It’s Almost Back to School Time!

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In just three more weeks, I will be back at my school preparing to see my students and starting a brand new school year.  Regardless of how much I love my summer break (and I mean LOVE…), there is something exciting about starting over with a fresh, clean slate!  It’s time to start thinking about setting up my office and planning for the school year.  Here are a few things I want to share again to get you thinking about ideas to incorporate at your school.

A few years ago, I shared how I made this Crafty Character Trait Collage.  If you’re like me and enjoy being “crafty” from time to time, this is a fun project to take on.  It’s just a matter of finding stickers and letters that appeal to you, scrapbook paper and a little time.  Check out this post if you’d like more information on how to create one yourself.  Walmart continues to sell these exact same frames in black and brown.


I plan to continue my College and Career Spotlight bulletin board this school year.  As I shared in January, half of the board highlights colleges and universities and half spotlights an individual career cluster.  Although I didn’t get through many schools during the last school year, the staff at my school was very helpful with supplying school paraphernalia for their Alma Maters. I’m looking forward to spotlighting more this year.


I have really loved using the book Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High Fives with my students.  This book helps facilitate everything you’ll want to touch on during your meet the counselor lessons or new student groups.

Book Cover

Finally, for anyone looking to add to your school counseling resources, starting at midnight tonight, the annual site-wide TpT Back to School Sale will be underway.  The sale will run through Tuesday, August 2nd.  During those two days, you can save 28% on all the resources in my TpT store.  All you need to do is use the Promo Code:  BestYear for the complete discount.

August 16 Sale

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College and Career Readiness

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If there is one area I want to see grow in my school counseling program, it is college and career readiness.  Today, I am sharing a great resource and a bulletin board idea.

First, I want to share a book from Youthlight.  Lisa King authored a great resource called How to Create a College Day.  It was created specifically for grades 3-8 so it can be used by both elementary and middle school counselors.

College and Career Readiness - Savvy School CounselorThis resource includes a CD.  It provides a timeline for creating a college day along with lesson plans and activities.  It also includes ideas for bulletin boards and decorations.  Letter templates and forms are already created for you, and the CD includes powerpoints for both a classroom lesson and a stakeholder’s presentation.

A Pre/Post Test is included for gathering data.  There is also a list of suggested speakers for the event.

I like the idea of students “choosing courses” which is how they determine which speakers they would like to hear.  I also like the college day lunch idea where students invite a family member who attended or attends college to come have lunch.  Everyone is encouraged to wear their respective college gear.

There are so many great ideas:  craft activities, reproducible sheets, door decorating ideas and college readiness articles.  I believe the ideas in this book could also be used when planning a career day.

If you are planning a college day or college week at your school, this book is an excellent resource and a great guide.  I am so excited to use it!

Bulletin Board

College and Career Readiness - Savvy School Counselor

This bulletin board is a display I plan to change at different points throughout the school year.  I got the idea from a school counselor I follow on twitter.  (@LFESCounselor)  She created a board similar to this at her school that she changes weekly.  Be sure to check her out on Twitter.  She shares lots of great pictures and ideas from her program.  My time always tends to get away from me, so I named my board “College and Career Spotlight” so I wouldn’t keep missing a weekly deadline…lol.  (Note to self…It’s time to change the board!)  I think it’s been well received.  I started by creating and sending a google form requesting the names of colleges and universities attended by our staff.  The colleges I spotlight will come from that list.  On the right side, I will focus on an individual career cluster.  Once the new school year begins, I’ll be more likely to get through all sixteen clusters.  Hopefully I’ll get through several some a few before the end of the school year. (Where does the time go?  I don’t know how @LFESCounselor does it! lol)

Another way the staff at my school promotes college awareness is by wearing college gear on the last Friday of every month.

Be sure to check out my career products in my store.

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Teaching Good Study Habits

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Learn about this study skills resource, STEP UP to Better Grades, by Robin Zorn. - Savvy School CounselorDon’t you just love when you choose a school counseling resource online and SCORE!?  Well, let me tell you about another resource from Youthlight that you should consider adding to your collection of resources.  STEP UP to Better Grades was created by Robin Zorn, the 2014 School Counselor of the Year.  As soon as I began looking through the book at the lessons and all of the activity options included, I began to think of so many ways to use this resource.  Let me tell you more about it.

The book includes a CD with all of the activities and games along with PowerPoints and letters for parents.  Pre- and Post-Tests are also included.  There are core lessons for each study habit and 66 additional extension activities.

Each letter in STEP UP represents a different study habit.

  • S is for Space:  This section focuses on making a suitable work space at home similar to the work space at school.
  • T is for Tools:  This section discusses the necessary tools students need to stay organized such as agendas, keeping back packs and desks neat and in order and creating a schedule.
  • E is for Ending:  Ending focuses on goal setting and prioritizing.  Setting and meeting goals will help students feel successful with their learning.
  • P is for Pay Attention:  The activities involve different ways for students to practice staying focused by challenging students using memory activities.
  • U is for Understand Directions:  This section provides a variety of activities for students to practice following verbal and written directions.
  • P is for Practice:  This area provides ideas students can use to help them remember and learn information by first discovering their learning style and then by learning helpful techniques such as using mnemonics.

One thing I really like about the activities in this book is that most learning styles can benefit from the activities.  Many of the these lessons really get the students involved and moving or using their hands.  That alone is exciting to me, because I believe it’s so important to reach as many learning styles as possible during my lessons.

Another great thing about this book is that it incorporates ASCA standards.  The standards addressed are included in a document on the CD.

Finally, I love how Robin provides activities that tie good study habits to career development.

Like I said before, there are so many ways this book can be used.  The activities may be used for classroom counseling lessons, small groups or individual counseling sessions.  I’m always excited to find new ways to spice up my school counseling program.

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Teaching Social Skills

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Social SuccessI recently acquired a wonderful new resource from Youthlight, Inc. that’s already a “go to” for my school counseling program.  It’s called First Steps to Social Success by Diane Senn and is for grades K-6.  Whenever new school counselors ask me what resources I recommend, I always suggest resources by Diane Senn.  I believe I have at least 90% of the resources she has produced.  This latest book does not disappoint!  We’ve just completed our fourth week of school, and I am already excited about using this book in my program.

I often hear from my administration and staff about students needing improvement with social skills.  There are so many different skills that fall under the “Social Skills” umbrella.  Counseling sessions and groups really need to be tailored to meet the specific needs of the student(s).  First Steps to Social Success is a great way to determine exactly what the student needs.

I am already using it with a couple of my individual sessions this year.  It comes with a CD which includes printable handouts and interactive review lessons.  I can’t tell you how excited I was when I previewed the interactive lessons.  I already have and use both volumes of Smart Guidance Multi-Topic Lessons, which are interactive Smart Board lessons, and the children really enjoy them.  The interactive lessons on this First Steps to Social Success CD are excellent ways to reinforce each topic and are sure to make your lessons fun, creative and grab the attention of your students.  This resource may be used with individuals, groups or classes.

First Steps to Social Success includes a Pre/Post Social Skills Assessment which addresses each of the topics included in the book.  The same assessment may be used for school personnel, parents or as a self-assessment for your older students.  The person completing the assessment ranks each skill as either a mastered skill, an emerging skill or a deficit skill.  As with any good pre-assessment, it helps you determine exactly how to approach each individual case.  If you find that several students are emerging or deficit in similar areas, a small group may be formed.

The following topics are included in this resource:

Section 1:  Knowing Myself First – This section is said to be a prerequisite of social skills that reviews skills that are necessary to master before interaction with others.  In these six lessons, students focus on appreciating and valuing themselves, understanding they have control over their thinking and actions and respecting and appreciating the differences in others.

Knowing Myself First - First Steps to Social Success by Diane Senn (Youthlight, Inc.)

Section 2:  Initiating With Friends – The five lessons in this section help students learn to successfully initiate and connect with others to build new relationships.  Lessons focus on body language and facial expressions, finding common interests, starting conversations and personal space.

Initiating With Others - First Steps to Social Success by Diane Senn (Youthlight, Inc.)

Section 3:  Learning Conversation Skills – This section has seven lessons that help students learn to maintain a conversation.  They learn that conversations should be shared, practice “listening” body signals and words, learn friendly voice tone and how to stay on topic.

Learning Conversation Skills - First Steps to Social Success by Diane Senn (Youthlight, Inc.)

Section 4:  Reading Social Cues – The last seven lessons center around reading others’ social cues.  Therefore, the lessons focus on feelings, correctly identifying feelings, observing and processing others’ body language and responding to other people and their feelings.

Reading Social Cues - First Steps to Social Success by Diane Senn (Youthlight, Inc.)

The written and hands-on activities throughout the book are both relevant and well thought through.  Along with the interactive review lessons on the CD are graphic cue cards.  There are 25 social skills lessons in all.  There is also a student assignment form and parent/teacher reinforcement form that can be used to help students continue to practice the skills outside of the individual sessions or groups.

I truly believe I am just scratching the surface with what I can do with this resource.  If you can’t get this resource now, I encourage you to put it on your school counselor wish list.

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Introducing the School Counselor Giveaway

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~A great new book about Introducing the School Counselor by Erainna Winnett~I recently received my copy of a new book for introducing the school counselor.  The book is called Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives by Erainna Winnett, and it is geared toward Kindergarten through 6th Grade.

The role of the school counselor is explained throughout the book as a new student, Raymond, meets and talks to his new counselor for the first time.   The following description is found on the back of the book:

“Mrs. Joyce, the school counselor at Emerson Elementary, uses high-fives to connect with her students. When Raymond moves to town he’s not sure what to think of Mrs. Joyce. He enters her office nervous and full of questions, but it doesn’t take long for him to trust the caring counselor. By learning exactly what a school counselor does, Raymond finds he has nothing to fear and much to gain from friendly Mrs. Joyce.”

“Building relationships is one of the primary jobs of a school counselor. Whether it’s giving a high-five, a thumbs-up, a fist bump, a handshake or a hug, finding a way to connect with students is vital. “Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives” is a fun-loving story that explains the important role of the school counselor.”

The very last page includes an idea from my Meet the School Counselor Ideas post!  I am very excited to be a part of Erainna’s great book.

Enter this giveaway to win your own copy of Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives signed by Erainna.  This giveaway will run through Thursday, August 14 at 11:59 P.M. EST.

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Leo the Lightening Bug-Perseverance

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Leo the Lightening Bug- A great book about perseverance!When teaching about perseverance in my school counseling program, I always reach for one of my favorite books by Eric Drachman.  Leo the Lightening Bug is an adorable story of perseverance.

Little Leo is the “littlest” lightening bug of all his friends.  When you look at the cover of the book, can you guess what Leo’s problem might be?  You probably guessed it:  Leo can’t make his light.  All of his lightening bug friends are able to make their lights.  Leo’s mom lets him know he simply needs a little time and practice.

Leo decided to practice making his light, but as much as he tried- he still couldn’t light up.  It didn’t help things when his friends laughed at him when they saw him.  At this point, Leo is so frustrated that he flies away to a cave and cries.  After some time, he remembers his mother telling him he needed to practice.  Before long, in the midst of a thunder storm, Leo is finally able to light up!  He’s so proud of himself that he declares he could be “King of the lightening bugs!”

You’ll enjoy reading this story, but you will especially love hearing the story narrated on the CD which is included with the book.  The little voice of Leo will warm your heart, and the sound effects are just great!  You can hear a few excerpts from the book HERE on the Kidwick Books website.

If you don’t already have this wonderful book, add it to your list of future purchases!  It’s a winner!

Over the past couple of years, I’ve used this book with my Kindergarten friends.  I always include the song “Never Give Up” from my character song collection.  Initially, I always used it each year with second grade. After reading the story, we would talk about how Leo showed perseverance in the story. The students were given the opportunity to share how they have shown perseverance.  Next, each child was given a sheet with six boxes to create a short comic strip illustrating perseverance.  This idea came from my former intern Rachel.  Here is the sample comic strip Rachel created to help the students understand what to do.  It shows a little girl learning to ride her bicycle.  She falls off, but she gets back on and tries again- showing perseverance.


Through the years, I have always enjoyed seeing the comic strips created by the students.   I created comic strip tables for the eight character traits my school district uses.  Click HERE to download this FREEBIE from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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