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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FLOW: A Brain Break by GoNoodle

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Flow by GoNoode- SavvySchoolCounselor.comI was thrilled to recently learn about a great brain break website called Go Noodle.  This site offers a variety of awesome, free brain breaks to use with children.  Included is their newest brain break, FLOW, which focuses on student mindfulness and stress release.  After creating my free account and checking out Flow, I was excited as I thought of the great ways to use this tool in my school counseling program.

End-of-Year Testing time is a great opportunity to use FLOW.  Many students, especially third graders who are testing for the first time, experience some anxiety about doing well on their tests.  FLOW includes meaning activities to assist students with managing stress and maintaining the confidence they need to be successful.  It can also be an excellent tool to use with individual students who come to your office feeling angry or worried.  The activities in FLOW can be used for whole class lessons, small group sessions or individual counseling.

Here’s how you can get started:

Create an account. (It’s FREE!)  You will be asked to enter the following information:

Create An Account

Once you complete this step, you will have access to the free brain breaks.  You will need to create a class or you may use the demo class.  Simply click on the purple “+New Class” button, name your class and add the number of people in the class.


 Once your class is added to the list, you may click your class link and select a classroom champ avatar.  The longer you and your students use GoNoodle, the bigger your class champ will become.

Classroom Champ

start screen2





Click the green PLAY button to enter the brain break menu.  Click on the FLOW link, and you are ready to begin!


Once you have entered FLOW, you may select a grade level.  I tried it using both Kindergarten and 5th grade, and I did not see a difference in the videos.  You will select one of the two categories (Attitude or Stress) to begin.

Grade Level Selection

Category Selection






The background sounds in all of the activities are very relaxing.  Students have the option of closing their eyes or keeping them open and watching the screen.  The screen gives visuals of everything being described throughout the activity.

The ATTITUDE option includes two activities:  Chin Up and Weather the Storm.

Chin Up talks students through shifting their moods.  This is an excellent activity for students needing to calm down whether they are angry or worried.  It is a very relaxing activity which includes head tilting and raising and lowering of the chin.

Weather the Storm is a great visual for students who are going through a difficult time.  During the activity, the students watch as a small tree weathers a storm but remains strong and standing when the storm passes. (Love it!)








The STRESS option also includes two activities:  Bring it Down and On & Off.

Bring it Down is great for helping students to bring down stress.  Students imagine a balloon high in the sky.  They imagine slowly pulling the string on the balloon until they can hold the balloon between their hands.  Finally, they imagine letting it go as they watch it fly away in the air.

On & Off involves managing stress by making parts of the body tense and then letting go to relax.  Students will turn on the energy in their toes, legs, hands, arms and whole body.  When the energy is ON, the screen brightens up almost like the sun is in the center.  When students turn their energy off, the screen becomes dark.








I am so excited to learn about this great tool to use in school counseling.  There are other great games you can try like “To the Maximo” where students perform stretches and poses to help with relaxation also.

If you’d like to TRY OUT FLOW, you may follow any of the links in this post to get started or click the button below.

GoNoodle- New brain break FLOW- SavvySchoolCounselor.com

The developer of FLOW, Wynne Kinder, will be participating in a #GoNoodleFlow Twitter Chat on Wednesday, April 16 between 8-9PM (EST).  This will be a great opportunity to learn more about this awesome new tool.


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8 Great Anger Management Strategies

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Anger Strategies Foldable- savvyschoolcounselor.comIn my school counseling program, I am always looking for activities to use with my students to assist them with managing their anger.  I took my latest idea from…me. :)  One of my first blog posts was 8 Tips New Test Takers Should Know.  It’s funny to me today because there are actually ten tips included in the activity, but I never caught it.  This activity, however, actually DOES have eight tips.

Using the same format (minus a couple of flaps), I created this anger management foldable to make with my students.  Inside is an area for students to identify the things that trigger their anger.  There are five possible triggers listed along with a blank line for students to add an additional trigger that may not be on the list.  Next, there is an area for students to circle descriptions of how their body feels when they are angry.

Identifying triggers and your bodies reactions are key in managing anger.  Once students are able to identify these areas, they are more likely to implement as many of the strategies as necessary.  This activity does include eight. Students illustrate the strategy on the outside of the flap and write the strategy on the inside.  The eight strategies I used on my foldable are:

  •  Take three deep breaths.
  • Count backward from 10 to 1.  (Students can decide to begin counting backward from any number they would like.)
  • Exercise/Burn some energy.
  • Talk about it with a friend.
  • Spend some time alone.
  • Use I-Messages to express your feelings.
  • Tell yourself calming words like “Calm down” or  “It will be okay.”
  • Walk away from the situation.


I have created a new product in my TpT store which includes a template for this activity.  There is an Anger Management contract included to copy on the backside of the foldable.  After identifying triggers and body reactions inside, students list them on the back along with the strategies they intend to use from the flaps in order to calm down.  Additionally, there is a two-page activity for students to practice creating I-messages along with eight posters to use which illustrate each of the strategies.  This 12 page Anger Management Pack sells for $3.00 Your feedback is always greatly appreciated.

You may also like this end-of year  School Memories Paper Folding Activity.

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Student Self-Referral Form

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Many times throughout the school year, students will need and want to visit the school counselor to discuss their problems.  I mentioned a form I use in a previous post which uses “rocks” to help describe the urgency of the referral.

My original form included pictures which I couldn’t post for distribution because of the copyright, so I chose a picture of a rock from a free clip art site, www.clker.com, for the purposes of sharing the form here.  Click HERE to print the form.

Students can select one of the following options:

A Small Rock  (See me soon!)

A Medium Rock  (See me this week!)

A Large Rock  (Urgent!  See me as soon as possible!)

As I receive forms from students, I will write an appointment in my calendar and then write it on the form.  Once I see the student, I will check or initial that the appointment has occurred for documentation purposes.  I then store these forms by grade level in a plastic file organizer.

I also created a small 8.5 x 11 poster explaining and listing  some examples.  This helps so students don’t check “Large Rock” when they need to work on making friends or disagree with a teacher.  This can be printed with a border or you can back it with a nice patterned paper. Click the picture below to print.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Do you tend to have a large number of student self-referrals at your school?

12 Ways to Manage Anger

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A common issue I deal with in my school counseling program is assisting students with anger management difficulties.  I discuss this issue with all students, Kindergarten through fifth grade.  I know you have all heard different anger management tips and have shared them with your students.  As I prepare for my anger management groups for next year, I wanted to also think about an activity I can do with individuals who are referred to me out of the blue.

I made a puzzle using our schools VariQuest cutout maker which can cut just about any shape you can imagine.  As I was looking through some of the cutout options one afternoon, I came across a puzzle template and cut it out. Since there were twelve puzzle pieces, I decided to put an anger management strategy on each piece.  I didn’t want the puzzle to be difficult, so it is not hard to figure out by any means.  I only want it to be a tool to share with individuals or small groups to spark discussion.


 After we discuss the strategies on each puzzle piece while putting the puzzle together, I will have the student(s) make this anger management flip book foldable.  Once completed, the student(s) will have strategies to refer to that work for them.  The flip book only requires five strategies.  Every tip doesn’t work for everybody, so the students will be able to choose the five strategies they feel will work best for them.

To make this flip book, I took two sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and cut them in half.  I used three of the four halves.  I layered the three sheets.  I picked the sheets up and folded the top half over until I had six flaps. This foldable can be stapled at the top once or twice to keep it together.





I will have the students write a strategy at the bottom of each flap (except for the top flap where they will write the title).  Above each strategy (but under the flap) they will describe and/or illustrate the strategy.  This will depend on what the strategy is.  The “I-Message” strategy would need to have a sample I-message written, while walking away can be illustrated.

I used the book How to Take the Grrrr Out of Anger to assist me with most of the tips. However, many of these tips are universal from one anger management book to another.

The 12 anger management strategies are:

  • Count backwards from 10.
  • Take 3 deep breaths.
  • Exercise or play to let off some steam/energy.
  • Find a quiet place.
  • Vent!  Talk to someone!
  • Tell yourself calming statements. (It’s okay.  Keep calm.  Relax.)
  • Lie down and relax.
  • Tense your body- then relax it. (Repeat)
  • Use an I-Message. (I feel angry when you ___.  I want you to ___.)
  • Think peaceful thoughts. (relaxing by the pool, holding your pet, hugging a parent)
  • Walk away.
  • Avoid anger triggers.

What activities do you have on stand-by for that student who comes to you before having time to calm down?

Be sure to check out my Teachers pay Teachers store for an Anger Management Activity Pack which includes a foldable, 8 anger management strategy posters in two styles (total of 16), and an I-Messages Activity for $3.50.  You can also find The Anger Games which includes a BINGO game and cootie catcher for $3.00 and my Calm Down Pack with task cards, activity sheets and a booklet for $4.00.


AngerGamesCoverCalm Down Pack - Task cards and activity sheets


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Great iPad App for School Counselors

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Our school recently received a grant which gave us 180 iPads!  So, I have been on the lookout for iPad apps to use for my school counseling program. I came across an iPad app today that can be used for classroom guidance, small groups, or individual counseling sessions. It’s called “Feel Electric” and is an Electric Company app created by Sesame Street.  I really like the fact that this app is all about feelings.  There are four areas of play:  My Life, My Games, My Stuff, and What’s the Word.

To start, users are able to choose three feeling words for the “Today I feel…” section.  There are several feeling words to choose from.  If you don’t know what the word means, you can tap the word and the definition is read aloud for you.  The definition is accompanied by a picture of Danny or Jessica showing the feeling face.  You can choose three words to describe how you are feeling today.





My Life

The My Life section features “Mood Dude” whose arms, eyebrows, eyes, and mouth can be changed to illustrate your mood.  It’s a very cute feature.

Also featured are Mood Tales.  Here, you select various words to complete a mood story.  If you’ve ever done a Mad Libs story, this is very similar.  After choosing all of the words, the story is read aloud for you using the words you chose.






Clicking “Moodosphere” will show your mood on the map.  After choosing feelings associated with anger, my mood map showed lightening bolts.  Clicking edit allows you to choose new feeling words.  The “weather outlook” changes on my map after choosing the feelings cheerful, brave, and proud.






My Games

There are three games included:  Pets vs. Monsters, Prankster Madness, and Hey You Guys…Catch!  Each one involves matching a feeling word to the feeling face by either hitting it with a bat, catching it while riding a skateboard, or launching it across a field to hit the matching target.

 My Stuff

My stuff includes pictures, music, and videos.  Students can take pictures and add them to the device.  They can decorate the picture with stickers that say how the picture makes them feel.  There are several pictures of different Electric Company scenes to use.  Mood dude pictures also show up in the My Stuff section as well.

The music and video sections includes a few Electric Company songs and videos.  You can also add you own songs and videos to the device.





What’s the Word?

On the bottom right side of the screen is “What’s the Word?”  If you tap it, all of the feeling words and faces will come up.  You can tap the feeling word you want to hear the definition of.

To encourage users to keep learning new words, the app gives points for just about every action you do while playing.  This includes five points every time you listen to the definition of a word in the “What’s the Word?” section.

There you have it!  I look forward to using this app with students at my school.  Students are able to look (visual), listen (auditory), and do something (kinesthetic) thus meeting the needs of the three learning styles.  As of today, this app is FREE!

How do you use iPads in your school counseling program?

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