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School Counselor Office Tour
Alternate Title: How to Turn a Kindergarten Boys' Bathroom into a School Counseling Office

This post will show you around my elementary counseling office and show you how I organize my space!  The alternate title is no joke.  Back when I first started teaching at my school, my current office used to be the kindergarten boys' bathroom!  A few years ago, we needed extra space, so the counselor's office was turned into a classroom and a bathroom was turned into the counselor's office.  Truth be told, you would never really know my office used to be a bathroom. Yes, it is SMALL and in an awkward location in the school, but I love the privacy and it has become a quiet, cozy space to work with kids!

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links)

About My Office
Last year, as a first year counselor, I was given a small supply budget and used some of it to spruce up my office.  I also wrote a grant through our local education foundation, so that helped to offset some costs and allow me to make my office an inviting space.  I work at a K-4 Title I school and am fortunate to be able to see students individually, in small groups, and in classroom lessons.  I conduct individual counseling and small groups in my office, and visit each classroom for whole group lessons.

Three Main Seating Areas1) Counseling Couch
Although my office is tiny, I have three seating areas that allow a lot of flexibility.  The most popular choice for students is my couch!  Students love to get comfy on the couch while we chat and I spin my desk chair around to talk with students.  We have strict fire safety and health code policies, so I had to buy a "school couch" that can be easily cleaned... unfortunately, that means the couch is actually not very comfy, but the kids don't seem to mind!  One thing I love about the couch is the flat arm rests and back surface, which allow me to prop up some comfort items and a bin of fidgets.

Find It Here:
-Floor Lamp
-Inside Out Poster
-Hoberman Sphere 
-Worry Eater
-Kimochi Octopus

2) Sand Tray Station

Another favorite area for students to sit and chat is my sand tray station.  Students love to sit on the Hokki Stools and play with the sand while we talk.  The Hokki Stools are a bit pricey, but they are very durable and allow students get some sensory input while we chat because they gently wobble--I love sitting on them, too!  I use kinetic sand in my sand tray, which is an absolute favorite because it is very moldable!  Helpful hint: I use a 10 liter sand tray and needed about 10 pounds of kinetic sand to fill the tray.

If the student is visiting my office for a check-in or a calm down time, he or she often plays with the sand as a sensory tool while we talk.  If the student is visiting me to work on a specific counseling goal, I often will give the student a prompt for the sand tray.  Because my office is tiny, I don't have the space to display all of the miniatures as recommended for traditional sand tray therapy.  However, the organizer that I use as a sand tray table doubles as a storage unit and all of the miniatures are stored inside.  When a student is working on a sand tray prompt, I simply pull out the drawers and place them on my small group table, which is located in the center of my office.  This allows the student to easily see all of the miniatures that are available and also allows for quick clean up!

3) Small Group Table

My small group table seats 5 students comfortably, but I can fit 7-8 students when I'm desperate! I pull over my desk chair to sit at the table with students, which saves space by not having an extra chair at the front end of the table.  For extra seating, we pull over the Hokki Stools from the sand tray area.  I love having a large dry erase board on the wall near the small group table because we can easily write on it during our groups.

Storage, Storage, Storage!
When I was hired as the school counselor, I spent half of the summer arranging my office and figuring out where to store everything!  Since the office was a bathroom originally, there is no built in storage.  Thankfully, the office came with the two metal cabinets you can see in the photo above.  


The double wide filing cabinet actually does not have any files in it!  Instead, all of the drawers are used for storage.  The bottom two drawers hold school supplies and art supplies that I use for small groups.  The third drawer up holds storage containers for my small group folders (I run 8-10 small groups at the same time, so I needed a place to keep the materials for each group separate).  The top two drawers hold games and other materials I use with students.


The metal cabinet on the right has two purposes (the above photo shows the cabinet when it is open)!  One, it has several shelves that I use for supply and book storage.  Two, it holds my coat, purse, and personal items.  I actually put a plastic storage container in the storage cabinet to give me even more places to put stuff!   


Another storage space with two purposes is my paper storage unit.  This is beside the two metal storage cabinets.  It functions as a small table to place a file sorter and supply container, but most importantly, holds all of my 11 X 18 construction paper!  


Behind my small group table, I have a small bookshelf that holds some commonly used items. The bottom shelf contains my "grab and go" resources that I keep multiple copies of and can grab quickly when I have a student in need.  The middle shelf holds finger puppets and larger puppets that I use with my younger students.  My older students also like to use these to role play friendship issues!  Two of my favorite puppets are this set of finger puppets from IKEA and this larger happy monster puppet. The top shelf holds an amazing dollhouse that I found on Amazon.  It is the perfect size for a tiny office because the front of the house folds out to make the house bigger!  


My K-1 students love putting the dollhouse on the floor to play and talk through issues!

My Desk and Workstation

My desk is directly across from the couch.  When students sit on the couch, I spin my desk chair around while we chat.  This saves a lot of space by not having a second seating area for me.  The first major decision I made in my office when I got the counseling job was getting rid of the massive, wooden teacher desk.  Sure, it had a lot of great storage drawers, but it was simply too big for the space.  Instead, I brought this narrow, wooden desk from home that I had purchased in college.  It works great for the space, still has storage, and has a much sleeker look than the teacher desk monstrosity.  (Disclaimer: I do not typically have fresh flowers on my desk!  These were an end of the year gift from a colleague!)

  
I made the decision to place a metal filing cabinet directly next to my desk, which created a great work station wall.  It's magnetic, so I placed magnets on the back of my building schedules, which allows me to take them off easily to refer to often!  I also have a magnetic dry erase board that I use for quick reminders and my to do list.  Another helpful thing I did was stick a notepad and post-it notes directly to the file cabinet, so I can quickly grab a note and jot down stuff before I forget!  An added bonus of having the filing cabinet next to my desk is that it functions as a room divider and blocks my often messy desk from view when you walk into my office!  


I love that my desk is extra wide because I can keep my School Counselor Planner open on the left side of my desk under my "work station wall" and frequently refer to it throughout the school day! 

Books, Books, and More Books!

I was a classroom teacher before I was a school counselor, and developed a healthy obsession with children's books.  My office has a tiny nook right by the door and I decided that it was the perfect spot to wedge in a tall bookshelf.  All of my books are organized by counseling topic.  Read more about how I organize my counseling library by visiting this post.

I use books most often during classroom lessons, but also read them during small group lessons, and sometimes with individual students.  I also frequently loan books to families when they are dealing with tough situations at home.  I love having so many books available because kids respond so well when they can read about someone else going through a similar situation.  


On the top shelf of the bookshelf, I keep all of my counseling resource books.  I have a lot of great resource books, but my collection does not compare to other counselors' because most of the ideas I use come from blogs, TPT, and digital resources.  The Mrs. Potato Head that I use for my K-1 Meet the Counselor lessons is relaxing by my resource books!  
Technology in School Counseling

One final area of my office that students love is my Apple TV.  It is mounted above my sand tray, so students can easily see it from my small group table.  I can stream digital resources from my computer directly onto the Apple TV.  I love showing YouTube clips during my small group lessons because visual media is very engaging to my students.  I also love using brain breaks from GoNoodle to get students moving or relaxed.  Another great thing about the Apple TV is that I can stream music from iTunes or Pandora to create a relaxing atmosphere in my office.   


I hope you enjoyed the tour around my office!  As a new counselor, I would have loved a post like this because I was completely overwhelmed with setting up a tiny office.  Now that I am in my second year, my space has become the perfect place to work with kids!  If you have any questions about my office, please feel free to ask them in the comments and I will respond to you!  Use the image below to pin my tour and refer back to it later!  Thanks for reading!

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As a former second grade teacher, my favorite part of my classroom was my classroom library. By my 8th year of teaching, I had collected over 2,500 books for my students!  I loved reading books out loud to my students and helping them find new books to get lost in.  

Now, as a school counselor, I continue to use children's books on a regular basis.  I enjoy finding books with a strong message that students can connect with, learn from, and apply to their own lives.  I frequently use books in my classroom lessons and small groups.  I even use books with during individual counseling and we sit side-by-side on my couch to read and discuss how a book applies to the student's life.  Because organization and efficiency are my jam, I keep all of my books organized in my office.  Keep reading to learn how you can organize your own school counseling library!   

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  I receive a small commission when someone makes a purchase through one of my links, which helps to support my blog.

Step 1: Sort Your Books
The first step to create an organized school counseling library is to sort all of your books.  To begin this process as a new counselor, I borrowed a kindergarten teacher's classroom because I needed a wide, open space.  I started by choosing about 10 categories that I knew I had a lot of books for and wrote the categories on Post-It notes.  I took my bins of books and began sorting them into piles as I matched them by theme.  As I sorted, I took the time to skim any of the books that I was not as familiar with because I wanted to make sure they were all sorted appropriately.  When I started finding books that did not match up with my Post-Its, I began creating sub-piles with similar themes.  In the end, I had 20 piles of books that were matched by theme! 

School Counseling Library Themes
Here are the 20 themes that I use in my counseling library.  Many are self-explanatory, but here is a quick description of each category:

1) Making Friends: Books about social skills related to friendships

2) Friendship Problems: Books about conflict resolution, bullying, and gossip

3) Self-Esteem: Books about individuality and boosting self-esteem

4) Feelings: Books about feelings that do not match my other specific feelings categories

5) Families: Books about divorce, new siblings, and family conflicts

6) Anxiety: Books about anxious feelings and coping skills

7) Anger: Books about angry feelings and coping skills

8) Grief: Books about the loss of a friend, family member, or pet

9) Self-Control: Books about managing impulses

10) Kindness: Books about treating others with kindness and respect

11) School: Books about new students, school anxiety, and other school-related issues

12) Life Skills: Books about character traits and manners

13) Health: Books about illnesses, lice, hygiene, and other health-related issues

14) Teamwork: Books about working together

15) Careers: Books about career options

16) Girl Power: Books specific to common girl issues such as self-esteem and friendship drama

17) Creativity: Books about thinking outside of the box

18) Perseverance: Books about not giving up

19) Diversity: Books about individuality and cultures

20) Read Alouds: Books not specifically related to counseling, but are fun to read aloud during Right to Read Week and other special school events



Step 2: Catalog Your Books
There are many websites and apps that you can use to catalog your books, but my favorite is Library Thing.  Here is why I love it:

-You can add books by typing in the title and Library Thing will pull the rest of the info for you
-You can use a book scanner to easily add a large amount of books 
-You can organize your books by category 
-You can browse your categories by book cover to quickly find the book you are looking for
-You can "tag" books to break down your categories.  For example, the "friendship problems" category may have tags for bullying, conflict resolution, gossip, etc.
-You have the ability to track and lend your books (I don't use this feature, but it would be helpful if you loan out a lot of books)
-You can log 200 books for free or pay $10 per year or $25 for life.  I used the $25 deal because it is worth it!

If you want to check out how I organized my books on Library Thing, click on this link!  Use the drop-down menu on the left to choose a category and browse some of my favorite books.


Step 3: Design Your Library
The next step is to figure out how you would like to design your library in your office.  My office is fairly small, so I keep all of my books on a tall, wooden bookshelf.  On the top shelf, I store all of my counseling resource books.  On the rest of the shelves, I have my books sorted into bins by categories.

I have two types of bins on my bookshelf.  Near the top, I have these neon bins from Really Good Stuff.  They are a bit pricier, however, I bought these when I was a classroom teacher and they have held up really well.  I love how they come with a clip-on label to easily add your book category.  A less expensive option are these Storex bins, which can also be found on Amazon.


The narrow bins above are great for the categories where I have less than 20 books.  For my larger categories, I use wider plastic baskets (about 13" X 10").  My bins are similar to this 6-pack from Sterelite, but you can also snag these baskets for a great price at stores like Target or Wal-Mart.



Step 4: Label Your Bins

On the top shelf of my counseling library, I store all of my counseling resource books.  They are organized into categories that are separated by paint stirring sticks!  Here's how I made the book separators:

1) Go to Lowes or Home Depot.  Tell them you are a school counselor and would love a donation of paint sticks for a project! :)

2) Place the paint sticks in a cardboard box and spray paint them black.  Wait 1 hour, flip them over, and spray paint the other side.

3) Download the Avery Label Template and type in your counseling resource topics.

4) Print your topics on Avery mailing labels.  

5) Stick the labels onto the ends of each paint stirrer.  Mine have held great for 2 years, but it looks like I may need to put a piece of clear packing tape over each sticker this year to secure them better.  

The next step in organization is to design labels for all of your baskets!  If you use baskets that are a similar size as mine, I went ahead and did the work for you! :)  Click on the resource below to download your FREE School Counseling Library Labels!


One great thing about having an organized library is that it is very easy to loan out books to students or parents!  I can quickly grab a book during a parent meeting and let a family borrow it for a week or two.  I also find that students like to peek at the categories of books when they are in my office, and when they get curious, I ask if they want to borrow a book from me.  To help me keep track of the books I loan out, I use a page in my Digital Counseling Binder, which is a Google Slides file that I use to organize my counseling life!  Here is a peek at the slide:


I hope this post helped you to wrap your mind around how to organize your school counseling library.   Check out this post to read about 15 Must Have Books for School Counseling and stay tuned for more counseling library posts where I share my favorite books.  Don't forget to pin the image below to save this post for later!  


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Google Docs for School Counselor Organization 
As a school counselor, I love using Google Docs to help organize my work life.  Last year, as a new school counselor, I began creating docs to organize my schedule, small groups, goals, and more!  I referred to the docs often throughout the school year and am thrilled to be able to use them again this year.  The best thing about Google Docs is that you can easily make a copy and then tweak them for the following school year.  In this post, I will share 6 Google Docs that you can tweak for your own use.

How to Use Shared Docs
All of the docs below are Shared Docs.  Customize them to meet your needs by following these steps:

1) Open the doc by clicking on the image below
2) Click on "Make a Copy"
3) Rename your doc
4) Customize!

Classroom Counseling Sign-Up Form
Do you schedule monthly lessons with your teachers?  The doc below will help you gather quick info to make scheduling a breeze.  Before sending this doc to teachers, I type their names on the left side of the doc and color code them by grade level.  Then, I share the doc with my staff and ask them to type in their two preferred days and times for me to do my classroom counseling lessons. This form helps SO much with scheduling because I can almost always choose a preferred time for each teacher.


Classroom Counseling Schedule
Once teachers have chosen their preferred days/times, I schedule classroom lessons for the first semester.  On average, I see each classroom once a month.  Scheduling lessons for an entire semester allows me to get everything written down in my planner well in advance.  Then, I can plan individual check-ins, small groups, and meetings around the classroom lessons.  This form is organized the same way as the sign-up form.  If you want to create a page for the second semester, simply copy and paste the chart onto the next page.


Character Traits Plan
Last year, I based my monthly classroom lessons on character traits.  This next doc was a lifesaver!  On the first page of the doc, I made a chart for all of the traits I planned on teaching about in my classroom lessons.  Throughout the school year, when I thought of a great idea, I added them to the chart as a way to collect my ideas.  The second page of the doc is where the magic happened.  For each character trait, I made a chart of how I planned on teaching the topic in every grade level.  This was very helpful because I was able to see how my lessons built upon each other and got more complex in each grade level!



Small Group Schedule and Lesson Plans
Up next is a doc that I made for scheduling and planning my small groups.  The first page of the doc shows you how I organized my small groups.  I made a page like this for every grade level. Whenever I went to pick up students for a small group, I took this page with me so I would not forget anyone!  I also made a copy of this page for each classroom teacher to give them easy access to the dates, times, and students in their grade level's small groups.

I used the second page of the doc to create lesson plans for each small group.  At the top of the doc, I wrote measurable goals for the group.  On the right side, I typed in each student's name and used an "X" to keep track of their attendance at each group session.  The rest of the doc was used for lesson planning.  Since I used this as a digital doc, I could easily move items around in my lesson plan if I did not get to them each week.



Yearly Counseling Tasks
Do you have trouble remember what tasks you need to complete each month? Me too.  I made the next doc to help me remember my reoccurring monthly tasks.  For example, every August, I will need to prepare my new student folders.  In September, I will need to organize my bullying awareness lessons.  In October, I will need to plan for Red Ribbon Week.  And so on :)  Last school year, I used this doc to list each monthly task and then used the strikethrough feature when the task was complete.  At the end of the school year, I turned all of the text back to normal and will re-use this form again this school year!  


Counseling Goals
The last doc I am sharing today is my counseling goals doc.  At the beginning of the school year, I came up with several long term and short term goals.  The long term goals are my "bucket list" items (ex: getting a therapy dog)!!  The short term goals are items I planned on accomplishing during the school year.  I shared this doc with my administrator so he could see what goals I was working on.  Follow the directions on the doc to learn how to turn checkboxes into checkmarks to keep track of your goals!  



I hope you found all of these docs helpful!  Leave a comment with your favorite docs or tell me about what kind of docs you would love me to create.  I would be happy to share more docs in the future!

Stay Organized this School Year
Looking for more ways to stay organized this school year?  I love helping other counselors with organization!  Check out some of my favorite resources below. 


Everything you need to document your sessions and stay organized!

-Intake & Progress Notes Forms
-Check In Form
-Student Schedule Form
-Small Group Lesson Template
-Counseling Referral Forms
-Phone Call Log
-Meeting Notes & Notes Page
-Weekly To Do List
-And more!


My School Counselor Planner is a practical, ink-saving weekly planner for documenting sessions, lessons, meetings, and more! Each two-page spread contains a weekly view for you to document your daily events. The day is divided into 15 minute intervals (7:00-4:00) with additional space to record events before and after school. My planner has free yearly updates!

Interested in the documentation pack AND the planner? Check out my BUNDLE to save $$$.


If you love using Google Drive to keep you organized, check out the resource above. It contains 70 Google Slides files to help you organize your school year!



If you are new to my blog, please take a moment to follow me for more
 school counselor organization tips and creative lesson ideas!

                                
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Why Do You Need a School Counselor Planner?As a school counselor, I am always looking to improve my efficiency and organization.  Although I consider myself to be pretty tech-savvy, I prefer to use an old school paper planner when it comes to my daily schedule.  I love having a printed planner that I can easily add events to without having to rely on technology.  I also like being able to quickly write (and reschedule!) events in my planner that sits right on my desk.

I created a School Counselor Planner after trying out several store-bought planners.  Although they looked pretty, they did not help me stay organized and I found that I quickly stopped using them.  Because I have always had a knack for organization and design, I wanted to create a planner with a clean and simple design that only contained the features that I needed.

Last summer, I designed the perfect School Counselor Planner.  Hoping to help other counselors, I uploaded the planner to Teachers Pay Teachers.  It brings so much joy knowing that something I created for myself is also helping other counselors, too!  One thing that makes my planner unique is that I offer free yearly updates.  If you purchase my planner on TPT, simply re-download the file each year and you will have access to the updated planner for FREE!

FYI: I named my planner "School Counselor Planner" simply because I am a school counselor. However, my planner is perfect for anyone who is looking for a daily planner with a simple, clean design.  If you are a social worker, school psychologist, clinical counselor, educator, or even a stay-at-home mom, this planner will be great for you, too!

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  I receive a small commission when someone makes a purchase through one of my links, which helps support my blog.  All opinions are my own.)


What is Included?The School Counselor Planner is a practical, ink-saving weekly planner designed for documenting individual sessions, groups, classroom lessons, meetings, and more! The planner has a simple design to allow your events to stand out. Each two-page spread contains a weekly view for you to document your daily events. The day is divided into 15 minute intervals (7:00-4:00) with additional space to record events before and after school.  The planner also includes:

→Monthly Calendars (July 2017-July 2018)
→Post-It Note To Do Pages (editable)
→Daily School Schedule (editable)
→Goal Planning and Reflection Pages
→Year at a Glance (12 month view)
→Phone Call Log
→Lined Note Pages

Cover Designs
The School Counselor Planner comes with 20 cover designs.  From watercolor flowers, to geometric designs, to succulents, and even a watercolor cat, you will have a large variety to choose from.  You can quickly print your favorite cover from the included PDF file, or you can customize your cover with your name and title using the editable PowerPoint file.  Here's the design I have chosen for my planner this school year:


Here are a few of my favorites out of the 20 options to choose from!


Printing and Binding
Since my School Counselor Planner is a digital file, you will need to choose how you would like to print and bind it.  I like to print the inside pages of my planner at work since they are already greyscale images and I do not need colored ink.  

The nice thing about printing your own planner is that you can decide exactly how many of each page you need.  For example, I like to print 10 notes pages, 6 phone call logs, and 1 reflection page.  Simply print more or less of each page to meet your needs!

I print my custom cover at Office Max because their print quality is much better than what I could print at home or school.  If you have never used their print services on their website, it is very easy!  Simply upload your image, choose the paper type, and choose full color or black and white.  I like to have my cover printed on 110 lb card stock for extra durability.  Here is a screenshot of the options I chose this year:


Next up, comes binding!  If you like to add other resources to your planner throughout the year, you can simply 3-hole punch your pages and add them to a binder.  Using a binder is a great way to turn your planner into a resource binder to organize all of your important files. 

I like having my planner spiral bound at Office Max because it makes the planner look professional and it is a great size to be able to take to meetings or toss in my bag each day. Since I print all of my inside pages at work, I simply take them with me to Office Max when I go to pick up my colored cover.  When you use their custom binding option, you can also choose a front and back cover for your planner.  They have several options to choose from, but my favorites are the frosted plastic cover for the front and the black regency cover for the back.  As an added bonus, if you use the custom binding option, you can also choose to take extra pages to Office Max with you to have bound into your planner.  For example, you can add your school district schedule or office phone extensions right into your planner!

Wondering how much all of this costs?!  It is cheaper than you would think.  Here is the cost break-down for my planner this year:

Colored Cover on 110 lb Card Stock: $.65
Coil Binding: $2.99
Plain Frosted Cover: $.79
Regency Black Cover: $.79
Total Cost: $5.22

Helpful hint: Make sure you use Ebates any time you shop online!  Right now, Office Max is offering 4% back, which means you instantly get money back just by clicking on the Ebates link before you order your printing services through Office Max.

Inside the School Counselor Planner
The School Counselor Planner contains many types of pages to help you stay organized throughout the school year!  Here is a photo and a quick description of each type of page.

Weekly Schedule
Perhaps the most important pages of the planner are the weekly schedule pages.  These pages are already customized with the months and dates and are ready for you to write in all of your daily events.  Each week is designed as a two-page spread for a peek at the week.  The days are divided into 15 minute intervals (7:00-4:00) with additional space to record events before and after school. 


I do my best to color code my daily events so I can peek at my week and see my schedule at a glance.  I love using Papermate Flair Pens because their colors are bright, the ink is smooth, and they do not bleed through the page.  Here is my color coding system:

Purple: Meetings
Blue: Small Groups
Green: Classroom Lessons
Pink: Special Events
Pencil: Individual student sessions (I always write these in pencil because they are most frequently re-scheduled!

See the little box below each day?  It's one of my favorite spots in the planner because it is perfectly sized for Post-It Notes.  Often, I write my "to do" list for each day on a tiny Post-It and then re-locate it to the next day if it does not get completed!  :)

I also love using the Weekly Checklist and Follow Up box each week. These boxes can be used in a variety of ways:

→List the names of students you need to schedule for the week
→Create a To Do list for the week
→Document phone calls or follow up appointments with teachers and students

Year and a Glance and Monthly Calendars
I like to use the Year at a Glance page for staff birthdays, but it could be used for recording school events, also.  I use the monthly view for major school events and tasks to complete each month. 


Post-It Note To Do Pages
The Post-It Note To Do Pages are some of the most frequently used pages in my planner!  In the first image, you will see the page that I use to simply store my Post-It Notes.  I keep about 10 of each style in a stack and they are perfect to pull out of my planner at meetings.  The second image shows the editable Post-It Note page that is included with my planner.  You can customize the headings above each box to say anything you'd like!


Goal Setting Pages
Need a quick spot to write down your yearly goals?  Jot them down right in your planner!  I duplex these two pages with each other.  On one side, I list my short-term and long-term goals for the year.  On the other side, I pick a few goals and break them down into manageable action steps.


Phone Call Log
I created this page after I realized that I was always taking notes on random Post-It Notes when I talked with parents or caseworkers on the phone.  Now, I jot down brief notes from the call directly in my planner, which makes them very easy to find! 


Notes and Reflections Pages
I keep these pages at the back of my planner to allow me to have an easy spot to record notes throughout the school year.  I use the reflection page to record any thoughts about areas I would like to improve or change the following school year.  



Feedback from Other Counselors
Wondering what other counselors have said about my planner?  
Check out some of their great feedback below!





I hope you enjoyed learning more about how I organize my school year with my School Counselor Planner!  If you have any questions, please leave a comment or email me at edukate.inspire@gmail.com.

Want to read more tips about organization?  Check out my post called Google Docs for School Counselors or view my School Counselor Office Tour.


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What is a Growth Mindset?
One of the latest education buzz-words is "growth mindset."  What exactly is a growth mindset? Simply put, growth mindset is the belief that we can get smarter through hard work and challenges.  In schools, this involves teaching students how to persevere through challenges and look for success within their failures.  

As a school counselor, I try to incorporate characteristics of a growth mindset into my classroom lessons, small groups, and school-wide programming.  This post will provide you with some of the best FREE resources I have found for teaching growth mindset to elementary-aged students.

Growth Mindset Videos
I love kicking off my classroom lessons with a video clip.  It draws students into the lesson and provides a quick overview for what we will be learning about in the lesson.  Here are three of my favorite videos for introducing a growth mindset.

1) Growth Your Brain
This is a great video for grades 2-5.  It shows what happens in our brains when we do hard things!  I love how the video integrates some brain-based vocabulary into the growth mindset concept. 

Brain Jump with Ned the Neuron: Challenges Grow Your Brain - YouTube


2) Sesame Street: Growth Mindset
This is a great clip of a Bruno Mars song called "Don't Give Up."  I use this with grades K-1.

Sesame Street do Growth Mindset - YouTube



3) Which Step Have You Reached Today?
This is a 30 second clip that I use with grades 3-4 to illustrate the power of our words.

WHICH STEP HAVE YOU REACHED TODAY - YouTube



Growth Mindset Hands-On Lessons
One of the best ways to illustrate a growth mindset is by having students attempt hands-on challenges.  The challenges below involve very few supplies and are quick to set up. Throughout each challenge, stop and discuss what it feels like to attempt something hard.  At the end of the challenge, talk with the class about what strategies were used to make each challenge successful.  Or, if the challenge was not successful, discuss what students would try differently next time. 

If you are a school counselor and your schedule does not allow you to do many classroom lessons, a great way to introduce these challenges is to try them out with your staff.  At a staff meeting, complete one of the challenges as a team-building activity and then make all of the supplies available to staff members.  There's a good chance that if your staff enjoyed the activity, they will try it out with their students!

Here are 3 challenges my students (and staff!) have enjoyed.

1) Index Card Body Challenge
Can you fit your whole body through an index card?!  With the correct folding and cutting technique, it's possible!  I tried this activity out with 3rd and 4th graders and they were up for the challenge.  Have a large stack of index cards available because they will need several cards to experiment with!  Here are some hints to give along the way (tip: give a new hint every few minutes):

-Your whole body must fit through the index card without using any tape or glue.
-You can cut the index card, but you must use the whole card to complete the challenge.
-You will need to fold the card in half "hot dog style" before doing any cutting.

Want the answer?  Click the image below for the directions!  You can also use this video to show your students the solution.


2) Solo Cup Pyramid Challenge
Prior to the lesson, prepare several sets of the following materials:

-13 Solo cups
-1 rubber band with 4 pieces of yarn (about 1.5 ft long) tied to the rubber band

Put students into groups of four and introduce the challenge: Your job is to build a pyramid of cups using the special tool.  You can only touch the yarn.  You may not touch the cups or the rubber band.  You may spread the cups out on the carpet before you begin.  

Allow students several minutes to experiment and then give the following clues, if needed:

-There are 4 members in the group and 4 pieces of yarn.  Do you think that may help you figure out how to hold the yarn?
-Once you figure out how to hold the tool, experiment with where you place your hand.  Does it make a difference if you and your teammates hold the yarn close to the rubber band vs. far away from the rubber band?
-If a team is doing very well, challenge them to create the pyramid without talking to each other!



3) Tie a Knot in a String Challenge
Give each student a piece of yarn about 1.5 feet long.  Tell students that they must hold onto the string with one end of the string in each hand.  Without letting go, students must tie a knot in the string!  

Watch out, students will get creative and try to slip the yarn out of their fingers to tie the knot!  Ask students to prove their answers to you. :)

Want to see the solution?  Here a great video from the lovely Barbara Gruener with the solution to the challenge!  

Favorite Growth Mindset Picture Books
Besides video clips and hands-on challenges, I also love using children's literature to teach social-emotional concepts.  Ok, I know this is a FREE resource round-up, and books aren't free, but I have to share my favorites with you! :)  There are several wonderful books that illustrate the growth mindset concept.  Here are just a few of my favorites! (Amazon Affiliate Links)





Parent Resources
The phrase "growth mindset" is new for many parents.  When you start working with students on the concept, it is helpful to take a moment to educate parents, too.  I LOVE this free resource from Sarah Gardner.  She uses parent-friendly language to explain the growth mindset concept and gives parents some practical suggestions to help their children.  Click on the image below to access the free printable.



My second favorite parent resource is this list of questions parents can ask their children to illicit a growth mindset response.  Click on the image below to access the free printable to send home to parents!


Do you have any favorite growth mindset resources?
Please share your favorite ideas in the comments!

Pin the image below to save these ideas for the future!

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How to Welcome New Students
One important role of a school counselor is to help welcome students who are new to the school.  Whether the student is new at the beginning or the year or is transitioning mid-year, it is very important to help the student feel comfortable and welcome at the new school.  As an elementary school counselor, there are several ways I reach out to families and students to make the new student transition successful.

New Student Tour
At my school, all new families are invited to a New Student Tour about two weeks before school starts.  This year, we also invited families of kindergarteners, since they are technically new, too! When families register at our board office, they are given a flyer about our New Student Tour.  I also email out the flyer a few times during the summer as I get the email addresses of new families.  I embed a link to a Google form on the flyer to give families an easy way to RSVP.  This helps me easily keep track of the amount of RSVPs to help us plan for seating and treats after the tour. This year, we had 100 parents and children at our tour!

We begin the tour with a short orientation.  I put together a Google Slides Presentation that gives families basic info about our school.  Tip: Check out Slides Carnival for some fun templates for Google Slides.  On the RSVP Google form, I include a spot for families to type in any questions that they have and I make sure to address their questions during the orientation.  I try to involve some extra staff members in the orientation to allow the new families to meet as many individuals as possible.  This year, I presented the orientation with our dean, principal, school nurse, and parents' club president.  The orientation takes about 15-20 minutes and then we allow a few minutes for questions.

Next, we split the crowd into small groups and each staff member leads a group around the school for a tour.  This allows for a more personal tour and helps families feel comfortable asking questions in a smaller group.  After the tour, we head back to the cafeteria for a Popsicle treat! Families mingle as they eat their treats and also check out a table where we set out some "grab and go" resources about our school.  The New Student Tour is a fun way to make a great first impression and connect with the new families!

Small Groups with New Students
At the end of the first week of school, I schedule a small group session with all of the new students by grade level.  If there are a lot of new students in a grade level, I split the group in half.  We meet for about 40 minutes and it's a great get-to-know-you time!

Introduction
We start with a quick introduction.  Students say their name and the name of the school they went to last school year.  I also ask each student why they moved to a new school--many students give a very specific reason, which is helpful for future counseling purposes.  For example, here are some of the reasons students have given for moving:

-My dad is in the military and we move all of the time.
-We needed a bigger house.
-I was getting bullied at my old school.
-We moved in with my grandma to help take care of her.
-My mom lost her job.
-We didn't move to a new house.  I just changed schools.  I was going to a private school and my mom said it wasn't working for me any more.
-We couldn't afford the rent for our trailer, so we had to find a cheaper one.  
-We ran out of money to pay rent, so we had to move in with friends.

Those reasons are pretty telling, right?!  I jot down any relevant comments students share that may help me in the future.    

New Student Banner
Next, each student creates a pennant that will be put together to form a new student banner display in our main hallway.  I print all of the pennants ahead of time on colored card stock... love Astrobrights Neon Card Stock (affiliate link)!  Students write their name and grade on their pennant and I trim them later with a paper cutter.  I snap a photo of each student with my iPhone to print later and add to each banner.  To display the banners, I made it easy and simply stapled them to the bulletin board in our display case, but you could also use yarn or ribbon.  Here's the finished product:

(Check out the amazing Starry Night crayon mural created by our 2nd graders in art class!)

If you would like to create your own new student banner, I have a FREE template in my TPT Store.  Click on the image below!


New Student Jenga Game
My New Student Jenga game is the highlight of the small group time!  As soon as students see that I have Jenga, they are pumped for whatever comes next.  I explain to students that this is a special Jenga and each block matches a question that will help us get to know each other better.  


The New Student Jenga game was created with my Build Your Own Counseling Game on TPT. The pack comes with 16 cards that can be mixed and matched to create a customized counseling game.  For the new student groups, I use 4 cards: New Student, All About Me, Favorites, and Positive Feelings.  I love how students stay engaged throughout the game!  Often, when new students visit my office later in the school year, they ask if we are going to play Jenga again!  If you would like to check out my Build Your Own Counseling Game, click on the image below. 


Letter Home
At the end the new student group, I give each student a letter to take home to their parents.  The letter explains my role as the counselor, talks about what we did in the small group, and gives parents my contact information.  The letter is simply one more way to educate parents about the role of the school counselor and it helps to reassure families that I am working on ensuring a smooth transition for their child.

New Student Mid-Year Transition
Ideally, all new students would begin the first day of school and be able to participate in everything above!  Obviously, that is often not the case!  At my school, we have a process for new students who register throughout the school year.  Here is what we do:

1) When I get an email that the new student has registered at the board office, I call the family and set up a new student tour.

2) The family comes in for a tour (usually 2-3 days before the student is scheduled to begin) and I address any of their questions throughout the tour.

3) I provide the family with a New Student Folder.  The folder contains any important paperwork that the family may have missed at the beginning of the school year, such as:

-School Handbook
-School Year Calendar
-Supply List
-Meet the Counselor Brochure
-Letter about PBIS
-Building Safety Letter
-Nurse Brochure
-Most Recent School Newsletter
-Current Lunch Menu

It makes a great first impression to have everything put together in a folder to give to the new family at the tour.  I bought some cheap two-pocket folders (affiliate link) in our school color on Amazon and created a label for the front using the online Avery label maker website.

4) If several new students enroll at the same time (usually around Christmas Break), I run a new student group similar to the one above. If not, I make sure to meet with each new student about a week after their first day of school and check in to see how everything is going.

Thank you for taking the time to read about how I welcome new students!  Pin the image below to save this post for the future!


Looking for more ways to welcome new students?  Check out the Blog Link-Up over at The Helpful Counselor!  Visit Heather's blog to link up your great ideas for welcoming new students or comment with your favorite ideas on this post! 

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It's been a year or two since I linked up to Monday Made It!  I guess I haven't been very crafty lately!  I'm pretty excited about my projects this week.  They were created at my friend, Amanda's, Pinterest Party.  Her party was a great idea.  She hosted a private collaborative Pinterest board and shared access with all of the people invited to the party.  We all pinned ideas that we wanted to create onto the board.  Then, we "liked" our favorite projects.  The projects with the most votes were what we created at the party.  It was great to finally be able to create some items on my crafting to do list!


Up first is my apple print painting!  It was inspired by {this} pin.  


I LOVE how it turned out!  My classroom has a blue, green, and black theme, so this will be great for some added color.  Unfortunately, I did not take any photos while making the project {possibly because we were eating these while crafting}.  Here are the steps I followed:

1) Using a sponge brush, paint the canvas black with acrylic paint.  The one in the inspiration pin has a white background, which looks great too.  It took about 20 minutes to dry.  

2) Cut an apple in half.  You can use the apple as is, or cut some grooves into it with a knife for a more rustic feel.

3) Choose your apple print colors.  I went with turquoise with an accent of white.  

4) Pour some paint on a paper plate.  Using a sponge brush, paint your apple.  

5) Gently press the apple onto the canvas.  For some of the prints, I put my hand behind the canvas and pressed against the apple.  This helped to add a deeper print and give the canvas some variety.  Repaint the apple and repeat the process! 

6) Let it dry and enjoy! 

The second project I made at the Pinterest Party is a pencil vase!  It was inspired by {this} pin.  I am thinking about making these as a back to school gift for my teammates, so I wanted to try it out first.  

{If my teammates are reading this post, please pretend you never saw this.}


It was super easy to make! 

1) Grab a cheap vase.

2) Put a flat rubber band around the vase.

3) Tuck pencils into the rubber band all the way around the vase.  {If you are feeling ambitious, you could also glue or tape the pencils onto the vase.  We tried a glue gun, double sided tape, and scotch tape, but didn't have much luck}.  The rubber band trick works great, but it's not a very secure hold so your pencils need a bit of adjusting after you set the vase down.

4) Cover up the rubber band with a ribbon and tie a bow!  

5) Fill with water and flowers.  Sunflowers or daisies would look super cute in a pencil vase!  I took the easy route and cut some flowers out of my garden yesterday {and they are already dead today... oops}.  

My last project this week was a product update!  I am in the process of changing the covers on my ugly products.  Not only did I change the cover on this one, but I also added more pages to the pack.  My students always get very excited to create their iStudent book!  They love anything techie :)

This is my old cover.  Very rainbow and slightly busy...

Here is my new one! 


Much better.

You can check out iStudent {here}.  Check out the preview to see examples of all of the pages.  
It's on sale for the next few days! :)

Happy crafting!


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Today I'm linking up to share two star ideas that have worked well in my classroom, 
as well as one wish that I would like to work on this year!

 Star #1 is my Super Improver Wall.  It's one of my favorite classroom management components!  This year will be my third year using the wall.  The concept comes from Whole Brain Teaching, but I have definitely tweaked it to meet my students' needs.  It is one of the best intrinsic motivators that I have used in my eight years of teaching.  If you are curious about how I use my wall, visit the post that I wrote {here}.



Star #2 is one of my favorite first day of school activities!  I have always taken a photo of each student on the first day of school, but a few years ago, I made an adorable frame after seeing a few frames on Pinterest.  


My dad helped me make the frame by nailing some plywood together.  Then, I spray painted the wood black.  The letters are actually sticky foam letters from Micheals, so they stuck directly to the wood without any glue!  The images are pre-painted wooden cut-outs that you can get from the wood aisle of Michaels.  I stuck on the images with a glue gun.  Easy as that!  

I take each student's photo against my SmartBoard because of the white background.  I use these photos to make a cute welcome back bulletin board outside my classroom.  I also print a set to send one home with each student-- they are a great keepsake for families!  A few weeks into the school year, we have a Parents' Night and I use these photos in a musical slide show as parents are coming into the room.  They are always a hit!  


And finally, my wish this school year is to work on my writing instruction.  Writing is the most challenging area for me to teach because of the amount of differentiation it requires.  In second grade, the levels vary from students learning how to write a complete sentence to students who are ready to publish stories.  My absolute favorite book for writing instruction is No More I'm Done by Jennifer Jacobson.  I love all of the mini lessons the book provides!  This year, I am hoping to lay out a framework of mini lessons and stick with them!


If you are looking for a fun back to school writing project for your students, check out my writing pack: iStudent.



If you enjoyed these star ideas, please consider following me on TPT, Facebook, or Pinterest.  

For more star ideas, please browse through the link-up below!  Thanks for visiting!




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Summer is the best time for me to do some professional development reading!  While I have the best intentions of keeping up with PD books during the school year, it just doesn't seem to happen as often as I would like it to.  In the summer, I love being able to leisurely make my way through some PD books with my coffee in hand... and a notebook, Flair pens, and post-it notes at my side...and likely a cat on my lap!

((This is why I get nothing done))

Throughout the school year, I gather books that sound interesting and add them to my Amazon wish list.  I discover the books from school counselor blogs, the Elementary School Counselor Exchange on Facebook, and ASCA magazines.  This summer, my goal is to make it through five PD books.  I've heard great comments about each of these books and am excited to gather some new ideas for the school year.


I am most excited about reading The Use of Data in School Counseling because it will help to shape the framework of my school counseling program.  I am hoping this book will give me more ideas about using data to support the needs of my school, which will help me to be more intentional about planning lessons.  Here in Ohio, the Board of Education has decided that every school must adopt a standards-based school counselor evaluation system by September of this year.  Something tells me that I am going to need to start collecting data, data, data.

       

Lost At School was recommended to me by the parent of one of the students I worked with last school year.  The little guy was a 2nd grader with very low motivation and desire to come to school.  His mom started reading the book in the spring and brought it to my office to share it with me (with tears in her eyes).  She was only two chapters into the book and had already compiled a list of traits that described her child perfectly.  I was sold and purchased the book that evening.
  

       

Parenting Tough Kids is a workbook filled with practical strategies for parents to use at home.  I often have parents stop me to ask for advice in dealing with their child's challenging behavior. One of my future goals is to lead "coffee with the counselor" chats and I would love to be able to do a book study with parents.  I am hoping that this may be a book I can recommend to parents for an easy, strategy-filled read.  Chapter 7 is titled, "How to Build Your Child's Emotional Resilience" (I might be starting with that chapter)!  If we can start to build more residence in kids, we can begin solving many problems.

       

How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior is a great resource for teachers and counselors.  I purchased this book mid-year because we have several new students with challenging behavior and our teachers are in need of resources and strategies!  I am almost finished with this book and have found some practical strategies to share with teachers.  I really like how the book examines common functions of students'  behaviors (pg. 19).  Here is their list:

-To get attention or reaction from peers or adults
-To get something tangible
-To get power or control
-To meet a sensory need
-To communicate feelings, wants, and needs
-As a result of a lack of understanding
-To escape or avoid something

So good!  Another part of the book that I love is a section with strategies teachers can use with students during writing lessons (pg. 102...if you've been a classroom teacher, you know that writing assignments are often when you get some extreme behaviors)!  I also really like the list of reinforces (pg. 124) and strategies for using reinforcers to motivate students.  I am excited to finish this book!   


My last summer read is Brief Counseling that Works.  When I was working on my clinical counseling degree, solution-focused brief counseling (SFBC) was my "go to" theory.  When I saw that there was a SFBC book designed for school counselors, I had to get it.  SFBC is a great technique to use with elementary students because they are forward thinking.  They want to talk about their problem and then solve it!  This book offers good background knowledge about the effectiveness of SFBC and also goes much further in presenting practical techniques for school counselors.  

There you have it, five books I am excited to read this summer!  I have two more books that are on my summer bucket list, just in case I get all five of those read (slim chances...)!  I haven't bought them yet, but I checked them out from the library to get a sneak peek.  I've heard great comments about both.  Here they are:
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Happy reading, counselor friends!  
If you have any books on your summer reading bucket list, please share them in the comments!

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link for Amazon.  By purchasing an item on Amazon using this link, I will receive a small commission.  All recommendations are my own.


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I'm excited to team up with BIC again this year to help show students the importance of handwriting!  The Fight for Your Write website is full of great information all about the ways handwriting helps students.

First, check out this quick video to show your students the importance of handwriting!

BIC Fight For Your Write Commercial - :60 - YouTube


Visit the Mission page of Bic's website to read more about six ways handwriting practice can benefit your students:


Did you know that handwriting engages 14 different abilities?!

Check out BIC's latest supplies below!


The wonderful folks at BIC sent me some great products to review this summer {pictured above}.  As a school supply addict, I am always willing to try out some new supplies!  See those pencils on the left?  They have already become a favorite of the students I've been working with!  Students love the colors, so writing instantly becomes more fun.  Students also love the erasable highlighters {they remind me of the changeable markers from my childhood!}  As an educator, I really appreciate the BIC Atlantis pen.  I commonly write in purple pen, so when I have to head to a meeting, I always have to remind myself to grab a professional pen!  ((Purple pens aren't great for signing IEPs)) Thank goodness the Atlantis pen has black ink and is also extra comfy to write with!


BIC has donated a prize pack for a lucky reader!!!  I am also throwing in my favorite TPT product that focuses on writing, iStudent: All About Me Book.  Enter via the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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