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