Conversation Skills Lesson Plan: Social Safari

Saturday, February 17, 2018
After we did the study skills/learning skills unit "The Case of the Super Students" (someday I'll finish blogging about that...) for 2nd grade, my co-counselor and I felt like we had to deliver awesomeness for the rest of our lessons in that grade this year. I also got in my mind that we needed to do an escape room. This all lead to us creating a safari themed mini-unit focusing on conversation skills. This was an especially important topic for us due to our large EL population. The first specific skill we wanted to tackle was staying on topic and turn taking in conversations. The problem? There's no mentor texts out there for this, and no age appropriate videos.
conversation skills school counseling lesson plan

Better Than You Lesson Plan

Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The second lesson in 4th grade's Trudy Ludwig unit was around her book Better Than You (I wrote about our lesson with Just Kidding here). My interim counselor from my maternity leave used this for the first time last spring and I was excited to build on the lesson some more and deliver it myself this year. It was particularly timely as my 4th grade teachers shared that some of their kiddos had been feeling down on themselves lately.

better than you by trudy ludwig book companion lesson plan

The Biggest to the Littlest: Switching from High School Counseling to Elementary School Counseling

Monday, February 5, 2018
On the Elementary Exchange FB group, there are often posts asking about transitioning between tier levels as school counselors. For folk out there that may be googling "high school counselor to elementary counselor," or trying to decide which tier to get their feet wet in: this is for you! While I've stayed right in my lane as an elementary counselor, a colleague at a neighboring school rocked at being a high school counselor before moving down to the land of the littles.  Rebecca was kind enough to let me "interview" her to get the scoop.


Why did you decide to make the change?

Since graduate school, I had always felt that I could work in either Elementary or High School. My first job was in a high school and I really enjoyed it, so I continued on that path, knowing that at some point I would still like to work at the Elementary level. High School counseling is really challenging, and even though our district is making strides to free up our time from testing and administrative tasks, I felt that there was never enough time to truly be a counselor. After 9 years at the High School level (and one in Middle School), I thought it was time to try something different. 


What do you miss about being in the high school? 

I miss the students—helping them with huge decisions about their futures and the conversations we had.

What surprised you about elementary? What do you wish you'd known? 

I was surprised about how much I would love it! It is a joy every day to get to teach, counsel, and get to know my students.


What feels like the biggest change? 

The biggest change is my stress level. High school is such high stakes—ACT, college admissions, scholarships—elementary has an element of fun and creativity that I was missing at the High School level.

What's the hardest/most challenging aspect of being in elementary vs. high school? 

I find it challenging to handle the amount of S-Teams we have at this level. The interventions in place for elementary students are so numerous—very different from high school. It is challenging as a counselor to know which interventions to recommend. Also, we have a very high EL population at my school. I love working with this population, but communicating with parents is challenging.

What skills do you think transferred? What skills did you develop in the HS that you still use? 

Initially, I was nervous about individual counseling. Speaking with ‘almost-adults’ is a very different approach than with smaller children. However, once I got the hang of it, I remembered that the process of counseling is exactly the same, I just have to use more elementary terms. That gave me more confidence. My organizational skills are still used every day to juggle meetings, classroom guidance lessons, and responding to the needs of my students.

What's the best part of being an elementary counselor? 

The students are always the best part of any counseling job. I am fortunate to work with such a sweet and caring community. The students are eager to learn and it is so fun to watch them grow and learn new things.



Big thanks to Rebecca for answering these questions!

As I write this, NSCW is about to begin. Thinking about advocacy for our work and reading Rebecca's experiences, I'm interested in knowing if rates of burnout and caregiver fatigue are higher at the high school level. Talking with Rebecca about her transition also reminds me that the differences between the tiers are sometimes less about the age of the population and more about the difference in day to day tasks.

What about you? Have any of you ever switched tier levels? I'd love to hear from you!

Just Kidding! Lesson Plan

Sunday, January 28, 2018
This post contains affiliate links.

I've sang the praises of Trudy Ludwig's before before and I'll do it again: they are phenomenal. So good in fact, that I'm using five of them for this quarter's lessons with my 4th graders. Each tackles a different issue that my students need help with at this time each year but they share many of the same themes (choosing friends wisely, getting attention in positive instead of negative ways, and treating others respectfully). Spring semester is notorious for my 4th graders to begin testing the waters as they explore their identities, try to make a name for themselves, and start engaging in some typical (but harmful) tween behaviors. I've written before about how I've used Sorry! and The Invisible Boy and Trouble Talk. I'd previously made morning meeting plans for my teachers using Just Kidding! but this was the first year I'd gotten a chance to do a lesson with it myself. It was the perfect start to our unit.


5 Best Practices in School Counseling Lesson Planning

Saturday, January 13, 2018
This post is part 3 in a series on school counseling core curriculum planning. You can read part 1 on the overall vision here and part 2 on needs assessments here.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm particular about my lesson plans. Downright picky. In part, this is because I think the lesson you believe in is the one you'll deliver the best. It's also because I want lessons to be catered to my students. Because I'm picky about my lesson plans, I write almost all of them entirely myself. It's been a bit of trial and error but I'm finally in the sweet spot of feeling like I know what I'm doing when I sit down to plan out a lesson. I've discovered some best practices that make this planning faster but also, more importantly, that lead to engaging and effective lessons. I want my lessons to flow well and be fun, but that's not enough. They need to actually WORK!

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