I'm always looking for ideas that I can create ahead of time and grab in the moment. I want it to be quick but meaningful and ready for use. Enter Feelings Go Fish - print on cardstock, laminate, and get ready to use over and over. You can even make this yourself! Just cut up two copies of multiple feelings pictures from google searches and you're good to go. If you're not so into DIY, you can purchase the cards seen here on TpT.
This can be a great ice breaker for a kid that needs some practice talking about their feelings. Each time you ask each other for a card - "Do you have a shocked friend?" - you are identifying the feeling on the card. You can also practice sharing a time that you have experienced that feeling each time you take a turn or make a pair. To help, I've created a poster that shows all the feelings on one page. Keep it posted in your room to reference each time you discuss feelings.
I think it's fun to practice tone of voice of body language to "go fish." When I need an angry card, I can use an angry tone of voice or make an angry face. The other student has to guess which feeling I am showing and the let me know if they have that card. Playing games in groups is a great way to practice turn taking, managing frustration, and communication.
Do you teach a lot of classes? Many of the counselors in my area teach on the specialist rotation (weekly) so they need a lot of lessons. That's a lot to plan! One idea is to create stations that kids can visit multiple times over the course of a few weeks. Most kids know how to play Go Fish so this station would need very little explanation. Just make sure to laminate those cards! Use the cards again to play a memory game, flipping over two cards at a time to find pairs.
What fun game hacks do you have? Please share in the comments, I would love to hear! I always love to be creative with items I have so I don't have to store too much. Gotta be - Productive. Organized. Effective.
School counselors work with all students and provide a variety of services. As more schools are aligning their efforts to the MTSS (multi-tiered system of support) model, it's important for counselors to be able to share how their work aligns with the school's system of support.
In Tier 1, or core instruction, counselors support social emotional learning and academic skills via the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors. Tier 1 instructional practices include explicit instruction to 100% of student, across all settings. Instructional practices may be adjusted to reteach and differentiate based on student need. Of course, school counselors are not the only personnel to support core instruction. Discuss the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors with school staff and determine the areas of need for all students. Once areas of need are determined, the counselor can consult with administration and grade level teams to develop a plan for implementation.
Providing direct instruction of social emotional and academic skills is crucial for students to be successful both in school and post-graduation. We can't expect behavior and academic skills that have not been taught. Likewise, it isn't feasible for the school counselor to teach all of the social emotional and academic skills needed. An effective school counseling curriculum supports classroom learning of skills that are included in the instruction provided by the classroom teacher. Schoolwide initiatives like PBIS also fall into this tier because they provide the structure and expectations for all students. An effective core allows 80% of students to be on target.
In Tier 2, a second layer of strategic intervention is added. Students still receive core instruction but need additional support to be successful. Just like a math teacher will implement strategies to support students struggling to understand math concepts, students who struggle with social emotional learning or academic skills benefit from extra support.
The key word here is strategic. As a school, how do you know a student needs more support with behavior? Do you wait until they come to the office with a discipline referral? How can you use data to intervene earlier? Discussion in Professional Learning Communities within your building may be a great place to start. These discussions may show patterns of student behavior. PLCs typically dig deeper into available data as well and can serve as a jumping off point for counselors.
As counselors, you are already doing Tier 2 work but may find that increasing your strategic focus may help. In my last school, I worked with students who had a high number of absences, students who needed to improve their academic skills, and students who showed anxiety about middle school. I chose these strategic interventions because I looked at the data and knew what was needed.
For counselors, Tier 2 can encompass work for a group of students that takes place individually. For instance, a behavior contract or Check-in/Check-out is a tier 2 intervention chosen for a group of students. Sometimes individual counseling can be a Tier 2 intervention, depending on the duration and intensity of the counseling. Meeting with a student 1-2 times about a friendship problem doesn't rise to the level of intensity that would be needed in a Tier 3 intervention.
Tier 3 interventions are intended for 1-5% of your student population. These kids are your super high flyers. Without additional supports, they can derail an entire classroom or grade level. Kids with Tier 3 support for behavior need a lot of help and most likely should be referred to an outside therapist. That doesn't mean there aren't Tier 3 interventions that counselors can put in place at the school! Tier 3 interventions are intensive, evidence-based instruction maximizing intensity, frequency, and duration. Interventions are progress monitored daily. Examples of Tier 3 interventions for counselors include FBA/BIP, suicide prevention, threat assessment, or collaboration and consultation with wrap around services for a child.
So what instructional practices and interventions do you provide? How do they fit into the tiered model? I'd love for you to share!
Goals are important. Without them where would we go? (Answer: There) We seem to think that kids know how to set goals because we do. In fact, it's a really hard skill. Here's a round up of everything goal related in the Counselor Up world to help you find your way. Happy New Year to you!
There are TONS of material on goal setting around the interwebs. I am a proud contributor of Confident Counselors and we have recently shared our top tips for setting goals with students. My wonderful counselor friends sure do have some great ideas. What are your go to tips for setting goals with students?
After the response to my solution-focused counseling on a clipboard, I thought I would share some other ways that I continue my philosophy of think about it once and make it easy for yourself in the future. I've always worked in really big schools and while I pride myself on knowing my kids pretty well, I inevitably get a referral for a student that I need to get to know a little better. I also kind of think that first individual session can be a little awkward and was looking for a way to make it less awkward. Enter the initial interview. And, yes, I do keep it on a clipboard.
Everyone likes to talk about themselves, especially kids. When I first bring a student into my office, I tell them why they are there if it was not a self referral. I'll then tell them that even though I know them around school, I want to get to know them better before we begin talking about (insert reason for referral). Depending on the kid, this initial interview may take up your entire session. However, if you are going to see this student more than once, I think it's well worth it. As you discuss these initial question, you will begin to see patterns that will inform your future work with the student.
Let's take Sarah, my completely fictional student, who has been referred to me by her teacher because she seems withdrawn and sad. I will break down the initial interview questions and then talk about the patterns that begin to emerge. The first few questions are about likes and dislikes.
The second section gets into family, friends, and home. As you can imagine, a lot of themes will emerge here and sometimes you get more information than you can write!
In the next section we start to dig deeper into Sarah's ideas about herself and her world. The initial interview tool starts with factual questions and moves forward to inference questions in order to build trust with the student.
For my last section, I talk about feelings in a normative way. I begin with the "everyone feels _____ sometimes," so they know that it's safe to share a time that they felt this way. To end, I always ask students if there was anything they want to tell me that I haven't asked. Usually, the added information is fun and interesting but sometimes it is meaningful in a counseling way.
To make the initial interview even more fun, I created a Getting to Know You dice game. To play, students roll the dice and answer the question for the corresponding number. They can also color in the border and the title as they are talking to you. It would be fun to take turns, I ask a question and then the student rolls the dice.
You are welcome to make your own initial interview using the questions I've listed for you. If you'd like it all created for you with fonts and borders, you can purchase the pages on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. If you would like the solution focused and the initial interviews on a clipboard, I recommend the Individual Counseling Bundle.
Recently, I've been exploring the concepts of trauma-informed schools and social emotional learning (linked to great articles on both). The deeper I dig, the more I come back to the concept that our little kiddos at school are real people. It might seem simple, but it is so profound. They are not tiny-adults, they are not antecedents and reinforcers. They are complex with feelings and ideas and hopes and dreams. So what can we do to honor where they are?
It can start as simple as asking them. I used to work with a teacher who kept a stack of blue and yellow cards next to the homework basket. As students turned in their homework, they would select a blue card if they were feeling down and a yellow card if they were feeling positive. They would place their cards on their desk as they did morning work. Throughout the day, the teacher would make sure that she was able to check in with all of the blue cards to see what was going on with them. She even made time to celebrate with her yellow cards. It was simple and easy to maintain but it sent a strong message to your students that she cared about what was going on with them.
This idea inspired me to create a mood clip chart. This clip chart could be used in both the counselor's office and a classroom. In the counselor's office, the counselor could use number clips to maintain confidentiality. I envision using the chart at the beginning of each group session by student's clipping their mood. In individual counseling sessions, you could assign a student a certain number so that they can move their clip each time they enter your office. In the classroom, a teacher could have students clip their number, name or picture on the chart as they walk in. The clip chart could also be used during morning meetings.
It's a simple idea, and sometimes those are best. If you're interested, I've created the clip chart for you in my TPT store. It includes 3 different color schemes, number tags, and editable name tags for clips. Just in case you've already posted your amazing MAP It Out wall, I made sure to use a complimentary color scheme.
What creative ways do you check in with your students? I'd love to hear your ideas! Comment below or give me a shout out on instagram, facebook, or twitter. I'd love to hear from you :)
Welcome to my blog where I talk about all things school counselor and encourage others to Counselor Up!