Character Breakfast Club

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Before I was a school counselor, I taught second grade for thirteen years.  One thing I found very successful for parent involvement was hosting a Reader’s Breakfast Club.  These breakfasts were held once each grading period.  Parents were invited to bring breakfast from home or their favorite take-out restaurant and come to my classroom.  During their stay, they would eat breakfast with their children and read together.  The students really enjoyed it, and we always had a great turn out.

As a school counselor, you can host a similar event called the Character Breakfast Club.  This club offers another way to infuse character education into your school counseling program.  How often you hold your breakfast club will depend on your individual school, but once per grading period is a great starting point.  You can eventually hold it once per month if your schedule allows.  Character Breakfast Club can be held before school and does not interfere with the school day.

Decide on the number of families you can accommodate, and make that number clear on your flyer. The number will be determined by your breakfast club location and supplies available. Once you receive the allotted number of R.S.V.P.’s, you can send the official invitation.  You can make your Character Breakfast Club grade level specific, or you can supply a range of activities in order to leave it open to all.  You can also group your clubs K-1, 2-3, and 4-5.  The school where I work tends to have a higher parental involvement in the lower grades, so combining K-1 is difficult.  Once you get a feel for the demand at your school, you can better assess how to schedule each breakfast.

Character Breakfast Club Activities

You will need to schedule 45-60 minutes for your Character Breakfast Club.  This will allow time for families to eat their breakfast for the first 15-20 minutes and leave another 30-40 minutes for the character activities.  These activities may include BINGO games, crafts, and small group activities centered around the topic.  For example:  One topic I will address is Bullying.  I have the Bully-Buster Bingo game from Mar*co which shares several strategies children can use when dealing with a bully.  I also have the activity guide for Bullies are a Pain in the Brain.  This guide has a great true/false type activity about the characteristics of a bully that families can complete together.  Students can also make special buttons pledging to take a stand against bullying.  You can have crayons and stickers available for them to decorate their button inserts.  This will give them something to take with them to remember all they did at the Character Breakfast Club.

Mar*co Products has a lot of BINGO games to choose from including Character Education BINGO, Managing Anger BINGO, and Manners BINGO just to name a few.  They also sell Responsibility and Respect Bingo which I have and love to use.  These are additional topics you can use for your breakfast clubs.  It’s not difficult to find a couple of fun character education activities to keep your participants busy and enjoying some great family time.   Additionally, you’ll have excited kids ready to start their school day on a positive note!

One last thing:  Don’t forget to have an exit ticket at the end of each breakfast club.  It should be simple and easy to complete.  This will help you determine what is going well along with what you can do to improve the effectiveness of your event.

Stick around!  I’ll share more about the Character Breakfast Club in a future post.  I will include a sample flyer, invitation, and exit ticket.

You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you!  Is the Character Breakfast Club something you might consider?

National Boards: Organization is Key!

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If you are a school counselor completing National Board certification, it is very important for you to be as organized as possible.  People who like to keep things organized already won’t have a problem with this.  However, for those of you who need a little assistance, here are just a few suggestions.

Keep Everything in One Place

Before it’s all said and done, you will have several pieces of paper to keep up with.  This starts with your standards which you’ve already copied and have been reading during the summer.  Right? 🙂  There are some items you can make copies of for your portfolio, but there are others (like student work samples) that have to be submitted in their original form.  You’ll want to have a safe place to store these.  For my NBPTS storage, I chose to use plastic accordion files.  I used them because I was always manipulating the packets during my writing, and having to pull them from and replace them into a binder was a step I chose to delete.  I also used them because I could easily slip them into a bag to carry wherever I needed to go.  I recently found some plastic files  in the $1 section at Target.

I had two of these files.  One was used to store my standards and my directions for each entry.  Most of these accordion files have four tabs and five sections.  That allowed four spaces for my entries and one for my standards.  I mentioned in my post Connecting Entries to Standards that I stapled each standard separately so I could pull the specific standards I needed to address a particular entry.  I did the same thing with the directions for each entry.  As I completed a rough draft for an entry, I would print it and keep it behind the appropriate tab with it’s corresponding directions. When March rolled around, I put a replica of what I actually turned in behind each flap for my records.  This included cover sheets and copies of my students’ work samples. (The original work samples had to be submitted in my portfolio.)

The second accordion file was used to store student work samples, release forms, documents for my accomplishments, and any handouts I used for my small group, career lesson, and academic advisement session.  Basically, this file held everything I didn’t put in the first file.  As the school year progressed, I didn’t worry about misplacing any important papers because everything was kept in one of these files.  It was very helpful for me.

Save Your Writing in Multiple Locations

It is very important to keep your work backed up.  I used a flash drive so I could always travel with my work.  I always worked from my flash drive, but once I finished working I would save my writing to my hard drive as well.  Google Docs (Soon to be Google Drive) is a data storage option which can allow you to do without the flash drive if you so desire.  Be careful not to forget to save any updates you make to your entries in all locations.  Also remember, a flash drive doesn’t require internet access, so it’s still not a bad idea to have your entries save on one just in case you can’t access the internet.

Keep Monthly Calendars

I am one of those people who needs to “see” everything on a calendar.  It helps me visualize my week or month.  In a previous post, I mentioned using a calendar to help me plan my writing time.  Click here to see an example of a calendar for Entry 1. I’ve included it just to give you a visual of what I did.  As you plan for each entry, begin with the end in mind.  Start by deciding when you want to have the entry completed.  From there, break the entry down into smaller pieces.  Doing this helps make the process less daunting.  Decide how long you plan to work on any given day.  The whole purpose of this calendar is to help you pace your writing.  Don’t worry if you don’t stick exactly to your calendar, but try your best to meet your completion date.  Remember to include open days on your calendar.  If you decide to write on that day, great!  If you need a break, take it.

Of course my tips are what worked best for me.  If you have tips that have helped you stay organized, PLEASE share them in the comment section below. They may help someone else.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  What do you suggest for NBPTS organization?

School Counselor’s First -Aid Kit

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While looking for more meet the school counselor ideas, I found a familiar idea from an old magazine on my bookshelf.  The original article was written by Michelle Jordan.

Many of us have heard of placing items in a bag and relating them to the school counselor’s role.  The School Counselor’s First-Aid Kit follows the same concept.  First, you’ll want to find something to hold your items.  Your kit can be kept in a box, or you can find a child’s toy doctor bag.  Label your kit “School Counselor’s First-Aid Kit.” Inside the kit, you’ll need the following items: a tissue, a toothpick, a Hershey’s Kiss, a star, a penny, a bandage, an eraser, a Life Saver, and a cotton ball.

After asking the students to tell you what first-aid kits are usually for, you can share each of these items one by one.  With your help, the students can tell how each item relates to your role.

    • Tissue–  A school counselor wants to help students dry their tears.  Students need to know it’s okay to cry if they have a problem.
    • Toothpick–  A school counselor helps students “pick out” their problems and work on them.
    • Hershey’s Kiss–  A school counselor wants to help students feel better and a treat can do just that.
    • Star–  A school counselor can help students find their way when they are lost.
    • Penny–  A penny reminds students that they are valuable and special.
    • Bandage–  A school counselor wants to  help heal students’ wounds.
    • Eraser–  The eraser reminds students that everyone makes mistakes.  School counselors help students deal with their feelings about the mistakes they’ve made.
    • Life Saver–  Life savers serve as a reminder that students can see the school counselor if they need someone to talk to.
    • Cotton Ball–  This reminds students that the school counselor is full of warm fuzzies and compliments.
To make the kit, I found a container at The Dollar Tree. I also used Making Memories’ “Creative Letters.”  I used foam sheets to make the star and to decorate the lid.  I found a nice, large eraser at The Dollar Tree also.

This kit can be kept in a visible spot in your office to remind students about your role.  You can also use it as you meet new students throughout the school year.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  What else would you include in the First-Aid Kit and why?

Look Who’s Been “Spotted!”- School Counseling By Heart

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I’m excited to add another blog to My Favorites today.  School Counseling By Heart is a wonderful school counseling blog authored by Rebecca Lallier.  I am always impressed by her insightful blog posts which cover a wide range of topics.  To learn why she calls her blog “School Counseling By Heart,” check out her About Page.  It is a great example of the time and thought she puts into her blog posts.  I want to take this time to tell why this blog is one of my favorites.

  • Rebecca often shares cool ideas about resources school counselors can use in their programs.  I most recently learned about the game Max which is absolutely, positively Rebecca’s most favorite counseling game of all time throughout eternity (so far)! 🙂 After reading her post, which included all of the skills this game can help children build, I was convinced I had to have it!  There’s also her wonderful idea about using Post-It notes to help students talk about uncomfortable feelings.  In this post, Rebecca shares how she uses this method with students who are depressed or anxious.  It is a wonderful idea for helping students process their feelings.  Check it out!
  • Rebecca also shares her experience of working with Hospice and dealing with grief issues.  I was especially moved by her post “When a Staff Member Dies.”  In this post, she shares about the experience of losing staff members as well as other school family.  My school has lost two wonderful staff members.  The most recent occurred this past December 2011, so I immediately connected to the experiences she shared. She gives excellent tips on what to consider if this unfortunate event happens at your school.  She also lists several pieces of literature that are helpful to read.  I wouldn’t hesitate to ask Rebecca for advice if I had to face a similar situation in the future.
  • I have found wonderful lesson ideas on School Counseling By Heart.  “What’s Behind the Angry Mask” offers a great activity to do with your students to assist them with discovering the root cause of their anger.  Rebecca tells her students that anger is often a mask that hides other feelings. She says the students are better able to work through their feelings after the angry mask lesson.  “Moving Up to Middle School” is another great post where she shares how to assist your rising 6th graders with their middle school transition.  I really like the chalk talk activity she incorporated.  You’ll have to visit her blog to find out more!

What I’ve shared today is just a morsel of what you will find at School Counseling By Heart.  I’m so glad that Rebecca takes the time to share her school counseling knowledge and ideas with us on her blog.  Check it out today.  You will not be disappointed!

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a favorite post from School Counseling By Heart?

Using Thinking Maps in School Counseling: Careers

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Thinking maps are great tools that can be applied to all content areas including school counseling.  They assist students with thinking more in depth about a topic.  School counselors can use them in many ways to enhance the impact of classroom guidance lessons or small groups.  Today, I want to share how you can use these eight thinking maps when teaching about careers.

The eight thinking maps are the circle map, tree map, bubble map, double bubble map, flow map, multi-flow map, brace map, and bridge map.  In this post, I will show how to use each of these thinking maps when teaching students about career awareness.

The circle map is used for defining in context.  This example shows medical careers.

The bubble map is used to describe using adjectives.  This example shows the desired characteristics of a nurse.

The tree map is used for classifying or grouping.  This example shows three career areas.  Under each area are examples of jobs in those careers.

The flow map is used to show sequence and order.  This example shows the steps it might take to obtain a job.  I say might because people starting their own businesses could follow a completely different path.

The multi-flow map is used to show causes and effects.  This example shows what it takes to go to college and how college will in turn lead to knowledge, a degree, and a job.

The bridge map is used for seeing analogies.  This example shows that a chiropractor is a type of doctor just as a professor is a type of teacher.

You can use the double bubble map to compare and contrast two jobs.  It is similar to a Venn diagram.  The three bubbles down the center show similarities, while the bubbles on either side will only show attributes of the bubble they are connected to.

The brace map is used for analyzing whole objects and parts.  Students can chose one job, list three parts of that job, and then further analyze the three parts.

If you haven’t already used thinking maps in your school counseling program, just know they are a great tool to use in order to help students become better learners.

Be sure to check out my product in my TpT store for teaching careers to the lower grades.  It incorporates a circle map in the paper folding activity.  You can also find Careers- Go Fish! for upper grades.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.   Do you use thinking maps in your school counseling program?


Meet the School Counselor Ideas

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I recently received an email from a reader about finding ideas school counselors can use when visiting students at the beginning of the year.  Today, I am sharing three ideas I’ve used in my program.  I can’t show you the actual pictures in this post since the items are packed away at school, but I will do my very best to explain how each activity is done.


Use A Circle Map

A Circle Map is one of eight Thinking Maps and is used for defining in context.  To use one, put a word inside the inner circle and write words or phrases to define or tell about that word in the outer circle.  You can also use pictures to help define the word.

Create a Circle Map to introduce yourself.  Draw your circle map on a large poster board.  In the middle, glue a picture of yourself and write your name. Around the picture in the outer circle, write words and find pictures of things that tell about you.  Some examples could include:

  • a picture of your child(ren) to show you are a mother or father
  • a picture of the mascot of your favorite team to show you are a fan
  • a character word that defines you such as caring, kind, compassionate
  • a picture showing your favorite hobby
  • a picture of your pet(s) to show you are a pet lover
  • a picture of musical notes if you are a singer
  • the words listener, helper, and friend to define your role as school counselor
Think about who you are and find words or pictures that define you and what you do as school counselor.
This can be an opener for your main lesson, or you can extend it by having the students create circle maps about themselves to share with you.  Your circle map can be used with all grade levels.

“A Counselor Is” Cards

You may have heard of the book Who is Your School Counselor by Lisa Miller and Connie Brown. It includes a story called “Who the School Counselor is NOT” and a BINGO game.  I used the bingo game one time.  The game didn’t stick for me, however the calling cards were perfect for helping my Kindergarten friends learn about what a school counselor does.  I have used them every year for the past six years.

There are five cards:

  1. Question Mark– This card stands for “problem solver.”  A school counselor helps you solve problems by assisting you with deciding what the problem is and what you can do about. Then you decide what to do.  I use this time to tell students that I will help them think of solutions to their problems, but which one they choose is up to them.
  2. Hand Cupped Ear– This card stands for “listener.”  A school counselor listens to your problems.  I use this time to tell students where my office is and that they can come see me to talk if they are feeling sad or upset about anything.
  3. Touching Hands– This card stands for “friend.”  A school counselor is your friend.  I use this time to tell students that I am their adult friend at school.  They will never be in trouble when they come to see me.  I am their friend and want to help them make things right.
  4. Alphabet/Math Problems/Pencil– This card stands for “helper.”  A school counselor helps you do your best in school.  I use this time to tell students how sad or angry boys and girls sometimes have difficulty in school.  I am there to help them work through their problems so they are ready to do their best work in class.
  5. Lips With Finger– This cards stands for “secret keeper.”  A school counselor keeps your secrets unless the secret will hurt you or someone else.  I use this time to give examples of which secrets I can keep and which secrets I have to tell.

I share these cards one at a time and explain what each one means.  This is another activity I use before the main lesson.  I always bring the cards back for the next lesson to review.  I was unable to find this product on the MAR*CO site, and Amazon is currently not selling it.  This leads me to believe it is no longer being sold. However, it wouldn’t be difficult at all to make your own set of cards with similar pictures to use this idea.  You can also use these cards with first or second graders.

Meet the Counselor Game

Create “Meet the Counselor” game cards to use with upper grade students.  This game is good to remind students about how to make appointments, what secrets you can and can’t keep, and any other facts you want to review with them.  For this game, use 4 x 6 index cards.  You can hand write the cards, or type everything, affix each question to the cards, and laminate them. Put “Meet the Counselor” on one side of each of the cards.  On the other side, put questions about the school counselor’s role as well as specific questions for your school. They can be true/false, open ended, multiple choice, or a combination. You’ll want to make sure to have enough questions for each student to have a turn.  Some example questions are:

  • If I tell the counselor I got into a big argument with my brother before school, he or she will:   a)  tell my parents  b) keep it confidential c) let my teacher know
  • I am in big trouble if I have to go see the school counselor! (true or false)
  • How do I make an appointment with the school counselor?
  • If my uncle hit me and left a bruise on my arm and I show my school counselor, he or she won’t tell anyone. (true or false)

Divide the class into two teams. You can decide how you want the teams to earn points.  I enjoy bringing a Nerf basketball and hoop set for points to make it extra fun.  First, I ask the student the question.  If he or she is unsure of the answer, he or she can ask the team for help. (This guarantees the team will get one point.)  Next, the student gets to shoot the ball for a bonus point for the team.  My little future NBA and WNBA stars love it!  We discuss at the beginning how to respond to a missed shot appropriately.  I don’t usually have tangible prizes for this game.  One team just ends up with the most points.

If you don’t wish to use the cards as a class game, they can be used for a whole class discussion as well.  Either way, use the questions to jump start discussions about important information your students need to know about the school counselor.  

This meet the counselor game is available in my TpT store.  It comes with 26 pre-printed game cards.  CLICK HERE to check it out!

You may also like these “Whooo’s” the School Counselor Posters to use with your younger students and The Meet the Counselor Files great for both lower and upper grades. 

I’ve recently added a Meet the Counselor Bundle which includes the game, posters, a self-referral lesson and my August Activity Pack which is dedicated to Meet the Counselor activities.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you!  How do you plan to introduce yourself and the role of the school counselor to your students?