Teaching Social Skills

Posted on

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.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You can also follow my TpT Store to keep up with my latest products and freebies.

FB Fan Freebie – Lunch Bunch Tags

Posted on

Facebook Fan Freebie - Lunch Bunch Tags - Inspired by Ms. Sepp's Counselor CornerI’m excited to begin using these cute lunch bunch lanyards for my school counseling lunch bunch groups.  I found the idea from Ms. Sepp’s Counselor Corner.  I purchased the black lanyards and plastic name tag holders from Office Depot/Office Max. To make one, I used two of the same color tags and placed them in the tag holder back to back so the picture is showing either way. Next, I attached the lanyard. That’s all! I will place these in teachers boxes the morning of Lunch Bunch (or afternoon before) and students will wear them to the cafeteria. I will collect them once they are in my office to be reused for future groups.  The tags I used are free on my Facebook Fan Page

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You can also follow my  TpT Store to keep up with my latest products and freebies.

School Counseling Group: Test Preparation

Posted on

School Counseling Group:  Test Preparation - Savvy School CounselorEach school year, as part of my National Model plan, I conduct school counseling group sessions for my third grade friends as we get closer to End-of-Grade (EOG) Testing time.  This year, we met once a week for five weeks, and I really enjoyed this time with them and felt it was beneficial.  During these sessions I’ve used some of my favorite products already mentioned on my blog previously as well as some of my own products.  Today, I am sharing what I did for each of the sessions.

First of all, National Model action plans must be data driven.  Since our students have started taking a Beginning-of-Grade (BOG) Test in September each year, I am able to use those results to create my small groups. This test is a predictor or indicator of sorts as to how students may do on the EOG.   I usually pull students who missed being proficient (Level 3) by one, two or three points.  Once I determine who those students are, I let their teachers know who must be in the group.  Any empty spaces may be filled with students chosen by the teacher.  Our group focus is test taking tips and decreasing test anxiety.

This year I had 31 students. (5 groups)  Once the EOG scores are available, I’ll be able to see my results.  I hope to see those BOG Level 2’s become EOG Level 3’s.

So, here’s an idea of how each of my group sessions went:

Session 1:  When the students arrived for the first session, they completed this “How do you feel about the test today?” sheet.  This is just one of many great resources you can find on The Ned Show website.  It helped start our discussion about test anxiety.  A good number of students circled nervous and concerned.  Of course there were some confident students as well.

Ned1After completing and discussing this sheet, I read Julia Cook’s The Anti-Test Anxiety Society.  Most of my students were excited to know this was the same author of a book I had shared with them in first grade called My Mouth is a Volcano.  We always referred back to the book during our future sessions tying in the “Dynamic Dozen” and using the “Get to” part of your brain instead of the “Have to” part.  This book was a perfect opener for my small groups!

The Anti-Test Anxiety Society by Julia CookAfter reading and discussing the book, the students began working on their test taking foldables.  I had already printed them and cut the flaps for them, so they just needed to get the information written on the front of and under each of the flaps.  They had time to complete and discuss three of the flaps during the first session.  I told them they would do a few flaps each week until it was done.

Session Two:  When the students entered, I had GoNoodle Flow pulled up on my laptop and facing them on the table.  I wrote about GoNoodle Flow last year as a great tool to use for school counseling.  Flow has great brain breaks that tie in well with helping students decrease test anxiety.  I used On & Off with my groups.   On & Off involves managing stress by making parts of the body tense and then letting go to relax.  Students turn on the energy in their toes, legs, hands, arms and whole body.  They really enjoyed doing the brain break.  On & Off is something they can use discreetly anytime they are feeling some stress.

Flow by GoNoode- SavvySchoolCounselor.com

We reviewed the things we learned from BB, the main character from The Anti-Test Anxiety Society.

Next, we completed and discussed three more of the flaps on the test taking foldables.

Session Three:  My laptop was on the table when students entered for session three.  They thought they were going to do another brain break, but today it was time for Ned’s Test Prep Rap Song.

This was a fun way to incorporate all of those very important testing tips.  After watching the video, each student got a copy of the Ned’s Top 10 Testing Tips activity sheet.  We reviewed the tips learned in the test prep rap. Students took a few minutes to recall some of the things they heard in the rap.  They also took a moment to do tip #10 which was to plan something fun to look forward to after the EOG Tests.  Some memorable ideas were “just do nothing” and “eat fried chicken.”  They were too funny!

Ned's Top 10 Testing Tips from The Ned Show

We used the rest of the time to complete and discuss the last four flaps of the test taking foldables.

Session Four:  When the students entered the room for this session, they saw a Treasure Chest on the table.  I had them guess how each of the items in the chest related to test taking.  You can read about what was in the chest  in my post A Treasure Chest of Test Taking Tips.  Next, we played Testing SMART Bingo.  Although the students had fun playing Bingo, this gave us a great opportunity to discuss dozens of important tips to remember.

Testing SMART Bingo - Savvy School Counselor

After Bingo, we discussed the final tips pre-printed on the inside of the foldables.  The students were given a few minutes to put any final touches on their foldables.

foldable foldable2









Session Five:  This session was essentially the Big Test.  I wanted to see if they could use all of the tips and strategies we had learned about and discussed during the previous four sessions. I used the book Excite Me! Motivate Me! Test Me! (One of my favorites!!) They entered the room to find a sample scan-tron sheet.  Their first “test” was to see if they could simply follow directions when bubbling.  The test questions said things like “Fill in answer C for #4, #10 and #15.”  Once they finished the test, they were supposed to have items 1-20 completed on the scan-tron.  I would say 95% of my students did this successfully.

scan-tron practice

Next, they took “The Smart Test.”  Many of the test questions had to do with test taking strategies.  I gave them another bubble sheet and the test paper.  I told them they may find something strange, but to just do what they had learned to do.   The strange part:  The test was missing #1.  So they needed to make sure they bubbled beside the correct number or they would become misaligned.  This is something that can easily happen when students are not paying close attention to what they are doing.  During our time together, I always told them to look at the number of the test item and make sure it matched the number on the bubble sheet before they filled in the bubble.  I found that 2-3 of my six students in each group would catch this immediately and skip #1 on the answer sheet.  The others would eventually realize the further along they went, and they had to do some erasing.

practice test2


As the students worked on their tests, I would give stickers as I saw them using the tips we had discussed throughout our time in group.  It was wonderful to see them checking each question and making sure their bubble sheet answers were matching their test papers.

I gave them a final test from Focus on the Test which consisted of random reading and math skills.  Nothing too difficult, just enough to practice the testing tips.

When all tests were finished, we went over and discussed each of the answers.  The students then received all of their completed work from the previous sessions.  I gave each a paper clip and a laminated bookmark with test taking tips.

I enjoyed these group session just as much as I believe the kids did.  Twenty five small group sessions later, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year!

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You can also follow my  TpT Store to keep up with my latest products and freebies.  Additionally, you can participate in in my Test Taking Link-Up below!  Add your link and let’s watch the resources grow!  I’m looking forward to seeing all of the ideas you all share here.

Join the Link-Up!!!

 Loading InLinkz ...

School Counseling Group: Attendance Matters

Posted on

Attendance Group - Savvy School CounselorIn my school counseling program, I have enjoyed doing attendance small group sessions.  My students have really enjoyed the activities and seem to get the big picture of why regular school attendance is so important.

The small group meets six times.  Each year, I use attendance data to form the group and include it as part of my ASCA National Model Plan for the school year.  For the past two years, I’ve worked with third graders.  The selected students usually have 15+ absences from the previous school year.

During our first session, the students brainstorm reasons why school attendance matters.  This year, I had them brainstorm on their own sheets first.  I used discussion cards to help students who couldn’t think of enough ideas for their sheets.  While we discussed the different ideas, they were free to add them to their own lists.  We concluded by filling in the bubble chart together.

Session one- School Attendance Matters Group - Savvy School Counselor

For the second session, the students made a foldable.  Inside, they wrote about Responsible Routines. After assembling the foldable with the labels, they wrote under each flap giving responsible routines for the morning, after school and at night.  This includes routines such as waking up on time to get to school, having everything ready for the next day the night before and going to bed at a decent hour.

Responsible Routines Foldable - Attendance Matters - Savvy School Counselor

When we met for the third session, the students watched two videos about the importance of school attendance.   One video is an attendance rap and the other shows the staff at a school, along with students, talking about different reasons why it’s important to attend school regularly.  While watching, they write points from the videos that stand out to them. Afterwards, the group members share their notes. Next, we begin making  a fortune teller using information shared by the group along with the brainstorming sheets from the first session.



Our fourth session involves finishing the fortune tellers and completing the  “Set the Scene” activity.  “Set the Scene” allows us to discuss the path from good attendance in school to a career.  The students cut out, sequence and glue six strips in order and illustrate each on the filmstrip sheet.

Attendance Fortune Teller- Savvy School Counselor

Attendance Fortune Teller - Savvy School Counselor

"Set the Scene" - School Attendance Matters - Savvy School Counselor

During the fifth session, we play an attendance board game.  This game  includes questions about the information from the first four sessions. If there are any activities that students need to finish from previous meetings, time is allowed during this session.

When we meet for our final session, we play Roll and Respond.  Students roll a die and respond to sentence starters about attendance. Before leaving, they complete an exit ticket which reflects what they’ve learned during the small group.  They take all of their completed activities with them to share with their teachers and families.  

After we have completed the small group, I continue to keep up with the attendance patterns of each of the students when I meet monthly with the attendance committee at my school.  I will also meet again with the students to review what was learned in our small group.  Individual sessions are held with students who continue to have attendance concerns.  The good news:  This year’s attendance data for the group is looking good and is much better than what they ended the school year with last year!

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You can find the School Attendance Matters Unit in my TpT Store.  You may also like Good Attendance ROCKS!  Follow my store to keep up with my latest products and freebies.

Social Skill Builder App Updates and Giveaway

Posted on

Social Skill Builder App Giveaway on SavvySchoolCounselor.comLast year, I wrote a review about the Social Skill Builder App.  This app comes in a full version and a lite version.  You can check out my previous post to learn more about what the app offers.  There are new modules included in the “My School Day” section.   When I first posted about the app, there were only four modules.  Now there are ten.  Like before, the newer modules include videos of various school day situations followed by questions for students to answer.


Social Skill Builder

Here’s a little about each of the newest modules included since I posted last:

Transition Time demonstrates how students should respond during a transition.  The example used in the module is the end of recess.

Social Skill Builder- Transition

Cubby shows the appropriate way a group of students should use their cubbies along with expected behaviors when several students are at the cubby area at one time.

Social Skill Builder- Cubby

Lunch Time demonstrates how students should find a seat in the cafeteria and table manners.  It also shows the correct way to go through the lunch line.

Social Skill Builder- Lunchtime

Social Skill Builder- Lunchtime







Eating shows students’ expected and unexpected behaviors when eating such as chewing with your mouth closed (expected) and wiping your mouth with your hand (unexpected).

Social Skill Builder- Eating

Social Skill Builder- Eating







Team Games 1 and Team Games 2 focus on appropriate ways to play, what to do if someone gets hurt and good sportsmanship.

Social Skill Builder- Team Games

I have used the app with my social skills groups, and they have enjoyed using it.  I would love to hear from those of you using Social Skill Builder with your students.  If you have used it, please leave a comment and share how it has worked for your students.

Something that has changed since last year is the price of the app.  If you want to purchase the full version, it is now $19.99.  The Lite version is still $2.99 and allows in-app purchases of additional modules.

Here’s another chance for someone to win a code for the FULL Version of the Social Skills Builder App- a $19.99 Value.  All you need to do is enter this giveaway before 11:59 PM (EST) on Monday, April 21.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You can also follow my TpT Store to keep up with my latest products and freebies.

FLOW: A Brain Break by GoNoodle

Posted on

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.


Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You can also follow my TpT store for alerts about my new products and freebies.