Check Ins
I do some type of check in with all students I see individually. This is what I use with my K-1 and some second graders.  I simply ask which face shows how school has been for you since we met last? how things have been going with friends? how things are at home? I record it on a record sheet which I keep in their folder. The record sheet has enough room for me to take a brief note or two (which is all I want - memory aid). I like the record sheet because it lets me look for patterns over time.  With young students often 1 event or comment will be the cause of their rating (both positive and negative). I usually have them start by explaining whichever area they identified as the biggest concern (negative emotion).  

Sticky Note Counseling
School Counseling by Heart blog has two good articles abut the use of post-its during individual counseling.  They can be used for a variety of issues.  For students who are visual writing down their thoughts feelings and behaviors on 3 different notes can be useful. After you capture what happened that led to problem behavior you can go through the situation again starting with a positive thought, leading to a feeling easier to handle, and a better behavior choice.  I frequently save the notes in the child's folder for a few sessions in case the same concern resurfaces.  I use erasable colored pencils when writing the notes or sometimes the students draws pictures on the notes.

Pam Dyson in a Play Therapy Tip of the Week: Parenting Metaphors  explains how she uses a tray of objects to understand how parents currently represent where they are in their parenting journey.   Michele Strangline , a creative counselor, explains how she uses a “ fiddle basket” to begin conversations with clients of all ages and start the play therapy process.
I use metaphors a lot with individual students and parents.  I know it is better for the “client” to select his or her own metaphor.  Counselor generated metaphors have been around for many years, but newer theories and research suggest client constructed metaphors facilitates expression of inner viewpoint and emotional experience.  It is also less risky. I have made mistakes when I select the metaphor, especially with parents. The counselor’s meaning of the metaphor might be very different from how the client interprets it.  If a student or parent you are talking to is having a hard time explaining what he or she is experiencing or feeling you can construct a simple question, “Could you select one of the objects in the basket that best symbolizes what you are going through and explain the connection for me.”  Using objects is a play therapy technique that makes the metaphor concrete.  Having a student or parent select an object and use it to construct meaning can help the client feel understood and accepted by the counselor and facilitate change.
The objects are just a collection of odds and ends that I add to if I find something that might be useful. Some items to include are: a slinky, bubble bottle, balloon, ball, kaleidoscope, rocks, shells, die, bobber, rubber band, and some miniatures.  Add items to the basket frequently to keep it fresh.  You can also add items reflective of some of the specific countries or cultures in your school.


  1. Did you create those Check-in Papers or did you find them somewhere? I think they're wonderful!

  2. I modified something I found. They work great for me.