Thursday, May 31, 2018

Classroom Lesson

For those of you who know the YouthLight interactive programs for digital white board and computers, you are probably familiar with the author of this product, Will Moody. I use the program he did "Teaching Self-Regulation" with Brad Chapin in small groups SMART Guidance Program.

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

Book about Depression

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

Resources to Teach Children about Feelings

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

Let's Talk About...Your Fears and Worries

I see lots of students who struggle with stress and various types of anxiety. I recently purchased this inexpensive card game to use in individual sessions. The cards and spinner (wheel) can also be used in emotional regulation groups.  The deck is 101 cards to hep kids and teens change their irrational automatic thoughts to thoughts that are realistic and helpful. This is a skill that needs practice which is what this game is designed to do. The Wheel of Relaxation is used to help players practice relaxation and self-calming techniques so that they can more easily face their fears. The spinner can also be used as a stand alone tool. If you don't have a similar game in your office already, this is one you might want to purchase.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Resource to support children in overcoming trauma

Trust is one of the most complex human emotions is trust. Trust is the strong belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. Trauma can disrupt the emotion of trust, and this can have a lasting impact on a person’s life.  The National Institute of Mental Health (USA) defines childhood trauma as; “The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.” However with the right support it is possible to recover from early trauma. It is recommended to provide children with ongoing opportunities to talk about what they went through without pressuring them to do so.

"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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Boy Friendship Story

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

Grief Resources

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

Mindfulness It's Elementary

The American Psychological Association defines mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment 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 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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Coping Skills

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

Life-Changing Lessons for Girls

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 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 I encourage you to check out this evidence-based resource to address relational aggression.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Use of fidgets and other stress tools

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

Children's Books About Gender Identity

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

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

Resource for Exploring Gender Identity

Kelly Stork, a clinical social worker, has written a new workbook for the valuable Instant Help Books series for Parents and Kids. Transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) children need validation and support on their journey toward self-discovery. Unfortunately, due to stigma and misinformation, these kids can be especially vulnerable to bullying, discrimination, and even mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. The good news is that there are steps parents and counselors can take to empower children as they explore, understand, and affirm their gender identity. This important workbook will guide both parents and children and is an important resource for counselors to have on hand for families to learn about gender.
Learn more about Instant Help Books from New Harbinger Publications When you register your book you get downloadable worksheets and access to instructional videos an audio files.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Resource for Parents of Anxious or Angry Kids

This is a new workbook for parents of children ages 6-12 to use mindfulness and brain science to help reduce anxiety and mood related outbursts. It uses the hornet-brain for the amygdala (fight-or-flight) and hippo-brain for the hippocampus (context and long-term memory). The author is a clinical psychologist who has lots of ideas to help parents develop a home routine that promotes calm and peace of mind. I am including it in one of our Family Resource Packs we loan to families. There are some cute worksheets that could be adapted for a small emotion or self-regulation counseling group. Check out the author's website hornets-and-hippos for a few free worksheet based on the workbook.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Great resources from Magination Press

One of my favorite publishers is Magination Press (American Psychological Association) These are two of the books I got this year. I love Move Your Mood to emphasize how moving can help you self-regulate and improve your mood. Bye Bye Pesky Fly is perfect for an emotion regulation group or a class lesson on dealing with frustration. Check their site frequently because they publish new books often and most of them are great additions to the school counselors bookshelf.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mindful Mantras Series



This is a terrific series on self-regulation, mindfulness, self-esteem, and problem solving.  I use these books in my self-regulation  and emotion management small groups. Teachers like to borrow them to share with the whole class and we include some of them in out Family Resource Packs we send home for parents to borrow. The books come with a link to go to a web site for a free lesson for each book that also has suggestions for parents. The author, Laurie Wright, is a former teacher and one of my new favorite authors!

How to Help Young Children Fit In and Make Friends

This is the time of year counselors are looking for summer reading and resources to buy for next year. My next several posts will be devoted to some materials I have discovered and used that other elementary counselors may find useful. Getting from Me to We by Shonna Tuck a speech language therapist is very useful in working with young children through age 7 with social skill deficits with or without diagnoses of autism, anxiety, or ADHD. Approximately 3 children in every class need extra support to relate to peers (tier two). She has created a simple social skills development ladder that is very practical and useful in identifying gaps and goals around friendships.  As a counselor it has helped me consult with teachers about recess and free time that are the most challenging times of the school day for these kids. I recommend this book to all parents whose children are struggling making and keeping friends.  It has a great chapter on how to manage effective playdates. Since social skills issues are one of our primary reasons for referrals, check out this book.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Tomorrow is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day

Counselors please spread the work that 1 in 5 children in our country have a mental health challenge requiring assistance. If 20% of our children have this challenge, it is obvious that we need more elementary counselors. Children can "get better" with early intervention and without it their future can be a life of chronic mental illness. The national PTA has a powerful position statement on this you might want to share with your own PTA Position-Statement-Early-Identification-and-Interventions-for-Children-with-Mental-Health-Needs

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Research and Standards Based Personal Safety Lessons

Last year our district pilot tested the Committee for Children Child Protection Unit.  We had used other personal safety programs in the past but did not have anything in place across schools. We wanted a program that was evidence-based for our school counseling core curriculum.
A needs assessment in our county had shown that too high a percentage of students in our middle school were reporting that they had been inappropriately touched at school on a confidential survey. Nationally, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse Only one third of victims of sexual abuse disclose that they have been abused.
We liked the Child Protection Unit because it teaches children to be aware of what actions and behaviors are inappropriate instead of teaching them to beware of a stereotypical “bad guy.” The stranger danger concept may risk allowing children to let their guard down around anyone who does not fit into that box. Children will be cautious of people they do not know which can help keep them safe, but it also means that when someone they know harms them it makes it harder to understand that a crime was committed. There are lessons about basic safety as well as those aimed at preventing sexual abuse.
This year we are using the Child Protection Unit across our county. Of course a few parents wanted to debate what we call "private body parts" (or use anatomically correct terms) but overall it has been well received by the students and appreciated by the parents.
For our district it makes sense to use this curriculum because we already use Second Step and the Bullying Unit by the Committee for Children so it reinforces the same key terms: recognize, refuse, and report. We did not use all of the materials because principals were nervous about backlash (like if the person doing the inappropriate touching is a family member), but hopefully next year we can include that lesson because it does happen in the real world.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Teaching Children About Empathy

You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders teaches children about empathy, feelings, kindness, compassion, tolerance, respect and recognizing bullying behaviors. For other books by this author go to I love the illustrations and that they discuss the four basic groups of emotions that we use in our school counseling program. Empathy is a learned skill so as counselors it is something we need to teach. We also need to help parents find resources to teach empathy at home. This book includes discussion questions that can be used in school or at home. I highly recommend you pick up a copy and figure out the best place to include it in your program next year. I use it in a third grade emotion management group, but it could work in first and definitely in second grade.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tips to Handle Stress

These are the tips I send home to parents after my emotion management groups in grades 3-5.  We want parents to reinforce the skills we teach in our groups. I also send home the packet of activities the students have done with me in group. In grade 3 we read 7 different books and I send the title and author home in case parents want to reread the book to their child. For students with anxiety, giving parents tools is a must for the child to develop new ways of responding to unhelpful thoughts and uncomfortable feelings. I ALWAYS talk to parents about how important good food, regular sleep, and plenty of fresh air and exercise are for students who are stressed. 
These are also good tools for self-care which is so important for school counselors as testing season heats up and the end of the school year looms.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

1 in 5 kids

I was very pleased last night watching the evening news that they were highlighting Mental Health Awareness Month and talking about the fact that 1 in 5 youth in our county have a mental health condition that needs intervention. There are two types of stigma associated with mental illness: social stigma and self-stigma. Hopefully by equating mental and physical illnesses and talking about it with children we can reduce the stigma. This is my bulletin board that I use each May. It always raises lots of questions like, "What is mental illness" "Do kids at our school have mental illnesses?" "Are you sure there are that many young people with mental illness?" For more information on how to support those with mental illness go to