Sunday, September 29, 2013

Getting Started with Bibliotherapy

      One of my most favorite tools to use as a School Counselor is bibliotherapy, or the use of books as a form of therapy! I use books with individual students, in groups, and especially for classroom lessons. I am constantly on the lookout for new titles on school counseling-related topics, and Books That Heal Kids blog is a fantastic resource that helps me stay up-to-date on the latest therapeutic titles!

How to Build Your Bibliotherapy Library
     I began collecting books for my library during graduate school. But have I spent a fortune on brand new copies of therapeutic topics? No way! Many of my books have been purchased from thrift stores and used book sales. These can be hit or miss, but I have made some great finds for 25 cents to one dollar a piece! In fact, I just visited a local used book sale this week and picked up about fifteen books for $4.45!

This isn’t to say that I haven’t purchased some specific books that I wanted for my collection. I have gotten a few at Scholastic Book Fairs, Warehouse Sales, or online, but truthfully, the majority of my collection has come from secondhand vendors.
How to Organize Your Library
            The picture below shows a portion of my library separated by topic. This keeps my resources organized and easily accessible in the moment or on the go.

Some topics that I have in my library include:
 -Behaviors, Bucket-Filling, Bullying, Careers, Character Building, Coping, Diversity (Respecting Differences), Divorce, Family Relations, Feelings, Friendship, Grief & Loss, Health Concerns, Manners, Military, Self-Esteem, and specific collections such as Dr. Seuss and Pete the Cat!

I also rely on the Book Crawler App for on-the-go access to the topics and titles that I have in my library.  When I’m at a store or book sale and can’t remember if I have a certain book, I can grab my phone and find out. School Counselor Blog has a great blog post with step by step directions on using this App to stay organized.
Don’t Hog Them All For Yourself!
          As a school counselor who moves between three schools, there are a few staple books that I always carry with me. But for the most part, my library sits available at my home base school. Therefore, I make sure teachers know that they are welcome to come sign-out a book anytime they feel that their class or a specific student would benefit. The sign-out sheet lets me know where my resources are at all times. I even have some chapter books that I lend out to students for longer periods.
Join Us!
        Want to learn how other school counselors utilize bibliotherapy? Join us on Twitter this Thursday, October 3rd for #escchat! I will be moderating this chat, and am looking forward to expanding my own knowledge of bibliotherapy!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

October 3rd #escchat

Excited/nervous to be moderating my first Twitter Chat with my fellow Elementary School Counselors, and everyone within our Professional Learning Network! Not only that, but the chat is on one of my favorite school counseling tools-bibliotherapy! Consider joining us next Thursday at 8pm EST using #escchat. I will be posting soon on the topic :) Hope to "see" you next week!

PR Opps at Back to School Night

    This week included the first of my three Back to School Nights. I have been so thankful for the variety of posts lately on utilizing this event for marketing our School Counseling Programs! Entirely Elementary...School Counseling and Savvy School Counselor have both published great interpretations of this event.
     As not only a new school employee, but also as an unfamiliar position to the elementary level, I was excited to meet parents and discuss my role and services with them! At this specific school, my counseling space is way at the end of the building. Therefore, in order to increase the likelihood of getting traffic-I set up my table right at the school entrance!
     At the recommendation of the aforementioned blog posts, I created an eye-catching poster with information on my role, as well as some helpful handouts on the school counseling program, student success, and how to talk with students about their school day. I also had my business cards available for parents who wanted to continue our conversations at a later date. Naturally, I also had to include some incentive to come visit me--so lollipops were available for students who brought their parents up. :)

   I was so excited to meet parents with whom I had previously only had phone or e-mail contact.  Being present at the Back to School Night also reminded parents that School Counseling services are now available, and encouraged some great conversations!

   I look forward to the Back to School Nights at my other two buildings, and even more conversations with parents. Thanks again to those who posted previously on this event--your ideas were so helpful and provided me with the confidence to place myself right at the entrance! :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Don't Squeal Unless It's A BIG Deal!

  It's that time of year: "He's touching me!" "She's not being quiet!" At the request of a few teachers in my buildings, this week included some classroom lessons on tattling. There are a multitude of resources out there that address this topic. However, in order to keep it as simple as possible, I decided to go with the book and phrase, "Don't Squeal Unless It's A Big Deal!" by Jeanie Franz Ransom.

      Not only is this book hilarious to the adult reader, but the situation experienced by this class of young pigs is incredibly similar to today's classrooms! The story reminds students that their most important job is to be in charge of themselves and not other students. Furthermore, it clarifies what types of things warrant "squealing", such as when someone is hurt, in danger, or hurting someone else's property.
     I began by having students make inferences about the content of the story based on what they could see on the cover. Afterwards, we read through the story together. NOTE: On pg. 12, one pig calls another a "fat sow"-appropriate for swine, but not necessarily for young students--I changed this. :)
    Prior to the lesson, I had written up a few short scenarios that were similar to those occurring in our classrooms (ex. Another student is not following the teacher's directions). I also labeled two small containers with "Squeal" and "No Squeal". I read the scenario to students, and they gave me a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate whether a Squeal or No Squeal was needed.  At times, the teachers would also chime-in with additional examples.  We wrapped up the lesson by doing some Kid Writing with the prompt "Don't Squeal Unless...".

     I think this book was a fun way to increase students' awareness of how often we really are squealing! It's also a great common language to use within school environments where tattling is an issue.
     Be sure to check Pinterest for even more ideas for utilizing this book & lesson! Do you use another book or lesson idea to address tattling?

Friday, September 13, 2013

International Dot Day

Some of my favorite pieces in my counseling library are written and/or illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. One of his books in particular, The Dot, encourages creative expression not only in the children featured in the story, but also in readers of all ages!

International Dot Day, now in it's fifth year, will be celebrated this Sunday, September 15th. The Dot Day Website provides more information on how to celebrate this event while encouraging others to embrace their individuality and "make their mark!" The video below includes a reading of the book while highlighting a school district's interpretation of a "Dot Gallery".

Similar to in The Dot, I enjoy using art with students during individual and group sessions. For students who are unable to verbalize their feelings and/or experiences, art can serve as a fantastic outlet! It can also give us a look into their world! For schools who have access to technology, iPads might also be a great tool for creative expression. Otherwise, general crayons, paper, play-doh, and other craft resources work just as well!

How do you embrace creativity as a school counselor? Do you encourage students to make their mark?!

Happy Dot Day!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Seeking Help from Scaredy Squirrel

With a recent student case, I found few school counseling resources out there that had to to with students who are exhibiting a fear of germs (pathologically referred to as Mysophobia). There are lots of available educational materials and lessons for working with children who have little concept of germ prevention (try Pinterest), but few for germaphobe intervention. Now we know that the aforementioned fear can often be a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However, in this specific case, the fear of germs was the sole presenting symptom that was severely affecting the student's ability to learn and function in the classroom. A true-blue sign for intervention by the School Counselor!

While searching for resources, I came across a number of theory-based techniques, such as Immersion Therapy and Cognitive Restructuring. However, for a young student with whom I have not yet established solid rapport, I was looking to start with a more comfortable, indirect approach. Turning to my love of bibliotherapy, I soon encountered Scaredy Squirrel. Not only are the books visually pleasing and fun to read with students, but the website also provides an abundance of additional resources including e-books in case you aren't able to secure hard copies!

In a nut-shell (no pun intended), Scaredy Squirrel is a germaphobic squirrel who goes on various adventures, but takes every precaution to ensure that he does not have to face his fear of germs, crowds, etc. In each story, Scaredy realizes that he is missing out on the true experience of things by hiding behind his "emergency kit" that is uniquely prepared for each adventure.  I found that reading one of the Scaredy Squirrel books together was a great lead-in to discuss if the student ever felt a similar way. There are a variety of great Scaredy Squirrel books available, including: Scaredy Squirrel At the Beach, Goes Camping, Makes A Friend, At Night, and Has A Birthday Party. There are even titles that include Scaredy Squirrel preparing for Halloween and Christmas!

For those of you who haven't checked out Scaredy Squirrel yet, I encourage you to do so! I am also continuously looking for more ideas/insight for working with students who are very germ-conscious!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Introduction to the School Counselor

Not only am I a new school counselor, but I am a new school counselor within a district that has not had elementary school counselors for 8+ years! In order to get both students and staff acquainted with my role, I implemented a variety of things.

Needs Assessment for School Staff
Using some ideas from The Helpful Counselor Blog, I created an online Needs Assessment using Qualtrics. (I used Qualtrics in grad school, and honestly feel that it is the best research/survey tool out there! Hoping to write a future post on the tool.) I emailed the Needs Assessment link to teachers at all three of my buildings, along with a short introduction. The teachers and staff who responded provided me with some great insight and feedback to better direct my goals for the year! Also, it was a great way to get into a "data-driven" mindset from the get-go!
Below is an example of one of the questions I asked of teachers & staff:

Grades K-2 Introduction Lesson
To introduce my role to the younger students, I used the ever-popular Mrs. Potato Head role comparison lesson from Pinterest. As a group we moved through the jobs of my eyes, hands, ears (here I discussed confidentiality), etc. I think every class also pointed out that Mrs. Potato Head has blonde hair, not "orange" like mine. :)

I wrapped up the lesson by reading The Way I Feel by Janan Cain. Throughout the book we discussed how I work with students who are experiencing a multitude of feelings--even more than one feeling at the same time! Young students really seem to love this book and the vibrant colors used for each feeling.

Grades 3-5 Introduction Lesson
I wanted to do something more interactive for the upper grades. After I introduced myself and discussed my role, I really emphasized that as a new school counselor to each school, I needed to know what third, fourth, and fifth graders need! Using large posterboard, I created three posters that read: 1. What do you hope to learn this year? 2. What do  you need to be successful? 3. What can I do to help you? We moved through each question together and students responded using post-it notes. To keep students moving and engaged, I chose different people for each question to collect the post-its and place them on the corresponding poster. Below are a few examples of the posters, as well as individual student responses:

What did I do with all these post-its afterwards, you might ask? Might I say again, DATA! Although time-consuming, I read through all responses, and tallied them within specific categories. Afterwards, I combined the responses into grade level, and plan to use these responses to steer my services for the year! Furthermore, some post-it note responses raised some flags for me, and I was able to return to the specific teacher and talk about potential individual work with that student.

In all, I completed almost 60 Intro Lessons between my three buildings! Exhausting, but well worth it to have students not only put a name with a new face in the building, but to also understand my role! 

What introductory lessons have you used that worked well?