The Best Reason to Be MIA

Thursday, February 16, 2017
If there's any of you that visit my blog on a regular basis and have noticed I haven't posted as often, here's my excuse:

I had my second son at the end of January and while he's really been an easy baby (KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD), my "spare time" is being spent elsewhere. Still have some posts in the works, just being a little slower!

Counseling Anchor Charts

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Anchor charts: a staple in every elementary classroom. Excellent resources for review and reminder. So why not use them in school counseling too?!

Especially when our Life Skills lessons are skills-based, we like to use anchor charts during our lessons. Now ours aren't the awesome hand-written/drawn kind that are created collaboratively with the students; mostly due to time constraints and partly due to size constraints (teachers don't have room on their walls for their own anchor charts and then all of mine if I used chart paper!). We usually pre-create them, bring them to the classrooms to use during the teaching or application portion of the lesson, and then offer to make/laminate copies (on colored cardstock) for teachers as they want them.

Some of the charts we've created and used (available in a bundle for free here and I'll add to this post when we make more):

Personal Values Lesson Plan

Saturday, January 28, 2017
While the bulk of 4th grade's Life Skills curriculum this year is on positive communication, there's a personal identity/awareness component as well. We kicked off 2017 with a lesson about personal values (with some mention of reputation thrown in). Due to a few scheduling issues, I ended up doing this lesson before the "Staying True to Yourself" (with Ludwig's Sorry!) lesson in some of the classes and after in some others. Both ways were great for tying the lessons together; I haven't decide which way I'll do it next year.

A good friend of mine who is a middle school counselor sent me the link to this lesson that she adapts and uses: Overcoming Obstacles - Clarifying Values

I adapted it even further (to shorten it and to make it more elementary level) and began using it myself. It's fun, it's silly, it's interactive, and it gets their brains going. I'll admit that while the majority of my lessons are skills-based, this one is more "planting the seed" and helping develop some introspection as they prepare to enter the intense and challenging world of middle school.

Becoming Problem Solvers in 3rd Grade - "But it's not my fault!" or "What do you do with a problem?"

The kiddos learned about problems inside vs. outside of their control and now it's time for them to start problem solving/taking responsibility for those inside/pipe cleaner problems! Last year I used the book But it's not my fault! with my 3rd graders for this topic, but it was such a hit with the teachers that I included it in their SEL mini-libraries. Good for them...bad for me...because then I had to find a new mentor text (or a lesson plan so amazing and full that it didn't need one).

Mini SEL Classroom Libraries

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Last spring, I applied for and was awarded a grant within the district whose parameters were basically that it have to do with bullying and/or SEL. Being a bibliophile, I jumped at the chance to get more books in the classrooms. I wrote the grant for getting a mini-SEL library for each classroom with books specific to the issues I see each grade level face most commonly/pervasively.

After we got the books (and oooed and ahhed over them extensively), we ordered some of our favorite book boxes for them, and consulted with our literacy coach. Our hope was that by including some standards-based discussion questions and writing prompts, we could garner additional investment from our teachers for the books usage. Then started the task of compiling (and sometimes creating) short extension activities for each book.

The end result was this:

Each box included a handout with both standards based and counselor created discussion questions and a handout briefly explaining activities the teachers could use to reinforce the books' lessons, as well as any accompanying materials (task cards, master copy of worksheet, etc.

We introduced these to the teachers very early in the mixed responses. A handful of teachers were excited, a handful were frustrated (our daily classroom's schedule is maxed out and anything that appears "extra" is stressful for the teachers), and most were apathetic. While we were hoping for lots of joy, we also recognize that everything new has a learning curve, both for us and for the teachers. When we first started doing regular classroom lessons, we had push back, and now they're usually jazzed for us to come in. Things take time to build, and a strong culture of SEL (and incorporating SEL into literacy!) is just in the growing and building stages still.

That said...about three or four months since introducing them...and we've gotten some GREAT feedback! The activities don't seem to be being used, so in the future we won't put time into them, but the books have been a huge hit. Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 3rd grade in particular have been big fans.

Curious as to what books we selected for each grade?

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