Google+ Elementary School Counselor blog, by Scott Ertl, Elementary School Counselor: January 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Every student participates during classroom guidance!

Here's a fun way to get
every student to participate during classroom guidance lessons!

It's great when some students are eager to participate for your lessons, but here's a simple way to involve every student. The best thing is that students get to decide when they want to participate.

Give every student a cut-out hand and say that when they share, you will collect it until everyone has shared one time. Then, it's fair game for anyone to participate. The quiet students will be able to choose when they are going to raise their hand, while the highly expressive students simialrly decide when they will "cash-in" their time to talk.

Here's a free template (2 hands per page) to download: 2-hands.pdf 

(I print mine on heavy cardstock paper, cut them in half and then laminate to last longer.)

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Tired of drama? Use these 3 questions instead!

Tired of hearing all of the stories about who said what about someone else? I found a way to bypass their arguments about who started it and skip the desire to get to the bottom of it by trying to get everyone to agree about what really happened--which never happens. Instead, I simply ask 3 questions. 

First, I ask all 3-4 girls to sit down, close their eyes, and show me with their fingers their answers to these 3 questions. On a scale of 0-10, where 0=Terrible, 5=OK or in the middle, and 10=Best friends..

1. "Show me the BEST that you have ever gotten along with each other."

2. "Show me where you are right now."

3. "Show me what you would like to be right now."

Write down their responses:


Since their eyes are closed, they will feel more comfortable being honest. Afterwards, ask everyone if it's okay for you to share everyone's responses. (They usually will since they are curious about what the others said.) If not, don't share their responses.

Now the good news! Everyone can move from how they are feeling NOW to where they WANT to be in 2 easy steps. First, what do they need to clean up from the past? What do they need to admit and apologize that they personally did wrong? Each student can take turns acknowledging to each other what they wish they didn't do. Second, what do they want to do better next time instead? Also, how can everyone be nicer to each other and have more fun together?

Then, encourage students to use these sentence prompts:
I'm sorry that I ____________. 
From now on, I will _______ instead. 
I want to _______ more often together.

Instead of just sending them back to class, I ask them if they are like me and they sometimes forget things. They usually say, "Yeah." So I ask if they'd like to go back to class now or if they'd like to write down what they want to practice to achieve the relationships with each other that they want. After giving them index cards and pencils, I offer them an opportunity to share what they wrote down and I encourage them to copy down good ideas that one of the others said to make your plan even better.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

5 Top Tips For Parents Going Through A Divorce

Elementary School Counselor gives top 5 Divorce Tips for Parents
When I talk with students and they tell me about their parents splitting up, I call both parents and request to meet with them to share some suggestions to help them go through their separation with the least amount of damage to their child as possible. I emphasize that I am not a marriage counselor, but I do have experience working with children going through divorce and that I have seen a lot of drama that children can avoid if their parents had called a "truce" in certain areas for the sake of their children.

Many times, parents are surprised that I offer to meet with them and they are curious what I have to offer. Sometimes I can only meet with one parent. If possible, I ask the child if there is anything they want me to tell their parents.

This is what I offer:

1) Never put the child in the middle. Don't tell your child to deliver a message, money, or envelope to the other parent. Call, text, mail or deliver the information or check directly. Children don't need to be "the messenger" at all. They take it personally when you roll your eyes or sigh to them--which was intended for the other parent.

2) No secrets. Don't tell your child to keep a secret from their other parent. They have enough going on in their lives right now. Don't expose them to any event (or person) that the other parent shouldn't know about.

3) Don't bad-mouth their other parent. Even though you may be thinking of them as your "ex," they are still your child's other parent--who is 1/2 of their DNA. Don't talk negatively about your child's other parent to friends, family or anyone in front of your child. Instead, tell your child positive things about their other parent and fun memories about their past.
4) Show your love. Your child will miss you when you are not around. Write them a note and tell them how much you love them. Tell your child how proud you are of all of their accomplishments and how you will always be there for them. Also, give them a photo of both of you. Yes, go to the mall and spend the $5 in the photo booth for a photo strip to look at when they miss you. Your child will cherish this more than you imagine. (You'll probably want a duplicate for yourself for when you miss your child as well.)
Elementary school counselor gives top 5 tips for parents going through a divorce
5)  Keep your promises. Follow-through on what you say that you are going to do. Don't casually say that you are going to do something together. Your child will look forward to seeing you all week and they will be crushed that you forgot. Make plans and keep them--or don't make the plans at all. Broken promises breed distrust, worry, and sadness. Also, don't just pop in and out of their lives. That's rude, disrespectful and doesn't model any sense of responsibility. They want to look forward to being with you. Don't feel that you need to lavish them with gifts or special jam-packed weekends. Spend time talking, playing, listening, and enjoying time together. Be sure to have one-on-one time with your child. They miss you.

After sharing these 5 tips with parents, I ask if they can say something positive about the other parent right now. I encourage them to focus on the positives to help them move forward. I encourage them that their child will be very successful in their life when they know their parents care about them and will support them 100%. 

At the close of the session with the parents, I ask if they have any questions for me and if it was helpful to have a place to call a "truce." Parents need a sense of hope without any judgment and they appreciate the opportunity for unbiased support.

If you'd like, feel free to copy the above 5 tips on this reproducible handout. You can print 2 per page: 5 Divorce Tips for Parents

More Divorce Tips?? Write in the "Comments" section below:

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Students use "Bouncy Bands" to release extra energy and anxiety while they work!

Elementary School Counselors use Bouncy Bands with students!
As someone who doesn't like to sit still for long periods of time myself, my heart has always gone out to students who got in trouble for moving too much or who needed to fiddle with something when they work.

Yoga balls and wiggle seats work great, but they are expensive and can easily get popped.

So, like many school counselors have done, I handed out my fair share of stress balls and fiddlers for students to use in their classroom to have something to fidget with in class. Sometimes they worked, but most of the time, the kids ended up getting in trouble for playing with it in class because it became a disruption.

Then, two years ago, I started tying old bicycle inner tubes to the front legs of student desks as a way for kids to rest and bounce their feet for some extra movement in class. It became a hit, so I started sharing them with other counselors.

One student told me, "Bouncy Bands help my feet play so my brain can work." 

Another student told me, "I like being able to move for a change, instead of being boxed up all day at my desk."

Many students need appropriate ways to release their extra energy and anxiety without getting in trouble--especially students with:
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Lots of extra energy! 
  • (and short kids who don't like their feet to dangle)

Bouncy Bands help students release energy
without getting in trouble or distracting others!

When students get in trouble for leaning back in their chairs, they are often seeking extra stimulation when they feel uncomfortable for staying in their seats for too long without any movement.

Our LD teachers especially enjoy using the Bouncy Bands on the desks in their classrooms since reading and writing are often difficult for their students. When their students are working, they can stretch their feet and it helps them get rid of their anxiety and frustration. 

You can make Bouncy Bands by using rope, bungee cords, or even recycled bicycle inner tubes. Your local bike shop will gladly give you used bicycle inner tubes for free--just be sure to cut off the nozzle. The tubes from the skinny racing bikes don't work well because they stretch too easily. 

Unfortunately, the knots often come untied and they become a nuisance having to constantly tie them back together. Also, it's frustrating for students when the different bands slide down to the floor.
Elementary School Counselors use Bouncy Bands with students
The "new and improved" Bouncy Bands have loops on the ends of the heavy-duty rubber to quickly slip on the legs of the desks and the PVC pipe keeps the Bouncy Band suspended at the perfect location for students to bounce and prop their feet without sliding down to the floor.

I created and sell Bouncy Bands myself. Visit: for more info.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Nominate 3 Top School Counselor Bloggers!

There are so many great school counselor bloggers who regularly contribute ideas, resources, and helpful information! I sure appreciate what they do to inspire me.

Visit: to nominate your favorite blogger(s) (up to 3).

Nominate up to 3 top school counselor bloggers!

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