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.



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.

The Girl World: A Small Group

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One of my favorite small groups I conduct in my school counseling program is “Surviving and Thriving in the Girl World.”  This small group is taken from Diane Senn’s Bullying in the Girl’s World.  If you don’t already have this book in your collection, it is one I would highly recommend to you.  This small group unit is only a piece of what is included in this wonderful resource.

I first used this resource last year in a proactive effort with a small group of 4th grade girls.  I thoroughly enjoyed the lessons.  The format is such that you can give the student survey and create your group lessons around the most immediate needs.  I personally enjoy conducting all ten of the small group sessions and have had a wonderful time participating in the discussion with my students.  The group includes opportunities for role play as well as self-reflection.

This year, I decided to invite fifth grade girls to the group.  We have met three times so far, and I am enjoying this group just as much as I did last year.  This year I made folders for the girls to keep their handouts in.  There are several handouts which I feel are very important for them to be able to refer back to once our group has concluded.

There is a cube to make for the group sessions that is used to facilitate closing discussions.  The cube says “Target?  Then Handle it.” and “Guilty?  Then change.”  Several of the handouts include suggestions for the girls to use if they are guilty of certain behaviors such as teasing, exclusion, and gossiping.  They also include suggestions for what to do if the girls are the target of such behaviors as well.  The cube is used to allow the girls to take turns facilitating the closing discussion.  During this time, they also make additional suggestions that can be added to the sheet.

Each of the lessons has a specific and worthwhile message and purpose.  Here is a snapshot of two of the group activities.

During the second group session, we discussed what it means to be popular.  It’s always interesting to hear the negative connotations that are associated with popularity.  We spent time discussing the many ways one can be popular and that a popular person isn’t always someone who is mean.  Here is a quote given in the book used to spark our conversation:

After our discussion, I put a large piece of paper on the table along with markers and asked the girls to write “admirable qualities” they would like to be known for having.  A person possessing these qualities can be considered “popular” also.

Another session I enjoy is the lesson about reputations.  This is the sixth lesson of the unit.  At this time, we talk about the word reputation and discuss the ramifications of having a bad one.  The girls are able to self-reflect during the mirror activity.  Each girl receives a mirror copied onto card stock and cut out for her ahead of time.  I then share the quote “Mirror, Mirror in my hand.  What is my reputation?  Where do I stand?”  We take time to discuss the quote and the girls are able to share as they feel comfortable about any feelings they have regarding their own reputations.  Afterwards, each girl will write the positive things about her reputation inside of the mirror as well as words she would like others to use when describing her reputation.

As I said before, I REALLY love this resource and this small group is only one section of this great book.  It includes school-wide suggestions, classroom lessons, and ideas to use with individual students.  I can’t say enough about it!  I always say, you can’t go wrong with Diane Senn’s resources.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Have you used Bullying in the Girl’s World in your school counseling program?

Lunch Bunch Anyone?: Getting to Know You

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The first lunch bunch sessions I hold with my first through fifth graders are “Getting to Know You” sessions for new students to our school.  Teachers choose students from their classes who they feel I should get to know.

At the beginning of the session, I showed students the self-referral forms on my door and talked about how to make an appointment with me.  I also shared my School Counselor’s First Aid Kit.  We talked about their old schools as well as things they enjoyed about their new school.  Then we used my “Getting to Know You” cards.

Ice breaker statements are always a great way to learn more about your students.  They get them thinking, and I’ve found the students really enjoy sharing about themselves with me and the group.

I made these “Getting to Know You” cards to use with every grade level.  To make them, I cut a few sheets of card stock into quarters.  I printed and cut out the title for one side of each of the cards.  I also printed and cut out the statements for the opposite side of each of the cards.  I used a glue stick to glue them to the cards and then I laminated them.

The statements on the cards came from the book 201 Icebreakers.  This book has just about any icebreaker activity you’ve probably ever participated in!  It has icebreakers for all audiences from children to adults and small groups to large presentations.  I chose the “Favorite Things” activity.

I have used the cards for my new student lunch bunches over the last week and a half.  I read them aloud for my first grade friends and they took turns answering them if they wanted to.  The older students pulled their own cards, read them aloud, and answered them.  I also gave group members opportunities to answer the questions other students pulled.

I really liked that these simple “favorites” sparked wonderful conversations among new friends.  Students were excited to share about the crazy stunts their pets have pulled as well as sharing about their favorite place to be.  I enjoyed getting to know the new personalities.  It was nice to even see the more quiet students open up during the conversation.

You can print the statements and the title for the back of each card by clicking these links:

Getting to Know You Cards

Getting to Know You- Back of Card

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Have you held any new student lunch bunch groups?  What did you do with your students?

The “Anger” Games

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As I continue to prepare for a new year of school counseling, I’ve been on the look out for games to use with my anger management groups.  I want to share a couple I have found with you.

The m&m® Anger game is a fun and TASTY way for your group members to share their feelings about anger.  I found this game board by Lori Kotarba in an old PIC (Practical Ideas for Counselors) Newsletter. 

You’ll need to create your game boards, color them, and laminate them.  Give each student a fun size pack of m&m’s®.  If you have one large bag, give each child 10-15 of them making sure they have at least one of every color.  The students will then sort their m&m’s® on the game board.  Students will take turns sharing their answers for each color.  If a student has two orange m&m’s®, he or she will share two things that make him or her angry.  (This is according to my sample.  Your color order can be however you choose.)  As the students share they may eat their m&m’s®.

Another popular idea comes from Diane Senn’s latest book called Guidance Mini-Lessons.  She calls it Beach Ball Buzz.  Her book gives suggested statements for an anger management beach ball.  She includes a couple of silly directions to add fun to the game as well.

This beach ball has the following statements from the book:

  • Show us how to take three deep breaths when you are angry.
  • Name one thing that happens to your body when you are getting angry.
  • Share a time when you got angry.
  • Name one thing that helps you calm down when you are angry.
  • Sing the “ABC” song out loud.
  • Pretend you are a bird and fly around the room.
Beach Ball Buzz is only one of many great mini-lessons in this book.


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.  The Anger Control Files is the newest edition of anger management activities available.



Calm Down Pack - Task Cards and activity sheets


The Anger Files

OT:  The PIC article suggested creating m&m® game boards for whatever topics you choose.  So, I created two others to share with you.  One can be used in a  self-esteem group and the other is for a  getting to know you session with new students.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  What are some anger management games or activities you have used?

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

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

Lunch Bunch Anyone?

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In addition to regular small groups, I began incorporating Lunch Bunch groups into my school counseling program during the 2010-11 school year.  My goal was to connect with more students in a smaller group setting.  Additionally, I wanted to address behavioral and emotional needs of students who needed more support outside of my regular classroom guidance lessons.  I also wanted each grade level at my school to have several opportunities to participate.  To do this, I created a schedule which would allow me to see two grade levels each week thus seeing each grade level every three weeks.  This adds up to approximately 54 lunch bunches and LOTS of small group counseling opportunities nestled throughout the school year! Because I’ve worked at my school for eight years, I am aware of the most common needs teachers would like addressed during these sessions.  I plan topics ahead of time and give the Lunch Bunch form to the grade level chairs to share with their teams during planning.  Each teacher can send one student.  If a teacher doesn’t have a student needing the topic, he or she will give the spot to another teacher to use.  Additionally, there is a place on the form for the team to “override” my topic choice and submit their own in order to address a grade level issue or concern.

As state-wide testing time approaches, I have used Lunch Bunch Time to focus on test taking tips and strategies for grades 3-5. Some other Lunch Bunch topics include: anger management, telling the truth (integrity), good manners, self-confidence, staying on-task, and completing assignments to name a few.  Reward Lunch Bunches are also held so teachers can acknowledge students who have been caught being good.  I always share those names with the office and have them announced on Fridays with our weekly school-wide bucket fillers.

Stick around! I’ll be discussing Lunch Bunch in future blog posts.  You are welcome to use this Lunch Bunch Form to schedule your lunch bunch groups.  I punch holes in them and store them in a binder to document the groups I’ve held and the students who have attended.

I would love to hear how you facilitate lunch bunch. Connect with me!