently benefit all students: provide a warm and inviting classroom environment, establish clear routines at arrival, give students movement breaks, go outside whenever possible, play relaxing music, dim the lights for a quiet time after lunch/recess, practice mindful breathing. Students with anxiety need an organized and predictable routine and warnings when there will be changes.

Teachers can use help identifying common triggers of anxiety like morning meeting when students are expected to give eye contact and greet peers, assessments, large assemblies, the cafeteria,  presenting in front of class, and substitutes. The teacher should also know what helps a particular student gain a sense of control and calm (such as a pass to go get a drink). Many students with anxiety benefit from having a list of 3 "safe persons" that they can go to for a break or help, especially when the regular classroom teacher is not available.

Resources: 
Books


Reaching and Teaching Stressed and Anxious Learners in Grades 4-8: Strategies for Relieving Distress and Trauma in Schools and Classrooms (2015) by Barbara E. Oehlberg

Your Anxious Child: How Parents and Teachers Can Relieve Anxiety in Children 2nd Edition (2016) by John Dacey, Martha D. Mack, Lisa B. Fiore 

On line

This site does a good job of explaining Anxiety in the Classroom childmind.org

Some students with an anxiety disorder will be eligible for a 504 Plan. Some of the common accomodationsor modifications requested are described on these sites  worrywisekids.org  healthcentral.com  healthcentral.com

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Back to School: Part 1 - Resources for Parents to Help Children with Anxiety

August means the end of summer vacation and the time to start back to school. Children frequently experience a wide range of emotions about the start of a school year including excitement, worry, and sadness. The emotions about a new school year can start showing weeks before the first day of class. Many parents report an increase in meltdowns and anxious talk at bedtime even before the "Meet Your Teacher" Open House.

I always recommend to parents, that if possible, not to travel just before school opens, instead plan to be in town and attend the Open House and get children back on a school schedule (generally earlier bedtimes than were the norm during summer). Also to try to arrange a play date with a classmate once it is known who will be in each class. We can all appreciate that having a familiar face in class helps with Back-to-School jitters. I remind parents that for children the start of the school year can be highly stressful. It is important that parents express optimism about the new school year and not feed into the child's concern about a certain teacher or classmate. Parents can also role-play with their child to prepare them to greet the teacher at Open House, introduce themselves to students they do not know, etc.

Most children will adjust to a new school year within a month. If after the first month of school a child is reluctant to come in the building on their own or expressing regular concern, I encourage parents to talk to the teacher and myself to see if we can help with the adjustment or discuss if a child may be experiencing serious separation anxiety. The main differences between separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder are the intensity of your child’s fears, and whether these fears keep him or her from normal activities. Children with separation anxiety disorder may become agitated at just the thought of being away from mom or dad, and may complain of sickness to avoid playing with friends or attending school. When symptoms are extreme enough, these anxieties can add up to a disorder that affects approximately 4%-5% of children in the U. S. ages 7 to 11 years. It is less common in teenagers, affecting about 1.3% of American teens. It affects boys and girls equally. If a parent collaborating with the teacher, counselor, and student can't improve a students anxiety a referral may be warranted.

It is very important that parents understand anxiety if they are going to be successful in helping an anxious child. Parents need to work to make an anxious child feel safer not let them avoid the source of anxiety. There are many good books to help parents learn more about anxiety and related concerns. The ones from the past 10 years I recommend are the following:

Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents by R. M. Rapee et al. (2008) provides parents a guide for assisting their children in overcoming a variety of worries, fears, and anxieties.

Growing Up Brave: Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety by Donna Pincus (2012) helps parents identify and understand anxiety in their children, outlines effective and convenient parenting techniques for reducing anxiety, and shows parents how to promote bravery for long-term confidence.

Helping Your Child Overcome Separation Anxiety or School Refusal: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents by Andrew R. Eisen & Linda Engler (2006) helps parents/guardians: a) identify child’s unique safety needs; b) empower child with simple and effective coping skills; c) guide child to better sleep and regular school attendance; and d) monitor progress.

Overcoming School Anxiety: How to Help Your Child Deal with Separation, Tests, Homework, Bullies, Math Phobia, and Other Worries by Diane Peters Mayer (2008) shows parents how to deal with a wide variety of problems, from test and homework anxiety, to bullying, and fear of speaking up in class. Mayer also offers easy-to-learn techniques for children including breathing and relaxation exercises, focusing techniques, and tips on proper diet and exercise that help relieve stress.

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, Revised and Updated Edition: Practical Strategies to Overcome Fears, Worries, and Phobias and Be Prepared for Life--from Toddlers to Teens (2014) explains some of the ways they "help" actually makes children more anxious. The book explains how parents and children can work TOGETHER against the anxiety.

Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents by Reid Wilson and Lynn Lyons (2013) offers an effective approach to help children and teens push through their fears, worries, and phobias to ultimately become more resilient, independent, and happy.

Why Smart Kids Worry: And What Parents Can Do to Help by Allison Edwards (2013) guides parents through the mental and emotional process of where a child's fears come from and why they are so hard to move past. Edwards focuses on how to parent a child who is both smart and anxious.

Your Anxious Child: How Parents and Teachers Can Relieve Anxiety in Children 2nd Edition (2016) by John Dacey, Martha D. Mack, Lisa B. Fiore (Author) designed to help parents, teachers, and counselors support young people suffering from anxiety. Offers an array of innovative strategies organized into the authors’ four-step “COPE” program. Each strategy is accompanied by a set of activities contextualized with full details of the appropriate age level, materials needed, suggested setting, and a template script.

There are several good web sites that offer advice to parents regarding anxiety. These have good free resources for parents childanxiety.net and anxietybc.com and worrywisekids.org

Future posts will focus on resources for counselors, teachers, and children to develop a helpful approach to anxiety.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Explain going to therapy to young children

When I need to refer a student for private therapy parents of young children frequently ask me, "How should I explain that I am taking my child to a therapist?" I was happy to find this simple children's book written by a few private psychologist which explains some things that typically happen in therapy, about confidentiality, and that it will take more than one session to help. I am sure I will be sharing this with several parents once school resumes.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Advocacy

As school counselors return for a new school year it is the perfect time to focus on our role of advocacy. Events like Open House, first day of school, and Back-to-School Night provide face-time with families so it is imperative to have a plan to maximize these opportunities. Remember to use data to show how students are different as a result of the school counseling program. An advocacy orientation involves not only systems change interventions but also the implementation of
empowerment strategies in direct counseling.
Advocacy is
1) an ethical and legal imperative for school counselors.
2) the desire to be a voice for students so that the school acts in students’ best interests.
3) teaching students to be self-advocates.
4) educating legislators, school board members, parents, administrators, and teachers about the school counseling program.
5) joining a professional organization which provides school counselors with a legislative voice.

Technology offers many tools for advocacy. A well designed counseling program web page, a blog, electronic flyers (smore.com), and social media like Twitter are a few I use on a regular basis. For example, all of our school board members follow me on Twitter so when I share what lessons, groups, workshops I am doing and their impact they can see in the comfort of their own home or office the impact of the school counseling program in my school!
Here are a few resources if you do not have a lot of training in advocacy. I print copies of the ASCA National Model Executive Summary and share it frequently with stakeholders.

Ascanationalmodel/ExecSumm.pdf
azsca/advocacytoolkit.pdf
School-Communication-Planning-Guide.pdf

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Understood.org

If you are not familiar with this web site understood.org I strongly recommend you check it out. Although it is primarily designed for parents it has many useful references for educators. You will also want to tell parent of children with learning and attention issues to  explore it. I learned about it from an ASCA webinar which you can watch but it pretty much just walks you through the site so you don't really need to watch it. I added it to my bookmarks and I am sure you will too.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Activities to Introduce Topics to Groups


When planning small groups once I have determined my goals, the competencies the students in the particular group need to practice, and key concepts to cover I begin selecting materials and activities that will engage the members. I like to use props and a fun activity to introduce important topics. I use a variety of props but some of the ones I use frequently are koosh balls, cotton balls, straws, balloons, bean bags, and hula hoops. I never just do an activity because it is fun, I tie it to a specific outcome or competency so when it is complete there is something to process. In this post I am sharing 3 of my favorite cotton ball activities.

Supplies: Cotton balls, drinking straws, space (a big table or the floor)

Self-regulation: This game demonstrates that breathing takes practice, controlled breathing, and focus. Students get into partners standing a good arm’s length apart. Students begin by blowing the cotton ball at their partner. The goal is to hit their partner with the cotton ball using only their breath. When done, students stand with their feet apart. They then take turns trying to score a goal by blowing the cotton ball through their partner’s feet. Finally, each individual student places their cotton ball on the palm of their hand. Their challenge is to slowly blow the cotton ball to the tip of their index finger without blowing it off the hand. (I learned this one at the training I attended last summer for the MindUp curriculum.)
Cooperation: Partners sit with straws in mouths. Directions: Fist person picks up a cotton ball by sucking the straw. Then pass the ball to partner’s straw without letting it drop. Second person can then let the cotton balls drop in the bowl. Winning team gets most cotton balls into bowl using only the straws.
Problem Solving: 1. Set a Starting Line and a Finish Line (10 to 15 feet apart.) 2. Give each player a drinking straw and a cotton ball. 3. Let them know they must move their cotton ball from the Starting Line to the Finish Line using only the straw. 4. Tip - Don't tell them how to use it. They can use it like a hockey stick or use it as a straw and blow the cotton ball.5. The 1st person to get their cotton ball across the finish line wins.

I always down play winning and talk about the importance of team work and sportsmanship. Children love activities. When they come into my office someone in almost every group asks, "Are we going to do an activity today?" It is worth the time to look for activities that help teach the concepts and skills you want members to acquire as the result of being in a group. If you have a great activity with a prop please add to comments below.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Feelings Ladders

In order for children to regulate emotions they need to understand that all feelings are okay and there are many nuances to emotions especially the level of intensity. Children need to have a rich emotional vocabulary to label and express feelings. They need to be very aware of  how they are reacting to choose an appropriate strategy to manage the feeling. For anger counselors often use a thermometer but for other feelings like levels of "Afraid" I find a ladder is a better visual for most kids. After we brainstorm and discuss a particular "feeling family" like afraid or unsure they can select and write on a blank ladder handout low, medium, and high feelings in that category they experience. For example:
Anxious, Nervous, Uneasy, Frightened, Panicky, and Terrified. For some students it may be helpful to color the steps that are low green, medium yellow, and high red. Using Feelings Ladders helps students better understand emotions and then you can discuss appropriate coping tools for each level. For example if a student is anxious they may need to use take a movement break, if they are uneasy slow deep breathing, and if they are panicky seek help from an adult or self-talk.  They can write their go to strategy for each level on this handout to help them remember what might work for them. I have used Feelings Ladders both individually and in small groups from grades 2-5. You could also make a blank Feelings Ladder poster and laminate it to reuse.

Friday, July 28, 2017

#DoveSelfEsteemProject

One of my favorite benefits of being an ASCA member is the fact that you can view all their webinars on demand for free. During the school year I never have time to watch them but each summer I take the time to watch the ones that will hep me improve my program and practice. I encourage all elementary (and middle school) counselors to watch Confident Me, A Free Body Confidence Program (2017) delivered by Jessica Lawrance. This same program was presented at the ASCA National Conference earlier this month. The purpose of the webinar and session was to make counselors aware of this evidence-based free curriculum and encourage them to try it out in their schools. They are even offering a great incentive to those educators who try it out this fall and complete a brief survey. You can apply then to be entered in a drawing to earn an all expense paid trip to your state conference or ASCA 18! Watch the webinar for more details.
The program addresses how "Low body confidence and low self-esteem have a strong influence on a child's learning and school life. Anxiety about drawing attention to appearance has been linked to reduced capacity to focus and less active participation or engagement in class, resulting in poorer academic performance. Six out of 10 girls admit to avoiding at least one “normal” everyday activity because of feeling concerned about their looks, with one in 10 admitting to skipping school for this reason." 
You can teach either the 5 session or 1 session curriculum and be eligible. The curriculum primarily targets middle school but it is definitely appropriate for upper elementary. It is designed to be delivered to girls and boys together but can also be done separately. Each lesson has an educators guide, a short PowerPoint, and student worksheet download from selfesteem.dove.us Learn more from other schools using the program by following #DoveSelfEsteemProject on Twitter.
I like that this program addresses all the negative body talk our students engage in and explains the reality behind media appearance.  There is a lesson that explains the metaphor sinking in a "whirlpool of comparisons." Kids today are bombarded with pressure to fit an perfect body type that does not really exist. It is great that Dove offers this resource for free with no effort to sell their products. They are currently revising it to be more applicable to diverse American schools so check back later in the year or follow along on Twitter to see when it gets updated. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Literature-Based Bullying Program


Our school has used a literature based bullying prevention and intervention program from K-grade 5 for the past ten years. For a bullying program to be effective it cannot be totally on the shoulders of the counselors. The program also must evolve according to changing needs and feedback from evaluations. Last year all the counselors in our County were required to do the skill based lessons based on the Committee for Children's Bullying Unit which is evidence-based. These lessons are engaging and do a very good job addressing electronic bullying in grades 3-5. Because the counselors had to deliver the evidence-based lessons they no longer had time to do the read alouds as they had done in prior years, Therefore we tried either the principal or assistant principle reading those books to K-3; it was so well received this year I selected books for them to read to the upper grades as well.

The administrators read these books at the end of October which is National Bullying Prevention Month. We are pushing the skill based lessons and books the librarian reads into November because this topic requires prior knowledge before it can be taught and we try to use the first six weeks of the school year teaching children what we want them to do. Our librarian is a former counselor so she happily reads and does an activity at each grade level as long as I assign her good books! The teachers had been reading the same books for several years so this list reflects what they will read this year.  There are new books published on this topic every year so we wanted to make sure we were sharing the best of what is now available. These are the books I selected to address the theme of bullying behavior.  We encourage the teachers to read these books in January as a means of revisiting this important topic as the school year progresses.

The entire school uses the Committee for Children definition of bullying and uses the Responsive Classroom Code of Conduct CARES: Cooperation, Assertiveness, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. All students are taught an assertive response is usually the best way to handle challenging behavior and to be positive, helpful bystanders or "upstanders" - not provide an audience or join in. All staff receives annual training on how to respond to disrespectful behavior and what to do if the reported behavior is bullying. Our state requires schools to use a research-based program to address bullying. We evaluate this program annually to make continual improvement. Data from the evaluation and incidents of bullying reports and coaching session are shared each year with teachers during pre-service week.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Help Your Anxious Child: Tips from a Child Therapist


This child therapist specializes in helping parents whose children have excessive anxiety and/or OCD. I recommend her website anxioustoddlers.com to parents frequently. She makes it clear that parents should not over accommodate  anxiety behaviors and let children avoid challenges like sleeping in own room or going to school. She cautions parents that getting frustrated and asking them to something they clearly are not ready to handle like a sleepover party are the two extreme parenting styles. She has some simple practical suggestions for a balanced approach for parents to use in coaching children to "crush" anxiety. She starts by telling parents to discuss anxiety with the child and give it a name to externalize it and keep it from eroding the child's self-esteem. That is where I usually begin when doing individual counseling with students who have too much anxiety. She has some great articles and has published two books, This video addresses a question I get every week as a school counselor,"How can I help my anxious child?"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

New to Elementary Counseling or Starting at a New School: Ten Places to Start

    New beginnings are very exciting but also can feel overwhelming. I just want to offer ten things I did when I started at my current school based on what I learned at my first assignment.

1 Examine all the school data you have access to including the Report Card and what is online. If there was a previous school counselor that collected and shared any data look at that too.
2 Discuss implanting the ASCA National Model with your administrator(s). Give them a copy of the Executive Summary available for download on ASCA website. Let them know you want to implement the Model with fidelity which will require an Annual Agreement with them and an Advisory Council that meets at least twice a year.  Let the principal know you think it is best to begin with a needs assessment of staff, parents, and students to help gather data to set program goals. ANMExecSumm.pdf
3 Get to know colleagues including all classroom teachers and support staff.  Explain when and how staff can make referrals for individual or group counseling. Let classroom teachers know when you will begin teaching lesson, how many lessons you will teach and their length, and how to sign up for a mutually agreed upon time slot.
4 Set up your office in a way that works for you. I like to have a group table, an area rug for activities, and a small work station for my electronic devices. I recommend keeping minimum paper files and store important forms, articles, etc. electronically. I use Google Drive, Dropbox, and Livebinders rather than have a file cabinet. The only paper files I keep are for Risk Assessments and active student files for individual counseling.
5  Determine which electronic calendar is used primarily in your building. Since we use mostly Outlook I keep my schedule in it. The School Counseling Program schedule is open to view by all teachers and administrators. The teachers can tell which blocks I have reserved for groups and meetings and schedule their class lessons in any flexible time slot.  If I need to pull an individual student at a certain time, I will enter that as well (but not the student’s name). My teachers sign up for a monthly lesson in grades 2-5 for 30 minutes; in kindergarten and first grade I teach more but for 20-minute time slots. If they need to change a lesson after Sunday evening they must send me an email so I am aware of the switch. I print a hard copy of my weekly calendar from Outlook every Monday morning. The weekly calendar is used to document how you are spending your time.
6  Begin building the Annual School Counseling Program Calendar and how you will publish and share it for stakeholders to see. The Annual Calendar has direct services like the core curriculum (example monthly themes for lessons in classrooms) and small groups but not individual counseling. It also indicates indirect services like Parent Teacher Conference Days and special activities sponsored by counseling program (First Friday College Wear Days). I set the dates for the Advisory Council meetings and include them.
7  Begin keeping a list of things you might want to purchase but before spending your own money ask if there are funds allocated for the counseling program. I get money from a variety of sources including the same teacher supply fund available to classroom teachers, a small amount from our central office annually, sometimes money from my school’s budget for curriculum, and the school’s PTA.
8  Figure out the best way to communicate with parents in your learning community. I primarily use Twitter because almost all teachers use it and parents follow staff that work with their children. I also have a web page, blog, and calendar that is housed on the school’s website. We are discouraged from using paper newsletters, brochures, etc. in an effort to be a green school.
9 Decide how you are going to get to know all the students. It is extremely important to know the students’ names and begin to get to know them. In addition to introducing yourself and your role in classes find other ways to get facetime. I always stand in the hall outside my office at arrival and dismissal and greet and chat with students. At the beginning of the school year I try to get to all lunch periods and recesses at least once to mix and mingle. I also create a class picture by downloading student pictures from our school’s information system. I look at this before I go in to teach and quiz myself on students’ names the first quarter of the school year. The kindergarten students and new students won’t have pictures in the information system right away but our kindergarten takes a class photo the first week of school so I ask the teacher for a copy and write names on it. I take pictures of all new students in grades 1-5 at my Welcome New Students celebrations and I just put a copy of their photos with their class. 
10 Plan your Core Curriculum that you will be teaching throughout the year. Determine what your District expects first. Out District requires we use evidence-based programs and provides each school with Second Step and MindUp. We have to report and provide evaluations for at least 10 lessons using this curriculum. We also must teach a career unit based on the National Career Clusters. For many years, we did not have a District Supervisor of counseling and we all had to develop our own lessons. That took so much time and although I finally had lessons I loved and felt were effective, using evidence-based curriculum is the direction the counseling field is moving towards. If you don't have any District requirements be sure to consult with your administrator about what they expect about how many lessons all students will receive.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

College Awareness and Planning NACAC Free Curriculum


Check out this free online resource just published by National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The elementary section has introductory lessons and activities for kindergarten through grade 2 and multiple lessons and activities for grades 4 and 5. My favorite lesson is grade 4, "Careers by Degrees". https://www.nacac2017stepbystep.pdf

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Follow Me on Twitter!

My favorite technology tool is Twitter and its companion Tweet Deck (dashboard for the hashtags I follow most closely). I use Twitter professionally  in so many ways, but most importantly to network with people and groups that interest me. I do NOT use it to share anything personal, that I save for my Facebook friends. I do belong to the Closed Facebook Group Elementary School Counselor Exchange which is a part of my online Professional Learning Network (PLN). You simply search for the name of the group and ask to join; there are more than 14,000 members and it is a great place to ask questions of other elementary counselors or share your ideas if you feel like you have something that would help another elementary counselor. The advantage (and sometimes disadvantage) of Facebook is there is not a limit to number of characters like Twitter so posts can be longer.

My school uses Twitter to communicate with our Tech savvy parents. I have had parents say to me, "I feel like I talk to you every day and know exactly what you are doing." At first those comments gave me pause but that is exactly what I want. I send out pictures of my classroom lessons so parents can ask when the child comes home, tell me what you learned from Dr. McCormac today? Keep in mind that a Tweet may contain photos, videos, links (count as 23 characters) up to 140 characters of text. I send out links to good articles on parenting, information about upcoming activities like College Wear Fridays, and ideas for helping the whole child to name a few. I do not follow parents (or students including former students). I am very aware that administrators and school board members follow me so I use it as a way to showcase my school counseling program.  It is very important to school counseling that we market and advocate for our programs and inform stakeholders how students are different based on the services we provide.

As I mentioned I am #notatasca17 but am closely following that hashtag and #asca17.  That is how I was able to learn that my Twitter account and a few other counselors who love Twitter were shared as part of an ASCA Conference presentation (slide above) and better yet get the link to the PowerPoint for Angela Cleveland's PowerPoint presentations Angela is very tech savvy and through Twitter I have learned a lot about how to improve my counseling program from @rsabella and @CounselingGeek

A big part of my PLN are Twitter Chats. These provide an online opportunity to engage with other school counselors around the globe! My two favorites are #scchat the first Wednesday of each month at 8 PM EST and #escchat usually two Thursdays a month. These chats typically don't "meet" during summer vacations. Sometimes they have co-hosts like ASCA or a graduate school counseling program. The moderator(s) select a specific topic like Small Groups or ADHD and pose about 8 questions in an hour and give participants an opportunity to respond. Just like on Twitter you don't have to "Tweet" you can just follow the chats called lurking (especially until you feel comfortable). I follow the chats on TweetDeck but you can also use TweetChat (search on your computer and bookmark).

Another feature of Twitter that many users don't take advantage of is the Advanced Search tool. Once you do a search say "elementary school counseling" then click on the Search filters on the left, then Advanced Search. Here you can add exact phrases, hashtags, a range of dates, etc. This can help you find a post you want to read again, a subtopic of your search, etc.

Twitter allows you to have a diverse and innovative network and drive your own professional development. As school counselors we sit through many required staff development activities that are great for classroom teachers but not helpful to us. With Twitter you control who you follow. For example when I first started using Twitter I only followed other elementary counselors and counselor educators but quickly realized I can learn a lot from secondary counselors as well. I also follow organizations that explore issues I am passionate about like mental health, mindfulness, trauma-sensitive counseling to name a few. As a user you get to decide how many people and groups you follow!


Feeling Families





I find it helpful to teach students there are 4 basic groups of feelings that have different levels of energy. This is a way of organizing emotions and helping students think about what emotion they are having, to what degree, and select an appropriate coping strategy. These are the same categories used in CBT Mixed Emotions activity that I wrote about previously for upper grade students with good vocabularies playtherapygames/mixed-emotions I used the feeling faces stickers from Conscious Discipline because those or ones I teach in the classroom in kindergarten and grade 1 so my students are familiar with them. This chart can be used to brainstorm additional feelings and they can be added with sticky notes or because it is laminated written on the chart with dry erase markers.
I keep the chart of the 4 families up in my office all the time because I use it frequently in individual and groups counseling sessions. For individual counseling this chart can be used as a check in by adding a scale. I ask (and record to determine patterns and hopefully progress) on a scale of ) to ten with 0=not having that category of emotions at all since our previous session to 10=Having that as strongly as I can remember having that category of emotions. So a client might be at 6/10 for happy and clam; 5/10 for anxious unsure feelings; 7/10 for angry frustrated; 4/10 for sad or left out. I then ask the student to tell me what happened that made them give that family each number.
For groups I am showing you some things I do reinforce and use feeling families with my self-regulation groups (where we work on controlling our bodies first, then our emotions, and finally our thoughts). For my emotion regulation groups, depending on the grade level, I do the activity sheets above. I make a word bank with a variety of grade level appropriate emotions and they write them in the correct house. This can be easily extended to reinforce I messages by having a member pick a feeling from the house and use it in an I message. These activity sheets go home so parents know what students are learning in group.
Using the Feelings Families has helped my students recognize, understand, label, and express their emotions with more clarity. It helps me tailor a discussion of coping tools that are sometimes effective dealing with each of the 3 unpleasant families of emotions. For example, take a break or walk away is a go strategy for anger but not for anxiety or sadness.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Small Group Counseling An Opportunity for Students to Reach Outside Their Comfort Zone

Molinsky studied a variety of people to find out how some people are able to take the leap and step outside their comfort zone, rise to the challenge, and build confidence. I read his book with lots of interest and also watched his TED Talk youtube.com/TEDtalk While I was reading it I kept thinking about the students in my small groups, especially those in my emotion regulation groups. People with anxiety are masters at avoidance and frequently lack confidence which Molinsky discussed at length. When I lead small groups I am trying to help students develop attitudes that allow them to be courageous and develop new skills. The author talked about how to customize interventions so a person can act on their convictions to try new behaviors. He discusses clarity which is the process of self-talk needed to step out of your comfort zone. He talks about how important practice is to practice new routines. That is exactly why we do role plays and other activities in small groups. As school counselors we are coaching students to adopt what Carol Dweck calls a "learning orientation" where they view practice and making mistakes while learning a new skill a growth opportunity - not further evidence they will never succeed at whatever is challenging them Not Yet!). This book also validated the practice I use when leading small groups of having every member set a personal learning goal related to the topic of the group. For example, I will try a new sport and attend all practices and games without complaining for a 3 month period. That is a great goal but in order for someone who gets anxious trying new things there is a lot of work and practice that must happen to meet the goal. For example, the student would need to develop physical, emotional, and cognitive strategies to be able to be successful. I can tailor the skills I teach based on the goals students are trying to accomplish. A small counseling group is often the best place to help students develop the knowledge, attitude, and skills to step outside their comfort zone and overcome challenges. I devote a large percentage of my time to small group work because I think this venue can help lots of students tackle a lot of challenges with the needed support and opportunity for practice.

Friday, July 7, 2017

#NotAt ASCA17

I don't go to the ASCA National Conference every year for several reasons: 1) it is very expensive; 2) VSCA and the Evidence-based School Counseling Conferences are my favorite PD opportunities that I try to do every year; 3) ASCA can be overwhelming and if you don't have other counselors you know to go with it can be hard to have much fun outside of the scheduled sessions and events; 4) I don't want to leave the beach in July to go to Denver; and 5) you can follow the Conference online.

I do miss some special things about actually being at ASCA: 1) the amazing keynote sessions that have to be experienced in person to really appreciate; 2) the variety of break out sessions to attend; 3) meeting up in person with my online counseling PLN; 4) seeing and talking to vendors in exhibit area; and 5) the RAMP Annual Dinner. I have achieved RAMP twice and am a RAMP reviewer so I know how much hard work goes into the school counseling programs that achieve.

I will be following the Conference in my TweetDeck App at #ASCA17 and #notatASCA17.  I hope the many school counselors who are on their way to Denver have an enjoyable and productive Conference and share their learning online!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Using Music in Large and Small Group Counseling


There are many reasons to use music in school counseling. Music lights up the brain and playing music is even more powerful. Music can evoke powerful emotions. Music can be healing
music-a-powerful-ally

Music can improve listening and concentration skills (there is good research to show playing classical music can help build concentration skills). Music helps students remember key concepts being taught. The Committee for Children recognized this and incorporates songs for each of the main units in Second Step. Our younger students love “The Problem Solving Song.” Singing the four steps helps put them into long term memory.

There are many great artist that produce powerful songs for young children. My favorite is Red Grammar. At my former school we taught the whole school his song "teaching Peace" and sang it during our annual peace walk through the neighborhood. He has many songs that can facilitate teaching social emotional learning. If you don't know his work I strongly encourage you to check out his site www.redgrammer.com

My new favorite is Emily Arrow emilyarrow.com I really like that most of her songs have a direct link to children's literature, many books that I already use with groups or in the classroom. There are also some good Disney songs you might want to use although I usually try to avoid promoting commercial characters but the kids love "You've Got a Friend in Me." www.youtube.com

There are also some good music videos with lyrics under Character sites like Respect Song Video - Classroom Mix Version www.youtube.com Responsibility song  www.youtube.com Respect Rap only www.youtube.com are a few of the ones I have used.

For students in grades 2-5 there are many popular songs that can be used as a hook for a lesson are incorporated more fully. My lessons are taught around themes so most of these songs go along with one of my monthly themes like goal setting, assertiveness,bullying, emotions, empathy, compassion, diversity, kindness or friendship. You have to be very careful to read all the lyrics first to see if they are acceptable to your learning community. I frequently introduce the song by reading the lyrics as a poem. Then I often have the students chant the words in rhythm or even clap while reading them. Sometimes vocabulary or phrases need to be clarified. After they know and understand the words then I play it or them. I always put the lyrics on the Smartboard so they can sing along if they are comfortable (sometime we dance, clap, or even use rhythm sticks). I frequently ask the students to reflect on the song with questions such as, "Does the song remind you of something in your own life?"

Goals and Optimism:
The Best Day of My Life by American Authors  www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)
The Climb by Miley Cyrus www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)
Firework by Katy Perry www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing) Review lyrics carefully
Hurricane by The Vamps www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)

Assertiveness and Self-Esteem:
Roar by Katy Perry www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)
Hero by Mariah Carey www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing) Review lyrics carefully
Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)

Bullying:
Mean by Taylor Swift  www.youtube.com (suggest stopping after first 3 versus)
True Colors www.youtube.com (lyrics music video)

Diversity and Self-Esteem:
Cool Kids by Echosmith  www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)
Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)

Emotions:
Happy by Pharrell Williams www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)

Kindness:
Kind-hearted Hand by Peter Seltzer www.youtube.com  (lyrics and singing)

Friendship:
Stand By Me by Ben E. King www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)
Count on Me by Bruno Mars www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)

New Comers Welcome
Home by Phillip Phillips www.youtube.com (lyrics and singing)

Feel free to leave a Comment if you have others you have used successfully in a group or classroom.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Organizing Effective Groups Part 2

When I am planning a group I decide which of the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors I want to address. I select one or two Mindsets for each group and then usually one (but sometimes two) Behaviors per session. I do this based on the overall need/issue being addressed, some of the possible reasons, and my own experience in the area of need (like anxiety). The ASCA Behaviors selected are used to develop perception measures for each session and what I want to measure in the Pre-Post Group Survey. I also list the main materials, most of which should be evidence-based, that I am going to use in my group. As a RAMP reviewer I have seen counselors try to address 3-4 Behaviors in a single session and that is not feasible. If you need more help with the refer to the ASCA National Model Implementation Guide. The Guide is the most practical of the books in the ASCA Model series and a must study if you want to achieve RAMP!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Organizing Effective Groups


I love doing groups but in the school setting you have to be extremely organized and maximize every minute especially if you are required to do them during lunch. Research has shown that the minimum number of sessions and time to have an effective group is 8 thirty minute sessions with follow up. Because some sessions at lunch end up being in the 20-25 minute range I always plan for 10 sessions and I purposely plan the last 2 for every other week. It usually happens naturally because there is a holiday of field trip so group gets postponed. For all my groups each member has a folder. They always take their own "attendance." For grades 2-5 I always indicate the main aim (title) of each session on the sheet. People like to know why they are in a meeting and what is going to be covered, that goes for children too. It is good teaching to tell them the learning objectives upfront and remind them what was covered in summary. Clear routines and procedures maximize effectiveness. I do not develop separate group rules. Our students know how to make rules because my school uses Responsive Classroom and this year all the rules must be based on CARES: Cooperation, Assertiveness, Responsibility, Empathy, Self-Control. I just add the participation and confidentiality rule. I review these the first session and ask/tell members we can add others as needed. I always review confidentiality again the second session and the last. I remind students confidentiality extends beyond the "life" of the group. I follow a general agenda or outline in each session. This is especially important in my groups for students with anxiety. The first session we do some type of introduction icebreaker, for the others I use some type of check-in round. The members or asked to either say their energy level on a scale of 1-5, their high and low of the week, or the emotion word that best describes their current mood. This allows me to know if the members are doing okay and I can go with my "planned" agenda or if I need to further explore what is going on with a member or maybe even the whole group. Check back for more group tips later.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Mindfulness Practice in Schools


One of the first things I teach students when introducing Mindfulness is "Anchor Breath." Just like a ship's anchor keeps the boat from drifting away, teaching children to use their breath to anchor themselves in the present moment is an important building block for living mindfully. For young children you should start with a picture of a boat with an anchor attached. They should pick an anchor spot like their heart or belly to place their hand over to feel their body's response to each mindful breath. In The Way of Mindful Education Rechtschaffen  offers a two-part Anchor Breath Script to teach anchor breathing. Listening to a script or a chime helps students begin to pair listening and breath awareness. Learning to breathe deliberately trains students to think first and then plan a response, enabling mindful behavior.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mindful Movements


If you feel intimated by yoga and mindfulness this simple book, Mindful Movements – Ten Exercises for Well-Being, is a great way to get started. Written by Thich Nhat Hanh, Mindful Movements became so popular, the ten exercises are now an integral part of many retreats. The exercises are based on both yoga and tai chi movements, creating simple yet effective exercises that can reduce mental, physical, and emotional stress.

The ten routines are easily accessible to anyone and can be performed by people of all ages and abilities, whether they’re familiar with mindful practices or not. They can be done any time a bit of refreshment is needed for mind and body. The exercises are an easy way to get acquainted with mindfulness for those new to meditation, as well as a welcome break for current practitioners.

It is suggested that each movement should be carried out three times before proceeding to the next. Body movements should be flowing and graceful, done slowly and mindfully. Each movement is coordinated with the breath. Each movement allows us to practice sensitivity and awareness to the body, the breath, and the interconnectedness between our body, our breathing and our mind. Each exercise is fully illustrated by Wietske Vriezen, a Dutch artist and movement teacher. The print version of the book includes a 35-minute DVD featuring Thich Nhat Hanh and members of his Plum Village Sangha (a devotional group) demonstrating the ten mindful movements. I use them with my anxiety groups.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mindfulness and Yoga in Classrooms


If you are interested in incorporating mindfulness and yoga in classroom lessons next year I recommend watching this video https://vimeo.com/119439978 There are many other great resources available through this website mindfulmomentsinedu.com

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Yoga Poses for ASD


If you do small group counseling or have classes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) here is a resource of 5 yoga poses to improve sensory information processing, communication, self-regulation, and motor control. These skills apply to other areas in life, ultimately helping those with ASD to lead more balanced, healthy, socially integrated, and independent lives yoga-poses-for-autism/

Monday, June 12, 2017

Learn More About Kids Yoga



National Kids Yoga Conference will be held in Old Town Alexandria, VA .yokid.org/ October 13-15, 2017. Learn more how to combine yoga, mindfulness, and social emotional learning.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Mindful Moments



The five principles laid out in the book Yoga Calm for Children, are a good way to incorporate mindfulness in schools. Mindful Moments Cards cover a wide range of experience, emotion and imagination. Some help students remember positive events in our lives. Others help students imagine successful futures. All help develop mindfulness, focus and relaxation skills. They can be used with yoga or alone. The cards would work well for a class morning meeting or for a warm-up at the beginning of a lesson or small group session. I use them in my emotion regulation small groups and my class lesson on self-regulation.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Yoga Books for Kids


These are two of the books I like to share with kids about yoga. I usually use them in small groups. They help children understand that yoga can change how they feel on the inside too. Other good books on yoga are: Yoga for Kids (by Lark), Twist: Yoga Poems (by Wong), and You are a Lion and Other Fun Yoga Poses (by Yoo).

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Yoga for Small Groups and Classroom Warm-ups


This year I made the effort to incorporate music into small group sessions and classroom lessons. My goal for next school year is to use more yoga to improve self-regulation, body awareness, and focus. I like this book about incorporating yoga into the classroom that applies five principles: Stillness, Listening, Grounding, Strength, and Community. It also utilizes the Hoberman sphere (which I have in my office) to establish the correct rhythm of breathing and for small groups to gather around and hold onto as they do activities like a compliment game. I also plan to use more chair yoga because the students could practice them on their own when they need to regulate themselves once they know how to do the poses. There are free chair yoga resources available at kidsyogastories.com/ My favorite yoga pose to teach children is Eagle because it involves crossing the mid-line which helps children focus, attend, and learn better in the classroom. Learn about mid-line exercises at crossing-the-midline-activities

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