It is critical in bullying prevention that the entire school use the same definition of bullying. My school used the BullyingUnit from Committee for children as the basis for the counselor delivered lessons. I still found some of the students, staff, and parents were not clear on what is bullying and what is peer conflict. Lat year I taught all K-grade 2 students that bullying is MOO: Mean, it happens Over and Over, and it is done On Purpose. For grades 3-5 I added another O: One-sided to match the definition in the curriculum. I had a cow puppet I took in with me as a hook: What does the cow say? This was my most successful attempt in teaching the definition of bullying. I recommend you find a way to teach a common definition school-wide.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Every year in October PBS runs the video that goes with this book about Spookley the Square Pumpkin who was bullied because he was different. It is a great way to introduce this hard topic to kindergarten. Our survey data last Spring showed once again that our Students with Disabilities report higher rates of bullying in both 5th and 6th grades and 7th - 12th. I also like that this bulletin board is primarily orange so it is easy to tie in with Unity Day that is on October 24. Wear and share orange to show we are together against bullying and UNITED for kindness, acceptance an inclusion. This theme helps discuss why it is important to include everyone at school. For more resources on Unity Day go to pacer.org
Saturday, October 6, 2018
As you plan your school year it is important to figure out a schedule that maps the number of rounds of groups that will be offered. The diagram above reflects what my part-time counselor and I did last year. We started groups at the end of September over 9 weeks (8 sessions with one week for make-ups) then started round 2, and a smaller number of groups the final round. Looking at the numbers of participants, perception data, and outcome data can drive your plan for this school year. We always have the highest demand for groups in kindergarten through grade 3. We rarely offer special groups like Children of Divorce, Adoption, or Allergies because our schedule requires us to do groups within a single grade. Completing a simple table like the one above makes it easier to complete the ASCA Small Group Action Plan.
Friday, June 15, 2018
About ten years ago I attended a session at the Virginia School Counselor Association Annual Conference by an elementary counselor who took duplicate and donated books on some common topics and created Parent Packs that were like a folder with two books. She tried to find one book for parents and one book for children. I brought that idea back and expanded upon it to include a binder with an overview of the topic, lists of books, websites/bogs, and later added Apps and other resources like DVDs to some of the Pack. We try to include a couple of books for children (spreading them out usually by developmental level or variations of the issue). We have found tote bags work well to contain the binders and books. The packs used to hand on racks in my office but they took up valuable space and the weight of the books frequently weakened the bags. Now they are in 6 large tubs in our Teachers Lounge. Each pack contains a simple evaluation form for parents and another one for the child to complete before the pack is returned. The packs are checked out by the counselor and generally returned to the front office. They are signed out in a book and if they don't come back in 3 weeks we send an email. Parents LOVE these packs and sometimes end up ordering the books so they can keep them. Many families have borrowed 3 or more of the packs. They save the counselors lots of time sharing information and resources about topics we encounter in parent consultation. This year we created 11 new packs including ones on Grief (Suicide), ASD - high functioning, and Gender Identity. We also add new books on topics as we find ones that are more up to date or helpful.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
This is the overall program report I share on my school blog to summarize what services were offered by the counseling program.
2017-2018 Program Report
This report highlights some of the services provided by the Nottingham School Counseling Program during the 2017-2018 school year. These services meet the program’s mission of helping all students establish their unique academic, career, and personal/social goals so they can reach their maximum potentials. To meet the needs of the whole child, counselors help all students overcome challenges that interfere with their learning and development. Through advocacy and fostering of a safe and inclusive school climate, counselors ensure that all students have equity and access to a challenging curriculum, needed resources, and support. By collaborating with staff, families, and community members, the school counseling program prepares all students to be successful lifelong learners, effective problem solvers, and responsible global citizens in a changing society.
The counselor taught the following number of lessons: sixteen 20 minute lessons in kindergarten and first grade; and ten 30 minute lessons in grades second – fifth.
Small Group Counseling
The counselors lead a variety of social/emotional and academic groups and the school psychologist and social worker each led one group. There were 54 small groups conducted averaging 8 sessions each; 261 students participated in groups. Groups delivered by grade level were: Kindergarten 14, 1st 11, 2nd 10, 3rd 8, 4th 7, and 5th 4. In addition, all kindergarten students participated in 2-3 lunch bunch sessions with a counselor.
The counselors meet with students one-to-one to discuss issues related to academic success as well as social emotional concerns. Number of students seen individually: 80 Average number of sessions per student: 6. Number of students needing risk assessment: 7. The top 3 reasons for referrals for counseling were: Social skills/peer conflict; 2) Self/Emotional Regulation; 3) Bullying. Anxiety decreased from the top reason for referral to #6 (415 decrease due to more classroom lessons and groups on topic). Social skills/peer conflict referrals increased 100%.
Enrollment for K-5 was 526 students. Nottingham had 1.2 counselors with a ratio of 1:438. Direct services are in-person interactions between school counselors and students. All students were taught the school counseling core curriculum. Over half of students were seen in individual and/or small group settings. The counselors provide a range of indirect services including consultation with parents/guardians, collaboration with staff, and referrals/consultation with outside mental health service providers. They also run a highly popular lending library of Family Resource Packs for families.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
It is very important in running an ASCA Model School Counseling Program to collect, analyze, and share data. I log all students referred for individual counseling (those seen 3 or more times that I get permission to see); I do not log every child who stops to ask me questions or is upset about a playground disagreement with a friend. If you log the details of referrals by date, grade, reason for referral, etc and do an intervention a change in referrals can be outcome data. For my SMART goal for my own teacher evaluation I was trying to get a reduction in the number of students I needed to see for individual counseling for anxiety. I did classroom lessons at two grade levels and groups for emotional regulation in grades 1st - 5th. Anxiety went from being the number one referral reason to number six and the data showed a 41% decrease. I log my individual referrals EVERY DAY before I leave the building. I look at the data at the end of each quarter to determine what interventions the counseling program should be offering. I share this data with staff, parents, my advisory council, and other elementary counselors in my district. Data is a great way to show how students are different as a result of a comprehensive, data-driven counseling program.
Monday, June 11, 2018
Gender identity is how someone describes their own gender. Generally this is one’s sense of being male or female, but gender identity and expression are fluid and intricate, with many variations. To learn more go to bstigmafree.org Although it's not really known how many children identify as transgender, advocates surmise some are now more likely to "come out" and transition at younger ages than in years past because of greater public awareness of the issue. There are also transgender teachers and parents so counselors need resources for this issue. These resources are primarily for children and parents but counselors may increase their own sense of how to support children regarding gender identity from The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids: A Guide to Exploring Who You Are and The Conscious Parent's Guide to Gender Identity: A Mindful Approach to Embracing Your Child's Authentic Self (The Conscious Parent's Guides) The picture books support teaching children about the fluidity of gender and the importance of acceptance. Also check out genderspectrum.org
Sunday, June 10, 2018
As school counselors we work with children with ADHD every day. We do lots of consulting with parents of children with ADHD helping them know what to do and supporting them in doing it. I admit I am biased in favor of Mindfulness but research shows it is an effective intervention for ADHD. Bertin's book points out that mindfulness aims to build various traits that make the ups and downs of life easier to handle Mindfulness can help both the parents and child manage ADHD. Mindfulness can give both the child and parents skills in coping with the stress that surrounds ADHD. This book is written in an easy to read style with examples and steps to follow. I will be sharing this book with families. I also always encourage parents to check outchadd.org/fact-sheets-on-adhd and join the local chapter and attend their support group meetings.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
explains the sensory system puzzle and the who and what of a sensory diet. The thoughtful tools in this book provide intervention strategies to support and challenge the sensory systems through meaningful and authentic sensory diet tactics based on the environment, interests, and sensory needs of each individual child. The data collection sheets, screening forms, checklists, and schedulers in this book provide a blueprint for weaving sensory diet strategies into sensory-filled days.
As counselors we see children with a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) that have often been getting Occupational Therapy (OT) since preschool.
There is a significant over-lap in symptoms in what is now called “Misophonia” and SPD Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR). Misophonia describes a neurologically based disorder in which auditory stimuli (and sometimes visual) is misinterpreted within the central nervous system. Individuals with misophonia are set off or “triggered” by very specific patterned sounds, such as chewing, coughing, pencil tapping, sneezing etc.
Sensory processing challenges are also co-morbid conditions for students with ADHD, ASD, and Explosive Disorder. One small-scale study suggested that as many as five to 16 percent of school-age students have these challenges; therefore, as counselors we need to stay up on a school sensory diet and what can help families send their children into school in the morning well regulated. I always inquire about sleep hygiene and offer suggestions to help with sleep and bedtime routine which are covered in this book.
I collaborate closely with my school OT because many of the children referred for tier 2 groups are on her case load. The high percentage of these kids in our school is another reason I requested dynamic flexible seating from our PTA (e.g., therapy balls).
I will be sharing this Handbook with parents in the new Family Resource Pack I created this spring. It also contains Making-Sense-Your-Senses-Processing
Friday, June 8, 2018
"Happiness is a choice. Be happy." That's the essential message of Yabuki's picture book. To illustrate life's struggles and the actions that can help them seem less daunting, she presents a series of photographs featuring a small, whitish rock named Ishi, with dot eyes and a mouth that changes to reflect its mood.This book encourages others to choose and share happiness. This book can be used in a variety of groups such as emotion regulation or social skills. After reading and discussing mindfulness the story, group members can make their our own rock friends that could remind them to be happy and spread kindness.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
The hallmark of anxious thoughts is imagining al the "what ifs" that could possibly go wrong. The Key message of this children's book is "Remember to not believe all that you think, and slowly those fears will begin to shrink." Anxiety can confuse kids because it is a false prediction. Their brain is tricking them to believe something (that is dangerous) is present when it is not. It is hard to retrain a child who has chronic worrisome thoughts. This book encourages focusing on what is good and talking to a trusted adult. The books uses the metaphor of an umbrella to keep the stormy thoughts away. This book can be used in individual counseling, in an emotion management group, or sent home as a resource to families.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
This new book is a great nonjudgmental exploration of stereotypes. Pink is for Boys byRobb Pearlman celebrates all colors being for everyone and many things. It is a great inclusive message to give ALL children. This book offers a great way to promote diversity in your school especially in the early grades before stereotypes get so strong they are hard to overcome. If you need resources on diversity education for your school check out diversity-toolkit
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Some of the signs of self-regulation difficulties in children include ongoing struggles with concentration (e.g., being unable to listen in a group lesson), looking sad and bored in daily activities (e.g., playing with others), or becoming easily upset and anxious so they are unable to move on. My second graders in self-regulation groups love "Hunter and His Amazing Remote Control". The story book has been around awhile but it has been redone and now includes a complete self-regulation program with a CD to reproduce all pages, as well as a kit and poster.
Hunter's Amazing Remote Control buttons include:
Channel Changer - Filtering out distractions
Pause - Stopping to think relax and create a plan
Fast Forward - Thinking before acting
Rewind - Shifting focus from past failure to future change
Slow Motion - Slowing down and managing stress
Coach - Problem solving
Zapper - Recognizing and rejecting negative thinking
Way to Go! - Using positive self-talk
The guide has discussion questions to go along with the book and creative activities to introduce, teach and practice the strategies. The guide has 10 units, it begins with "Our Amazing Differences, then has a unit for each button, and ends with "Self-control." The Remote Control can be adapted (I only introduce 6 in grade 2) and children can add their own based on their individual needs. I highly recommend this set of materials for self-regulation youthlight.com
Monday, June 4, 2018
These are my top 3 children's books about grief. Kids who experience loss appreciate a book that helps them understand their feelings and how to move on without their love one being physically present. I like wordens-four-tasks-of-mourning/ especially the idea that they can come in any order. Grief is unique, not only to the person, but also to each loss. I remember working with three children in one family who lost their mom to cancer. Each child handled the loss differently and needed different types of support. The one thing they had in common was they did find reading about loss helped them process their own grief. I loaned their dad one of our Family Resource Packs and they kept it for 1-1/2 years. He said the kids kept going back and reading the books so he did not return it until they said they did not need the books anymore. I wish I had had these 3 in the pack back then, but I am glad to have them available now for the next child that is grieving. I always encourage families to consider making a memory box so I was very glad when The Memory Box was published and we added it to the counseling resources.
Friday, June 1, 2018
This book has darling illustrations by Erin Wozniak and a simple story line. The rocks spend their days rolling down the hill while enjoying the company of other rocks. The main character is Ricky, and he has a difference that keeps him from rolling down the hill. Rather than his friends leaving him out, the rocks and pebbles band together to help him be included.
All elementary counselors should have access to this book. It would be a perfect read aloud to a class about including students that are different in some way (IEPs, 504, and ELL). It could also be used in a friendship group to teach the idea about including everyone in games at school or problem solving.
Finally, it could be recommended to parents of children (ages 4-8) with some obvious difference or parents of typical children trying to figure out how to include a peer (or sibling) with special needs.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
I just got the "Mind Your Mindset" 10 lesson curriculum. This is a perfect tier 1 set of lessons that include many key concepts and skills. Mindset can be hard to explain to students but Lesson 1 in this program, An Introduction to Mindset, does it very clearly. Lesson 5, Perfecting Your Goal-Setting Mindset, is an engaging way to teach SMART goals. The lesson opens with an animated sequence and then moves on using clear visuals showing the steps to her goal. I like that the lessons have multiple scenarios and examples because children need repeated practice to acquire the skills they are introduced to in lessons. The lesson I would use if I did not have time to teach them all is seven, The Thoughts We Think, The Words We Say. It uses the analogy of a positive mindset as a big, beautiful balloon and when we say negative thoughts to ourselves, it's like throwing darts at the balloon. The lesson goes on to have a laser blaster that zaps away negative, can't do thoughts.
I am not in the specials rotation, but if I was I would buy all the YouthLight "Smart Guidance" programs. I strongly recommend youthlight/MindYourMindset for any elementary counselor who want to help students see the power of a positive, growth-focused mindset.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
More than 350 million people of all ages in the world suffer from depressions. About 5% of children suffer from depression. Those who experience loss, have learning or conduct issues, and those with anxiety are at higher risk.
Meh is wordless picture book about depression that gives a lot of freedom to readers to reflect, project, and interpret how they best see and understand the story. Especially poignant is how the cat is open to interpretation as to what may be helping the boy get out of his depression — and creates an important opportunity for a person to imagine what help would look like for them. Meh also includes questions that can guide the reader through the story.
This book is applicable to many levels of grief, sadness, and depression for both those suffering directly or indirectly from it. This book gives strength, hope, empathy, and understanding in a very approachable graphic-novel/picture book format. The publisher thunderstoneMeh_Activity-book offers a free booklet of activities to be used in conjunction with this book to help ease feelings of worry and sadness. I include a copy of this book in the Family Resource Pack I loan families who ask for my help with a child who has been diagnosed as depressed or has a close family member with depression.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Aaron Wiemeier and youthlight have again teamed up to provide counselors a resource to teach children important concepts regarding emotions. The new curriculum guide Building Emotional Intelligence focuses on 8 concepts regarding feelings. The curriculum is designed for schools with each of the 46 skill-based lessons taking 20-30 minutes. The curriculum develops self-awareness, motivation, empathy, self-regulation, and social skills. I love the use of the wind metaphor in lesson one (can't see it but we know it is there) taught using a pinwheel. My other favorite is lesson 14 - Coping Tool Versus Coping Skill. We introduce tools to children a lot in counseling but do not practice them enough so they become skills. This guide has many great lessons to teach healthy coping skills. I think this curriculum could be used in small groups and in classroom lessons. Some of the lessons could also be led by teachers in morning meetings if those are done in your school. This is best curriculum guide I have seen this year, I highly recommend it!
My Feelings Workbook, Wiemeier's earlier book, can be used for additional extension activities. This resource can be especially useful when working with children who are experiencing intense emotions such as after a traumatic event.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Sunday, May 27, 2018
"Hugo Learns to Trust Again" is a simple book about a young chimp who looses his home and mother. Hugo eventually ends up with a loving caregiver and begins to trust again. Along with the book comes a CD containing many activities that promote discussions with children and tips for care givers. A 2014 study showed that nearly half of all children in the United States are exposed to at least one traumatic social or family experience; therefore, I recommend all elementary counselors adding this resource to their bookshelf. It is available at youthlight.com
Saturday, May 26, 2018
This sweet book is just what I have been searching for the past few years. This is the first book by this author translated from French to English. It is very hard to find good books about friendships between boys. Since I typically use a book in each friendship small group session this is a treasure. In the story the parents are uncomfortable by how the boys seem to love one another. This can be discussed or just serve as exposure to the idea that people do love others of the same gender. Children need to be able to connect to the characters in the story and for young students I have found it can be hard for some kids to make a text to self connection if the child is not their gender.
In the fall I typically run mixed gender groups but the second and third rounds of groups I frequently split boys and girls and keep the groups smaller. I focus each session on a specific ASCA Mindset and Behavior and a competency that gets at the skill that session is designed to teach because our groups are psycho-educational. This book would work for a number of skills such as Identify characteristics of friendship or List behaviors that keep friends. This book could be used with kindergarten through grade 2.
Friday, May 25, 2018
This beautifully illustrated book can be used to discuss separation, anxiety, grief and loss. It uses nature as a way to connect with our love ones. The web site has a guided discussion plan to use with PreK to grade 2 children sunkissesmoonhugs There are also suggested art activities to use with the book. This could be used by a teacher at the beginning of the school year. The author and illustrator have collaborated on two other books you might want to check out.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
The American Psychological Association defines mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment apa.org. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. The APA tracks the research that indicates mindfulness has many benefits including stress reduction, boost to working memory, less emotional reactivity, relationship satisfaction, and enhanced empathy and compassion. So how can teachers and counselors incorporate mindfulness education into an already overcrowded school day?
Joree Rose wrote a curriculum to teach mindfulness to students comprised of 12 activity-based lessons that cover the foundations of a mindfulness practice. Each 10-15 minute lesson walks the student through how to cultivate that tool, with the activity sheets offered as a way to deepen the understanding and integration of the practice. The lessons begin with a short breathing practice that sets the tone, mood, and mindset to enter into each lesson. Then the leader guides students through each practice (example: Body Awareness). The lessons have discussion questions to lead a verbal conversation about what was just taught. Each lesson has an exercise sheet that becomes like a journal of their mindfulness journey. These activities were designed to be a fun, more interactive and personal way to connecting to the topic, in a way to integrate the tools. This curriculum will help you provide students with valuable coping skills that work on slowing down, being more intentional (doing things on purpose rather than doing them through habit) and increasing awareness and attention to what is happening in each moment. The curriculum is available here youthlight.com I plan to share this resource with my teachers that are interested in incorporating more mindfulness into their classrooms.
This author also wrote "Squirmy Learns to be Mindful". The book could be used in conjunction with
several of the lessons (i.e., breathing, gratitude, compassion, mindfulness of thoughts, and mindfulness of emotions). I know many school counselors will use this curriculum in small groups and they might wish to also purchase "Squirmy" from youthlight.com
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
If you run groups for kids with emotion regulation difficulties this might be a good workbook for your collection. Janine Halloran, a mental health counselor, has organized coping skills in to 4 categories: calming, distraction, physical, and processing. For each category she offers close to 20 techniques to explore. Kids need a variety of coping skills because different types of coping skills will work at different times, in different places, and for different stressors. For example, the goal of the calming exercises is to get from "flight, fight or freeze mode" back to the "rest and digest" mode. She offers many fun types of breathing and grounding activities. The sills in this workbook are very familiar but they are well organized and explained in a clear manner.T he book concludes with a suggestion for writing coping skills cards. I have pulled several exercises from this book for my groups and a few to send home to families to practice.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Our school division is looking for evidence-based resources for our school counseling program. The Peace Center's Bullying Prevention Resource Center in Pennsylvania has put together a program "Girls Unlimited" and published the curriculum through youthlight.com Every girl in grades 6 and 7 could benefit from participation in these 6 forty five minute sessions. Topics include:• How to recognize their own emotions and treat themselves and others with kindness and respect.
•Practical ways to manage their anger or upset
•How to intervene when witnessing relational aggression
•The meaning of self-respect and self-care
•The value of trust
•The importance of women bonding togetherWhile the curriculum is self-explanatory
My favorite part of the curriculum is Power Play which allows participants to discover that they have the ability to trust their own instincts and not hand over their power to others. I like that the evaluation is built in to the curriculum and that the developers are continuing to track the effectiveness of the program.
Although the curriculum is self-explanatory Karin Kasdin, Founding Director of Girls Unlimited does offer one-day facilitator training through thepeacecenter.org I encourage you to check out this evidence-based resource to address relational aggression.
Monday, May 21, 2018
Here is a picture of my new supply of cool fidget tools. I have a whole box of stress balls. We allow students who want to use a fidget tool to use one in class only after they have signed a contract. We use the Responsive Classroom approach so I wrote a description and contract about using the object as a tool not a toy. This has helped regulate the use of these items. We ban anything that makes noise, is messy, or too distracting to peers (like spinners a few years ago). The Monkey Fidget is my favorite because it is small, quiet, and has a marble inside that the student can simply push back and forth inside the small mesh sleeve. The one draw back is it is small and many of the students who need a fidget also are the same kids that loose things easily. We make the students leave their fidgets in their homeroom. We supply fidgets to our special teachers for use in their instructional spaces. I personally believe most of our students could self-regulate and not need fidget tools if we could provide a second 30 minute recess but since that is not going to occur we continue to try to find tools that help children focus. I would rather have them use a fidget I provide that tie their shoelaces together - that used to happen at my former school that did not have a budget for fidgets.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
A 2016 study looked at students in ninth and 11th grade and estimated that nearly 3 percent identify as transgender or gender nonconforming more-u-s-teens-identify-transgender-survey Youth often express non-conforming or “atypical” gender behavior by kindergarten or earlier. While gender variance is common in individuals of all ages, gender non-conforming behavior in pre-adolescents is particularly visible. Obviously these children have lots of questions and they are particularly vulnerable to peer rejection and even bullying. If you need more information on this topic check out genderdiversity.org/best-practices-schools/elementary/
Pictured above are some very sensitive picture books which counselors should have available to help normalize and guide gender-diverse youth and their peers.
My Princess Boy (Kilodavis)
Introducing Teddy (Walton)
Red: A Crayon's Story (Hall)
I Am Jazz (Herthel & Jennings)
The elementary counselors in my district (about 30 of us) reviewed a several books on gender identity and expression and felt these would be a good fit with our community. We each use them in our school in whatever way is needed. It could be in a classroom, individual counseling, or as a resource for families.
If you want to see more go to jocolibrary.bibliocommons.com/list