They All Scream for Ice Cream!

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I incorporate character traits into each of my classroom guidance lessons.  I’ve mentioned before that my school district focuses on eight specific character traits.  I discuss a different trait each time I visit classes.  Each trait is assigned to a particular month.  So, when I visit, I bring a “scoop of ice cream” with the character trait on it.  I begin all of my guidance lessons by discussing the character trait with the class.  During our discussion, students are able to make connections and share examples of how they show the character trait in their everyday lives.

After sharing the character trait, we talk about my behavior expectations during the guidance lesson.  I remind the class that they are working to earn a new scoop for their ice cream cones.  I give each class a cone to display in their classroom for the school year.  By the end of the year, they have an eight scoop high ice cream cone.  Many teachers display the ice cream cones on the outside of their doors.  Others have special spots in their classrooms to display the cones. If students become too talkative during a lesson, many times I only need to remind them that they are working toward earning a new scoop for their cone.  It’s just a small incentive to keep students on task throughout the lesson and to give them something to show for doing their best.

I also have an extra large ice cream cone to display outside my office door that grows each month as well.  I’ve used it for so many years that it’s a little faded, so I’ll need to make a new one soon.

Do you have a behavior incentive you’ve incorporated in your school counseling program?

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Magical School Counseling Giveaway

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If you ever want to amaze a room full of little ones, add a little magic to your school counseling program.  Now, I’m not a big time magician or anything.  I just like to do a little “magic” every now and then to add a little excitement to the end of my classroom guidance lesson.  I’ve only done my little tricks for my Kindergarten and first grade friends so far.  I bought a kit called Magic Mix.  It comes with multiples of several small, simple magic tricks.  Each trick comes with a list of easy-to-follow  instructions.

Magic Changing Color Case

The first one I ever tried involved turning a red dot into a green dot (or vice versa).  The trick is to turn the slide so that you insert the opposite end back into the case.  A special opening on the bottom pushes the red or green dot to the center.  The students are always so amazed.  I’ve done this one during my first guidance lesson with new Kindergarten friends.  Add a jellybean friend and a character song to this magic trick, and the school counselor is an instant hit! 🙂





Magic Drawer

The next trick is making a penny disappear.  I’ve used this with first graders and they are always left wondering how in the world I did it!  The trick is a small slide on the opposite end of the drawer side.  Push it out just a bit, and only the outer part of the drawer will come back out.





Magic Imp Bottle

I’ve practiced this one but still have not used it during a guidance lesson or small group yet.  When you first show the kids the bottle, it will remain on it’s side.  When you give a student a chance to make it remain on it’s side, the bottle refuses to lie down.  The trick is the secret counterweight inside the bottle.  Two imp bottles are necessary for this trick so the counselor can pull another out of a pocket and, again, make it remain on it’s side.






Lesson Ideas

This box of tricks comes with a booklet containing lessons school counselors can use with each trick.  The Magic Changing Color case can be used to show how school counselors can help kids make a “change.”  The Magic Drawer shows how to make disappointments vanish.  The Imp Bottle can be used to show self-confidence or standing up for yourself.  See the complete list of lesson ideas here along with a sample lesson for the Magic Changing Color Case on Youthlight’s website.

I still need to practice the others before I use them, but I’m looking forward to it.

There are ten individual tricks.  The box contains some duplicates of each trick.  This means I have enough to share a set of 10 tricks!  Yes, it’s my first GIVEAWAY!  So take a moment and enter using the Rafflecopter widget below before Monday, May 28, at Midnight. (Eastern Time)  There are several ways to enter.  You will receive three entries for subscribing for email updates and three for liking Savvy School Counselor on Facebook.  One entry is given for following Savvy School Counselor on twitter and one for liking this post on Facebook.

There will be a six pack Character Readers and CD giveaway in June, so be sure to stay tuned!

While you’re here, you may as well subscribe to Savvy School Counselor for free email updates, right? It’s quick, easy, and worth three entries! 🙂  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Connect with me!

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Creating A Plan for Student Success

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iconOrganization plays a vital role in having good study skills .  I incorporate study skills through various ways in my school counseling program.  I was glad when I came across the book Annie’s Plan.  This book helps students take charge of their schoolwork and homework by giving strategies to use at school and home.  Annie is a smart girl, but she sometimes is distracted by all the things going on around her at school.  I love the examples the author, Jeanne Kraus, uses to show different ways Annie gets off task.  I’m sure we’ve all seen students drawing when they should be listening or completing an assignment.  How about the student who can’t focus on his or her own work because they are too busy watching what someone else is doing?  Of course when Annie gets home, she can’t remember what the homework assignment is.  Both her teacher and parents know she is smart enough to do so much better.  Therefore, Annie’s plan was born!

Her teacher created a ten step schoolwork plan and a ten step homework plan.  The school plan included cleaning her desk, the use of a daily planner and setting daily goals. During my lessons, I discussed with students why each of the items on the lists were important.  The students were open to sharing items in which they could improve upon as well.  The homework plan included having a scheduled homework time, taking homework breaks when necessary, and preparing for tomorrow.  Many students affirmed that they learned at least one new strategy and that they would begin to implement those strategies in order to take charge of their schoolwork and homework.

Complete Schoolwork Plan


Complete Homework Plan

I gave each student a handout titled “What’s Your System?” from the book Spectacular Guidance Activities for Kids by Diane Senn.  This activity tied right in with three of the strategies from the book.  The students wrote about their plan for their desk, book bag, and home study area.  On the back, they could also write any other strategies from the book they would like to improve upon.

This is a great book!  I have used it during a fourth grade lunch bunch as well as classroom guidance with my third grade friends. It can be used for individualized counseling as well for students who, like Annie, are capable but just need a plan in place to keep them on track.

ETA (11-2-13):  Last week, I created a new sheet to use with my students.  I included specific areas of improvement from Annie’s Plan.  My third graders did very well using this sheet and it helped our discussion about the importance of using the book’s strategies for school success.  You can download a free copy of the sheet by clicking here:  Annie’s Plan Worksheet.  You may also click the picture below.

Annie's Plan Worksheet

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2 Great Books About Manners

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I have discovered several great books while cruising the boards on Pinterest for school counseling ideas. I ordered several late in the school year and decided to “test drive” a couple of lessons with my first and second grade friends.

One book I discovered and ordered is If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover.  I used this book during a second grade lesson and followed it with a drawing activity. This story illustrates what would happen if everybody did certain things like plucked flowers, slammed doors, and squeezed the cat.  The consequences brought laughter throughout the classroom. As we flipped through each page, we discussed why it is important to think about the choices we make.  Would there be flowers to look at and smell if everybody plucked them? Even though the over-the-top illustrations elicited laughter, our discussion helped my friends to really think about what would happen if they made poor choices and what a catastrophe the choices could lead too.  This lesson tied in very well with our discussion about our character trait of the month- good judgment.

After listening to the story, I gave each child a piece of drawing paper and asked them to illustrate some “If Everybody Did” statements. Some questions were- What would happened if everybody ran in the hallway?  What would happen if everybody threw garbage on the ground?  What would happen if everybody left their trays on the table in the cafeteria. The ideas they came up with were really cute.  Here is one student’s interpretation of what would happen if everybody was late to school:

Another great book about manners is the cute and funny Do Unto Otters, by Laurie Keller. This book is about a rabbit who discovers that otters are his new neighbors.  Unsure if they will get along, he talks with owl about it.  Owl tells him to treat otters the way he wants otters to treat him.  Mr. Rabbit then goes on to name several characteristics he would want the otters to have including being kind and considerate.  They should also know when to say please, thank you, and when to apologize.  This book reminded me of Simon’s Hook because of the extra dialogue and commentary throughout the book which were created to give examples and to evoke a few giggles!

I printed and copied writing paper from and asked the students to write a sentence or two about how they show good manners.  After writing, they illustrated the sentence(s).  I gave them a list with several options to choose from just in case they couldn’t come up with an idea.  Here are a few samples of their work:





Those students who finished before the lesson concluded flipped the paper over to a Do Unto Otters coloring page on the back.  I found the picture online at the author’s website.  You can find a Do Unto Otters  multiple choice, word search, and quiz there as well.

I plan to use these books at the beginning of the next school year and would love to hear of other ideas to try! Connect with me!

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Pass the Mic: Singing About Good Character

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One of the first purchases I made before starting my school counseling job was two sets of books and CDs.  I remember going to my neighborhood teacher supply store to find resources for my new job, only to find out the terrible truth.  You won’t find any school counseling resources at your regular teacher supply stores.  You can, however, find a few things supporting character education.  So after grabbing some character ed. resources, I stumbled upon these character education readers published by Creative Teaching Press.  Each set contains six books and one CD.  I can tell you, I haven’t skipped a year without using them!I really enjoy singing songs with my Kindergarten friends.  They have come to expect a new song each time I visit.

Our school system focuses on eight specific character traits, and I have a song to go with each one.

  • Responsibility- You Can Count on Me!
  • Respect- Following the Rules
  • Courage- Dare to Have Courage
  • Kindness- Everyone is Special and Unique or Show You Understand
  • Self-Discipline- Think Before You Act
  • Integrity- Telling the Truth
  • Perseverance- Never Give Up!
  • Good Judgment- Would It Be Right?

It doesn’t hurt that I enjoy singing. The words in the books are the lyrics to the songs.  The chorus is usually easy enough for the kids to pick up.  By the second play, they are singing right along with me.  I love it!  It is a great way to help the smaller ones understand what those BIG character  words really mean.  Once they are in first grade, I’ll sing a line or two to remind them of the meaning of the character trait we are discussing.  Many of them will still remember the choruses.

There is a resource book that goes along with the character readers.  You can make individual student readers for small groups and use the additional activities to go along with each of the books.  Most companies sell these books individually or as a complete set.  You can still find them in six packs as well.  You can also purchase the CD separately.  There are four additional books about various topics including sharing, friendship, compassion, and cooperation.  These books are great for lower elementary age groups.

Stick around! You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you. Connect with me!

Who’s Made a Difference in Your Life?

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Kathryn Otoshi wrote a wonderful book simply titled One.  I first heard about it from one of my colleagues during a regional counselor’s meeting.  After joining Pinterest, I came across this book again, and I decided I would add it to my growing list of books to buy for my school counseling program. Though there were dozens of “pins” about this book, I was fortunate to find a link to the blog Entirely Elementary School Counseling  which had a wonderful lesson to use with the book.  Although this is a picture book, the counselor used this book with her 5th graders to close out the school year.  This was a perfect idea for me to use with my students.  I have used the Steps to Respect curriculum with my 5th graders throughout the school year which addresses bullying in several of the lessons.  Our last Steps to Respect lesson was about bystanders and what they should do when they find themselves in that position.  We talked about reporting versus tattling too.  We discussed why it is important to let an adult know when they witness bullying along with when it is safe to stand up for someone.

As our final classroom guidance lesson, I shared this wonderful book with my 5th grade friends and adapted the lesson plan format I found on the blog.  My fifth grade friends are so cool and “grown up,” but even they enjoy sitting on the floor around a storyteller to hear and look at pictures in a picture book. I shared this lesson five times, and you could hear a pin drop at least 98% of the time.  It really got them thinking, and they made appropriate connections to the story during our discussion after I finished reading.  In the first class, the students shared about the one person who has made a difference in their lives.  Additionally, I showed this great video from YouTube in order to give a visual of the story for the students.  It features the author, Kathryn Otoshi.  When the video ended, I gave each student a 3 1/2 x5 index card.  I asked them to write about how they would be the one to make a difference. Not surprisingly, the discussions about the one person who has made a difference in their lives resonated with me.  So, when I visited the rest of the fifth graders, I asked those classes to write about that one person on their cards instead.  As I walked around and silently read each of their cards, I was thrilled to see how much thought they were putting into what they were writing.  Many wrote about a parent and  a few mentioned current or former teachers. My name showed up as well.  I was really touched by many of the students’ words about the things their parents and teachers have done for them. While they worked, I took pictures of them in groups of three so I could crop the face of each student and add it to the index card for the hallway display. Once I cropped all of the their faces to make individual pictures, I printed thumbnails of each photo.  This was the perfect size for the index cards.  I did a brief description of the display and printed a copy of the cover of the book to display with it.

I decided to make copies of the cards where students wrote about former teachers in order to present them to those teachers.  As much as their words moved me, I knew those teachers would appreciate knowing they made a difference in the life of a student.  Needless to say, happy tears were shed by a couple of them. It was wonderful to see their reactions.

Is it just me, or do you feel a little misty when sharing this book?  I mean… I kept it together, but I had to really focus to do it. What are your thoughts on this wonderful book?  I’d love to hear about any lessons you’ve done with it.  Connect with me!

ETA- April 14, 2013:  I created this sheet to use this year with my students and wanted to share it with you all as well.  It’s simple, but gives the students a chance to reflect on who’s made a difference in their lives as well as how they can make a difference in the lives of others.  Click on the picture to print a copy. (Font by: An Apple A Day in First Grade)