Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Music Makes A Difference

   "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." 
--Victor Hugo

   In grad school I took a class in Creative Counseling Techniques, where we briefly covered art therapy, play therapy, and music therapy, amongst others. I have found that elementary students not only benefit from, but also enjoy these approaches.  Looking to incorporate pieces of music therapy specifically, I am constantly keeping an "ear" out for new, age-appropriate, and motivational songs to use in my work as a school counselor. These songs can be used within individual counseling, group counseling, and classroom lessons. They can even be played at certain times of the day in order to boost morale. :)

   I have one third grader who loves music, and with whom I share many favorite pieces. During one meeting together, I printed out the lyrics to a song that he is constantly singing/humming and we read
through them together. The student then selected certain words/phrases that stuck out to him and we spent some time talking about them in relation to things in his life. The same could be done in a group or classroom setting!

   Another activity that requires a bit more abstract thinking, but could work with an older student, is developing a sort of "Life Soundtrack". Here, students can list a number of songs that have meaning to them, or remind them of certain parts of their journey. School Counselor Blog has a very helpful post on this activity here.

Below are 10 of my current go-to songs when working with students.
Click the song title to view a YouTube version of the song.

1. "Brave" by Sara Bareilles
2. "Count On Me" by Bruno Mars
3. "Invisible" by Hunter Hayes (see video below)   
4. "Who I'd Be" by Shrek the Musical
5. "What I Am" by Will.i.am 
6. "Belly Breathe" by Common & Colbie Caillat 
7. "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield
8. "Unique" by Lenka
9. "This is the New Year" by A Great Big World 
10."Who Says" by Selena Gomez

"Invisible" by Hunter Hayes performed at the 2014 Grammy Awards.

*Comment below or post on Twitter if there are songs you would add to the playlist or other ways you incorporate music into your work as a professional school counselor :)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fresh Ideas for Building Social Skills

When I surveyed faculty at the beginning of the year, I received an overwhelming response surrounding the need for social skills development amongst their elementary students. Needless to say, in working towards implementing a data-driven school counseling program, I have several groups up and running!

There is a plethora of existing curricula and lessons for building social skills; however, I feel that a lot of it is outdated. In an effort to meet the current needs and interests of our students, I have attempted to develop our group sessions from some more modern ideas. :)

1. Pete the Cat
     Who doesn't LOVE Pete the Cat? I, for one, use his books all the time! Pete's "everything is cool" attitude is a great way to begin teaching students about flexible thinking...how to cope when things don't go their way! In fact, there is a fantastic TPT resource that served as my starting point for this concept! Be sure to share with students that YOU, too, have to cope when something doesn't go your way.

The beginnings of my Pete the Cat Bulletin Board for our Social Skills Groups.
2. Hedbanz
      I have had this game for about two years and for awhile only enjoyed it with my friends and family. It wasn't until recently that I thought to use it with students. Available in a few versions such as Kids, Act Up, Disney, etc., this game is great for helping students build conversational skills, stay on topic, and remember information that has been shared.
      Students put on the black headband, and then a card (which they have not viewed) is placed in the designated slot. They must then ask each other "yes or no" questions in order to determine who or what is on their card. When I play this with younger students, I write some key words and question starters (Am I, Can I, Do I, etc.) on the board for them to refer to. Incorporating skills learned in previous sessions, I also have students look at another group member, say their name, and then ask the question. Additional parameters could be set for even more skill building. 

3. Mustaches
    With the current mustache craze, I thought a fun group session might be centered around the theme of "I mustache (must ask) you a question". Not only do students love choosing their personal mustache and giggling at how silly each other look, but it is also a great way to process things including: appropriate times to ask questions, appropriate questions to ask different types of people, question starters (Can I, Could you), etc. Other skills, such as eye-contact and responding appropriately, can be re-addressed during this activity as well.  

4. Hula Hoops
    This activity addresses the concept of personal space, and therefore requires a bit more space than the table you might use for group sessions. Each student is provided with a hula hoop to hold around themselves. This is used as a visual for processing how much space should be allotted between family, friends, strangers, etc.
    Time should also be spent talking about exceptions to this rule, and why these personal space rules are necessary! At the end of this session, you can quiz students by assigning them a role (parent, friend, teacher, etc.) and having them physically demonstrate the amount of personal space that is required. 

5. Wrap-Up
    As your group is wrapping up, be sure to do something that allows you to collect some data on whether or not your group was effective in helping students to build their social skills. Speak with teachers, parents, and administer some type of post-survey for students. My post-survey typically consists of a Jeopardy game of some sort. I also deduct points from any team who gets too competitive and does not use the skills we have worked on. ;)

I am always looking for new resources to make group sessions exciting. Currently, many of my groups take place during recess as to not remove students from core academic time. Therefore, I need to ensure that group members will work hard but have fun, too!!