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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Appreciating Happy Experiences

The MindUp Curriculum from the Hawn Foundation teaches the physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits of reliving happy experiences fully and mindfully. Remembering a happy memory releases the "feel-good" chemicals in our brain that flooded it at the time of the actual experience. When teaching that appreciating happy memories can help overcome sadness and insecurity, I use the delightful children's book Harry the Happy Mouse (2015) by n.g.k. Harry helps a Frog, but asks the Frog to repay the kindness to someone else. The book follows the good deed as it moves through other characters, who each selflessly help someone else, making themselves feel happy in the process! There are coloring and games that go with the book at harrythehappymouse that I have used with English Language Learners. But for my tier 2 first grade group my activity sheet for this session comes comes from a resource I have used for close to 10 years from MARCO colorful-counseling-with-cd/ by R. Sheritz Sartori & R. Hood Herrman. The Happy Memories sheet is from the Loss section of this worthwhile resource. My first graders in my Emotion Regulation group which we call "All Feelings are OK" enjoyed writing, drawing, and sharing 3 happy memories. They were visibly happier when they left the counseling office than when we began group!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Personal Safety Resource

Its hard to listen to the news for a week without hearing a horrifying story about sexual abuse. This week 60 Minutes told the story of one of the US Olympic Team physicians sexually abusing female gymnasts under the guise of "treatment." Parents struggle with how to talk about sensitive topics without scaring their kids. Sunny's Time to Tell by Julie Mendenhall available at https://youthlight.com does a great job of giving children strategies to handle difficult situations and how to know when and whom to tell. Julie is an elementary school counselor. She provides an Appendix that serves as a guide for educators using this resource in school and "Tips for Parents" as well. For more resources for kids, parents, and teachers go to childhelp.org/hotline/ 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Kindness Rhyme for Kids - You Are Amazing!

This is a good short video that emphasizes being kind to self. I use it in grade 2.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Effects of Kindness on the Brain

There is science behind teaching children to be kind, about empathy, and practice compassion.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin proved that training students in compassion that involved practicing on loved ones, themselves,strangers, and finally someone they had conflicts with for 7 hours makes them more likely to act with compassion edu/brain-can-be-trained-in-compassion

Kindness Boomerang - "One Day"

This is the video I use in my fourth grade during the kindness lesson. Students respond well to the concept of passing along random acts of kindness without the expectation of anything in return. The also like short videos, especially those with music. I think this one definitely enhances my lesson and makes it more likely to "stick" with the students.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Preparing and Starting Small Groups

The most important stage of successful groups is pre-group planning. I taught group counseling in a graduate program for 10 years and my graduate students heard me say this over and over. I start groups by looking at the referral reasons and screening students to see if they are willing to participate in a group. In the fall most of my referrals come from parents and my prior knowledge of students, but the round I begin second semester is primarily focused on students who teachers feel need tier 2 support. I build my group sessions around the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors and student needs, If I can find quality resources for small groups I am delighted to use the plans and activities others have spent time piloting. The groups I am starting this week for my third graders are based on two resources I shared back in October. 
Boys: I am adapting seven lessons from First Steps to Social Success by Senn youthlightsocialsuccess for my KNIGHTS group with boys. I selected the knight theme to tie this group together because that is our school mascot. Our first activity is a shield that helps identify strengths and uniqueness. I constructed the pre/psot group survey based on what I thought they needed and the objectives for each session.
Girls: I am implementing the group StarBound by Miller youthlightstarBound with the girls. We used the StarBound resource with a fifth grade group that started in the fall and meets every other week but this resource has multiple activities with each session topic so you can implement it in more than one grade level (it is a grade 3-8 resource). The StarBound resource is linked to the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors. Depending on how many sessions and what activities you select it covers most of the Mindsets and many of the Behaviors. I prefer to focus on 1-2 Behaviors a session so I selected: B-LS 1 B-LS 2; B-SMS 1 B-SMS 7; and B-SS 1 B-SS 2 B-SS 4 B-SS 5 B-SS 6 B-SS 7 B-SS 8
StarBound has a student survey but I created my own because I prefer to gather Perception Data with the type of pre/post surveys explained in the ASCA National Model Implementation Guide nationalmodelbooks Most of mine use a Likert scale with an even number of choices, forcing a positive or negative (rather than neutral) response. I also use scaling techniques to describe beliefs and open ended questions to assess knowledge.
When students come to the first session of group I have a folder for each member ready to go with a cover that is our opening session main activity, an attendance sheet with topics for each session, a copy of group rules or group contract, and the pre-group survey. I keep these folders in my office and everything members do gets kept in them to go home after the last session, except the pre/post-group surveys. Time is precious in group so this level of preparation is needed so I can focus on the process aspect of group once students are in my office.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kindness in 5 Words

Since today is ValenKIND Day I had my fourth graders summarize the big ideas we talked about kindness in 5 words. They did a good job writing about mindfully choosing to be friendly and caring with no expectation of anything in return.
For my lessons in the other classes I made a half sheet with a great example for them to formulate their Kindness in 5 words.

Happy ValenKIND Day!

Our SCA is currently spear heading a kindness challenge that includes randomactsofkindnessweek,  I am always happy to collaborate with the SCA and grateful I am not the staff member in charge. I call today ValenKIND Day and will be reminding everyone to be kind to themselves, those you love, and those who need love!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sharing DATA to Show Results

I loved seeing school counselors promoting their programs last week and really liked those wise counselors who used NSCW week as an opportunity to share results with stakeholders. They inspired me to do my first DATA report of the year on the two emotion regulation groups I wrapped up last week. Actually analyzing the pre-post surveys validated my belief that I would meet the goal and gave me plenty of ideas for how I can improve these groups next year. I use the DATA report from the third edition of "Making DATA Work" which aligns with the third edition of "The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs". "Making DATA Work" complements the ASCA National Model by providing step-by-step implementation strategies, skill-building activities, examples and resources to help school counselors develop program goals, collect and analyze data and share their findings with key stakeholders. I publish these reports in a variety of ways including sharing it with district supervisors, the school counseling program  advisory council, and hopefully our school board liaison. My stakeholders know about the school counseling program but I need to announce the impact in a way that non-counselors understand!

Friday, February 10, 2017

College/Career Readiness #NSCW17

ASCA wanted school counselors to promote college and career readiness today, the last day of National School Counseling Week. I don't ask my students what they want to be when they grow up (today's sign) because many will do jobs that do not currently exist. We promote the exploration of the 16 career clusters and talk about all postsecondary options. Staff and students are encouraged to wear college gear the first Friday of each month that students are in school. Staff is proud to show off their favorite college(s). I am in the picture with our library staff and their beautiful bulletin board!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I love being a school counselor #NSCW17

We got a harsh reminder if why it is so important for us to inform stakeholders about our programs. After our Counseling Supervisor gave our school board the annual update on the counseling program and suggested adding a career specialist at each middle school and more elementary counselors, a board member responded that the money is not in the budget for additional staff. It was suggested that teachers could do academic advising and she mentioned a school that does not have a counselor as a model. At our monthly meeting this week there was a lot of venting about the board comments. We concluded that we need to be more proactive in informing stakeholders about all the components of our program and especially the need for mental health support. This morning I tweeted this picture to my school board not because I love having my picture taken but because I want every student to have good access to school counseling. I am wearing my "iHelp" t-shirt that is the logo we use to brand our program.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Reading opinions from students and staff about our role

I enjoy reading the comments counselor's received on the ASCA "I love my school counselor because" today on Twitter from their students and staff. Some even created videos of these signs. I love getting feedback from my students. I told the first grader who wrote me this note that I was keeping her sign in my smile file. I have kept a smile file for over 20 years. At the end of the year I usually reread the many cards and notes I have received and keep just a few. These notes raise the level of dopamine in my brain and make me feel appreciated and happy! I encourage all counselors to save some of the pictures and notes you get to reread on those difficult days when the job can seem overwhelming.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

School Not Guidance Counselor

I really appreciate the hard work of ASCA and the state branches advocating and supporting school counseling programs based on the ASCA National Model.I encourage you all to purchase the t-shirt and mugs sporting this logo which brands us as school counselors.catalog

Three years ago the Virginia School Counselors were successful in lobbying the Department of Education to change the language at the state level from guidance counselors to school counselors. That was an important step because now our state certification reads "School Counselor PreK-12."

At the local level it is important we continue to let stakeholders know we are School Counselors who lead comprehensive programs and do so much more than the academic "guidance" of the past. It is small things like the signs on our office doors that read "Guidance Office" when they should say "School Counseling Office" or "School Counselor." It educating our teachers that we deliver the School Counseling Core Curriculum preparing our students for the future not the vocational guidance of the past century.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Celebrating the Support Staff Give to School Counseling Program

My staff know I love tea, therefore, I don't think anyone will be too surprised that I am providing tea to promote school counseling and thank them for their collaboration. I also completed the Certificate of Appreciation provided by ASCA NSCW/2017certificate Normally I give the certificate and a gift to all the members of our School Counseling Advisory Council but our meeting was last week so this year I am going to display one certificate for the whole staff next to my tea station in the Teachers' Lounge. 

NSCW Theme 2017

National School Counseling Week 2017, "School Counseling: Helping Students Realize Their Potential," will be celebrated from Feb. 6-10, 2017, to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems. National School Counseling Week, sponsored by ASCA, highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. Each year ASCA picks a theme for the week. It fits well with our Mission Statement, "The Nottingham School Counseling Program is dedicated to helping all students establish their unique academic, career, and social emotional goals so they can reach their maximum potentials." 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Spread the Word: NSCW

It is almost National School Counseling Week (NSCW) and I hope all school counselors will use this as an opportunity to promote their counseling programs. Branding and marketing create engagement with stakeholders. These 2 slides are from a presentation my part-time counselor and I did a few years ago for the Virginia School Counselor Association Annual Conference. The entire PowerPoint is available at www.livebinders When you think of your marketing plan for NSCW consider your particular stakeholders and community. Our district counseling supervisor presented to our school board a few nights ago and our superintendent and a board member were invited to make opening remarks at our all day inservice yesterday. My principal recognized NSCW at our staff meeting this past Thursday. I will be tweeting out every day this week and sending my tweets to the feed followed by our school board members and senior staff. I have the flyer I shared last week hanging in key locations in my school because we are predominantly a walking school so parents are in the building daily. I also will be a walking advertisement this w eek wearing all my counseling logo gear! I will use the free tools from ASCA schoolcounselor.org/ I am advocating for a better raitio elementary counselors so we need to let our stakeholders know we work with ALL students. I hope all school counselors take advantage of NSCW to brand and market school counseling.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Choose Kindness Theme: Books Kindergarten - Grade 3

Our district has adopted MindUp and Second Step as the foundation of our tier 1 lessons because they are evidenced based. Both curriculum encourage the use of literature to supplement the lessons. MindUp has a strong emphasis on optimism and lesson in both the K-2 and 3-5 curriculum to teach gratitude and kindness. Here are some books to reinforce the MindUp definition of kindness which ties it to mindfulness. Kindness means caring about or helping someone or something. It is a mindful choice. In kindergarten and first grade I teach 2 lessons on most themes (20 minutes) and 1 lesson (30 minutes) in grades 2-5.

Most kindergarten students perform small acts of kindness frequently. I use this book to talk about what it looks like and sounds like to be kind (see Anchor chart). There are other ideas that you might use for extension activities like may a class book how_can_i_be_kind_unit_intro.pdf The "Be Kind" handout has students draw and label a heart with what kindness looks like and sounds like.

For my second lesson on kindness in kindergarten I read What Does It Mean To Be Kind?
I am fortunate to have a PTA that buys me the books for my lessons but if you do not own this book there is a good reading youtube.com/whatdoesitmean For lesson plan ideas for this book check out kindnessadventure

Kindness is Cooler Mrs. Ruler shows how a teacher makes a difference when she stops mean behavior and then reinforces acts of kindness. Since I do 2 lessons in first grade on kindness the first time I have the children draw and label two picture of ways to be kind at home and schools. Again if you are not lucky enough to own this book there is a good reading of it at

MindUp encourages using pleasant memories to prime the brain for happiness and to be kind. I use recalling a happy memory as the hook for my second lesson on kindness in first grade illustrates very quickly how one small random act of kindness can spread like a ripple. In my second lesson identify who they can be kind to - they are encouraged to list self, people they know, and the larger community.  The handout explains the lesson to parents (top paragraph) and asks them to write a happy memory. This is a very good lesson plan to guide discussion of the book OMary.pdf

I used Ripple's Effect last year for the first time to teach kindness to second grade. I used materials from ripples_effect_lesson_plan to supplement the MindUp curriculum.

Each Kindness is a wonderful book that also talks about how an act of kindness can spread and missed opportunities to be kind. There are several resources for lesson plans for this book but this is the one I use for third grade each-kindness

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Choose Kindness Theme: Random Acts of Kindness (RAK)

The counseling program theme for February is Choose Kindness. We use MindUp mindup.org/which emphasizes optimism, gratitude, and kindness. The definition for in the MindUp curriculum for K-2 is "Kindness means caring about or helping someone or something. It is a mindful choice." In the 3-5 curriculum the definition is "Kindness is a mindful choice to treat someone or something is a friendly,caring way." I like how theri definition blends mindfulness and kindness.
If you want to do a schoolwide Kindness month checkout  simpleacts.org/kindness-month Another great resource for kindness is randomactsofkindness.org/ It gives educators great ideas about how to bring kindness into the classroom. We do RAK week based on their materials and highlight RAK Day of February 17 nationalday