Google+ Elementary School Counselor blog, by Scott Ertl, Elementary School Counselor: 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fiddlers help students relax, play, and talk!

Elementary school counselors use Fiddlers to help children (and adults) relax, play, and soothe themselves while talking

Many students love holding a Fiddler when they talk to help them have something to focus on instead of watching for the counselor's reaction to what they are saying. Fiddlers help students release their anxious energy when they squeeze different stress balls. Also, Fiddlers soothe students when when they watch the water bubbles float or pluck the strands from a Koosh® Ball. 

Are Fiddlers only for students? Not in my experience. Parents and teachers often pick them up during conferences and they seem to enjoy the tactile stimulation during our conversation as much as the students do.

I also like to use Fiddlers as a conversation starter, with some suggestions below for each Fiddler.

My top 10 favorite Fiddlers are:
Elementary school counselors use Koosh balls with students
 1. Koosh® Ball

 What do you like to do for fun?

Elementary school counselors use magnetic rings stand with students
 2. Magnetic Rings Stand

 What would you like to balance better?
Elementary school counselors use Jacob's Ladder with students.
 3. Jacob's Ladder

 What would you like to change?
Elementary school counselors use Hoberman spheres with students.
 4. Hoberman® Sphere

 What seems to get out of control?
Elementary school counselors use Switch Pitch, by Hoberman, with students.
 5. Switch Pitch®

 Changes colors when tossed
 (It is made by Hoberman)

 What changes would you like?
Elementary school counselors use horshoe puzzles with students to show what's possible.

 6. Horseshoe Puzzle
 (Even though it seems impossible, 
 show students how to remove the ring)

 What else has seemed impossible?
Elementary school counselors use bendy figures with students. 7. Bendy figures

 How do you want to be more flexible?
Elementary school counselors use Morf balls with students.
 8. Morf® Balls
 (They change colors when squeezed) 

 What's on your inside that no one sees?

Elementary school counselors use Slinkies with students.
 9. The Slinky®

 What's something hard to get through?
Elementary school counselors use Whirly Wheel Gyroscope toys with students.
 10. Whirly Wheel Gyroscope Toy®

 Do you ever go too fast and get off track?

Like most counselors, I'm always on the lookout for more Fiddlers. Toys-R-Us, museum gift shops, toy stores, Trainer's Warehouse, and the Dollar Store have supplied me for years!

In the comments section below, share what your favorite Fiddler is and/or where you found it:

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

3 Free Berenstain Bears Classroom Guidance lessons to use with ActivInspire / Promethean boards

I created 3 free classroom guidance lessons -- perfect for K-3 elementary school counselors teaching socio-emotional and cognitive objectives! You can easily save the lessons to a thumb drive or download to your school's shared drive to access the file when you present your classroom guidance lesson on the Promethean Board in the classrooms. (This is a great way to use technology with students!) 

Most counselors already have these Berenstain Bears books in their collections. If you don't already have them, check your school library. If not, the paperback books can be purchased for $5-6 each. All 3 lessons also have links to the 10-12 min. movies on YouTube.

Elementary school counselor teaches bully prevention with Berenstain Bears' Double Dare story

Berenstain Bears and the Double Dare (ActivInspire lesson: 8 slides)
  • K-3 lesson on bully prevention and making good choices. Compare and contrast the book with the movie. Students share positive ways to deal with bullies and how to make good choices when it's hard to do so.
  • Story line: Too-Tall Grizzly and his gang dare Brother to steal a watermelon from Farmer Ben's patch, and when the gang runs away, Brother is caught. Farmer Ben  offers Brother advice about standing up for what is right. 
Elementary school counselor teaches cooperation with Berenstain Bears' "Mama's New job" story
Berenstain Bears -- Mama's New Job (ActivInspire lesson: 7 slides)
  • K-3 lesson on teamwork, cooperation and family. Compare and contrast the book with the movie. Students share about perseverance and helping out around the house.
  • Story line: When Mama turns her quilt-making hobby into a business, the Bear family worries that she won't have time for them. But as everyone pitches in to help her, they realize that things aren't so different after all--and they're prouder of Mama than ever!
Elementary school counselor teaches about bad habits with the Berenstain Bears
Berenstain Bears and the Bad Habit (ActivInspire lesson: 7 slides)
  • K-3 lesson on stopping bad habits. Compare and contrast the book with the movie. Students share about different bad habits and how they can stop themselves.
  • Story line: With help from Mama and Papa (who get a little advice from Grizzly Gran), Sister Bear learns to stop her nervous nail biting before it turns into a bad habit.   

NOTE: If you aren't already a member of TeacherPayTeachers (TpT), it's definitely worth the time to sign-up so you can download LOTS of great resources for free (and for a fee) from working counselors and teachers! Even though it's designed for teachers, there is a School Counseling section.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Students love playing "Hookball" while talking

Hookball is a fun and simple game to play while talking!

 Elementary school counselors play Hookball with students
On a rainy day when a student said how much he loved playing basketball and we were unable to go outside, we invented the game of Hookball. It was an instant success. The rules are flexible.

Students love playing Hookball during individual and group counseling sessions. It can be a great way for students to release nervous energy while talking, especially when the focus is on the door instead of direct eye contact. Hookball is a fun and simple game to play while talking.

1. Players take turns throwing the O-ball onto the coat hook. 
2. When the ball touches the hook, the player gets 1 point. 
3. When the ball lands on the hook, he/she gets 3 points. 
4. Players gets 2 throws for each turn.
5. First player to earn a total of 11 points wins.
6. When throwing the ball, player must be behind the 6-foot line.

Advantages to the game:
  • Reinforces taking turns.
  • Quick game to play.
  • Counselor can play with students.
  • Easy to learn how to play. Fits easily in all size hands.
Disadvantages to the game:
  • Requires purchasing an O-ball. (Approx. $7 at most stores for 4.5" size)
  • Students will want to play more than one game at a time.
 In the comments section below, please share a fun game that you like to play with students.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Elementary school counselors help teachers motivate students to finish their work

Do you have students who don't want to get started with their work or they never seem to finish because they get distracted?

Many students simply need encouragement to finish their work and they are eager to help their teacher if that's an incentive to complete their work.

So, here's how it goes...
  1. Make 5 copies of this file. (You can customize it with your teacher names.)
  2. Cut them out so you have 10 letters. (They are 2 per page.)
  3. Label 10 envelopes with the names of your administrators, secretaries, specialists, and you!
  4. Put the letters in the envelopes with the names of the 10 destinations.
Now you are ready to give all 10 envelopes to a teacher so she can keep them handy on her desk and take one up to a student who is not doing his/her work and say, "I see you are on number 2. Do you need any help? When you are done with your work, will you let me know so I can get you to deliver this note to Mr./Mrs. _______ for me?"

When the work is completed to the teacher's satisfaction, the student will be allowed to deliver the message as a favor to the teacher.

Students are eager to help their teachers and the short walk will do them some good instead of staying trapped at their desk all day. The bonus is that the recipient will thank the student for being such a great helper. Also, the recipient will simply put the envelope back in the teacher's box so he/she can repeat with other students when needed.

In the comments section below, will you share another strategy you use to encourage students to complete their work?

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ways to calm down students at the end (and during) classroom guidance

Classroom guidance can be a fun way to get students engaged in role plays, partner and group activities and interactive games. However, keeping good classroom management is a crucial and difficult balancing game.

Over the years, I have acquired a variety of ways to quickly focus and calm students without yelling or having to turn off the lights or stand with my arm in the air and wait for them to finally stop. Students need to learn how to quickly stop themselves and catch their breaths instead of getting too loud or out of control.
Also, ending a guidance class with students still hyped up is not fair to the teacher or students since they are not prepared to listen and focus to their next lesson. Teachers appreciate when I restore the students to calm and order. Students are glad that they had an opportunity to move instead of having to stay in their seats the whole time.

Before an activity, it's important to practice your new centering technique with students so they will be ready to follow the directions when the class is louder.

My Top 5 Centering Techniques:

1) Say, "Hocus." Students say "Focus."

2) Say, "Touch your head. Touch your nose. Wiggle your fingers. Now, touch your toes. Close your eyes. Breathe. Slowly stand back up ready to hear what's next."

3) Say, "Tootsie Roll." Students say, "Lollipop." Everyone says, "We were talking, now we stop."

4) Clap 3 times. Students clap 3 times. Clap to a beat 5 times. Students repeat.

5) Say, "If you can hear me, clap 2 times. If you can hear me, stomp 2 times. If you can hear me, sit down in your chair and breathe."

In the comments section below, please share some of your favorite ways to help students get back in control.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Free Individual Counseling Sessions Data Log

Unlike the many blog entries that I didn't take the time to write, this one made it. Not because it's the best one, but because I knew that I just needed to get started with this blog. How many times have you known that you needed to get started with something and you came up with every excuse in the world to prevent you from just getting started? 

Well, the purpose of my blog is to share ideas--knowing that they aren't the best ideas, but they work and they are worth sharing. My intention is to create a space for elementary school counselors to be inspired to create, learn, and share with others so we can all improve our elementary school counseling programs. 

I will freely share resources that I have created and I welcome other counselors to comment with suggestions to improve, tweak, and adapt in other ways. 

My first freebie is a simple, yet helpful resource to use in sharing with our administrators the students we are working with and how we are making a difference with them. I find it helpful to review it regularly so I can follow-up with students who I haven't seen in a while.

Why use an Individual Counseling Sessions Data Log?
  • Document the students we counsel.
  • Have an organized list to show administrators our caseload.
  • To record our impact and effectiveness with students.
  • Helpful reminder of students we want to follow-up with and check on their progress.

Elementary School Counselor Individual Counseling Sessions Data Log

This document keeps it very simple to record the impact that we can have with students. Simply record a Pre and a Post rating for the student on a scale from 0-10, where 0 = "feeling terrible" and 10 = "feeling terrific." At the beginning of the session, I may simply ask the student to use a number to describe his/her overall feeling and then follow-up at the end of our session to see if there is a difference. Sometimes it is not appropriate to ask a student for a rating at the beginning of a session. At these times, I ask how they are feeling at the end of the session and then ask them to reflect on how they felt when they first came in.

I feel that it's important to give students the credit for any improvements in their feelings. They had the courage to address and share something that was difficult. Ask students specifically, "What was it that helped you go from a 0 to a 6? What do you want to remember so you can use it in the future when you're feeling a 0 again?"

Write down their comments or give them an index card so they can write it down for their self.

When students say that they felt a 0 at the beginning, I know that I can only go UP from there! 

Every once in a while, a student may say that he/she doesn't feel any better. If I'm still unable to help the student have a breakthrough, I may ask if there's someone else at school or at home that they could talk with and then I help them arrange a time to meet with them.

It's important to follow-up with these students to find out:
  • Did you have the conversation? If not, when is another time to talk to him/her?
  • What was it that helped? If not, who is another person who may help?
  • Write down what they want to remember for times in the future when they feel "stuck."
You can download the Individual Counseling Sessions Data Log here.

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