Teaching Kelso's Choices - This Year's Lesson Plans

Thursday, September 21, 2017
Last fall, I published a post that discussed all the different ways we've taught and reviewed Kelso's Choices over the years at our school. We stuck with some of the original plan but I mixed it up some with my 'big kids'.

school counseling lesson plan teaching conflict resolution with Kelso's Choices

3rd Grade

After whipping out the plush frog and getting them excited for the return of Kelso, we talked about why we learn about Kelso's Choices EVERY. YEAR. Some buttercup always points out "because we forget them sometimes". Then we watched both video clips again (links and stopping points/discussion questions in the link above). I swapped the order of the videos this time because I wanted us to end on the scenarios where characters used "Ignore".

BE a Leader - Lesson Plan

Saturday, September 16, 2017
Back in the spring, I did a lesson with my 4th graders about choosing what reputation they wanted to leave behind at elementary school and start middle school with. I loved it, and started thinking that maybe this same idea could be used at the start of the year too.

We ask a lot of our 4th graders. We assume that once they start the year, they are ready to become the role models and leaders that we expect them to be - yet we don't always take the time to make sure they know what this means for them as individuals. Enter: "BE a Leader" lesson.

School Counseling #Goals

Monday, September 4, 2017
A little over a year ago, I shared some slides from a presentation I gave on SMART goals for school counselors. Goal setting is important to me for three reasons: 1) I gotta practice what I preach and I tell the kiddos to set goals, 2) in a world of Pinterest, blogs, and TpT, goals keep me focused and 3) goals help us make sure our program is effective.

This year, I made three kinds of goals: personal school counseling goals, program process goals, and student outcome goals. I learn best through example so for those of you that do too, here are mine!

Personal School Counseling Goals

These are goals I have for myself as a counseling professional. 

1. Improve my individual counseling.
Refresh myself on solution-focused strategies, incorporate more art, and bring back some client-centered play therapy. This was my strength but as they say - use it or lose it - and I think I've lost some of my non-CBT strategies and skills.

2. Incorporate academics more into whole group lessons.
I want teachers to infuse SEL into their instruction and reinforce my messages - I can model this (and help our schools' low reading scores) by doing the reverse.

3. Be a Positive Patty.
Our school is undergoing some significant changes. That paired with ever increasing pressures and a shrinking budget is a recipe for negativity. I need to be the light.

4. Apply to Present at Another Conference
Last year, I applied to (and was accepted to) present at a semi-local conference for school counselors and administrators. It was an awesome experience and I caught the 'presenting bug'. In the spring, I challenged myself to apply to present at a different conference this school year. I submitted my application a couple weeks ago and should hear in 11 days if my proposal was accepted!

Program Process Goals

These are our goals for improving our school counseling program and making it the best it can be. 

1. Rock small groups.
Conduct pre/post surveys (or collect pre/post data) on 50%+ of my small groups. A couple years ago, I tried to collect data on every group I ran - and much of it was meaningless. Last year, the pendulum was too far in the other direction and I collected next to no data. My goal this year is to be more intentional with small group data. I am also going to give myself more grace in small group session planning and remind myself that the consistency and relationships of it are more important than the activities I come up with. If I come up with super cool plans? Great! If I just build strong relationships and model high expectations? Also great.

2. Do more for the teachers.
Morale among faculty dipped too low at the end of last year. While I certainly don't think positive faculty culture and climate is the responsibility of the school counselor, I think we are in a unique position to assist with it given our training and our broader view of the school.

3. Start an advisory council.
While I don't think we are willing to devote our time to applying for RAMP yet, my co-counselor and I want our program to be 'RAMP Ready' and we realized that an advisory council is one of our only missing pieces. This is a tricky task at a school with super duper low parent involvement and a mostly ELL parent population, but we see value in this and want to give it a go. (Is it a little backwards to make all these goals before the first advisory council meets? Maybe. But I needed goals in place ASAP and we haven't been able to convene the council yet).

Student Outcome Goals

These are goals that answer the question: How are our students measurably different as a result of the school counseling program?

1. Following the MTSS model, 80% of students will show mastery (as reported by teacher) of newly taught SEL skill set at completion of each unit/theme. 
Our school (and district) values SEL and this is the core of our program. I'll write more at another time about how we assess social emotional learning.

2. Contribute to the schoolwide goal of each student making 18 months of academic growth.
Talk about a big, hairy, audacious goal! But our new admin is adamant that it can be done and by all means, my co-counselor and I are going to do our part to work towards this.

3. Reduce the number of general education students with 2+ behavior incidents by 33%.
This goal allows us to provided targeted intervention to students identify from last school year as at-risk for behavior difficulties, and to continue to provide quality consultation to teachers at a prevention and early intervention level.

4. Decrease the number of students with 20+ tardies by 20%.
This is our first year making an attendance goal; our school's attendance is actually one of the best for our quadrant (our district is huge and divided into quadrants and clusters). That said, we hear from teachers all the time about the negative impact these tardies have on students who would otherwise be on grade level academically.

Would I bet money on achieving all of these goals? Nope. I am going to give myself grace. Am I gonna bust it and do my best to remind myself of these goals every day? Yup! For me, this means printing them in a pretty format and having them as the very first page in my planner/binder.

Want your own printable to put your AMAZING counseling goals on? It's in my TpT store for free! I also included a 'tip sheet' to help guide you along. Click the image below to get there. And please comment with some of YOU goals for the year!

Classroom Coping Skills - Calm Down Box - Lesson Plan

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Two years ago, my co-counselor and I were given money in the school budget to create calm down boxes for each homeroom. We were JAZZED about this. We spend copious amounts of time finding approved vendors, DIYing our glitter jars, and trying to master Boardmaker. The first week of school we gave them to the teachers and gave some suggestions on how they could introduce them to their students. Cut to the end of the year: the boxes were never really used. We found them on high shelves behind teachers' desks. We found them hidden behind things on the floor. We went into rooms we couldn't find them at all. We talked to students who looked at us like we were crazy when we asked about them. It was a total fail. At first I was angry; then I realized I was to blame.

Where did we go wrong?
1) We gave them to teachers the first week of school and expected them to hear and remember the words coming out of our mouths. In our excitement for students to have these tools (and, admittedly, excitement to have the boxes out of our already cramped and tiny offices), we forgot to think strategically about the timing of their release.
2) We asked our teachers to teach the students how to use the calm down box because we didn't want to use up one of our lessons for it. This was silly because a) this is really in the counseling wheelhouse and b) it's not good practice to add to teachers' plates unless absolutely necessary.

This year we remedied our mistake by planning for our first lesson in 2nd-4th grade to be about classroom coping skills where we would teach and practice use of the calm down box.

I had originally planned a few read alouds to kick off the lesson: Mouse Was Mad for 2nd grade, Moody Cow Meditates for 3rd, and Even Superheroes Have Bad Days for 4th. I didn't end up having enough time to do this for my 45 minute lessons, but if I had a whole 60, I would have gone for it.

Once I got a better sense of how long the rotations part of the lesson was going to go, I instead starting with a short discussion with the class about feeling super upset (mad, worried, sad) and how sometimes those feelings make it hard for our brain to learn. Then I introduce the calm down box - a set of tools or strategies you can use to help yourself feel better so your brain can go back to learning

After explaining that we'd be practicing the strategies in rotations, I explicitly teach and model how to use each of them. For example, I show and explain that the stress ball will always stay in our hands (not the floor, our desks, or the air) and that we squeeze the ball super tight for 5 seconds, relax our hand and arm muscles for 5 seconds, and then repeat. As I teach each tool, I have a volunteer place the rotation directions and practice tools on top of a table or desk grouping. 

For 3rd and 4th grade, we practiced 6 tools and had 6 rotations: mandala, 'My Happy Place', deep breathing, glitter jar (or visual timer), stress ball, and 'Hug an Animal'. With 2nd grade I narrowed it down to just 'My Happy Place', mandala, visual timer, and deep breathing. Last year we didn't have stuffed animals in the boxes, but both my co-counselor and I witnessed the power of the stuffed animal in our offices and decided to include them. 

*Side note - my mind jar recipe as as follows: 1 part glycerin to 3-4 parts water, 4 drops dish soap, 3 drops food coloring, and glitter

They really only needed 2 to 3 minutes per rotation which was a surprise. I used my phone timer in the upper grades because we needed to stay on track to get through all six stations, and used my chime in 2nd grade where I could just gauge their readiness before rotating them. Big kids also scored each rotation as they went to show how helpful each strategy was for them.

In rooms where we had extra time (i.e. rooms that managed the logistics of the lesson without us needing to stop and review expectations), students completed exit tickets. I really loved this piece because I find that students do excellent when learning coping skills but they struggle with using them in the moment - this exit ticket helps them anticipate when they'll need to use the calm down box.

In high need rooms, I also introduced the visual communication board. Each year, I have a number of students whose emotional dysregulation results in a total shut down. I used a similar board the last couple of years and found that many of these students respond really well to being able to identify their emotion and need non-verbally like this.

I love how this lesson turned out (I experimented with coping skills rotations a few years ago) but, as always, I have a "next time I do this..." for it. This could be even more powerful if I broke it up into two lessons. The first would be a focus on identifying strong emotions in themselves, including the physical clues of the feelings. The second would just be the rotations and exit ticket.

If you want the materials for this lesson, you can find them in my TpT store - just click the image below!

Back to School Greatness on TpT

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Hey y'all! I am part of a collaborative of counselors on TpT. We just released this ebook, hosted on Counselor Keri's store, that includes the best resources from several counselors (and a freebie from each!). It's a great way to learn about what counselor-authors are out there that might help you build up your program. Click the image below to get to the page.

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