August 29, 2017

Career Countdown 2016

It can be difficult to get our little of students thinking about careers. Adulthood and job choices are so far away for elementary school students. 

We have to take the opportunity while they are young to get kids thinking about what they like and what their interests may lead to. They need to be challenged to think about what qualities make for a good employee. We’ve got to get them thinking about their futures. My kids deserve to be exposed to this information. Who knows what it might inspire.

I wanted to make thinking about careers interactive and fun. I also wanted to get the most bang for my buck and reach as many kids as possible. I enlisted the help of a very good friend of mine, who is amazing at bulletin boards, to make this top 12 careers of 2016 bulletin board for me. I plan to ask her to pretty please work her magic on another countdown after Christmas break for the top 12 careers of 2017.

We do a school wide weekly career countdown. Every Thursday I send the next career out to the teachers. My hope is that they will take 5-10 minutes on Friday to talk about that career. I hope that by the teacher creating an open forum for discussion students will ask questions and think about careers in ways they had not before.  

Here’s where we are in the countdown so far.

I’ll keep you posted!

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Kid's Career Choices Packet  
Top 12 Career Posters included in packet and are updated yearly.  

August 26, 2017

Friendship Chain (Kinder, Round 2)

I really like getting our littlest of students to realize they are part of a something bigger than themselves. I like when it clicks for them that it isn’t all about them as an individual and that what they do can affect the great majority. They have the power to connect with and either help or hurt their fellow classmates. That’s a big concept for a five year old to understand! Letting them know that they are part of a team and have responsibilities they must uphold as a responsible team member is really rewarding to me.

To help the students understand that they are all connected and that what they do affects and connects to others in the class, for the second year in a row, we made a friendship chain throughout all of kindergarten. We started by reading the book “Rainbow Fish.” We did quite a few activities surrounding this book and built on the idea that sharing and making connections with others is a good way to make a friend. 

At the end of the lesson, we created the friendship chain aka the connection chain. After everyone had a chance to color their friendship link, I had each student come up one at a time and blow the class’s minds as I connected all of the links. I stapled the links together because it was quick and easy. At the end of the lesson I hung the chain high in their classroom for the rest of our time together.

At the end, I took the friendship chain with me and at the end of my kinder rotation I attached all the chains together and hung the full chain at the front of the kinder wing. The teachers told me the kiddos were so excited to see their creation and to see how their class fit within their grade level and mixed seamlessly with all the other classes.

It was seriously so much fun.  

Download your own FREE template of the Friendship Chain HERE!

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Check out how I did it the first year by clicking HERE

July 20, 2017

Whoooo's the School Counselor (kinder and first)

At the elementary age, it is especially important for School Counselors to introduce ourselves to all students. They need to know from kindergarten forward, who we are and how I we can help them. If we let kids know from an early age that we are here for them, they are much more likely to seek us out when they are older or have an issue.

To lay the foundation of my counseling program, I start with counselor introductions the second week of school. I try to get into every class and let them know who I am and what I do. I start with kindergarten and first grade, there is a high chance that the majority of these students will not know who I am or what a School Counselor does. I like to spend a lot of time there and answer any and all questions. I then move to second-fifth grade and visit classes as everyone schedule allows. By the end of august (our first month of school), I make it my goal to have visited every class at least once.

Kindergarten is always the most fun. I start by telling them my name and that I am the School Counselor. I then ask what they think a School Counselor does. Many of them have not been to school before and have some very creative answers to this question. My favorite being, “why don’t you cancel school more often?” it took me a minute to realize she thought I was the school canceller.

After I talk about myself for a little bit, I ask what other type of people work at school? They list many different positions. “As you can see, there are a lot of different people that work here at school that can help you when need help. We are going to talk about those people today.”

I then pass out the career cubes. 

I give one cube per group of 2-4 people. I let them take turns rolling the cube and then giving an example of something that the person they landed on could help them with. For example, if someone landed on librarian, the example they could give would be,” the librarian could help me pick out books.”  The next person would then take their turn.

After they have time to discuss the jobs on the cubes (bus driver, librarian, school counselor, teacher, coach, resource officer, parents, school nurse, custodian, or principal) I direct their attention back up to the front. I display the posters use them to help me explain my specific roles and responsibilities as the School Counselor. 

I like to take a lot of time on this part to make sure they fully understand my role and have all of their questions answered. 

After that, I move into the “Who Would You Go To?” sliders game. I make the game ahead of time to prepare for the lesson. I print, laminate and cut apart all of the cards and sliders templates. This way, they are ready to go and are durable enough for kindergarten fingers.

I pick out which cards I want to use (some are too hard/too easy for kinder) and place them all upside down in a pile on the table. I then pick up one card at a time, read it out loud and have students answer the question using their slider. It is seriously so much fun.

When we are done, I have them complete one of the activity sheets as I walk around mingling with the kids. I like to check and see if I can identify any students who I should be working with more closely.

Once I finish my rounds in kinder and first, I move onto second through fifth grade where I introduce my School Counselor Superpowers. 

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May 21, 2017

Friends Turned Fenemy

I’m sure we’ve all been there. A girl or two is in our office crying their eyes out because of their “friend(s)” hurting their feelings in some way or another. Lets face it, girls can be really mean. If its a group of repeat offenders, it can make you feel really helpless as a counselor. 
Sometimes it really is an innocent squabble between true friends that will figure itself out by the end of the day. That is best case scenario. You lend an empathetic ear knowing that they just need to get it all out and then they will feel better. Other times, it seems as if it is a constant dramatic battle that will only end when all parties involved decide to no longer be friends. That is worst case scenario. You are offering rock solid advice that seems to only temporarily help the situation. The Band-Aid you place on their friendship only keeps the peace for a day or two before some other friendship shattering argument takes place. The delicate balance between friendship and full blown diva style meltdowns can make a counselor who is expected to have all the answers want to pull their hair out.

So why do some groups of friends behave this way? One word; frenemies.

Some “friends” do hold true to the definition of this word through their actions.
Friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.
The piece that is missing in these volatile friendship groups is the mutual affection component. These groups that find their way to our offices normally contain frenemies, not true friends.

Frenemy: a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.
These friendship groups are full of girls who are secretly in competition with each other, girls who are not looking out for each other’s well-being or want to see their “friends” succeed.

Frenemies are girls who act like they are friends but through their actions it is obvious they want to hurt or bring their friends down in order to feel better about themselves at their “friends” expense.

How can we teach our young girls to spot a frenemy? How can we teach them to deal with frenemies or break up with toxic friends? As School Counselors it can feel like a helpless situation, how can we help?

Here are six signs that can help you spot if a “friend” is actually a frenemy.
1.      They are untrustworthy.
They do not keep true to their word or keep your secrets safe. You can never be sure if they are loyal to you or have your best interest in mind.

2.     They do not seem to care about your feelings.
They do not listen to what you have to say, hurt your feelings often or aren’t there for you when you are hurting.

3.     They are hurtful behind your back
When you are not around, they are not a true friend. This could include talking about you, spreading rumors, laughing at your expense or not standing up for you.  

4.     They are not there for you when you need them.
When it really counts and you truly need their time or support, they are nowhere to be found. When you really need a true friend to be there for you, there are not there.

5.     They discourage you and bring you down.
When good things are happening in your life or you need a supportive shoulder to lean on, they do not shower you in positivity.  

6.     They are unfriendly a lot of the time.
Your feelings are often hurt, you’re doubting yourself frequently, and you aren’t happy around this person. When you really sit down and think about it, they just aren’t that nice to you.

Here are five steps to dealing with a toxic frenemy:
1.      Recognize that the friendship isn’t working out. Take time to decide if this person is a friend or a frenemy. Look back at the six statements above and decide if your friend meets those six criteria. If they are a true friend, try to solve the problem that is making the friendship not work, if they are a frenemy, move forward with these steps.

2.     Think about if you want to end the friendship. Is there just a temporary problem? Are you happy in this friendship? Do you want to continue this friendship? If you answered no to these questions then you may want to seriously consider ending the friendship because it isn’t good for you.

3.     If you do decide that you may want to end the friendship, talk to the person directly. Tell them exactly how you feel about their actions towards you. Be true and tell them exactly what isn’t working for you in this friendship. Either give them a chance to change and work on how they are in your friendship or be honest about wanting to end the relationship.

4.     Prepare yourself for them to not take the news very well. It is hard to hear that you aren’t being the best friend or that someone doesn’t want to hang out with you anymore. Be ready for them to say something that isn’t the nicest.

5.     Once you’ve said what you have to say and have dealt with their reactions, move forward with life and try to find new people to form healthy friendships with.

As School Counselors, the best thing we can do is be there to listen to our students and hear their concerns. At times it may seem like trivial problems, however to the kids these problems are their entire world at the moment. We have to take them seriously. We should listen, be compassionate, try to help them problem solve on their own and know when to remove ourselves from the situation. Unfortunately, sometimes there is nothing we can do with girl group drama. We can’t help those that don’t want to help themselves. We can do peer mediation, small groups, guidance classes, individual counseling; sometimes even that isn’t enough. After we’ve done all that we can, if the girls aren’t willing to/can’t work out their differences but still want to be friends, as School Counselors we have to let them figure it out on their own. After a certain point, we have to empower them to make their own choices and deal with their interpersonal issues as they see necessary.

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Click here to read about my Girl’s Group Small Group plan, or you can download your own copy HERE.
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April 13, 2017

Boy's Group Interactive Book

All too often I have boys come into my office upset because of something that happened that caused them to lose their cool, or in trouble for how they responded to the situation that angered them. Sometimes they act out in anger intentionally, sometime they just don't know how to better handle the situation. 

The kids I work with are young; anger is a big emotion. Most adults do not even appropriately handle their anger, how can we expect these little ones to keep in control? Instead of punishing them for losing their cool, I want to teach them the skills to understand and manage their anger. I want to teach them skills they can take with them into adulthood that will help them to become better people overall.

Building on this idea, I created a small group curriculum for boys designed to do just that. It’s not that girls don’t get angry, I just see a lot of resources for girls and not many specifically for boys.  I made it just for boys to get them hooked, excited, feeling like they were invited to a special class by someone who cares.

 This small group curriculum is packed with 10 interactive activities designed to teach students more about their specific type of anger, how to handle situations that anger them and role-play common anger inducing situations all while they have fun making their own interactive book. 

I just finished up a small group using this resource with four fifth grade boys. They had a blast learning how to control their anger and keep calm while they designed their own Calm Down Control book. Each session, they created an additional page or two of their Calm Down Control book. I utilize cardstock paper instead of an actual notebook. At the end of each session, I collected the pages and keep them all until the end of our group. I then stapled the pages together and let the students take their Calm Down Control Book home. 

I made a book along with the boys. They said I was the only girl allowed in the group and I was invited in under special circumstances. I’m currently pregnant with a little boy so they said I was kind of like a boy and could join in. kids are seriously so funny.

Below is an outline of our sessions together and pictures of the book that I created.

I cannot wait to run this group again with another set of students.

Session #1: Group Intro, Group Norms, Get to Know Me Activity

Session #2: Anger Triggers

Session #3: Anger Types/Describing Your Specific Anger

Session #4: What Does Your Anger Feel Like?

Session #5: Steps to My Anger

Session #6: Who Has the Control?

Session #7: Who Should Have Control?

Session #8: Keep Calm Tools

Session #9: Role-playing, How Could You Control Yourself?

Session #10: What Works Best For You/What Did You Learn?

In the end the boys have a clear understanding of their specific type of anger, acceptable behaviors when upset, ways to handle their anger, calm down tools/strategies and what works best for them.

I’ve seen a major decrease in episodes of anger explosions with the boys in the groups that I’ve had create this book so far. I’m sure your students will learn a lot about their anger, while having fun too!

You can download your own copy HERE.

March 26, 2017

Girl's Group (Interactive Book)

At least three times a week I get complaints about the dreaded girl drama. It never fails. Girls these days are mean to each other. Sometimes it’s on purpose, sometimes it is on accident. Whether it be unintentional or malicious, in every grade level grades 2-5, there are multiple students guilty of this girl on girl drama.

It may sound silly. You may be thinking, “They’re so young! Just tell them to get over it.” While it may be true that some of the drama and reasons for the fighting are absolutely ridiculous, right now that’s their whole world and their main focus. These girl drama problems mean a lot to them in the moment and can leave lasting damage. It can also take away from their learning and cause classroom wide issues.

I decided that I had enough of the inflow of young girls running to my office in tears because someone was being a fake friend to them, or a “frenemy” as they called it. I decided that maybe I could help them realize how painful their actions were to the people they call their friends.

I started different variations of Girl’s Groups throughout second-fifth grades (I tried it with first but it was a little over their heads). The length of the group depended on the needs of the group and severity of their issues/drama. There are ten possible sessions, I mixed and match and skipped sessions as needed to create different versions of this interactive Friendship Book to fit each groups unique needs. Below is an outline of a group I did utilizing the full ten sessions, creating the full Friendship Book:

Session #1: Group Intro

Session #2: What is a Friend or Frenemy?

Session #3: Quality Sorts

Session #4: Situation Sorts

Session #5: Questionable Friendships

Session #6: Healthy Friendships

Session #7: How to Deal

Session #8: Role-playing Friendships

Session #9: Letter Writing

Session #10: Self Reflection

In the end the girls have a clear understanding of behaviors of a good friend, how to avoid being a frenemy, how to handle a frenemy and how to respectfully break up with a friend who isn’t the best for you.

I’ve seen a major decrease in drama in the groups that I’ve had create this book.

You can download your own copy HERE.