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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Power of Words: Secondary Bullying Lesson

7th -12th grade Bullying Lesson

Time: 1 hour

Materials needed: Computer with Internet Access, Ball of string or yarn, Half-page paper hearts

Introduction: Before explaining the purpose of the lesson, I gave each student a half-page paper heart that I had cut out. I told students to fill up the heart by writing down anything GOOD that people have said about them, or good things they would like someone to say about them. These would include character traits, special abilities or hobbies, personal qualities, etc. I made one myself while they were working on one. Next, I gave a personal story about a time that someone had said something discouraging to me, and the impact that it has on me still today. As I talked about the story, I wrinkled the heart. I asked students to think about times when people have said things to them that hurt, and for each thing they could remember, to crease the heart. I then challenged the whole class saying the first person who can COMPLETELY straighten their heart back out wins. It didn't take long for them to realize that it was not possible! This was a great springboard to discuss how powerful words can be, and it doesn't really matter how many good things people say to you, you still remember and feel those bad things people have said. 

Bullying Talk: Because October is Bullying Awareness month, we opened the conversation by discussing bullying. What IS bullying, what are types of bullying, what can you do if you are bullied, what can you do if you see others being bullied. I emphasized that the most common types of bullying are NOT physical, but are using words, and excluding others. Sarcasm can often fall into this category- even if it's not meant to harm, it can easily be taken the wrong way and end up unintentionally hurting someone. Most people who do this don't even realize the impact they are having on someone else. I told them that they have the power to make someone feel GREAT about themselves, or make them feel HORRIBLE about themselves, all with a few tiny words.

Song time! I let students watch the music video for the song "Words" by Hawk Nelson. Part of the
lyrics of the song say "Words can build us up, words can break us down, start a fire in our hearts or put it out." If you haven't heard this song, I highly recommend listening to it! After watching the video, we discussed some of the lyrics.

Sticks and Stones: How many have heard the saying: "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"? Now how many of you think it is true? Sticks and stones may leave bruises or cuts, but several years later, there is no evidence of them at all. We still remember words that hurt us from years ago, as if they are being said to us right now. (if you have time, I'd recommend watching a video such as this one. It's a very intense video, too harsh for some kids, so make sure you watch it first to determine if it's right for your students. Suicide is mentioned in the video. I was cautious, and told the students that I'm not showing them this to SCARE them, but that in a way I am showing it to scare them, so they can see the reality of what their words can do. After the video, I allowed students to express their reaction to the video.

What does the Bible say?

  • James 3:9-10: "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.“
  • Ephesians 4:29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
  • Matthew 15:18: "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man."
  • Proverbs 12:18: "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

Using words to build others up/ Compliment Web: As a class, everyone brainstormed different ways they could build others up. Some examples were: giving compliments, encouraging one another, praying for (and WITH) them, being invested in someone else's life, forgiving them, apologizing, etc. The class then got into a large circle. We talked about how to give a good compliment, beyond the "surface level" compliments of physical appearance. I gave them several examples of how to compliment another person, and encouraged them to say "thank you" if they received a compliment. One person started off the web by complimenting another student, and tossing the ball of string to that person. The person who just received a compliment then compliments another student, until everyone in the class has been complimented.

Final Note: As a final note, I reminded students that their words can HURT or HEAL another person, and it's up to them to decide how they will use that power.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Quick Meetings

Three weeks into school and I am feeling quite accomplished! As of yesterday, I have officially met individually with every single student in the school! The information and responses that I received from my meetings with the students will really help me design the school counseling program at my school. Similar to School Counselor Blog's Minute Meetings, my Quick Meetings are just a bit more involved, lasting about 5 minutes per student K-10, and about 15 minutes for 11th and 12th graders. Having done the 1 minute meetings at my internship, and now having completed the 5-minute meetings at my school, there are definitely benefits to taking a few more minutes with each student. I don't feel quite as rushed with the students, which in turn means that students feel they have more of my undivided time and have opened up more.

During these 3-5 minute meetings, students will be asked to rate 5 different areas of their life: friendship, self-esteem, school performance, career aspirations, and their personal relationship with Jesus (I'm at a Christian school). High school students also complete a check-list of things they have done in preparation for higher education (taking the SAT, visiting colleges, applying to scholarships, etc). I also ask students for one thing that they would like to improve this year, and at least one thing that they would like me to know about them. Before we are done, I give them an opportunity to schedule a longer time to talk with me about anything that's bothering them. Each student's individual information is not shared with others in the school, but overall data may be used as a tool for designing a school counseling program that meets the individual needs of the students at the school.

If you have many students and are just looking to gather some "quick" data, these forms can be used in a classroom setting. Simply distribute to the class, go over the questions with everyone, and collect. You may not get to know each student as personally as spending 5 minutes with them, but you would be getting feedback from lots of students rather quickly. 

Quick Meetings with the School Counselor (K-12)I use the big-picture data to see if there are any trends per grade level or class. I found it interesting when over half of a grade level mentioned the same class when asked how school is going. This lets me know that I need to check in with that teacher to see if I can do a lesson on study skills or organization, etc with her students. I'm also looking for relationships between students in the classes- is one particular student coming up when talking about friendships/ friendship problems? Is one class generally lower in friendship ratings? 

I plan on doing the quick meetings again mid-year, then again towards the end of the school year. I don't want any students to go unnoticed or feel invisible if they are having problems. After finishing the meetings, I've noticed that students (especially secondary students) are MUCH more open and friendly towards me. Not that they weren't before, but they are more likely to smile and greet me before I get a chance to greet them!

Next week, I plan on sending out little "Thank you" notes to the teachers for letting me take time to meet with each of their students. I don't want to be considered a burden to any of the teachers, and I know it can be frustrating to have students coming and going from their class to talk to me. A thank you can also serve to reassure them that not every week will be like this, and that I am respectful of their valuable teaching time with the students. I may also provide the overall data from their class (with absolutely NO personal information, just numbers) for them to understand what I'm seeing and how I'm using the data. 

(The forms do not include the "Relationship with Jesus" question for use in secular schools)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Puzzle-Themed Office Space

I am learning quickly that it's hard to decorate a K-12 School Counseling office! I want it to be inviting to all students from Kindergarten on up to 12th grade. Needless to say, there is not much out there that this wide age range can agree on. So, I went with a puzzle theme. My theme for my open house board was "Your school counselor can help you make the pieces fit", and I had created a puzzle display using photoshop to discuss the (FOUR!) domains that I would be helping students with this year. (Academic, Personal/Social, Career/College, and Spiritual). If I could re-do this, I might have the "spiritual" domain going around the other three, since God should be in ALL areas of their life.
Office Posters: Eye-catching displays to remind students about the rules in the counseling office. 

Where is the School Counselor Sign: I also made a sign to hang outside of my door that tells where I am at in the building. The pointer is just a sheet of foam cut into the shape of a puzzle piece and glued to a clothespin.

Locker Note I have a locker where students can slip notes to me throughout the day. Since I have a K-12 building, I have one locker in the secondary hallway, and one in the elementary hallway to make sure all students are able to reach me if they need me. 

Purchase the signs for your counseling office through my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
School Counselor Sign Collection: Puzzle Theme

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Intro Class Lessons K-12

I had 30 minutes with each class to do an intro lesson to school counseling. Here's what I did with each level:

K-1: Object Lesson

Materials Needed:
  • Rainbow Fish book
  • Finding Nemo ("just keep swimming")
  • Dumbo (great listener)
  • puzzle pieces (help put the pieces together)
  • heart (care about all of the students)
  • Frozen characters ("Let it go!")
  • Star (reach for the stars and achieve goals)
  • angry birds (anger management)
  • happy face (help you be happy to be at school)
  • tissue (dry up tears when you're sad)
  • Bandaid (help when you're hurting)
  • Funny glasses (think about things from a different perspective)
  • eraser (cant change your past mistakes, but I can help you make better decisions next time)
  • lock (I keep your secret, unless the secret will hurt you or someone else)

Intro: After going over rules and expectations, I told students I was going to read them one of my favorite books of all time, Rainbow Fish. I asked that when I was reading, think about who in the story helps rainbow fish learn how to be happy (The Wise Octopus). After reading the story, I explained that I am like the Octopus at this school because I help kids when they have problems.

Activity:  I explained ways in which I can help students by letting each student pull one object from my bag. As a student pulled an object from the bag, I let them explain to the class what the object is, and take a guess about what it could represent about my job as the school counselor. (Originally I was just going to explain to the students what each object meant, but I LOVED to hear their ideas!) After each object was pulled from the bag, I placed the item on the board for the class to see.

Conclusion: Once all of the objects were discussed, I gave the students a coloring worksheet that had a summary of the symbols that we talked about around an octopus. We talked about how to get help if they need to talk to me. Before I left, I gave each student a "shiny scale" (a.k.a. metallic star sticker) for them to remember Rainbow Fish.

2-3 Grade: Object Lesson

In second and third grade, I adapted the same lesson as K-1 to be slightly more advanced. We did not read Rainbow Fish, but instead spent longer discussing what each of the symbols meant. I let more students guess what the symbols could mean, and for the most part, everything that they said was even more profound than what I had planned to say! As the conclusion to the lesson, I gave the students a matching worksheet where they line up the symbol to what it means. This was a great assessment and review to make sure the students had learned the information that I gave them! Before I left, I gave each student a heart sticky note that said "Your School Counselor cares about you!" and a shiny star sticker to remind them to "reach for the stars".

4-6: Rocks and String Activity

  • Small and large rocks
  • student volunteer
  • 3-4 foot string for each student

Rocks: At the beginning of the class, I asked for one volunteer to be my helper.  I had the class brainstorm things that would be considered "small problems" (small rocks) and things that would be considered "big problems" (big rocks). I explained that with many of the small problems, I can teach them ways to handle their own problems responsibly. If it was a BIG problem, I could help them figure out what to do. When discussing the "big problems", I made sure to mention confidentiality, and that I can not keep their secret if it means that someone might get hurt. For each of the problems, big or small, I would place a stone into the hands of the volunteer student. Once the volunteer's hands are completely full, I told the volunteer that I needed him to take a quick test for me, and immediately handed him a test and a pencil. Of course, he could not take the test because he was holding on to so many problems! I explained that although I can't make most of their problems disappear, I can help them with their problems so that they can do their best at school. 

From here, I explained how to get in touch with me if they need to talk, and where to find me. I told them about small groups, classroom lessons, and other fun programs that I would be having this school year. 

String: I gave each person a piece of string. I told them that the object was to tie a knot in the middle of the string. The rules are that once they pick up the string, their fingers become "superglued" to the ends of the string- they can't switch fingers. There can NOT already be a knot in the string when picking it up, they can NOT cut the string, and the knot can NOT be on the outside of the string (tying the ends together). I then quickly added that "it's okay to ask for help, BUT it is possible to do. It CAN be done."  I let the students struggle with it for a while, repeated the instructions several times, and waited for the first person to ask me for help. Once they asked for help, I motioned for them to follow me to a hidden area of the class, and explained the trick to them. (Cross your arms into a "knot" so that one hand pops up through the hole in your arms. Grab each end of the string while arms are crossed. Uncross arms, and you should have a knot.) Make sure you try this first before doing it with kids so you know how!! I explained to three of the students, before others started to catch on. From this point, I let those I had helped teach others in the class how to do it.   

7-12: Advanced Rocks and String Activity

  • index cards
  • Small, medium, large rocks
  • student volunteer (class nominated to be the strongest)
  • 3-4 foot string for each student
Introduction: I handed out index cards to each student, and had them write down their name, grade, what they think I do as their school counselor, and any questions that they might have about me or about school counseling. 

I asked the class to nominate one person in the class who is the strongest, and that person came to the front to help me with the next activity.  I asked what it means to be "strong" (Physically, emotionally, academically, and spiritually, etc) I explained that even the strongest people need help sometimes, as I dumped a pile of rocks on a desk in front of the class and smiled at my volunteer. The rocks represent the problems that teens deal with on a normal basis. Some are just small problems or annoyances; others are big problems that consume much of your daily thoughts.  I asked everyone to brainstorm what types of problems teens might have to deal with. As they named things, I had each one come to the front, choose a rock to represent the problem, and hand it to the volunteer. I also added a few to keep it going and give them more ideas. Once the volunteer’s hands were at capacity, I gave him a SUPER easy test and a pencil. (I printed off a one digit addition test.), and said he had 10 seconds to finish. After a few seconds, I started “yelling” at him saying things like, ”This should be easy! Why have you not started? You should be done by now!” After the point was made, I asked the volunteer how he felt right then (frustrated/ agitated, etc). I asked the class why he was struggling to take such an easy test, and what would make it easier? I then explained that it’s nearly impossible to do well at school when you are holding onto so many rocks. The school counselor (me!) can help them handle all of their rocks. I told them again that even the strongest people will need help at times. 

From here, I transitioned to the specific services offered to students (Groups, classroom, individual, school programs, etc), and  how to get in touch with me if they did need to talk about something. I also used this time to discuss any questions that we had not already covered from their index cards. 

I gave each person a piece of string. I told them that the object was to tie a knot in the middle of the string. The rules are that once they pick up the string, their fingers become "superglued" to the ends of the string- they can't switch fingers. There can NOT already be a knot in the string when picking it up, they can NOT cut the string, and the knot can NOT be on the outside of the string (tying the ends together). I then quickly added that "it's okay to ask for help, BUT it is possible to do. It CAN be done."  I let the students struggle with it for a while, repeated the instructions several times, and waited for the first person to ask me for help. Once they asked for help, I motioned for them to follow me to a hidden area of the class, and explained the trick to them. (Cross your arms into a "knot" so that one hand pops up through the hole in your arms. Grab each end of the string while arms are crossed. Uncross arms, and you should have a knot.) Make sure you try this first before doing it with kids so you know how!! I explained to a handful of the students, before others started to catch on. From this point, I let those I had helped teach others in the class how to do it. I told the class that the point of the exercise is that it's okay to ask for help! Even the strongest people... (will need help at times!)

(Purchase the lesson plan and worksheets from my TPT store!)
School Counselor Introduction Lessons K-12

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Open House

My first open house as a school counselor was this past week. I was able to have a table set up at the front of the school so that I could meet everyone and explain my job as their new school counselor. On the table, I had a small basket with some brochures that I had created, along with a container of some candies and mints for people to take as they visited me (it earned me some points with some of the kids for sure!).

Here's what I included on my board. Most of this information was also included in the parent brochure:

  • Services I would be providing the school 
  • Goal of the counseling program
  • My philosophy of school counseling
  • Four domains of (Christian) School Counseling (Academic, Personal/Social, Career, Spiritual)
  • A paragraph about me
  • Referral process
  • How to contact me

Parent Brochure:

First week: Getting Organized

Wow, what a great first week of school! I absolutely LOVE my job!! This was my first week as a school counselor, and it went surprisingly smooth! Yes, I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed, and I'm starting to think there is no way I can possibly get everything done that needs to be done, but I'm excited to see where this year will take me. I've met a good percentage of the students already, and have most of my classroom introduction meeting scheduled. There is quite a steep learning curve so far, like how to use the phone in my office that kept blinking at me and talking to me at random times... but I'm learning. The teachers and administrators are still being patient with me and for that I'm very thankful!

First Week Get-Organized MUST HAVES:

1. Weekly 15-minute increment calendar: I write down every appointment that I make, and everything that I do in my office when I'm not with students or parents. At the end of the week, all I have to do is glance back at my calendar to create a quick summary of my week. (As the school's first ever school counselor, it's extremely important that I prove that I'm worth the investment! I want to keep this school as long as I can!) My schedule notebook goes with me any time I leave the office.

2. Student Notebook: I have a large 3-ring binder that I keep all of my student data in. I have a sheet for EVERY student in the school, with tabs divided by grade. When I meet with the student, I write down brief notes about what was discussed, along with anything else that is relevant to the student. Attached to each grade level tab is a list of the students in the grade and their schedule.

3.Binder clips and index cards: After I found out that I got this job, I started making list after list, to the point that I needed a list OF my lists to keep track of my lists. I discovered that by using a stack of index cards, I can easily keep up with all of my lists and add to them as needed. I found that this was much easier for me to have all these lists on separate sheets that are binder-clipped together.

4. Sticky notes: Though they MUST be the Super Sticky notes, or else I will get too frustrated with them. (If you haven't tried the super sticky kinds, just try a pack. You'll be hooked.) They're great to write a quick reminder on when someone pops into the office with a question/request. I put the notes in my schedule-notebook that comes with me wherever I go in the building.

5. Dropbox: Since I'm only supposed to work 20 hours per week at school (Hahahaha!!), I will no doubt end up doing quite a bit at home to keep up. I am saving any document that I make in my drop box so that I can easily access it from school.

Things I'm still trying to get organized: (feel free to add your suggestions!)
1. College and Scholarship Information
2. Testing Information
3. Craft supplies (crayons, markers, beads, etc)
School Counselor Organization Packet

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting Started as a K-12 Christian School Counselor! 3...2...1...GO!

A few weeks ago I accepted a position for a K-12 School Counselor at a (VERY small) Christian school in my area. With just over 100 students, I'd call this the dream job for sure! The staff are all very friendly and after just two weeks of knowing them I already feel like part of the family. I am the first "Counselor" the school has had, though there has been a "Guidance" person before me who only worked with students on college related items. She was clearly a well-loved individual and her absence will be missed by many at the school!

I am quickly noticing that there are VERY few Christian School Counselors out there! Hopefully the information that I will be posting will help others in the same position as me. If you are a counselor at a Christian School, and especially if you're at a K-12 school, PLEASE reach out to me so we can connect!. Being the first counselor means I get to design my ENTIRE counseling program from scratch! (This task should be considered absolutely dreadful and overwhelming, but I can't express how excited I am to have this opportunity!) Many of the parents, students, and teachers at the school have NEVER been at a school with a counselor. I can't assume that anyone at the school really knows what I will be doing, so I am trying my best to lay a strong foundation for my program.  

FOUNDATION: Coming from an ASCA background, I knew that the first and most important thing to do is to build the foundation of my program. I created my mission statement and school counseling beliefs statements (Biblically integrated, of course!). Because we are a Christian school, I added "Spiritual Development" to the "Academic, Social, and Career" domains. I am still giddy about being able to tell students about Jesus without having the fear of losing my job!! 

MANAGEMENT: I've got my yearly calendar ready to go and have been closely analyzing data from my students and previous years. I'm still working on scheduling meetings with the students, classroom lessons, and parent workshops. 

DELIVERY: Teachers, parents, and students will be informed about the methods that I will deliver the school counseling services. I have created a packet of information for each of the teachers about what to expect this year, met with many of the parents, and will be meeting with students to let them know how they can benefit from my services. I am planning to do at least one classroom lesson per month with each class, and have Lunch Bunches with students when possible. With the small size of the school, the classroom lessons are really more of a "small group" counseling to begin with, but I will still offer more specific groups once the school year gets underway.  I will also take advantage of the small school size, and meet regularly with EACH student at the school to check in. 

ACCOUNTABILITY: In order to keep my position year after year, I will no doubt have to prove that I am worth the investment! Each quarter, I plan to send out reports about what I have done at the school and about the impact that I have had. Information in this report will include the number of students met with individually and in groups, types of groups run, other programs run, school survey data, and more. 

I am just beginning with this program, and will be adding and changing as I go. Here's to a great school year!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Co-Teaching Lessons with Counselor and Teachers

Time is very valuable to teachers, and it's often difficult to find time for guidance lessons when you have to adhere to a rigorous schedule to teach your kids everything they need to know for the "Big Tests". What if school counselors were able to collaborate with teachers and integrate the counseling curriculum into daily academic lessons? It would save time for the teachers, allow the counselor to get into the classroom more, and help students learn how to apply the academic content to their daily lives. Below is a chart outlining some ideas of how a school counselor can co-teach lessons that integrate academic and counseling standards:

Academic topic
Counseling topic
Guided Reading/ Book Clubs
Various issues
Select books for guided reading/book clubs that students can relate to. Especially for learning text connections (text-to-self, text-to-world, etc). How can you relate to this story? What would you do if you were this character?
Fact Versus Opinion
Teasing and Name Calling
Help kids learn how to react to teasing without getting upset. Have sample scenarios of kids being picked on. Is what they said a "fact?" or was it just their "opinion?" If it was an opinion, what does it matter? If it's a fact, is it worth getting upset over?
During writing workshops, have students write personal memoirs or autobiographies on a topic such as: "Write about a time when you showed courage" or "Write about your favorite memory".  Counselor can introduce topic and lead discussion about the chosen topic.
Study Skills
Class lesson on study skills, co-taught with counselor. How will studying help you in the future? What type of learner are you?
Impulse Control
Lessons on book "Hunter and His Amazing Remote Control". Students read book and learn how to control their thoughts using a remote control. "Pause" before talking! "Fast Forward" and see how your behavior might affect you.
Calming testing anxiety
Before taking a practice test, counselor can introduce strategies for handling test anxiety. Afterwards, how did you use the strategies?
Math: Pie Graphs
Time Management
If students are stressed, they may need to look closely at how they are spending their time during the day. Teacher will introduce graphs and pie charts, counselor introduces time management skills. Students create pie chart to show how they spend the time in their day. Counselor will assess to see if there are certain areas that they could spend less time or more time.
Social Studies
Counselor and teacher will talk about different careers in the community, and how people choose their careers. Older students can learn about financial literacy and applying it to real life.
Social Studies
Learn about people from different cultures and discover how everyone is unique.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Helping Kids Discover Their Passions

I can't tell you how many times I've asked a child/teen what they are interested in or what they want to do with their life, and they give the shoulder shrug and say "nothing much". This response tells me that they either haven't found their niche or they are generally apathetic and unconcerned with their future. To help overcome this "slump", I created a "Passion Sort" which contains 100 hobbies, interests, and passions that kids might have.

I get the students to sort them into three categories: Very Interested, Somewhat Interested, and Not Interested. Next, I get them to look at only the "Very Interested" Category, and narrow it down to the top ten things. Then the top 5. Then the top 3. Then the number one. I use the worksheet on the right for them to record their answers and thoughts. I find it fascinating to see what makes it into the top ten! Sometimes I could have guessed a few of them, but others, they tell me about what matters to them that I would have never known!

Then, I ask a variety of questions to assess the activity: Describe how you felt when I asked you to get rid of some of your passions? How did you decide which ones to get rid of? What do your top interests have in common? What makes this one the top passion for you? What are you doing RIGHT NOW related to this passion? If you could do ANYTHING related to this top passion, what would you like to do? As a summary, I explain that people all have different things that they are passionate about. We tend to be the happiest when we do things that we are passionate about. The thing that we are most passionate about is the thing that motivates us the most in everything that we do. How has this passion motivated you to do something? We also discuss what potential careers could tie in with their passion. 

I use this activity for a variety of purposes. One, it helps the kids learn more about themselves and what really matters to them. Many kids never stop to think about what they personally like, but only what their family gets them involved with. Imagine a kid who could be a musical prodigy that has never so much as touched an instrument! 

Two, it help the kids think logically about future careers and what they would be happiest doing. The best career is one that they truly enjoy doing. 

Three, it can point out if they have a passion that is never expressed. This activity also helps to guide kids towards finding where they belong and where they could fit in, even if they've never tried it before. This is one reason why the group labels say "interested" instead of "enjoyed".

What are YOU Passionate About?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Student Mentor Program

I have recently designed a new program that I am excited about implementing! It's a Student Mentor Program, in which carefully selected older and more responsible students are trained to mentor younger students who may be struggling with social, academic, or behavioral concerns. Similar to "Peer Mediators" or "Peer Helpers", the Student Mentors will help the counselor reach even more students and create a lasting impact on  the school environment.

The program would work great with elementary or middle school, but could also easily be adapted to high school. Alternatively, if you have different level schools nearby, arrange it to have high school students mentor middle school students.

Mentors would be responsible role model students who apply (and interview!) for the position of mentor. They would meet regularly with the School Counselor for quick individual check-ins and for after school group trainings. They will be taught how to help younger students manage conflicts, handle strong emotions, and provide general encouragement and friendship.

Mentees would be students who are "frequent flyers" in the counselor's and/or pricipal's office. The may need additional support outside of what the caring adults in the school can provide. An example of the ideal mentee is one who is constantly asking to speak to the school counselor about little problems, or one who is trying to fit in with their peers. To these students, their mentor will be an older friend who they get to hang out with and talk to once a week.

Student mentors will be trained in being a mentor. They will receive explicit instruction on how to encourage and lead a younger student, and how to help with many problems that they face. In a way, mentors will be "Counselor Helpers" or "Peer Helpers". When the counselor's schedule is packed (like it always is), student mentors can help younger students with some of the small problems that they face, while becoming expert problem solvers themselves!

When and where?
I see this being a year-long program. Mentors should meet with their mentee once per week for 20-30 minutes, during non-instructional time. Training would take place at least once per month after school, when all mentors are able to attend. Mentors would also check in periodically with the counselor (5-10 minutes, before or after school) so that the counselor can monitor their progress and answer any questions they have.

Let's face it- School Counselors are BUSY!! This mentor program is a way that you as a school counselor can impact even more students. You teach mentors how to help, and start the snowball effect of students helping students. Soon enough, your entire school will feel the impact! There have been many studies done about the effects of mentoring on student achievement, but unfortunately there is a lack of willing {adult} mentors in our community. But who says mentors can't be children too?

(Get this poster FREE here)

Suggested steps to implement program:
  1. .    Inform teachers of the mentoring program at a staff meeting. Explain the potential benefits for mentors and for mentees, and how it will impact the school as a whole.
  2. .    Class introduction lesson. Meet with classes of older students to discuss the mentoring program. Emphasize the amount of responsibility and dedication that being a mentor will require. Leave information and copies of the Mentor Application with teacher. Teacher will give applications to students who are interested, as well as the parent information sheet. (Another possible route is to open the applications up to your student council or other student leadership groups, or simply ask teacher for recommendations and ask those specific students if they are interested)
  3. .    Once students turn in complete applications, meet with those students individually or in a small group (lunch bunch). Discuss overall objective of the program, specific requirements, and answer any questions they may have.
  4. .    Meet with possible mentees, explaining what their mentor will be doing with them. Give mentees pre-assessment. Mentees should be students in younger grades who need additional support, but do not typically have big problems or concerns. Check with parents of mentees before initiating mentoring.
  5. .    Schedule after-school training session to go over additional details of the program. (See list below of suggested training items) Give out pre-assessments to all mentors.
  6. .    Pair up mentors with mentees.
  7. .    Meet regularly with mentors to discuss progress (before school check-ins or during lunch) 

Suggested Trainings: At each training, include a handout for students to keep in their notebook for reference. I would suggest doing an interactive notes style handout to further engage the students.
  •       What specifically is expected of mentors (What is a mentor? How can I help?)
  •       How to conduct a peer mediation session
  •       Promoting empathy and kindness in others
  •       Strategies for handling anger, sadness, stress
  •       Strategies for solving "small problems"
  •       What is effective communication?
  •       What to do if… (reporting "big" problems, what if you're not sure what to say?, etc)

Other fun mentor program ideas
  •       Have a "Mentor Night" or "Mentor Fair" at the end of the school year where student mentors present information on their impact with younger students. Have students create trifold poster with what they have learned from the program, how they helped their mentees, and the overall impact of the mentoring program on the school. For maximum participation, hold the event during a PTA night or in conjunction with other big school events (talent show, science fair, etc)
  •       Create matching T-shirts or bags for mentees (Vistaprint!)
  •       Give out certificates for participation in the Mentor program at Honor Roll ceremony.

If you are interested in starting a Student Mentoring Program at your school, check out my Student Mentor Program Pack on Teachers Pay Teachers! It includes information sheets, application, Mentor Notebook pages, assessments, and four training lessons. 
Student Mentor Program

Finally, if you have started a Student Mentoring Program at your school, I'd love to hear how it is going and any suggestions that you have for the program!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Tutoring Counselor

After finishing my Master's degree in School Counseling, I decided to revisit my passion for tutoring kids. I had tutored for 3-4 years while completing my Bachelor's degree and into my first year of my Master's program, but I realized that I needed to take a break in order to put all of my energy into grad school. After I graduated and started tutoring again, I realized that my School Counseling training had GREATLY influenced my tutoring style! I knew that I could never go back to just being a tutor. Below are some of the many things that I have learned from combining my passion for counseling with my love for teaching:

1. Children don't care how much you know until they know how much you care! 

You can teach a child until you're blue in the face, but unless you show them that you care about THEM and not just their academic performance, you will have wasted your time. I used to just jump right in and start teaching my students what I thought they needed to learn. When I reflect back on my grade school days, I can't tell you anything about what specific teachers taught me. But I can tell you about how they impacted me as an individual. I can tell you the ones who encouraged me to keep trying even if I didn't get it the first time. I can tell you the ones who pushed me to go even further than I thought I could and wouldn't let me settle for less than my very best. I like to start each tutoring session with a very quick check-in. (How was your day/week on scale of 0-10.) I've learned that students can not and will not focus as much on academics if another area of their life is consuming their energy. Taking just 5 minutes to discuss the argument they just had with a friend could help the remainder of the hour be much more efficient. Also, as a tutor I look for every opportunity to get to know my students better, and to incorporate their interests into tutoring!

2. You CAN tie in social skills and character education when teaching students!

I recently found out that one of my tutoring students, a sixth grade boy, was getting bullied at school. At this point, the school counselor in me came roaring out, and I was mad that I couldn't be at the kid's school to do something about it! However, I did have this student for the next hour, and I could give him some tools for handling this situation even if I'm not at his school. This particular boy is very bubbly and always energetic, so we never have a dull moment in tutoring! Since we are working on reading skills, I brought out one of my books on dealing with bullies (Confessions of a Former Bully- my favorite bullying book!). I will try to post the activities that I did with him soon!

Another student I am working with is a 5th grade girl who struggles with self-concept and responsibility. I have worked closely with her to help her with organization skills. She, like many kids, wants to put big projects off until the very last minute, which usually results in a late night cram session and quite a few tears shed. I designed a "Big Project Planner" to help her break down big projects into smaller tasks to work on each day. I am also starting her on a "progress card" for her to take responsibility for certain behaviors and attitudes that she has.  Also, to help her increase her self-concept, I am teaming up with her teachers and parents to really bring out her strengths and make a point to tell her any strength that I see in her.

(Click on the pictures to be taken to my TPT store!)
My BIG Project PlannerStudent Organization Packet

3. Learning does NOT have to be boring and should NEVER be boring!

Worksheets can be a time saver for teachers, but they can be a time waster for students. I DO NOT like to use worksheets and avoid them at all costs! For homework, worksheets can be a great tool to review materials independently, but when working with  a teacher I believe it's best NOT to use them. When I'm tutoring, I will create fun games to teach and review topics. For example when completing math problems or reading sight words, I might pull out a Tic-Tac-Toe board or a Connect 4 board. For each problem answered, they get to have a turn. I also have file-folder game boards, PowerPoint games, and even basketball games (using my indoor hoop). When students are having fun, they are learning. With my more creative and artistic students, I will sometimes have them create a Lapbook of the concept we are discussing.

Below are a few games and activities that I have posted on my TPT store:
Comparing and Rounding Decimals Games Hopping for Hoops- Decoding Activity
Brainy Bracket: A March Madness game for multiple subjects!Reading Multiple Choice Test Tips for Flipbook"Right-Brain" Mean, Median, Mode, and RangeEquivalent Fractions Hands-On Activity
4. There's more to learning than just learning. 

I sometimes ask my students what they think about different subjects, like reading for example. One student would always say that he HATES reading. The counselor in me then gets him to reframe that "garbage" thought into a "recycled" though. Instead of saying "I hate it", they can say "It's hard for me but I am learning." Often times, students come to see their academic difficulties as a direct reflection of their value as a person. I want my students to know that there is more than just academic success, and I will make a point to describe several of the student's strengths. We might have a conversation about why it is important to learn XYZ, and how it will help them in the future if they learn it now.

Now that I am seeing tutoring through the counseling lens, counseling opportunities with my students are popping up all over the place! Sure, I mainly tutor reading and math, but I also teach self-esteem, self-worth, and self-discipline. I use Solution Focused therapy and CBT on a regular basis during tutoring. I work with families on the best way to support their child. I may not have a school to counsel at yet, but I sure am using my school counseling skills when I am tutoring! Once I do get a school counseling job, I will be able to further incorporate academics into everything that I do with my students.

If you are interested in becoming a tutor, 
check out my Tutoring Forms Pack from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store! 
Tutoring Forms Packet for Private Tutors

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Origami Group

After learning about how to make Never Ending Cards, I started thinking about what kids could learn from folding paper. Turns out there is quite a bit that can be learned by making a few folds in a sheet of paper! Below are just a few of the benefits that students would gain from learning Origami.

  • Shapes (Identifying basic shapes, new shapes made from folding)
  • Symmetry (Much of Origami is symmetric)
  • Angles (You had a right angle, but folded it in half. Now how many degrees is the angle?)
  • Fractions (You just folded this paper in half three times. How many sections do you have?)
  • Following Directions (Some instructions for making Origami can be very specific and detailed.) 
  • Reading with a purpose (For an added challenge, only provide step-by-step instructions and no pictures)
  • Teaches patience and concentration through attention to detail
  • Teaches perseverence- if they get frustrated with a project, keep trying
  • Making mistakes is a part of the learning process
  • Problem Solving skills- How can you fix your mistakes/ "happy accidents"
  • Gives students a positive hobby/ skill that can be shared with others
  • Gives an outlet for ADHD energy and fiddling
  • Kids can share their hobby through making gifts for others (encourage Random Acts of Kindness!!)
  • Learning how to create a 3D object out of a flat sheet of paper = foundation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
  • Students learn to pick up on and apply patterns from folding to other subjects and careers 
Origami Group
I have not yet run an origami group, but it's definitely on my list of groups I'd like to run! I would gear it to 3rd grade and up. Each week, we would focus on a different topic such as having patience, making mistakes, following directions, etc. I would also have them create at least one project each week. I might even throw a challenge at them to deconstruct and recreate a completed origami project. They could make origami to sell as a school fundraiser, or lead a school wide service project making origami for Sandy Hook.

Classroom Guidance Lesson

Using the book, Spread Your Wings and Fly by Mary Saunders, have students fold along with the story in the book as you read. Here is the book description from An Origami Fold and Tell...the ancient Japanese art of origami provides a framework for enhancing self-esteem and achieving spiritual attunement that will stay with readers as they work through the book, as well as the various phases of their lives.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes: Here is the book description from amazon: Born in Hiroshima in 1943, Sadako was the star of her school's running team, until the dizzy spells started and she was forced to face the hardest race of her life-the race against time.

Empowering Kids 
I would like to leave you with one final note- a direct quote from an article on Enso Journey: The Power of Origami: How it can make you a better person: (I definitely encourage you to read this article!)

"I created something out of nothing. From a simple piece of paper, a new creature was born. For each new piece I made, I felt I had the power to change the world. I could do anything, even if I had nothing to begin with, I could do it."

Never Ending Cards

Every so often, I see things or hear of things that get my wheels turning in my head. I read about a "Never Ending Card" on Dawn's Stamping Thoughts blog and just had to try to make one! It took me about a hundred attempts to get the folding and cutting right, but it was definitely worth the effort because now I'm in love with these cards!  There is a great tutorial on her website- I'm not even going to try to explain how it's done!

Meet the Counselor Cards

After mastering the art of folding never ending cards, I started thinking about how a school counselor could use something like this. One thought was doing a "meet the counselor" card. I wanted to include some information about what the counselor is there for, and important information kids need to know. I'll need to go back and work on the wording and put a bit more effort into the graphics, but it's a start.

Free Template!!
I created a template on Microsoft Publisher and put in some pictures and text about school counselors. I'm not going to lie- it took some time to get everything right in the template! Feel free to use this template to create your own never ending cards! Just follow the folding directions from the blog I mentioned earlier.

Other Possibilities
  • Calm-Down skills
  • Problem solving
  • Affirmations
  • Information for teachers
  • Mini books/ social stories
What else would you use the Never Ending Cards for??

Monday, May 6, 2013

Technology for School Counselors

We are living in a technology-infused world. For the counselors and educators out there who have embraced the many benefits of using technology in the schools, the possibilities are truly endless!
Below are just a few of the possible ways that school counselors can use technology to make their school counseling program more efficient and more beneficial for the entire school! 

Counselor Organization
  • Google calendar- scheduling at a glance
  • Google docs- surveys and forms, share documents, spreadsheets
  • Individual Notes- (careful to ensure student confidentiality!)
  • Keep track of parent contacts
  • create charts and graphs for accountability 
  • Dropbox- Instead of filing cabinets full of papers, keep resources at the click of a button!

Individual/Group counseling

Classroom Guidance