Sunday, December 23, 2012

Memory Ornaments: A Holiday Related Grief Activity

Holidays can be a difficult time for grieving students, especially if their loss of a loved one happened near the holiday season.  Recently while doing my own crafting with glass ball ornaments I came up with a simple idea to implement with students who have recently lost a loved one.  Using a craft glass ornament ball from your local craft store (see picture below) students can write their favorite memories of their loved ones on thin strips of card stock paper.  My students chose to use green & red strips of paper for Christmas but students can use any colors they like or that remind them of their special person.  Then you simply twist the strips of paper around a pen to create a twist effect on the papers and insert them into the ornament.  You can use decorative ribbon to make a bow and loop for hanging.  I offered this activity to several students this holiday season whom I knew celebrate Christmas and they seemed to enjoy the project.  They were happy to focus on the positive memories of their special person and to include their lost loved one in their holiday celebration by putting their ornament on their family's Christmas tree. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Girls Night Out:  Part Two

Our first Girls Night Out with 3rd and 4th grade girls was a success!  They enjoyed the pizza dinner and both girls and moms seemed to really connect to the movie.  We gave them about 5 minutes to talk over a few discussion questions with each other and it was really great to see them communicate about girl bullying issues and share personal experiences with each other.  There were a few moments of panic before we started as we discovered out sound system was only playing the music and background noises---not the characters voices!  With the help of our media specialist we eventually figured out to play the video with a different media player and that solved the issue.  Other than that slight glitch the night went off without a hitch! 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Girls Night Out:  Part One

The school year is off to a great start!  It's been a busy year thus far, hence the lack of recent posts, and I think I'm in desperate need of a Girls Night I decided to host one at my school!  I first heard of the idea to have a Girls Night Out with dinner and the American Girl Movie Chrissa Stands Strong on the discussion forum ASCA Scene and have read about it on a few blogs after that.  The movie tells a great story about a girl who is dealing with relational aggression.  I am teaming up with my school counselor sidekick, Stacey Rothaupt, from one of the other elementary schools in my district.  We are hosting the event at my school for 3rd & 4th grade girls and their moms (or any other adult female relative/family friend).  So far 32/60 3rd and 4th grade girls have signed up from my school!  I am so psyched for this event! 

Want to host this event at your school?  Read on to see how to prepare for the big night out!

Prep Work:
  • Get the OK from your administrator and set a date
  • Obtain rights to show the film outside of school hours---this cost us $100 for a one time showing, but splitting the cost between 2 schools helps
  • Send home information and sign-up form 2 weeks prior
  • Advertise every way you can---morning news show, show the trailer to the girls to get them interested, reminders in school newsletters, etc
  • Write up and make copies of parent information sheets and discussion questions for the night of
  • Send home reminders the day before the event
  • Order food for the event---we chose pizza as a safe bet
  • Set up movie and all necessary equipment
We are looking forward to providing the opportunity for discussion about relational aggression and for moms and their girls to share their experiences with each other.  I'll be sure to follow up and post about how this event turns out! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Let Me Introduce Myself

As I approach the start of a new school year I am reminded of the importance of introducing my role as the school counselor to staff, parents, and students.  For staff I simply take a few minutes from our first staff meeting of the school year to remind them about guidance procedures, review mandated reporting expectations and procedures, and also to share any new and exciting projects I plan to try during the year.  For parents I send home a brochure describing my role, guidance procedures, and how to contact me as well as monthly newsletters with reminders.  For students I take on this task during our first guidance lesson during the month of August.  I visit each and every classroom ASAP to introduce myself, discuss classroom guidance expectations, and review the concept of bucket filling. 

If you are like me you may have scoured the internet for fun and fresh ideas in how to introduce the somewhat complex role of the school counselor to students to create engaging lessons.  One concept I came across time and again is "the bag of tricks" in varying styles including the beach bum tote, hair stylist tool bag, first aid kit, a bag of hats, etc.  You bring your chosen "bag of tricks" to the classroom and pull out items one by one and relate them to your role.  For example, "The school counselor is like a beach towel as we are their to dry your tears and help you learn ways to feel better" or "The school counselor is like hair spray as we can help you learn to control your feelings when you become very angry so you can handle them in OK ways." 

While I love the idea of this, I dislike storing multiple bags of tricks and finding the items to fill them up.  Also I have made it my goal to make use of the wonderful technology my school has to offer:  ActivInspire on the Promethean Board.  So I combined the old bag of tricks idea and the Promethean technology to come up with some fresh lessons for my students.  I do not repeat lessons in different grades so each grade has their own counselor role introduction.  I'd like to share two of them with you today that may help get your technological creative juices flowing on how to use "old school" ideas with today's technology.

For third grade I incorporated a beach bum reference in my lesson.  I used free clipart from to create my beach tote and items.  I "locked" the tote on the page and "hid" my beach items behind it.  I call on students to "drag" items out of the bag and we discuss each one by one.  The students have a blast guessing what the items are used for and they often come up with better analogies than me.  Here is a screen shot of the page with the items and the tote:
For fourth grade I incorporated a hair stylist reference in my lesson.  Using the same concept and methods as the beach bum lessons I created my lesson with a hair stylist's tool bag and tools.  Here is a screen shot of the page with the tools and the tote:

I am still learning how to use all the features in ActivInspire so I can make my lessons more interactive and engaging.  I would love to hear from you if you utilize Promethean Board technology in your classroom guidance lessons.  Like most school counselors, I am always on the hunt for fresh ideas.  Please leave a comment to share you ideas.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Operation:  Cute Office

I have three full years of school counseling under my belt and during that time I've had three different offices.  The first two were in different schools as I started off split between two elementary schools.  I was busy between both schools with little time to decorate.  Once I was lucky enough to be assigned to one very awesome school I was then given one very awesome office.  While the space was great it took a little while for me to settle in and really make it my own.  I had some goals for my office space that included the following:  Must be child friendly.  Must have soft lighting (I have a nasty aversion to bright overhead lighting).  Must promote a safe, nurturing counseling environment.  Must be cute.  Yes, cute.  I shared my goals with my fiance's aunt who is a decorating extraordinaire.  I unleashed her in Ikea with $100 and this is what she came up with...

Ikea is an awesome place to find inexpensive office decor!  She picked up the sphere lighting, floor lamp, wall stickers, red table for my dollhouse, material for bookcase curtain and wall hanging, storage boxes, chair cushions, wall hooks that happen to be shaped like doggy behinds, art, and more.  I have a sneaking suspicion she went a little over budget, but over all it was a great deal.  

If you don't hit up the Dollar Spot at your local Target regularly you are missing out.  They offer a variety of items for---you guessed it---one dollar!  OK, sometimes the prices go up to $2.50 but that's pretty reasonable as well.  I've found toys to use for play therapy, small figurines for my sand box, squishy stress balls, office decor, and more.  Most recently I came across sticky notes pads that read "HELLO, MY THOUGHT IS..." and MY thought was that they would be great to use as icebreakers when starting group sessions.  I can stick one on the table for each member and they can start writing down their thoughts as soon as they arrive for group.  I think my students will enjoy sharing what is on their mind when we begin groups as they often come in eager to share what's going on in their world.  I can also use group topic related prompts to help facilitate discussions.  I plan to use these sticky notes this coming school year.  What a great find!