Monday, October 8, 2012

Our No Place For Hate Pledge, Finished Product!!

As I mentioned previously we are working to get designated as a No Place For Hate School again for the 2nd year in row!!  We had all 397 students and all of the faculty sign the No Place For Hate Promise to promote a Bully Free School!!


 I must say it turned out pretty amazing!!! It really pops when you walk into our building!!!  The principal and I went into every classroom and discussed what the promise means and what it looks like everyday!! The kids were really into it!!!   Below is the finished product along side of our No Place for Hate Designation Banner from last year!

Is your school designated as No Place for Hate and What activities have you done?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Building Attention and Focusing Skills on the Cheap!!

As school counselors, teachers often ask us to work with kids that lack attention and focusing skills.  With more kids being diagnosed with ADHD, we are seeing these kids more often.  I have come across some pretty cool and inexpensive things to help build attention and focusing skills.

Some of the things I have come across on the cheap:

Hasbro's Trouble Game.  I have used this game to help kids develop patience and waiting skills.  The Pop o Matic Button is hard to resist pushing!!  The game also requires that you wait to get a 1 or 6 to move your pawn!!!

Knock Knock, Who's There? Matching and Memory Game.  I found this at a yard sale!! It is a great tool to use with kids to build focus and attention skills!!! As the kids starting matching the pairs, their self confidence also shows immediately too!! Bonus!!!

Dollar store Puzzles!! I frequent dollar stores and often times find great therapeutic toys/items that I can use in my school counseling program!!  I get different sizes, various characters, 3D.  I found a great 48 piece 3d Star Wars puzzle that I have used with the younger boys!  When I presented the puzzle we talk about planning and sorting, and really paying attention to the picture on the box.  We talked about searching for clues and similarities, and all for $1.00!!! Score!!

Stay tuned for some other specific therapeutic games and activities that you can use for building attention working with ADHD kids!!

What cheap games or activities have you used with your kids to build specific skills?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pretty Cool Social Skills Apps!!!!

Our school just got 20 something iPad2 tablets that we are starting to use for all types of things at school!! (Since I am only familiar with iPad, I'm not sure if the apps are available for Android).  I have been downloading several social skills apps from The App Store at Apple iTunes to my own personal iPad to use in my small group lunch bunches and individual counseling!!

The kids (and I) are super excited to use the iPads!!!  Today in my 4th grade social skills lunch bunch we worked on inferencing and social clues!  I brought my iPad2 and downloaded the SuperDuper Inc. app What Are They Thinking? from the App Store at Apple iTunes and entered each of my students names.  The What Are They Thinking? app features Webber Photo Cards with 60 different cards with different scenarios.  The object can be for younger children to tap the speech bubble to hear what the person is thinking or it can be used to have older kids make a guess what they think the person in the picture is thinking using inference clues.  For some of my kids that struggle with social skills, this was a great tech-y way to think about what others might be thinking!!  When you enter in the names of the students, the app will also keep score for you and give you a percentage!!! Very cool for tracking progress!!!

Some other iPad2 Apps that I have downloaded but not had a chance to fully look at are:  Social Express Lite, Social HD, Understanding Inferences, Practicing Pragmatics, Listening for Absurdities, What Would You Do At School if..., and What's Being Said?  I can't wait to check those out and I will blog about those as well!!

What Apps are you using for building social skills?  I'd love to learn about more!!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pinwheels for Peace & No Place for Hate!!

Today at both of my elementary schools we are celebrating International Day of Peace!!!  (Click here to learn more about how this day came about!!!)  This is our 2nd year celebrating this day with Pinwheels for Peace!!!

At both of my schools, all of the students in grades K-5 will create a Pinwheel from a template and color or decorate the pinwheel to show what peace means to them!!!  The paper is then folded into a pinwheel and attached to a straw or pencil with a fastener or pin!! (we used pencils because they were sturdier!)  (Here is the link to the Pinwheels for Peace template!)

The kids at both of my schools were very excited to create these Pinwheels for Peace again!!!  Each and every pinwheels looks so different and so beautiful!!  Each representing what peace means to that particular student!!

On this International Day of Peace we gather as grade levels outside and with the help of our wonderful custodian, the principal and I help each student place their Pinwheel for Peace out on the front lawn of the school!!!!  It looks so amazing!!!  400+ at one school and 200+ at the other school!   Some classes even made a few extra pinwheels to display on the windows in our main office!!

The Pinwheels for Peace Project that we do lends itself very nicely to our continued theme of No Place for Hate at both of my schools!  As I talked with each grade level this morning, many students shared their ideas of what peace means, it was so nice to hear then using the No Place for Hate language!!  Very nice when it all flows together!!!!

Below are some pictures of our 2nd annual Pinwheels for Peace Project!!!

How did you celebrate the International Day of Peace?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Patricia Polacco's New "Bully" Book!!!

It's here!  It's finally here!!! I pre-ordered Patricia Polacco's newest book, Bully, and I picked it up the other day!!!!  I really love Patricia Polacco!  She is a fantastic author to use for guidance lessons!!

I am already planning to use this new book Bully with our 3rd graders.  Patricia Polacco is already part of their curriculum and this will ties in nicely with our No Place for Hate program!!!  Bonus!!

In this story, Lyla finds a new friend on her first day at her new school and then later on, she makes the cheer leading squad.  The popular group of girls ask her to join them, encouraging her to leave her new friend behind.  Lyla catches her new cheerleader group teasing her first day friend and others on Facebook, and makes the decision not to hang out with them.  That makes the cheerleaders very upset and they are out for revenge against Lyla.  What happens next is well portrayed meanness!!!!  Patrica Polacco really touches upon what it can be liked to be the target of mean girls!!!

This book take a serious look at relational aggression and cyberbullying.  It also shows that kids can work through these problems, with support!!

What books do you use to address relational aggression?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Creative Therapy Store

I was just checking my calendar which happens to be from Creative Therapy Store, and I noticed that on today's date it said web special 20% off ADHD and School Skills sections of the online catalog!! I was just looking for some ADHD Resources!!!  Two Seconds later I'm going through my mail and there is the Fall 2012 Catalog from... Creative Therapy Store!  I know!  A sign right? So I thought why not share this fantastic resource with my readers!!!

I have been using Creative Therapy Store for at least 2 years now!! I even wrote a product review and received a free One of a Kind Self Esteem Game!!!  This company has very useful and practical  counseling resources!!!

They deal with feelings, anger control, self-concept, parenting and family therapy, play therapy resources, social skills, Autism Spectrum Disorders, sensory functioning, ADHD and School Skills, behavior and stress and coping!!  The Creative Therapy Store offers a 90-Day Money Back Guarantee, if you're not satisfied.  They feature new products all of the time and have wonderful customer service!!

Some of my favorite products that I have gotten from Creative Therapy Store include Seeing Red, An Anger Management and Peacekeeping Curriculum for Kids; Totika blocks including the self esteem cards & life skills cards; several of the Play-2-Learn Go Fish Card Games including Catch Good Character, Reel in Responsibility, Catch and Release Your Anger &Fishing for Feelings.

I have also purchased Great Group Games for Kids; 2 of the Tangle products; The Any Game Cards; Let's Talk Social Skills; You Are ASocial Detective; G.I.R.L.S. in Real Life Situations;  Mind your Manners; Hidden Rules an the Attention Games book!

As you can see I might REALLY love this fantastic resource!!!  What great counseling resources do you use?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pinterest Love!!!!

Although I have a blog page linking you to my Pinterest Page, I wanted to take a few moments to share with how wonderful joining up with Pinterest can be!!  I HEART Pinterest because I have linked up with so many amazing school counselors, therapists, speech and language pathologist, special ed teachers, child development specialist, etc.

On Pinterest,  once you have asked for an invitation and have been accepted, you can start exploring ANYTHING that interest you and I mean ANYTHING!!!!!  As you can see by my Pinterest boards, I have focused mainly on School Counselor things.  To get started, I did a search on School Counseling, School Counselors and Guidance Counseling.  As people and boards came up that I was interested in, I started following them, and then people started following me too!! Cool!!

As I became a bit more familiar (addicted LOL!!) with Pinterest,  I started streamlining my pin boards and my searches to be more content specific.  I currently have pin boards for School Counseling, the Counselor's Bookshelf, Play Therapy, Counseling Shoppes, Chapter 15/504,Cool Tech Stuff, Sensory Ideas, Made in America, Butterflies, Feelings, Counselor Bulletin Boards, Social Skills, Inspirational, Cool Ideas, Great Meals and Teach HUB.

I love getting all of these wonderful ideas and awesome resources to use in my school counseling program, not to mention the fantastic network of school counselors and other therapist that are also loving Pinterest!!!  You can follow specific boards, all boards or specific people!!  Pinterest is also available on you iphone, ipad or android device, so you can Pin from anywhere!!

Have you discovered Pinterest?  What boards do you pin to?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

There Are Rules? Follow up!!

As a follow up to Monday's post There are Rules? Social Skills Game (click here to view), I wanted to share the game board that the student ended up creating!!!  After my 4th grade social skills group played the There are Rules? activity/game, we decided as a group that we wanted to create our own game.  The kids enjoyed the dice "game"  but we decided to really be able to make up the rules we would use a board game!!

I Googled game board templates and came across exactly what we needed at!! Score!!  Thank you Donna Young!!!

So at our Tuesday social skills lunch bunch, we discussed the There are Rules? game and I introduced the game board template.  We utilized the "Create Your Own Game" template from There Are Rules? packet as a guideline, answering each section as a group, getting input from everyone!!!

The kids were super enthusiastic to do this activity!!!  It was really cool to go ever each section of "Create your Own Game" template creating the game rules as a group.  I just asked the question in each section, the kids did the rest!!!  Below is the finished game board.

What activities do you use for creating rules?

Monday, September 10, 2012

There Are Rules? Social Skills Game

A friend of mine, who is a special education teacher, was perusing her favorite blogs for some back to school activities.  She was looking for something about rules at the beginning of the school year.

She came across this great activity for explaining and developing rules on Pamela Rountree's  Teaching 4 Real  blog!!  Pamela created this amazing activity which I downloaded from her TeachersPayTeachers store for FREE!!!!!!! ( I heart TeachersPayTeachers, but that is a post for another day!!) 

I thought wow!!, this would be a great introduction activity for my 4th grade social skills group!!  Basically, to play the There Are Rules? game/activity, you need 2 dice and some kids!  The premise is that you just hand out the dice and tell the students to "start playing" and walk away!! 

For my social skills group, I put the 2 dice down on the table while the 4 students were eating lunch (It's a Lunch Bunch!!).  I told them "okay, start playing!"  The kids all looked at me like I was strange!!  After a about a minute of them looking at me and each other, one student picked up both dice and took a turn rolling.  He passed the dice to the player on his left who also took 1 roll, saying what he got.  That player passed the dice to the player on his left, who also took his turn.  He passed the both dice to the boy on his left (skipping me).  That boy started telling the group about the various probabilities of the dice.  I interjected, "ahh a rule!"  The boys continued passing the dice like this for a few minutes with out any rules.  Then I said "now all odd numbers are 1 point."  So they rolled trying to get odd numbers.   A few minutes later I said "even numbers are worth 2 points."  The boy to my left, rolled 2 fives and he made a rule that that is worth 10 points which is the most points.  He then proceeded to roll the dice several more times, seeing what he could get.  This of course annoyed the other players causing them to correct him, beg for the dice, look to me to stop it and grabbing the dice from him.  What a perfect scenario to introduce the reason why we have rules...the object of the game, Brilliant!!!!!!!! 

To close the activity, we discussed why the game got out of hand, what could have prevented that and why rules are important to have and know upfront!!  Even though this was labeled as a back to school activity, it also turned out to be a Fantastic Social Skills Activity too!!  The kids really understood this concept and asked to make up their own game!!  We are going to do that tomorrow!!

What cool activities have you done to introduce the idea of rules?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

TOO Much Worrying!!!

Oftentimes the transitions that happen at the beginning of the new school year can cause or heighten excessive worrying for some students.  The students worry about a number of things including leaving their parents, making new friends, wondering if the school work will be too difficult, who will pick them up and are their parents safe. 

Sometimes as the children grow older, unfortunately,  their worries get bigger too!  As school counselors this is often something we hear about especially at the beginning of a new school year.

I have worked with students individually and in small group setting to help the students gain some coping skills to help them manage these worries.  I have come across some wonderful tools for working with worrying students in the school setting.

One of my favorite tools to use for excessive worrying is a workbook entitled What to Do When You Worry Too Much, a Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety.  The workbook is written by Dawn Huebner, Ph. D. a psychologist and author!
This workbook is divided into specific interactive chapters and is appropriate for children ages 6-12 years old. 
Each chapter progresses from the previous chapter, starting out asking "Are you Growing Worries?" in chapter 1 and ending with "You Can Do It!" in chapter 9.
Dr. Huebner has a very nice introduction to parents and caregivers explaining how to use this interactive workbook.  The kids that I have worked with using this workbook have found it relate-able and helpful for overcoming worries!!!

Another of Dr. Huebner's books that I have used is entitled Sometimes I Worry Too Much, But Now I Know How to Stop.   This is a great book for individuals to look through and read about a girl that has let her worries get out of hand.  It very nicely helps kids not feel alone in their worrying as the young girl, Anna, shares her physical and emotional symptoms of her worrying.  This book teaches kids that there are professionals who work with children with excessive worrying.  Here, I have included a link to Dr. Huebner's website for you to reference.

Another tool that I have on hand is the You Can Control Your Worries GameBook, written/created by Susan Pelton.  This GameBook has 3 different games that cover the top 10 ways to deal with anxiety.  The book is small and can easily be taken with you to a classroom, or another building.  The games in this book really encourages the children to talk about their worrying feeling rather than keeping them inside.  This GameBook works well for kids from K-6th.  I have found it available here at the Guidance Group store.

What are your favorite tools for helping kids deal with too much worrying?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How Do You Feel Today?

I have a very kid friendly poster in my office that simply asks How Do You Feel Today?  The poster was copyrighted in 1995 by Frank Schaeffer Publishing (Click here for an Amazon Link to buy this poster!).


I can not tell you how many very therapeutic conversations have happened in the 7 years it has been in my office!!!  I have it right at kid eye level in my office.  Many kids before they even say anything else will go to it or point at what they are feeling today!!!!  Even the 5th grade boys use it!!!

The kids' facial expressions on the poster are so well illustrated and it has such diversity that the kids immediately relate to it!!!

This poster not only has the usual feelings but it also includes feelings that are very specific to the school setting, like surprised, jealous, proud and impatient.  It also uses angry instead of "mad".  It is a great way to learn new feelings vocabulary and put a name to an unfamiliar feeling!!

Do you have a great feelings conversation starter?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do You Lunch Bunch?

One of the coolest ways to get to really know your students as school counselors is to offer Lunch Bunches!!!  I do Lunch Bunches at both of my schools and I get to see a ton kids in the process!! 

I have hosted Lunch Bunches for new students, for students needing review of study skills, for IEP students as a related service, to practice and learn social skills for kids on the Autism Spectrum, for girl bullying, for behavior modification, as a reward and for those kids that need a little extra TLC!!!

Some Lunch Bunches run a few weeks, some go the entire school year based on IEP mandates.  Some Lunch bunches are begin at the start of the new school year, and some I collaborate with teachers to work on a need or skill in a particular grade or class!!

I personally invite all my Lunch Bunch kids with this neat-o cool invitation I made which I converted to Google Docs to share with you!!  Click here to view!!

I also send a letter home to parents, especially if the groups are mandated by IEPs or are focusing on a specific issue.  I created a Word Document, formatted to allow for our letterhead.  I converted the document to Google Docs, you can access it here!

For IEP students, I also keep a confidential log of the dates, topics, materials, and attendance for each Lunch Bunch.  I have used these in IEP meetings to discuss progress.

The kids really seem to enjoy the Lunch Bunches and I really enjoy working with the students in this capacity.  I learn so much from our time together!!!

How have you used Lunch Bunches in your school counseling program?  I'd love to learn your ideas!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A PSR Gathering: Accomplishments box

A PSR Gathering: Accomplishments box. Just came across this idea on another blog and I thought how cool!!!

More First Day Kinderdergarten Reads!!

For the Kindergartners, starting school for the first time can bring about many different emotions!!  Some of the kiddos have difficulty leaving mom or dad.  One of the Kindergarten teachers shared The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn on the first day.  The book is about Chester the raccoon leaving his parents for the first time.  He doesn't want to go, and his mother assures  him it will be okay.  To help him she places a kiss in his left hand and tells him that she she will be with him all day!!  How sweet!!  This book is a great conversation starter about common feelings such as fear, nervousness, love and courage.  The book is beautifully illustrated and pulls the kids in right away!!!


Our Kindergarten teacher also did a very cute activity with the studetns afterward to reinforce the idea of the book.  The children, with some assistance traced their left hands on costruction paper and glued pre-cut red hearts onto the hands, just like Chester's mom did in the book!!  The new kindergartners really enjoyed this activity.

What books and activities do you use for the first day of school?


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welcoming the New Students!!

Today was one of my favorite days as far as back to school goes!! Today I had the pleasure of meeting most the new kids in both schools!! I met all of the new students, 3rd, 4th and 5th at school A and all new students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th in school B!! I have over 60 newbies between the 2 schools!!!!!

I took the students by grade level to my respective offices!! On the way, I introduced myself as Ms. Birster, the school counselor and told them there would be a quiz about me before they returned!!!

For the one school, I had each student give me their name and where they came from. As they were talking I memorized their names, repeating them to them and interjecting with "what's my name and what do I do here?". The kids really enjoyed it!! Of course we covered the expectations and answered questions.

At my first school, I did the above activity along with a group coloring activity. I found this super cute "Welcome" coloring sign at the Dollar Tree for $1!!! So we, as a group colored it in and learned about each other!! The kids also enjoyed this!!

What get-to-know you activities do you do with the new kids? Please share your ideas below!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back to School Guidance Lessons, aka No Place for Hate!

Today I got to do my first guidance lessons with the kindergarten.  It's so amazing to see the awe in their eyes, the newness of it all!!  At the beginning of school, usually the first week, the principal and I like to get around to all of the classrooms to present our No Place for Hate and go over expectations.

Today we co-presented in Kindergarten!!  One of my favorite books to read to Kindergarten about rules and expectations is How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?  by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.  The book has these awesome illustrations of various types of dinosaurs doing different behaviors in school.  Each page asks different questions about what the dinosaur should do, and the kinders (bless their little hearts) catch on quickly to shout out "NO!!" to the dinosaurs' misbehavior (totally cool, right?)!

After I read the story we reviewed our No Place for Hate promise with the kids and they all"signed" the pledge in their neatest kindergarten handwriting.  We will go around to all of the classrooms this week presenting our message of Peace and Safety in school and have ALL of the students sign the pledge!  The signed pledge will hang in our lobby as a reminder that our school is a No Place for Hate School!! Click here to learn more about No Place for Hate!  (I'll post more about that another time!!)

What do you do to teach Peace at your school?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Addressing Parents/Caregivers

Now that we are back to school I have met a LOT of parents, and I will meet many more tomorrow and next week at our open houses!!  Many I met yesterday when they came in with the kindergartners.  I was immediately reminded that we must be be professional at the school, when a grandparent came up to me and introduced herself as so and so's grandmother, Abby.  She immediately told me I could call her that.  I introduced myself as Ms. Birster and explained to her that I don't call parents by their first name.  I asked her what her last name was and she again said I could call her Abby.  Finally I said, I'm sorry,  but I was raised to called people by their formal title.  She then reluctantly said her name was Mrs. So and So.

Maybe it's my 12 years of Catholic school talking, but I feel that as professionals working in the school, we should address parents/caregivers as Mr., Mrs., Dr., Rev., etc. not as Abby.  I always correct the students if they answer the question "who's your teacher?" with "Jones."  I have them repeat after me "it's Mrs. Jones."  I think that sets the tone for RESPECT in your building.  

I think that when you are on a first name basis with parents, as school counselors, you lose some credibility and authority as a school professional.  It also sets a clear boundary that we are not friends, but school personnel.

How do you address parents and how you do have them address you?      

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School and a Cute Book Too!!!

Well today was our first day back to school!!! Very exciting!! It was a busy day, touching base with my regular kiddos and meeting some of our new students!!  I haven't met everybody new yet ( we had almost 40 new kids this year).

It was wonderful to meet our new kindergartners and their parents!!!  I had the pleasure of helping out with kindergarten's first day!!  They were all dressed up and so excited and eager to be there!  One of our kindergarten teachers did a read aloud just before dismissal and it was so appropriate for the first day of kindergarten!!!

The book was called The Night Before Kindergarten,  written Natasha Wing, illustrated by Julie Durrell.  The book has the same poetic quality as that Christmas story with the same type of title!!  The books starts out "Twas the night before kindergarten, and as they prepared, kids were excited, and a little bit scared."  The book very cleverly discusses the getting ready preparations and all of the different feelings that both the kindergarten kids might be feeling as well as their parents.


I will definitely be adding this to my counselor collection!!  What books do you use for first day of school?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Visit My Guest Blog Post

Today I am Super excited!!! Why you ask? My Friend Barbara over at the Corner on Character asked me to be a guest blogger!!!! Click Here to check out my post on Empathy!!!!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Touring My Offices!

I finally finished getting my offices ready for this school year!! Since I am in 2 schools I have 2 offices so the task is a bit more daunting!! I'll give you the virtual tour.

Office B is a small office but it works and I share it at various times with 2 other faculty. I tried to utilize the space efficiently.

Office A is a little bigger, but I lose a window! I share Office A but on alternate days when I'm not at this school!! I hope you enjoy the photos!!

What do you love about your counseling office??

Office B front of door
Office B my desk 
Office B Group table, therapeutic toys/games
Office A Therapeutic Toys and Games
Office A very Cool Toy Bin 
Office A Group Area
Office A Bulletin Board
Feelings and Character
Office A My Desk
Office B filing and Therapeutic Books
Office A Front of Door
Office A Skills Guidance Materials 
Office A Back of Door
Office B Back of Door