Savvy Guest Blogger: Carol Ekster

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Guest Blogger: Carol Ekster - Savvy School CounselorI taught fourth grade for 35 years. I remember delighting in the times when the guidance counselor came into my room and gave a whole class lesson. Classroom teachers are overwhelmed with curriculum, tests, and the weighty responsibility of educating children today. Counselors are trained to be able to handle certain topics sensitively. Making a schedule to visit different grades at different times during the year is a win-win situation.  And here’s one perfect lesson that is needed by most students…one dealing with divorce. If a child’s family isn’t divorced, then they have a friend whose parents are separated or divorced.

Begin by reading the book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-(A Story of Divorce), Carol Gordon Ekster, Boulden Publishing, 2008.  A good read aloud is a fabulous way to introduce any topic. It reinforces language skills and models good writing as well as dealing with the issue you want to bring to the students.

Guest Blogger: Carol Ekster - Savvy School Counselor

You can ask for responses to the story and see what the children reacted to. Ask questions about divorce and why it’s difficult for children.  Those children with parents living together will gain empathy for those in a divorce situation. Those children from divorced parents will know they are not alone.

You can do a follow-up activity relating to goals. Teaching children goals is a way to help them achieve success. Have students write, illustrate, or discuss goals they want to set and how they can meet that goal.

You can also enlist the classroom teacher to help with an art project. Tell the children that in the story Mark was learning to be responsible. That’s a positive character trait.  Draw students’ silhouettes on large white construction paper, using an overhead, and inside the silhouette, have students list their positive traits from A-Z.  (Of course, a rough draft of the traits should be done first, using a dictionary whether on-line or hand-held, in class or assigned for homework.) Cut out the silhouette and place on a background of black construction paper, each child titling it, __(Student Name)_______from A-Z. This makes a beautiful display.  And if you’re a counselor who does not do whole class lessons, try having small divorce groups in your office.

Guest Blogger: Carol Ekster - Savvy School Counselor

Carol Gordon Ekster taught for 35 years and became a children’s author at the end of that career. She now does daily yoga and works on her writing, happy to be able to continue communicating with children.

www.carolgordonekster.com

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Thanks for your guest post, Carol.  Thanks also for providing copies of your book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? for two winners!  This giveaway will run through Wednesday, March 25, at 12:00 A.M.. EST.

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School Counseling Group: Attendance Matters

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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.

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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!

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The A, B, C, and D of Bullying

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Free Bullying Poster- SavvySchoolCounselor.comWith Bullying Prevention Month in full swing, I have been focusing on the subject in my school counseling lessons.  A resource I’ve mentioned before that I really enjoy using is Diane Senn’s Bullying in the Girl’s World.  This week, I began using the PowerPoint (that comes on the CD in the book) with my fifth grade friends.  The PowerPoint is such a great discussion starter.  I thoroughly enjoy using it with my students.  This lesson is one time where we are simply having a discussion and nothing else.  I once felt like I needed to come up with something for them to “do” while we went through the slides, but they are always so engaged that the PowerPoint is enough.

It first asks the students to raise their hands if they have ever bullied someone.  This is always interesting.  I usually do have 2-4 students who are brave enough to admit this from the beginning.  I always commend them for having the courage to raise their hands.  After going through several examples of “bully behavior” another slide says to raise your hand if you’ve had bully behaviors.  At this point, I’ll usually see more hands come up.  Many students don’t realize what bullying truly is.  Many are quick to say they are being bullied.  This lesson really helps them understand more clearly.  I’ve said it before, but this book is a must have for elementary and middle school counselors in my opinion.  I LOVE it!  The classroom lessons section is great for both boys and girls.

Bulllying in the Girl's Word by Diane Senn

Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child development specialist, was a guest on Good Morning America yesterday.  She was there to discuss an incident in the news that was being called bullying.  She spoke about what bullying is and it fell right in line with the PowerPoint I have been using with my fifth graders.  I loved her A, B, C, and D of Bullying.  She says when determining if a situation is bullying or not, remember A, B, C, and D:

  • A- Aggressive: Bullies attack physically, socially, or emotionally.
  • B- Balance of Power is Unequal:  The balance of power is usually unequal such as bigger vs. smaller and older vs. younger.  I added Diane Senn’s point about the power of popularity.
  • C- Consistent:  Bullying happens more than once over a period of time.
  • D- Deliberate: A person usually bullies with an intent to do hurt or harm.

I thought this information would make a great poster to put in classrooms to help students remember what bullying is.  So of course once I got home, I made one.  I envisioned the black background with the colored letters, but I decided to make one with a white background and a black and white version to give you options.  You can download your free copy by clicking HERE or by clicking the picture of the poster at the top of this post.

I’ll be starting The Weird Series again with my 4th graders in November.  I’m looking forward to doing those lessons again.  If you don’t know about those wonderful books, just click HERE to see my three posts.

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My School Counselor- Freebie Download

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FREE TpT Download- My School Counselor ActivityIf you are already thinking about your Meet the School Counselor lessons, let this FREEBIE be one activity on your list.  It’s a simple activity sheet for school counselors to use with students as they discuss their role within the school.  It can be used like a note taking sheet or a review activity to be completed after meeting the counselor.

The sheet offers a space for students to list reasons to see the counselor.  You may have them brainstorm and share, or you may give them reasons to list on their sheets for future reference.

There are two sentences to complete also.  One says “The counselor is my adult friend because…”  It’s important that students realize how your relationships with them differ from those with administrators and teachers.  The other says “My counselor keeps my secrets unless…”  Your first meeting with students should always include this discussion.  School counselors keeps secrets unless someone is being hurt.

The cloud at the top is a space for students to write what they want to talk to the counselor about.  You can give the students an opportunity to share their clouds privately with you during the lesson as you circulate the room.

You can download this FREE sheet at my TpT Store.

Meet the Counselor GameI’ve also created a product to go along with my Meet the Counselor game shared in my post Meet the School Counselor Ideas from last year.  In this post I shared about a game I play with my 5th graders which incorporates a Nerf basketball  and goal set.  This product sells for $3.00 on TpT.  However, it is discounted to $2.50 today through Tuesday, July 16th.

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.


It’s My One Year Blogiversary!!!

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Blogiversary.jpgYes, I made up a word, but I love it!! :)  I’m sure I’m not the first to use it!

On April 24, 2012- I launched Savvy School Counselor.  I can’t believe it’s already been one whole year! Wow!

Although I had five posts up on my launch day, my official launch day post was 8 Tips New Test Takers Should Know.  It was right around this time that my school was gearing up for the end-of-grade tests, and I created the activity to do with my third grade friends.

I had the support of wonderful bloggers like Andrea Burston and Marissa Rex from the very beginning, and I appreciate that support more than I can ever say.

So, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who follow Savvy School Counselor and who have made my first year as a blogger a wonderful year.  I was really hoping I’d get the chance to meet many of you face to face in Philly at the ASCA Conference, but I will not be able to make it this year.  However, I am determined to be in Orlando, Florida for the 2014 conference.

Now that I have a year under my belt, I want to begin inviting guest bloggers.  I remember how appreciative I was to Barbara Gruener for giving me the opportunity last summer to write a guest post for her wonderful blog.  I was just about three months into my blog at the time.  I would love to offer the same opportunity to other new school counseling bloggers.  So, if you are reading this and would like to write a guest blog post for Savvy School Counselor, be on the lookout for more information coming soon.

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.  I’m looking forward to continuing this journey with all of you!  Thank you again for a great first year!!