My Brain is Awesome - Academic Confidence Lesson

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The same month I did multiple intelligences with 4th grade, I did academic confidence with 3rd grade. This is a breakdown of our lesson:

·         Read A Walk in the Rain with a Brain to the students.


·         Discussion Qs:

o   What lesson(s) is Fred the brain trying to teach us? (we’re all smart in our own ways, it’s important to try, persevere/keep going, believe in yourself)

o   How can you take care of your brain to make it stronger? (asking questions, trying new things, being healthy, thinking positively)

·         Give students the "My Brain is Awesome" worksheet:


Cartoon drawing of your brain (can use color, can do whatever you want because it’s YOUR brain)
3 things your brain is really good at (not including sports); encourage specificity (examples such as “multiplication facts”, “solving problems with friends”, etc.)
-  3 thoughts you can think while taking a test to be more confident (I had to give examples of the OPPOSITE to help them understand this)


Any time I have students do a worksheet, I try to come up with an "early finishers" extension activity because I know they will be finishing at various times. Because I had an upcoming career event, I asked students to brainstorm as many careers as they could think of on the back of their sheet when they finished, even if they weren't careers they were interested in. Some of these kiddos struuuugggglled with this! I also got some very amusing answers. Of note was the fact that the majority of students listed companies that people could work for, not understanding that there are lots of different careers one can have within a company.


Social Support After Loss - Activity

Monday, July 28, 2014
One of my really mature 4th graders faced a lot of loss and turmoil during this past school year, the worst being the death of a grandparent. A large portion of her grief was due to feeling as if no one else could fill their role in terms of how they made her feel and the support they provided her.

The first thing we did was write up a list of all the ways this person supported her, as well as their personality traits that meant the most to her. Then we made a list of other people in her life that could provide her with these things.  This student likes anything crafty/artistic, so the last thing we did was match the characteristics of her grandparent to the people in her life that could fill some of this void.









She understood that no one could really take their place, but this activity helped her view the loss as less devastating.

Space Protectors vs. Space Invaders

Sunday, July 27, 2014
The idea of teaching kids the social skill of personal space through space protectors and space invaders is nothing new - but I'm going to share the worksheet I used and how I did this with my group in case anyone is looking for additional inspiration.

I co-ran a social skills group with our SLP for students with ASD, ADHD, and ODD. One of our 30 minute sessions was on personal space. If I would have had more time, I would have begun by reading Personal Space Camp. Instead, we first talked about the concept of "space bubbles" (appropriate physical boundaries) for different groups of people. I drew out concentric circles on chart paper and the boys wrote examples of people and settings on post-its that they would keep at the various distances away from.


Next, we discussed what space protectors and space invaders would do given what they knew about appropriate space bubbles:


We ended with the boys applying what they had learned by writing and drawing about a space protector:

To download/edit this worksheet for yourself, click here.

Test Taking Skills Exhibit

It seems like there is never enough time in the year to hit every topic in every room, so I have to get a little creative. Something I became interested in last year is programming that delivers the core school counseling curriculum without me doing classroom lessons (though this could absolutely be done as a classroom lesson, you would just need to bring all the materials with you to each room). My first major attempt at this was through a "test taking skills exhibit".


First inspired by this test-taking skills foldable at Savvy School Counselor, I decided to create an exhibit of sorts; something that teachers could bring their classes to that would really run itself. The gist of it is that students (in pairs or trios) would cycle through different test-taking skills stations, adding to their foldable at each one. Teachers and students both love this because it provides a much needed change of pace from the "drill and kill"/review that they're doing in the classroom, plus it provides an opportunity for movement!

At each station they:
     1) read about the skill,
     2) add it to their foldable (draw on the outside, glue the description on the inside), and then
     3) practice the skill.

In consultation with my teachers, these are the skills for the exhibit:
  • Fly Over First (look quickly at the questions before reading the passage)
  • Own the Operation (think right away about which operation(s) the problem calls for)
  • Slash the Trash (eliminate answers you know are wrong)
  • Bee Prepared (get a good night's rest, eat a healthy breakfast, etc.)
  • Dodge the Difficult Ones (skip and go back to the hard ones)
  • Jail the Detail (underline/highlight/circle important words in questions)
  • Believe in Your Brain (think helpful/positive thoughts)
  • Review Your Responses (check your answers)

At each of the 8 stations was a cup of markers (for writing and illustrating the skill), slips of paper describing the skill in more detail scissors (for trimming the folder or slips), glue sticks (for the slips), and a trifold board all about the skill. Here's an example of one of the boards:


As you can see, the left has an example of how to write/draw the skill on the foldable, the center has a brief description of the skill (the same thing that's on the paper slips for the inside of the foldable), and the right has directions for practicing the skill. Here are all of the rest of the boards:





As you can see on the directions side, I made questions/problems for most of the boards that students practice the skill with. Although our achievement test isn't 100% common core based, our curriculum is, so I used CCSS to develop both ELA and math questions.

If you're interested in any of the "Directions" sheets or practice questions, leave a comment with your email and I'll send you what you have - it's a bit much to upload right now.

'The Self-Esteem Game' Board Game Review

Sunday, July 20, 2014
Improved self-esteem is a goal of most groups I run, and many of my individual sessions as well. When a found a children's board game that focused on this, for less than $30, I jumped on it. Here is The Self Esteem Game:



Players roll the die which instructs them to go to one of the positive affirmation spaces (and repeat the affirmation), pull a problem card, or pull an esteem card. After pulling a problem card (examples below), players spin the spinner which tells them how they "solved" the problem (positively or negatively). Esteem cards are positive affirmations paired with a personal discussion question.


 This game is not great. In my opinion, self-esteem is not an accurate focus. The esteem cards seem more geared towards making positive behavior choices. The problems in the problem cards are very vague/generic, and the "solutions" on the spinner are as well. The game is marketed for ages 8+ and while there are certainly some 8 year olds that are on this level, it seems like it would be more appropriate for 10-14 year olds.

Possible edits someone could make to improve the game:
-create new problem cards using the type of problems your students/clients face
-create a new spinner with more specific positive and negative coping skills
-either add an additional element for focusing on self-esteem, or use the game as more of a "get to know you" or termination game

Coping Cards

Saturday, July 19, 2014
One of my 3rd graders became somewhat of a frequent flyer in my office about a particular anxiety she was having. We weren't able to lessen the anxiety or get rid of the worry thoughts after 2 or 3 sessions (and it wasn't severe enough to warrant an outside referral), so I suggested that we focus on her handling or coping with the anxieties instead of trying to get rid of them. We'd practiced some coping skills the previous year for a separate issue, so after a brief review, we created some "coping cards" for her to put on her nightstand. Here's what we came up with together:

  • Think of a safe place or a place where you feel really good. To feel like you're there, think about what you would see, taste, feel, smell, hear, and touch there. This kiddo picked a local amusement park.
  • Take 6 deep breaths. To make it more fun, we added the "in through your nose, out through your mouth, slow like a turtle, blowing bubbles out" poem to help her remember what a deep breath is like.
  • Think more helpful thoughts! One of this student's problems was that she believed that feeling scared was a terrible thing. Coming up with a couple thoughts that didn't dispute the fear but instead disputed the meaning of the fear was helpful.




A few notecards, some smelly markers, and a pipe cleaner later - and she no longer had problems with this fear!


Multiple Intelligences Lesson - Part 2

Friday, July 18, 2014
Part 2 of the Multiple Intelligences lesson is here! See Part 1 here.


-Review the 8 kinds of “smarts”. First asking students to list which ones they remember, then read the descriptions below and ask them to identify which smart they go with.

o   Enjoys solving difficult word problems, likes to work with numbers, likes to organize facts and information.
o   Enjoys reading for fun, likes to write stories or letters.
o   Can read maps and diagrams easily, likes to draw or paint.
o   Likes to care for the earth and nature, likes to be outside.
o   Likes to listen to music, good at singing or playing an instrument.
o   Likes to be alone, needs time to think over ideas, thinks about their own feelings.
o   Enjoys sports, dancing, or using their body to learn.
o   Gets along well with others, friendly and helpful, likes to meet new people.

-Give each student a copy of the smarts survey and explain how to take it.
     A note about the survey: I needed something that was black and white,  super simple and fast to administer, and  appropriate for below-grade level 4th graders. Nothing I found was perfect, so I used http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Multiple-Intelligences-Inventory-for-Kids-314679 and http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Multiple-Intelligences-Survey-Unit-322865to create my own. Link at the bottom if you want to download/edit.


-Hand out the processing/scoring worksheet, show students the scoring key, and ask them to fill it out.



It took a lot of creativity (from myself included) to think of careers that used some of these combinations, but that made it all the more interesting.

This lesson was so much FUN! It was a lot different from the usual skills I teach my students and I really enjoyed getting to see them make connections to themselves and to the "real world". Some sticky points:
     *Self Smart is really hard to understand - even for adults
     *Some students were upset when they didn't score as "Body Smart". I had to do lots of explaining about how just because we love doing something and think we're good at it doesn't necessarily mean that's our "top" smart.
     *I had originally planned on having the kiddos all sign their name on a poster representing their top smart. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. This could have been a neat way of them gaining even more ownership of their "smart".

Want to use this as is or edit it for yourself? Here it is!

Smarts Survey

CBT Homework - 3rd Grader

Monday, July 14, 2014
I gave one of my 3rd grade girls a mini-notebook to journal in and within days, I had many more of my little ladies requesting their own journals/diaries. One such student was struggling with being very critical and very negative about people and situations around her. After a session where I introduced the basic concepts of CBT to her, I gave her a little journal and challenged her to do some "thoughts homework" for me - with the promise of eating lunch with me if she completed it. Challenge accepted! I took a page and made spots for her to give 4 examples of a positive and negative thought.


One:
Negative: "I want to have the red one."
Positive: "Blue is a good color."

Two:
Negative: "She got the last one. No fair."
Positive: "I will get one tomorrow."

Three:
Negative: "It will take forever."
Positive: "I will be patient."

Four:
Negative: "She is not my friend".
Positive: "Maybe she doesn't want to hang out."

Not too bad for an 8 year old who had only recently been introduced to these concepts! I was lucky that this student doesn't have an aversion to homework, because having her think through these ideas at home lead to greater generalization and faster improvement of her feelings.

In vs. Out of Our Control

One of my 4th grade classrooms had a ton of conflict between a handful of the girls. One of them really struggled with appropriate social skills and was often being rude/mean. The other girls struggled between being frustrated by her and still wanting to be her friend. A couple of them self-referred and together we created this:



The girls and I brainstormed things in their lives that were both out of their control and in their control. The hope is that after doing this, they could focus more on their own choices and less on the choices of a classmate...and maybe think more about whether or not its in their best interest to continue friendships with people that hurt them.

Personal Safety Using "The Kid Trapper"

I'll admit - I was pretty anxious about finally delivering a personal safety/sexual abuse lesson. Rebecca of School Counseling by Heart has lots of blog posts about how she does these lessons and they were a LIFSAVER. In particular, this post which has a little script of what to say to the kiddos to prepare them was incredibly helpful.

This lesson topic fell right before a major test so I only had 30 minutes to deliver it. I knew that, even more than with my other lessons, I wanted to use books. While the books I selected for 2nd grade (I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping your private parts private) and 3rd grade (My Body is Private) were alright, it was my 4th grade book that really rocked it for me.

*Side note: I Said No! was very, very repetitive and much of it felt a little young for my second semester 2nd graders. My Body is Private was pretty good, but super outdated with illustrations that weren't even remotely engaging.

Julia Cook's books don't always live up to their claims in my opinion, but The Kid Trapper was everything I'd hoped it would be and more.


The main character spends time playing video games at the house of an adult male neighbor loved by everyone. Eventually, the man begins to blackmail the boy into drinking beer, posing for pictures, etc. The book alludes to sexual abuse without actually stating it. My 4th graders were so engaged during this story! They were quieter during this story than most. I also had a lot of participation afterwards when I asked them discussion questions.

One of the things so awesome about this story is that it touches on safety and "sticky situations" issues beyond sexual abuse; it opens the door for discussions on the courage to tell an adult, the importance of stopping things before they go too far, and trusting your gut.
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