When the book “Wonder” arrived on the scene I knew it was special. I knew that it had the potential to help children understand empathy, diversity, and acceptance. My school used “Wonder” as a One School, One Book read. Everyone loved it. However, when the movie came out it became not just special, but a phenomenon. I arranged for our entire school 3-8 grades to see it at a local movie theater. The kids were capitavated, but then I was like “Now what?”. How do we keep momentum of CHOOSE KIND going? In doing some research I came across a younger children’s version entitled, “We’re All Wonders”. It is also by RJ Palacio. I immediately purchased it and started working on how to incorporate it into our school culture.
I first read the book to K-5 classes. For the 3-5 graders we did some quote art with quotes from “Mr. Browne’s Precepts”. For the younger grades we did some role plays about kindness, but I wanted to take it beyond my classroom lessons.
If you’ve read any of my other posts you know that bulletin boards are not my thing. I don’t particularly enjoy them and I’m defintley not good at them, YET. (See what I did there, Mindset). However, I know that they can be a powerful tool so I decided to step outside my comfort zone and create the “Choose Kind Challenge” using the book “We’re all Wonders”.
I choose 12 different acts of kindness and printed them on slips of paper. I them put those slips in the envelopes you see on the board. Students may choose one of those or do something of their own choosing. Once they have done an act of kindness they can come and put their name on the board. The school goal is to fill it up so much that no more names can fit.
I’m still not the Monet of bulletin board creators, but I’m pretty proud of how it turned out and excited to see what the students do with this challenge. Even though I’m a bulletin board novice there is not doubt that bulletin boards can make your counseling program POP!
A few weeks ago I was asked to leave my room, last minute, for an electric crew to install a new security system. I immediately panicked because I had first grade coming to me for a Superflex lesson in 10 minutes. As all good counselors are able to do I was flexible, changed my plans, and the outcome was my favorite lesson to date!
If you are not familiar with SUPERFLEX, it is a social thinking curriculum that is one of my favorites. Click HERE for more information about the Superflex curriculum. I have the students wear capes when they come into my room for their lessons. I use this curriculum with all first graders. I use the pre-made lessons about the superhero Superflex and how he defeats the Villains of Social Town. Some examples of the villains are Rock Brain, Glass Man, and Mean Jean. This particular day I regrouped quickly and hung pictures of the villains around the school. Then I called the 8th grade teacher to see if she would be willing call my room and act like the villains of social town had taken over her and the 8th graders. After she called the room the first graders went all around the school finding the villains that I had hung up. To defeat each villain they had to tell me some of the Superflexable strategies. The very last villain was outside the 8th grade classroom. Once they defeated the last villain we went into the 8th grade room for them to receive a wonderful round of applause by the big kids.
During our adventure I decided to pull out my cell phone and take some pictures and video. When I went back and looked at the pictures and video I realized that it turned out to be a really fun and cool lesson and decided to make an i movie. Making the i movie took less than 10 minutes and it turned out well…… Take a look for yourself below! I movies and last minute plans can really make your school counseling program POP! Click here to watch Superflex I Movie
If you are like me, I’m always looking for well done, ready made, pre done lessons that make an impact. Some of my favorites are from The NED Show. The NED show is available to come to your school at no cost (they do a great job), but even if you don’t choose to do that, their site is still FULL of wonderful FREE resources. One of my favorites is Friendship Soup! They have a video on the website that is 3 minutes and then students put together their own friendship soup. This is a follow up to my lesson where I read “Friendship is an Art” by Julia Cook. I’ve put the link to the NED show below so go check it out!
The NED show lesson plans
I was privileged enough to accompany my husband to Washington DC to meet with key White House officials about local issues. We got to meet with people like Kelly Ann Conway, Ben Carson, and even Vice President Pence. While I will not be sharing my specific political beliefs here I can write that I am a firm believer that no matter who we like and agree with or dislike and disagree with we should never miss an opportunity to advocate. With the omnibus bill looming and the aftermath of Parkland still resonating I knew there was no better time to advocate for more school counselors than now. The pictures below show us in the Executive Office of the White House and my husband asking about more funding for school counselors. The most positive part of this experience for me personally was that most of the county commissioners from around NC, regardless of party, were in agreement that we needed more school counselors and that more school counselors were crucial to the safety of our schools. You may not have heard but there was an additional 700 million added in the omnibus bill for a total of 1.1 billion that can be used to additional support personnel. If there was ever a time to advocate, now is it! I’ve listed some simple things you can do below:
- Write your state representatives and local officials
- Invite all your elected officials to visit and talk to them about your role
- Participate in your state association’s Legislative Days
- Invite members of your school board and county commision or town council to be a part of your school counseling advisory boards
- BE INFORMED!
Doing all of these things can really help your advocacy POP!
Executive Office of the President of the United States
Watauga County Commission Chair, John Welch, asking about more funding for School Counselors.
Who doesn’t LOVE the Olympics? As a counselor, the Olympics are a treasure trove of stories for perseverance, goal setting, teamwork, and so much more! This year I did some research on resources that I could use to integrate the Winter Olympics into my lessons. While there is a lot out there I found two that I really felt were perfect to use in my counseling program.
NBC Sports, Sports Champions, and Sports Engine have teamed up to bring the US Olympic athletes to you! Clicking on this link will take you to the lessons that they have created for your use! There are videos of the US Olympic athletes talking about goal setting, teamwork, diversity and perseverance. There are even lesson plans that go with each one divided up by K-3 and 4-8. These would be perfect for a classroom lesson, small group, or to send to teachers as an additional resource.
At my school I facilitate a STEAM class. I found a set of videos from the Vancouver on Science 360. There are videos that discuss the science surrounding a variety of Olympic events, including snowboarding, figure skating, curling, and more! As we watched the videos we also would discuss the various careers that are involved in the making of an Olympic athlete. This included Sports Scientist, Ski Makers, etc.. NBC Learn also has a great set of videos about the science of the games.
Everyone loves the Olympics and what better way to make your program POP than to get involved in the game! GO TEAM USA!!
How do you or your students make good, sound decisions about class selections at the next level (High School/Middle School) without really seeing what the class is like? Are we just making a shot in the dark and hoping for the best? This question really bothered me and then it occured to me – why not immerse our students into a class? Using Google Hangout my 8th graders were able to actually witness a freshman english class! Setting it up was really simple. I emailed one of the high school english teachers to see if they would be interested. The english teacher immediately e mailed me with an enthusiastic YES! She gave me her schedule and then I worked with our ELA teacher to set up a mutual time to “hangout”. The high school English teacher called me via google hangout and voila! we were able to be a part of her high school english class. After doing her lesson the high school teacher then took some time to answer questions from our 8th graders. 100% of our students said they felt it was a worthwhile activity and helped to alleviate some anxiety that they had about english. It was so great we are going to try to this with all our subjects. This is a great way to make transition POP!
I LOVE getting students outside of my room and being interactive. This activity was inspired by the story book walks you might see at your local library or playground. I thought why not do a college talk walk? I created (on a whim) 9 different activities for students to do as they walk around our building. The K-5 groups were led by some middle school students who I trained during their lunch time. You could easily do this same activity with 5th graders as the leaders for the K-4 students. I put the activities around the building based on the activity. For example, the activity about the cafeteria went outside our cafeteria, the activity where they had to lay down and spell was out an acronym was in our lobby in order to give them lots of room.
I numbered each activity and had each group start on a different number. For instance, one group might start with #2 and end with #1. This kept the groups from overlapping.
This activity checked several boxes for me. One, the mentor piece, I’m always trying to get the older students to mentor the younger ones. Two, I chose middle school students to give them that college knowledge refresher. This activity gave them lots of confidence and encouragement. Three, it was a fun and developmentally appropriate way for the younger students to learn about college. Four, did I say it was fun? It was fun!!
We did this activity on National College Signing Day. I used the Better Make Room logo on my signs to advertise this program to the older students. We also watched a video from Michelle Obama before we went on our college talk walk.
Feel free to use this activity to help make your college talk POP!
This picture on the left shows all the activities that I used. Feel free to copy.
One of my favorite technology resources is the newsletter creator site smore. Smore is a great site to make you newsletters POP and gather data at the same time. It’s easy to use and the best part is that through the analytics you can see who is looking at your newsletter, what they are clicking on, and much more. You can add events that will allow readers to RSVP through the newsletter! You can add pictures, links, and so much more! This year, in addition to my parent newsletters, I’ve gotten with the student services team at my school to put together a Whole Child newsletter for faculty and staff. I’ve posted a sample of this newsletter and a previous parent newsletter at the end of this post. This is just one of many new technologies that can make your School Counseling Program POP!
Whole Child Newsletter
Found this idea on Pinterest and LOVED it! I made these for all of our faculty and staff. It was great way to lift everyone’s spirits up and make them feel appreciated. It’s important as the School Counselor to keep everyone on a positive path. I’ve updated a cover sheet so all you have to do is click and print HERE . Little gestures like the “Smile File” are quick, cheap, and can help make your counseling program POP!!
This idea is not new or original to me. I’m sure there are MANY school counselor’s who do this same thing. But if you are not one of them make it a priority to start this concept THIS year! It is so nice to be able to have parents come in, get a cup of coffee, and a pastry and visit. Often when parents come to see the School Counselor they are in crisis or have worries about their children. It is great to have an opportunity to connect with your parents on a different level. Each month I choose a theme that will be the launch pad for our conversation. Some themes have included: talking to your child about drugs, doing a family game night, how to make family dinner fun, and others. In some instances I’ll invite special guests. At the beginning of the year I’ve invited our Superintendent and in October our drug/alcohol educator to come talk about best practices in talking with our kids about healthy choices. This is just another added touch to making your school counseling program POP!