Friday, December 28, 2012

School Counseling Linky Party 2013

How fun is this?!? Marissa over at is hosting a School Counseling Linky Party for 2013! I never participated in a Linky Party before....looking forward to it!


Other than the blog posts themselves, I don't have too many "Blog Features" yet. I plan on adding some in 2013. So, for now, my best Blog Feature would be the page where I have listed some of my projects that have been "Inspired by Others." So many ideas are floating around out there on the web and these are a few of my first projects that I felt would be useful in my world as an elementary school counselor. Here are a few of those projects!

Brain SprinklesInspired by: Mrs. Miner's Kindergarten Monkey Business
 Sensory Bags
Inspired by: Teach Preschool
 Sensory Balloons
Inspired by: Shared and Remember

Calming Bottles
Inspired by: Scrapbook of a School Counselor                  

It was hard to choose! Can I pick two? Yes, I is my blog:)
My first favorite post was one that I just recently added - Bringing School Counselor Mini-Meetings to Life! This post discussed how Danielle at School Counselor Blog helped me to conceptualize how I could meet with every one of my students in my urban elementary school. Meeting with every student is something I wanted to do for many years, but I could never get past how I could accomplish a task so grand! Through the mini-meeting format, I have cherished these minutes I have spent with every student. Plus, I have had some unbelievable learnings that I look forward to writing about in 2013!

My second favorite post was "Our Therapy Dog Friend." I am a dog lover and I have witnessed first hand, through Moses our Therapy Dog, the powers of what a dog can do for kiddos. He is so huge (all 215 pounds of him), so adorable, and has become a part of the classroom families in which he visits. I highly recommend reaching out to your local therapy dog chapter to inquire about having a furry friend visit your school!
By far, the most popular Blog Post of 2012 was Beginning of the Year Theme - Be Yourself! In this post, I talked about how I was going to start the 2012 school year with a new book and corresponding hallway decor. I included links for folks to print out their own BE Words and Signs. 

Then, I had a follow-up post titled: Be Yourself Update. In this post, I included pictures of what the words and signs looked like in my hallway!
I received so many compliments and thanks from folks all over the place in regard to these words of inspiration. But, one of the most exciting pieces of inspiration for me was when Barbara from the Corner on Character alerted me to the video on Maria Dismondy's web page! Click on the above link to watch the video! Maria Dismondy is a children's book author (I have all of her books)... I couldn't believe she printed out my signs and used them in her presentations!

Geez, Louise, Marissa....this is a difficult one to answer!

So, here are 5 of my favorite school counseling blogs, in no specific order....


                      Plus 1 more... are some of my other favorite blogs....

Kevin and Amanda

Create a blog post titled "School Counseling Linky Party 2013."
Place the Linky Party logo (above) in your post.
Answer the questions (above).

Submit your blog post link on Marissa's Blog at Elementary School Counseling. Be sure to link to the actual post, not your homepage.
Thanks, Marissa! This was a great opportunity to reflect on 2012!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

May you find your time with family and friends to be relaxing, rejuvenating and fun!

Here's to 2013! A year filled with more blog posts, idea sharing, fantastic networking, the ASCA National Conference, and unbelievable camaraderie!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bringing School Counselor Mini-Meetings to Life!

I am not cutout to do the work of a secondary school counselor - or should I say - I'm not cutout to work with that age group. The elementary school student is the perfect fit for me. That being said, for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to incorporate something that secondary school counselors do every year - meet with every student on his/her caseload. It just didn't seem to be a possibility for me over the years for a number of reasons. The first stumbling block was my elementary caseload ranging anywhere from 650:1 to 800:1. The second stumbling block was the fact that I'm an urban educator with extremely unpredictable days and a vast amount of student daily needs. The third stumbling block was time. How in the world would I find the time to do something as extensive as this? Finally, the sheer thought of it all (handling everyday items and meeting with every student) seemed so completely overwhelming. Hence, year after year the idea was always put on the back burner.

Then, last school year I came across Danielle's post on School Counselor Blog describing her Minute Meetings she conducted at the middle school level. Her post helped me to conceptualize how something like this could be/would be do-able for an urban elementary school counselor.

Why do I think meeting with every student is useful and important?

  1. I would have the opportunity to speak to every K-5 kiddo. Each meeting would be another opportunity to make a meaningful connection with each student.
  2. The meetings would be, in essence, a school-wide screening tool to help me address student needs.
  3. The meeting results would help me assess the school counseling program and curriculum (and other social emotional learning initiatives) in order to make necessary changes and/or upgrades.
  4. The meetings would be an academic, career, and personal-social check-in.
  5. I would be assisting students in planning for life beyond high school -- to become college and career ready.
  6. Through this tool, I would be giving every student another opportunity to express concerns, needs, or to ask for help.

Student Interview Questions
I went to work developing my student interview questions. Included are questions from each of the ASCA domains. Danielle from School Counselor Blog included 4 questions, mine has 11 total questions. Also, I developed rating scales with pictures, to make it easier for elementary students in kindergarten through fifth grade to weigh in on their feelings. Below you will see the documents I used for the initial round of meetings.

Every student has one of the above sheets (copied on the front and back - to use over multiple years). I am housing these student sheets in alphabetical order in 3-ring binders - sorted by teacher and grade level. I have binders for K and 1, 2 and 3, 4 and 5. Next year, I will sort the student data sheets into their new classes and grade levels.

I printed 3 of these sheets out on cardstock and laminated them. I keep one sheet in each of the above mentioned binders.


I named my meetings with every student, Mini-Meetings. I planned on each student meeting to take roughly 2 minutes. After I developed the questions and rating scales, I secured my administrator's blessing to implement the idea. I decided to implement the Mini-Meetings now (in December) as a precursor to starting small support groups in January. Next, I emailed all of the classroom teachers explaining the Mini-Meetings and asked each of them for a time of day that would work best. I asked for an hour time slot in which I could pull students individually into the hallway. I obtained the most recent classroom roster lists from the office so I could accurately fill in student information for each class prior to arriving for the Mini-Meetings.

Conducting the Mini-Meetings

I am currently working my way through the school, class-by-class, conducting the Mini-Meetings. When I arrive to a classroom, I explain to the entire class that it is an exciting day for me - that I am going to have the pleasure of meeting with each student for a Mini-2-Minute Meeting. I explain that I have 11 questions to ask them. Then, I tell them the procedures - after each student is finished with me, I will tell him/her to quietly and quickly go tap the shoulder of the next student. I explain that they cannot dilly-dally - we need to keep moving. I express that I expect them to answer honestly because I want to get to know each of them better.
In the hallway I have, my clipboard with all of the student sheets, one laminated rating scale, a timer, 2 pens (in case one runs out), some water for myself :), 2 chairs and a desk. I have been experimenting with setting the timer for 2 minutes or not at all.
When the student sits down, I have him/her refer to the rating scale. For the first two questions, students will be looking at the first row of faces. I actually point to each of the faces and read some of the face descriptors in the small boxes. The students make their choices and their answers are recorded on the student data sheet. I move on to the remainder of the questions and refer back to the faces for the question about how he/she is doing/feeling. far...

My logistical learnings so far....
  • Most classes are taking roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes to get through.
  • The older kiddos have been taking longer because they are struggling in the career section. Unfortunately, they are having difficulty identifying what they want to be when they grow up.
  • It is also taking me longer to get through the older kiddos' classrooms because they are not as quick with the transition between students.
  • If I keep moving with the questions, there is no need to set the timer and there is even some time to have students expand on some of their answers.
  • Fill out all the sheets with student names and teacher names prior to the Mini-Meeting date and time. Then, all that needs to be done for each meeting is to fill in the date of the actual Mini-Meeting. Any student who does not have a date filled in was absent or did not speak with me for whatever reason. It makes it easier to go back and do make-ups.
My learnings for the academic section so far....
  • I tell them that I am looking for an honest answer on how they are feeling in both of these areas. If students have indicated that they hate school or they don't like school, I ask them to clarify their answers. When students choose either of these two responses, I think "hmmm." If they choose the so-so, I am also thinking "hmmm."
My learnings for the career section so far...
  • Older students are struggling to identify what they want to be when they grow up or what career they want to have. For the younger students I have elaborated on the questions asking "Where do you want to work?" or "What job do you want to have?"
  • Overall, students are having difficulty identifying what they need to be good at to have their identified career.
  • Overall, students are having difficulty identifying what education and training they would need for that career. So, I have been prompting the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students with the education/training options of: high school diploma, technical school, on the job training, college degree, or advanced degree. Even then, they are having difficulty. In my mind I'm thinking... this was taught to all 3rd grade students, reviewed in 4th, and reviewed in 5th.
  • For the younger students (and some of the older ones) for the education/training question, I have been rewording the item to ask, "Where would you learn how to do that career/job?"
  • This career category has been an "a-ha" moment for me.
My learnings for the personal/social section so far...
  • Many students are asking if I want to know how they are feeling "today." I have been responding, "yes."
  • I'm getting some outrageous numbers for the "number of friends" item. With this age group, it seems that the more friends the better (like it is a contest or something). To me, 0 is a red flag, I'm listening closely to their tone of voice when they answer the question, and otherwise, I am learning that I need to follow-up about meaningful/true friendships.
  • For the first bullying question, I have been saying and will change the written question to..."What will you do if you are bullied, worried, scared, or if someone is hurting you in some way?" I've been asking them to identify the adult if they say "tell an adult."
  • For the second bullying question, I have been saying and will change the written question to..."What will you do if you see/hear someone being bullied or if someone tells you that he/she is worried, scared or being hurt in some way?" I've been asking them to identify the adult if they say "tell an adult."
My learnings for the "other" section...
  • I have been saying, "Do you have anything you want to ask me? or Do you have any worries or something that I can help you with?"
  • Most responses have been NO, but there have been some that have identified concerns....I have written these down and will follow-up.
  • I have also gotten some adorable questions regarding things they wanted to know about me! So fun!

  • Keep Following
Keep following Entirely Elementary...School Counseling for a future post highlighting other Mini-Meeting learnings. Although a lot of work -- I am having a great time with these Mini-Meetings!!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Intern Necessities

As the last day for my school counseling intern quickly approached, I feverishly thought about what to get her for a gift. I thought back to when I student taught and completed my school counseling internship and I realized that I use some of those same gifts/tools today! So, I headed to our local Becker's Teacher Store on Black Friday to take advantage of the deals. Then, I searched my own personal office "store" for items I picked up over the years that I have multiples of. Finally, I got together some "home-made" school counseling materials that I thought she would appreciate.
So, here are some items that I think will be handy for any elementary school counselor and perfect as a gift for a school counseling intern!

Reward bands, school ID clip, office key cover, Thinking Putty, frog stress ball, a pointer, Dr. Seuss reward/goal game, smiley face tablet, people magnets, basketball stress ball, and cultural paper dolls 

Reward Cones
 Smiley face beach ball, large beach ball, Mr. Happy I feel....magnet, large sunglasses, hand clapper, Mr. Happy bag, dice within a container (dice will not fly off of table when rolling), I-Can, game pieces, pool noodle stress slices, smart beads, and Play-doh

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

I have been so very thankful for everyone who has visited the Entirely Elementary...School Counseling blog, liked the corresponding Facebook page, and followed along on Twitter! It has been great fun "meeting" those who find my ideas and materials worthy of exploring for a few minutes. Having the unique opportunity to make an impact with children, beyond the walls of my school, has been unreal!

I hope the few days off from school affords you some wonderful, rejuvenating time with family and friends!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Make a Sweet Decision!

In 5th grade, I teach a lesson on problem solving using these "candy" problem solving steps. I call it "Sweet Decision Making." I use candy Smarties to help motivate during the lesson. Read below.

To make the candy, I used thin board canvas and wrote the following steps (using a paint pen) on each one. I then covered the canvas in colored cellophane tying the ends with ribbon to make it look like wrapped candy. I used red and green cellophane (strategically). The red candies signify the STOP and THINK steps and the green candy signifies the GO step.

Step #1: What is the Problem?

Step #2: What are some solutions?
               What could happen?
                    Will it hurt someone?
                    Will you get in trouble? Consequences?
                    Will it make you feel bad about yourself?

Step #3: What is the best choice?

First, I teach the students each of the steps. I give a scenario and walking through the scenario modeling how to use each of the steps (with some student assistance). Next, I give a scenario to the class. Every student who offers an answer, gets a pack of Smarties tossed to him/her. I purchase huge bags of Smarties every Halloween in the clearance section to use with this lesson. The students are not allowed to eat the candy at the time, but, it adds a little incentive to participate and it's fun to catch the flying Smarties! Also, I read on the Smarties packaging that they are peanut free.

After I am finished with this lesson in all of the 5th grade classrooms, I hang the "Sweet Decision" steps in the hallway for students to refer to later.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Do Not Disturb...Please!

My phone rings off the hook all day. If I'm with a student, or a group of students, I don't answer it. It often drives my students crazy and many times they will say to me,"Your phone is ringing. Aren't you going to answer it?" I always respond, "No. If it is important they will leave a message and I'm working with you right now." So, most times I can dodge the phone bullet.

Yet, trouble with the office door is becoming a bigger problem for the first time in my career. Maybe this scenario sounds familiar to are in the process of a difficult session with a student - talking about and discussing confidential information or a sensitive issue. When much to your amazement, without a knock, your door opens and either someone is talking to you from the doorway or someone walks in. I am always struck by this because my students are not engaging in this behavior. They students always seem to knock if my door is closed and if my door happens to be open, and they see me working with a student(s), they tend to stop at the doorway until they are acknowledged. What happens after that door opens unexpectedly is often so uncomfortable; a student is disclosing sensitive information or is upset and the adult is standing there as happy as a clam...saying "HI" or wanting to talk with me or both of us. I do not feel comfortable locking the door and even if I close my door's window curtain, someone could still feel compelled to walk in. I don't know how many other school counselors face this same issue, but, I've been struggling with maintaining confidentiality during these sensitive session times.

Maybe a Do Not Disturb door sign would be helpful. I asked for some wording suggestions on one of my Facebook posts because I didn't want the wording to sound harsh (I am in an elementary school). Then, I contacted Lindsey at Personal Pizazz by Lindsey about making a smaller sign to either hang on my doorknob or with a Command hook on the door. Lindsey was so generous and so willing to do this for me! Thank you Lindsey :)

This is what I decided for the wording:

Please Do Not Disturb!
School Counseling in Progress
Minds at Work Inside
Please Stop By Later!

Here are the fantastic signs that coordinate with the name sign from Personal Pizazz by Lindsey which I posted in August 2012! They are each about 8x8 in size and are extremely light! These signs will certainly be noticed....they are so colorful and fun!

The holidays are almost here! These signs would make great gifts for a school counselor, teacher, principal, or other school staff members. Maybe you would like to treat yourself by getting one for your office door! If so, please visit Personal Pizazz by Lindsey for more information! I believe her holiday deadline is fast approaching.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Our Therapy Dog Friend!

A number of years ago, a community agency asked if we'd be willing to incorporate Therapy Dog programming into our school to help a student who was extremely fearful of and anxious about dogs. The agency was having difficulty making significant progress with this student in their efforts to address this anxiety outside of school. Consequently, the professionals involved felt that the best way to deal with a dog anxiety was in a setting where the child feels safe on a daily basis and also in the child's social setting. They felt that having a Therapy Dog come to the school environment would bring about the breakthroughs they were looking for. They also felt it would benefit all of the students who would work with the Therapy Dog.

When I initially got the phone call, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about the request, but, my school psychologist encouraged me to get more information feeling that it would be a wonderful opportunity for our students. While I was familiar with the use of Therapy Dogs for young readers, in my mind, I wanted to make sure this program was the "right fit" for this particular group of special needs students. I needed to be able to approach my administrator with the request to run the program, so I had to be sure what it would entail. So, I scheduled a meeting with the Therapy Dog handler/Moses's owner and asked him to bring along his dog. Meet Moses, the Mastiff!


During this initial meeting, I asked the handler about his credentials and Moses's training. He gave me a form describing all of this: the Therapy Dog training they received, as well as, all of the awards Moses has won. Moses and his handler were affiliated with Therapy Dogs International. I also asked what the first few sessions would look like. He described his ideas and later emailed me them in detail. Finally, I asked, "Would there be any charge for this program?" Surprisingly, the answer was "NO." The handler also had a number of questions for me - to make sure it was the right fit for him and his dog. His questions were about the school, the classrooms he would be visiting, and what to expect from the students he would be working with. After the meeting, I approached all of the teachers involved and reviewed the information I learned about the programming. They all gave me the go-ahead. Then I went to sell the idea to my administrator. While my administrator welcomed the concept of the program, I have to admit that there were some initial nerves about the sheer size of Moses! Regardless, I got the blessing to proceed.

We decided that students needed parental permission to participate. I created a parental permission slip to send home with students. The permission slip outlined much of the information I found out in the initial meeting, as well as, what the students would be learning and doing over the course of the program. We scheduled Moses to spend about 20-30 minutes, every other week, in the select classrooms. The school psychologist and I both attended each session to provide support.

We decided that we wanted to instruct students on: approaching a dog safely, how to look at a dog safely, petting a dog safely, walking a dog, giving a dog a treat, grooming a dog, how to take care of a dog, and giving a dog commands. We also wanted to give students time to pet Moses, sit and talk to Moses, read to Moses, and share student work with Moses, etc.

After the initial sessions where the kiddos met Moses and learned the basics, Moses's handler/dad and his wife created interesting ways to "encourage" hesitant students to approach Moses. Outfits were sewn for Moses with side pockets. In the side pockets, they would put fun little things for the kids - stickers, foam shapes, treats, etc. Students would approach Moses and were able to take a gift from his pockets. Sometimes, Moses would even wear a hat! Here are some of Moses's outfits from over the years.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Celebrating Moses's Birthday

The Easter Bunny!

For Moses' birthday celebration, the students made him birthday cards. Most students read their cards to him.

Students had the opportunity to read to Moses!

Then, after all of the the initial pet safety instruction, instruction on everyday life skills happened next. Moses's handler/dad and his wife came up with all of the creative lessons - sometimes based on issues that were happening within the classrooms. By using examples of Moses's care and his life events, we were able to teach the students various skills. Lessons included eating healthy, personal hygiene, safety in the community, and visiting the doctor. So, during the doctor lesson, students learned how Moses gets check-ups at his doctor (veterinarian). The students were taught that the vet listens to Moses's heart, checks his ears and teeth, feels his belly, listens to him breath and may even need to give him a few shots. All of these things are similar to what kiddos experience when they go to a doctor for a check-up. The handler showed the students Moses's first-aid kit and then, students were able to listen to Moses's heart with a stethoscope.

Here is Moses in his scrubs!

The outcomes were/are remarkable! During the first year of the program, the original target student employed escape techniques during the first session, during the second session the student remained in the general vicinity of Moses, and before we knew it, the student was smiling at Moses, petting Moses, reading to Moses, and sitting next to Moses. We were elated! I had hoped for this success and was prepared for it, but I had not intellectually thought through all the other positives that could possibly happen with the entire group of students. The success didn't stop with one student! This was an unique opportunity for all of our students to communicate with their peers and with a friendly furry friend. Communication, across the board, was improved. Peer interaction was increased and students were excited to see their friends visit (Moses and his Dad)! Students created works of art to show Moses, read Moses stories, and showed Moses pictures in books. They were gently, friendly, and caring. It was such an amazing first year! So much so, we continued the program and are currently in year three.

At the end of each year, we have a celebration. Moses dresses up in his graduation outfit and the students each get a little certificate from Moses. Then they shake Moses's hand. I have started a tradition in which I give students their own personal photo album of pictures I took of Moses with them over the course of the year. The kids love seeing themselves with Moses! We all enjoy a cake to celebrate!

The program certainly requires careful planning and inquiry to find the perfect handler and Therapy Dog for the students they would be working with.   would highly recommend the use of a Therapy Dog in school to increase peer interactions, communication skills, life skills, and social skills with special needs students. Students are also practicing fine and gross motor skills, body and spacial awareness, and self-control skills. Certainly, these positives are only a few of the overall benefits of such a fantastic opportunity!

For more information about Therapy Dogs, please visit the website of Therapy Dogs International. Here you can find information about contacts in your region.