August 28, 2016

Kindergarten Specials-Rotation #1

This year we have two School Counselors. I did flips from excitement when I heard the news. I was stoked that the students would finally get as much help and attention as they deserve now that we are splitting the caseload of a little over 1,000 K-5th grade students between the two of us.

I was a little less excited to also find out that this year we were also on the kindergarten rotation schedule. The running joke is that teaching kindergarten is like herding cats, only harder.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

I will be the first to admit, besides what I have learned from teaching my guidance lessons, I have zero classroom experience. I was a little intimated to say the least; 50 minutes is a long time to spend with 23 “situations”.  

In the past, when I've taught kindergarten guidance lessons, the teacher was in the room to provide much needed reinforcements. As part of the specials rotation, the teacher leaves and has 50 child free minutes of freedom to eat, drink, make copies, grade, set up for the next activity and use the bathroom all as separate events instead of cramming them all into the multitasking nightmare us working in the school system call a lunch break.  

This year, I was on my own. The night before my first kindergarten special, I said a little prayer to the teaching gods that no one would get hurt or run away while on my watch and that the Principal would steer clear of that wing of the school.

The next day, I gave myself a pep talk as I headed towards my first classroom of the rotation. 

With my supplies ready to go and a healthy skeptism that this was going to go perfectly, I entered the classroom.

11:00 a.m. “Hi Mrs. Bell! We’re so excited to see you!” said the woman who teaches these little cuties full time. “We just finished math, they may need a brain break for a bit. I’m already logged into GoNoodle, see you at 11:50! Good luck!”

She couldn’t get out of that room fast enough.

Here I am, standing in front of 23 five-year-olds. I wasn’t going to let them smell my fear. I introduced myself like I’ve been teaching kindergarten for years and put on GoNoodle before they had a chance to rebel.   

They were jumping around giggling like it was the most fun they had ever had in their lives.

I may survive this. Then the real adventure began. I had to start teaching.

11:05 a.m. I asked them what it means to be a good friend and wrote their answers on the smartboard. I mostly just wanted to write on the smartboard, those things are really cool.

11:10 a.m I asked them all to join me on the carpet as I sat in the most comfortable rocking chair I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in. It was as if it were perfectly crafted just for me. I had to ask four enthusiastic little girls to back up about half a dozen times because I felt like I was going to kick them. It is my goal in life to never be on the news for a teaching related incident; the press would have a field day if they knew I kicked a five year old because the rocking chair was so comfortable I couldn’t contain myself from rocking much like a five year old would.

I showed them the book “The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig. 

I asked what they noticed about the boy on the cover. Their heads swirled with reasons why someone might feel or be invisible. The most interesting guess was that it must have rained too hard on him and washed away his colors. I like that kid, he’s a thinker.

11:15 a.m. The air was thick with intensity. They were glued to my every word as I read this book. They cared so deeply for this invisible little boy they had never met before.

“Someone be his friend!” one little girl yelled with a look of sheer panic.

The same kid I’ve corrected twice for poking his neighbors yelled, “How can kids be so mean?”

I don’t know little boy, I just don’t know.

11:20 a.m. The book just posed the most philosophical question these kids have ever heard and I literally heard their minds being blown. “Which is worse being laughed at or being invisible.”

A tidal wave of emotion almost broke loose answering this question.

11:25 a.m Thank goodness this little boy from the book is starting to make friends and get his colors back. Two little girls were about to have a meltdown because they wanted to hug him and bring him back to life. Never would I have thought these little guys could feel so deep for a black and white character.

When the book was over I asked their opinions about the story. It was much more insightful than I expected. “If you are friends and nice then people won’t feel like they are invisible. So just always be nice.”

These kids know more than most adults.

11:30 a.m GoNoodle worked great before so I gave it a shot again. Brain break time!

This is seriously the silliest thing I’ve ever seen but to them it was nothing short of magical.

11:33 a.m. I asked them to sit back down and that’s where it started to fall apart. Two boys did some type of robot walk, one girl took the scenic route crawling under the desks and another did cartwheels on her way back. “No one is hurt and the Principal hasn’t come by, we’re good, we’re good.” I thought to myself.

I passed out this activity sheet and asked them to draw a picture of what it means to be a good friend.

11:35 a.m. They were the picture of perfection, drawing calmly and quietly.

"I'd be friends with the invisible boy"

"I'd be friends with the boy too"

"I'm a good friend on the way to the bus. I help people find it."

11:40 a.m. Abort Mission! This took a drastic turn.

That one’s crying because he has the crayon she wants, that one doesn’t like her picture that one has a crayon in her nose and I don’t think that one was in this class when I first got here. Somehow they are multiplying.

GoNoodle. For the love of god someone put on GoNoodle!!!!

11:42 a.m. I just found a kid’s yoga movie where the lady is acting like she is from Frozen and the background is the queen’s castle.

11:43 a.m. All order has been restored.

11:50 a.m. Thank goodness this saint of a woman is back.

Quick School Counselor Intro - Superpowers

“Good morning! How is everyone doing today?!”


“Awesome! My name is Mrs. Bell. I know a lot of you have seen me around campus before, but who knows what I do? What is my job here?”

“You hold the doors open in the morning!”
“You’re right, that is part of my job but that’s not my whole job. Who else has a guess?”

“You help at recess."
"You help keeps who get in trouble." 
"You help at the buses." 
"You help kids with their feelings.”

Then finally someone guesses it, “You’re the School Counselor!”
“That’s right! I am the School Counselor! Today I am here to tell you about my job as the School Counselor. I’m going to tell you a little bit about what I do and how I can help you. But first, who can tell me what a superpower is?”

Their eyes get wide with excitement as their faces light up and their hands shoot into the air waving frantically. I usually receive a wide variety of answers.   

“A superpower is something that is inside of you that makes you great.”
“A superpower is a special ability.”
“It’s something that you can do that helps you save the town.”
“It’s something awesome like laser beams for eyes or the ability to have super strength.”

It is really fun listening to all the wild ideas that are floating around in their minds.

“Everyone is correct! There are two types of superpowers. One, is the type that your friend told us about. It is the type that we see in the movies! The ability to become invisible or to fly around and scoop people up out of danger, those are the types of powers we see on the big screen. We see those in movies, but we cannot really do those in real life. The second type of superpowers are the kinds that each and every one of you have, the abilities that make each of us super and special.”

Gasps fill the room as students look around in excitement.

“That’s right, I bet some of you didn’t know that you have superpowers! Each and every one of us has a superpower. A superpower is a skill or ability that will one day make you good at your future job. As the School Counselor, I have five superpowers that make me good at my job. Can I tell you about them?”

They excitedly agree and I display my superpowers one at a time on the overhead projector.

“My first superpower is that I help you solve your problems and deal with life changes. I won’t solve your problems for you, but we can work together to come up with solutions. I can also help you deal with any life changes that are worrying or bothering you. Who can tell me what a life change is?”

“A life change is anything that happens that changes your life.”

“That’s correct. Who can give me an example?”

Be prepared for some of the answers to surprise you.

“My best friend moved and now I have to make new friends.”
Before I could respond a little girl yelled out, “I’ll be your friend! You’re really good at tag!”

A boy raised his hand and said, “My grandpa died and then my dad got sick.” The little girl next to him leaned in for a hug and said, “It’ll be okay.”

“My dad is in jail and that changed my life.”
“I’m very sorry you are dealing with that, if you want to talk about that some more let me know, I’d love to speak with you.”

“My parents are getting divorced and I have to decide who to live with.”
“I’m sorry your family is going through that. If you need help talking that through, let me know.”

I then went on to say, “If anyone is dealing with something that changed their life, the counselors are here to help you understand and deal with your emotions. We can’t change it or solve it, but we can help you cope with it. If you understand my first superpower give me a thumbs up.”

“Alright, my second superpower is, I help remind you how special you are. I help you to figure out what your superpowers are. Everyone has a superpower, sometimes you just need help to figure out what it is. You need someone to remind you how special and super you are. That’s what I’m here for. If you don’t know what your superpower is, I can help you with that. That leads to my third superpower, I help you with career options. Once we figure out what your superpower is, what you’re good at, we can figure out what type of career you may want in the future. I know careers and jobs seem like they are really far away, but you have start thinking about what you are good at, what your powers are, and how they may lead to a job in the future. You can be anything in this world that you want to be, as long as you are willing to work hard to make it happen. The first step is figuring out what you might want to be. I can help you with that. Does everyone understand my second and third superpower? Give me a thumbs up if you are ready for power number 4.”

Most of the time I look out into a sea of thumbs up and move onto power four.

“I can help you make and keep friends. Sometimes, you guys don’t quite know how to talk to each other, or you don’t quite know how to ask someone to be your friend. I can help with that. If you do not feel like you have friends or you feel like you would like to learn the skills to make a new one, let me know. I can help you.”

A cluster of thumbs up appear before I can even ask. 

“My final superpower is that I listen to your problems and concerns. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. Someone who will listen without judging and who will keep your secrets safe. I am an expert secret keeper. I won’t tell anyone what you tell me, unless you want me to. I won’t tell your teacher or your friends, what you say to me stays with me. There is one exception though. If you tell me someone is hurting you, or that you are hurting someone else, or I feel like you are in a dangerous situation, I might have to get some extra help to make sure you are safe. Other than that, what you say to me stays with me. Thumbs up if you understand. Awesome! Does anyone have any questions for me?”

I answer all questions and then pass out their activity.

“Right now, I am passing out a superhero kablamey thingy to each of you.”

My high tech term for these. 

“What I want you to do is take a minute to think about your superpowers. What makes you special? What makes you, you? Are you helpful in the classroom? Do you smile at people and make their day? Do you help little ones find their classroom? Are you great at reading? Math? Science? Do you help out around your house? Do you cook? Help clean? Are you great at sports? Do you take good care of pets? Of your siblings? What are you good at? What superpowers do you have that might get you a job one day? I have five superpowers that make me good at my job. You can have one, three or even seven. You can have as many superpowers as you like. There is no wrong answers, unless you tell me that you don’t have a superpower, everyone has one. Think for a few minutes and if you cannot come up with anything let me know and I will help you. Once you figure out what your superpowers and skills are, write them in the middle of this kablam. Decorate it however you like!”

Some kids know exactly what they are good at and start ferociously writing. Others need a bit of encouragement.

For those that need a push, I like to start by asking, “What do you like to do when you get home?” If they say something like “sleep”, I gently say, “Sleeping is fun, but that may not get you the best job one day.” I work with them until we come up with something and then encourage their suggestions. “I like to take care of my pets.” “That’s wonderful, maybe you will become a vet one day!’

I also ask, “What do you like to do at school or in your classroom?”

“Help my teacher or kids that don’t understand.”
“That’s fantastic! Maybe one day you’ll be a teacher too!”

I try to always push the ideas back to careers, it’s great to be good at something. It’s even better if you can one day be paid for what you are good at.

Once everyone is finishing, I like to ask for volunteers to share. Again, after they share their powers, I ask everyone what type of job someone with those powers and skill sets may want to have in the future. It is so fun watching the ideas spin around their heads.

Using Google Translate, we were able to get the new student from Germany to participate
Her superpower is helping her mom cook tomato sauce

In the end, I tell them how they can find me and I collect the kablams of those that want to give them to me. I display them on a bulletin board for the world to see.

When you inspire a kid and make them realize they are good at something, their mindset and how hard they are willing to work are their only limits.

You can download your own copy of 

August 27, 2016

Ninja Mindset

It is important for us as educators to build students up and let them know they can achieve anything. It is of utmost importance that we help students build confidence in themselves. It is even better if we can teach students how to build themselves up to be internally strong and confident. 

Utilizing growth mindset activities with students who don't always have the best mindset for success can be extremely beneficial. Once a student changes their internal dialogue and mentally prepares themselves to achieve, anything is possible.

If students can learn to change their mindset, they may change their life. 

I was trying to
 convey the growth mindset ideas to a fourth grade boy who was totally over listening to me. I was sticking with it and trying not to lose him, but I could tell he was gone and could care less. I finally peaked his attention when I said to him, "Who do you know that believes in themselves and because of that self-belief is able to do anything?" 

He responded with, "Ninjas."

With that, we talked about the ninja mindset, how ninjas set themselves up for success and I could see light bulbs going off in his head.

“Ninjas don’t let themselves quit. They are stronger than that. I have to be like the ninja.”

I love it when a kid makes a connection.

When I got home, I designed a bunch of things utilizing the ninja mindset theme. We meet once a week, I couldn’t wait to see him again.
The next time we met, we read and discussed the Ninja Mindset Poster set.  I bound the posters together with metal rings to make a mini-book. I do not have much wall space and having a bunch of loose pages in my hand gets confusing so turning posters into books works best for me.

After reviewing each page with him and having an open discussion about each of the various qualities of a having a ninja mindset, I gave him a copy of the student mini-book. It contains identical information to the posters but is in a kid friendly format allowing him to keep it close by to reference and read as desired.

The next time we met, we dove deeper into the concept of the ninja mindset by looking at the 10 Traits of a Mindset Ninja posters (which I also created into a mini book by printing, laminating and binding together). We solidified his understanding of what makes for a good mindset ninja (traits such as mindfulness, loyalty to self, bravery, etc.) and how having a positive mindset can benefit him in the future.

I also give them a copy of the 10 Traits of a Mindset Ninja student mini book for them to refer to as needed.
The next time we met, I knew he truly understood what qualities help a person to have a positive mindset, so we dove into the more interactive stuff.  I explained to him that Mindset Ninjas have a growth mindset, they tell themselves things that help them to grow. They do not allow themselves to have a fixed mindset. Fixed mindsets get them stuck and do not let them grow to achieve the greatness they desire.

Once it was clear he understood the concept of fixed vs. growth, we played with the 24 Mindset Matters cards.
I placed them question side down in a pile on the table and we took turns picking and deciding. Once you pick a card, it is your job to decide if the statement is a growth or a fixed statement. For example, the statement on the card may say, “I’m not good at this” and he would decide if this statement is a growth or a fixed statement.

A few other statements are:
“I give up I’ll never get it.”
“What am I missing?”
‘This is too hard.”
“I just have to practice.”

It may be difficult for students at first; the point is for them to understand how some statements they may tell themselves are very helpful and how some may be very hurtful. 

Once he was ready, to extend the learning I used the 12 Change It Cards to challenge him to think about how these commonly said fixed statements could be turned into growth statements instead.
During one of our later meetings together, I used the 24 Sort and Match Cards which allowed him to match fixed statements with better growth statements. 
I started with 5 at a time (10 cards total) as to not overwhelm him. The ninja clipart is the same on matching cards making it easy to check his answers and help him if he was stuck.
These resources helped him tremendously. He thought about what he told himself and tried to achieve a ninja mindset daily. Once it was put into the frame of what a ninja would do, he easily understood the concept of growth vs. fixed. Furthermore, he learned how powerful his internal thoughts are and how much of an impact he can have on his own success.

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August 1, 2016

August Counseling Plan

August Counseling Plan 
Monthly Goal: School Counselor Introduction.
Make sure every student on campus knows who I am and what I do. 

Guidance Classes:
Kindergarten and First Grade:
Who's the School Counselor?

Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Grade:

Small Group:
Working with new students who enroll after the guidance classes finish  
What Does the School Counselor Do?

Social Skills Tab Book
Identified students who may need some help learning appropriate school behaviors.