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 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 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 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.