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Positive thinking can be the difference between a student persisting with a challenging activity and stopping too soon. As counselors, we can directly work on building a student's positive thinking, and give them the skills to be resilient when faced with challenges.

Identify & Replace Negative Thinking

I focus on two things when building a student's positive (realistic) thinking. One, emphasize that negative thinking is normal and everyone has negative thoughts. Two, we can learn a way to kick those negative thoughts to the curb.

I use a simple step-by-step CBT process. 

  1. Recognize
  2. Challenge
  3. Replace

First students learn what a thought is, kinds of negative thoughts, and practice recognizing them. Second, they learn ways to challenge negative thoughts to make sure they are based on facts. Last, they practice replacing them with more realistic, positive thoughts.

We take each of these skills one at a time and then chain them together. This lets them get better and more confident with each step. For more detail, check out this post on challenging negative thinking.

Laura, Social Emotional Workshop

Visit my TPT store and get counseling ideas on my blog. Let's connect on Instagram and Facebook!

Show How Thinking Affects Them

One of the first things I do in this type of work with students is help the kiddos to understand the connection between their thoughts, their feelings, and their actions. Once they believe that their thoughts affect them, they’re more interested in changing their thoughts!

We go through some different stories together and talk through how different characters think, feel, and act in the same scenario. Then I want to get their minds thinking about different thoughts by showing them tons of examples, sorting them between helpful vs. unhelpful, and then identifying which helpful thoughts they want to have more often.

Sara, The Responsive Counselor

Visit my TPT store and get counseling ideas on my blog. Let's connect on Instagram!

School Focus on Growth Mindset

At my school, we have spent the past few years focusing on what it means to have a “growth mindset.” By teaching students that we can learn from our mistakes, we can begin to increase positive thinking. My staff has worked hard to incorporate the concept of having a growth mindset by using hands-on experiences with students. We have also worked on integrating children’s literature with a growth mindset focus into the classroom. Check out some of my favorite growth mindset resources and activities in this post on my blog.

Kate, EduKate & Inspire

Visit my TPT store and get counseling ideas on my blog. Let's connect on Instagram!

How do you make positive thinking a habit for students?

The post Building Positive Thinking In Students appeared first on Confident Counselors.

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Mindfulness with middle schoolers: a piece of cake or labor of love? I’ve had loads of fun teaching mindfulness to elementary-aged students, but when I first threw out the idea to some of my middle schoolers, they looked at me like I had three heads. I knew that buy-in would be a little tougher with this age group (but totally worth the effort). Keep reading to find out how I hooked my students’ interest and the middle school mindfulness activities that my students actually enjoyed.

Middle School Mindfulness Activities Buy-In

We know adolescents need mindfulness, but how do we get them engaged? How do we get buy-in? Elementary students jump at the chance to breathe like a butterfly or do a silly animal-themed yoga activity. But middle schoolers aren’t always the easiest to engage! One thing is reliable, though: adolescents love to know why. Why are we doing this? Why does this matter?

Problem List

When introducing the concept of mindfulness, I begin by having my students create a problem list. What are their stressors? What are the things causing turmoil in their lives right now? I ask them to be as specific as possible. Is it just homework in general or one specific assignment? What about that assignment is troubling? Is it hard to complete a project that large? Is it hard to work in a group? We go on like this for a while. As you can imagine, this list is often long!

Students identify problems like interpersonal conflict, feeling stressed by schoolwork, being overwhelmed by responsibilities and extracurricular activities, feeling like they don’t fit it, and the list goes on.

Possible Solutions

Then, I challenge students to think of or find one solution that could help tackle all of the problems on the list. Students do a bit of research using iPads. We spend a lesson or session doing this task and the students report their findings which often range from silly things like quitting school to thoughtful responses like seeking therapy.

At this point, I introduce the concept of mindfulness, but I don’t just tell students what it is and tell them that it will help. I show them the research. I show them studies about how mindfulness improves memory and attention, lowers stress levels, increases happiness, and promotes social connections and altruism. Then I give them the studies to review and then give them space to research it on their own for a few minutes. When they are given the opportunity to review actual research and see facts and figures from studies, adolescents are much more like to buy in to the process because they can see the why behind it. When they can see studies that have been done with people their own ages who have benefitted from the practice, adolescents are more likely to be willing to give it a try themselves.

Getting Started

After I have some buy-in and have piqued their interest in this seemingly magical practice that can address a whole host of problems they have identified in their lives, we start small. Adolescents already feel like they’re on a stage in front of their peers at all times, so we don’t start with a tricky yoga sequence or a 30-minute guided meditation because that’s a sure way to discourage participation! We start with simple, 2-3 minute seated breathing exercises using tracing printables so that students can focus their attention on just what they’re doing and not worry about meeting eyes with others during the process.

As students gain comfort with short, simple exercises, we try longer activities and different types of mindfulness exercises. We also repeat activities. Students like to try again. They like to get better, practice, and feel like they’ve grown or accomplished something.

Breathing Exercises

Much of mindfulness hinges on slowing and controlling breathing to truly tune in to the body. To introduce breathing exercises, I first model controlled breathing on my own in front of everyone. When we have the technology available, I also let students practice using iPads and headphones with the Calm app. There are some great free activities students can do on their own without feeling like they’re on a stage. I also give students printables to trace while they practice controlling their breathing using figure 8 breathing, rainbow breathing, and star breathing to get the hang of it. Many of my students end up taping these printables inside their notebooks to use throughout the day.

If sitting in the classroom doing this is uncomfortable for your students, take them outside to practice! Give them pinwheels or bubbles (middle schoolers go wild for these things too) to practice deep inhales and slow exhales.

Meditation Activities

When we have some comfort with breathing exercises, I introduce short guided meditation activities. I like to first start with recorded meditations so students can use headphones to listen. This takes off some of the social focus so they’re less worried about if others are looking at them. After they practice this way, I do read some guided meditation activities to help them notice their bodies, recognize feelings about certain events, or pinpoint sensations and emotions tied to certain experiences or memories. Again, I keep these short to ease them in! They’re less likely to give up if the newness is quick in the beginning.

Active Mindfulness

If seated breathing and meditation isn’t doing it for your students, don’t be afraid to try active mindfulness exercises! Tuning in doesn’t have to be accomplished in a seat. These active mindfulness activities were really the sweet spot for my middle schoolers when they started to say they really enjoyed our mindful time! Head outside for some of these activities:

Go for a Nature Walk

Take your students on a nature walk. Remind them that they should not talk during the activity because you’ll give them cues throughout. Guide them through noticing things they see, what they smell, things they hear, and their own sensations and emotions as you walk. Once your students have the hang of this practice (it does take practice), they’ll be able to do this for longer periods of time without the cues.

Work in a Garden

If you have a school garden or have the space to create even a small plot, do a gardening exercise. Let students sink their hands into the soil and help them notice the sensations they experience during the activity. They can also tune into smells and sounds while working in the garden.

Directed Painting

Grab some cardstock, watercolors, brushes, and straws for a guided painting activity. Students will use the brushes to drop paint on the paper and then will use the straws to blow the paint on the paper (hello, breathing exercise!). Cue students to choose colors that represent the emotions they notice in their bodies now and to notice their sensations as they watch the paint move on the paper. Students can even put these creations in $1 frames to keep as a reminder to pause and notice.

Yoga Activities

If your students are up for a challenge, introduce them to yoga (call it focused stretching if your school requires – the benefits are the same!). Yoga can sound scary and intimidating to adolescents, especially if they have preconceived notions of what yoga is or what it requires. Start with simple poses and talk them through the whole process – nothing creates awkwardness for adolescents quite like silence and a chair pose.

If yoga isn’t something you’re totally comfortable with yourself, use videos from certified instructors or attend a training yourself! I recently completed a certification with YogaEd that was fantastic. I learned all about proper flow and sequence and some helpful strategies for dispelling the awkward cloud in the air. As with the other mindfulness exercises, start small. Do a 5-minute activity just to introduce students and show them they can actually do yoga.

Middle School Mindfulness Activities

If you’re looking to incorporate more mindfulness exercises into your middle school counseling toolbox, start slowly and small! Give them space to explore how mindfulness can actually benefit them. Use short, 5-minute or fewer activities to give them opportunities for success and to pique their interest. You don’t have to spend a whole, 30-45 minute lesson doing one activity! Mindfulness can easily be used as a warm up or wrap up to any classroom guidance or small group activity. Introduce your students to a wide variety of mindfulness exercises so they can find their perfect fit, whether it’s simple breathing, meditation, or more active practices.

Let us know

How do you get buy-in with your students when it comes to mindfulness? What are your favorite middle school mindfulness activities? Fill us in below in the comments section!

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School counseling book clubs in elementary school are some of my favorite twists on a classic small group counseling. I love sharing a good book, watching students make connections to the characters, seeing first hand my students reading and comprehension levels, and helping them improve their reading. Books clubs provide wonderful opportunities for you to combine social-emotional, academic, and career standards.

5 Tips for a Successful Book Club
When choosing a book, think about what connections your students can make.

I often work with our ELL students in school counseling book clubs and we read Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks. When Ravi, a new student from India moves to school he struggles to navigate middle school and quickly tries to befriend the school bully. Joe, a student with APD, is struggling with his own middle school woes - his mom is a cafeteria worker. There are so many opportunities for ELL students , new students, and students with special needs to make connections.

Consider how many sessions your group will meet.

Chapters books are great, but consider asking how long will it take to finish the book. When I use chapter books I have to plan for several months and sometimes even a semester of sessions, due to the length of the book, sessions, and time it takes us to reflect and connect.

I also account for a few minutes at the start of our club to review what we read last time. Consider creating a group routine to help you manage your time if you are using longer chapter books.

During April and May, I use American Girl’s Guide To Starting Middle School for a much shorter school counseling book club. I let the students pick a chapter at the start (or end) of each session that they want to read and discuss. Allowing them to focus on what is personally meaningful means I can conduct a much shorter small group than if we read the entire book.

Think about when is the best time to meet.

I do a lot of lunch bunch groups, which we all know is a struggle.  Eating, reading, following along, discussing, wait are you eating? It’s a lot to juggle. Since our school counseling book clubs have a reading/academic focus I’ve been able to get buy-in from teachers to use other times of the day.  For example, during our intervention time is a great time to pull students who don’t receive a specific tiered service.

If you are struggling for time, consider a less formal book club with more of a class feel. In years past I have invited my fourth and fifth grade girls to a girls only book club. We either met in my room or I borrowed a teachers classroom during lunch and read An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong. I read aloud from my copy as they ate and we found  times to “turn and talk” to make connections and share opinions. At the end of the book we celebrated by watching the movie.

Ask your librarian about class book sets.

In several schools I have discovered a “book room” filled with class sets of books collecting dust. So often the titles are classics and applicable to my students. Often the teachers don’t have time to use the books or they have also moved on to a newer title, but the books are still relevant and ready to be used. Ask your librarian what happens to old class sets at the end of the year and see if you can check out or become the owner of a few.

Get rid of the paper.

There are some amazing book study guides online and I used to use them all the time. As much as I loved having some great data and activities to show their comprehension and connections, I found that not only did doing paper activities eat away at our time, but the students didn’t enjoy the group as much. Seeing me is a time in their day when they can finally put down their pencils, so now we focus on games and discussions. You can still find   wonderful  discussion guides online, like this one for The Hundred Dresses.

Need a Good Book? 
These are my favorites by topic!

These are affiliate links. We receive a small commission that goes to helping us run the site.​

Relational Aggression, Bullying, Relationships
Middle School Transition
Special Populations
Academic
Stress
Grief

Need more book recommendations? Keep checking back at Paws-itive School Counseling as I update titles.

Thinking about running a club? Check out these tips for different types of student clubs school counselors can run.

Pin this post for later!

The post Get Started with School Counseling Book Clubs appeared first on Confident Counselors.

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No matter what your school looks like, chances are you’re helping students to effectively and peacefully manage conflict. We are all human and conflict is a part of our lives! Teaching students conflict resolution is one of my absolute favorite parts of being a school counselor; it’s fun and it has a huge impact. Your students need conflict resolution skills now, next year, and for their whole lives.

Classroom Guidance Lessons

One of the best ways to teach conflict resolution skills is to do just that – teach it! In an ideal world, you will have time in your guidance map to teach each class a whole unit on conflict resolution, tailored to your population’s needs. Here are a few conflict resolution unit ideas:

Whether you’re doing a multi-skill unit with the younger grades, focusing on anti-bullying with the middle grades, or diving into types of communication with the “big kids”, the key to effectively teaching them the skills they need is to include lots of opportunity for modeling and practice. You model, they discuss, student models, the class discusses, then they all practice in pairs or groups. For example, if we’re learning about how to ignore, we talk in detail about what this looks like and I show them how to ignore with their eyes, ears, mouths, and brains. Then we’ll go to a new conflict example and I’ll have a couple of students role play, asking for a volunteer to share what they saw their peers do. Finally, they’ll practice the skill of ignoring in small groups as I walk around and “bug” them.

As much as I love the unit approach to teaching conflict resolution (or any other meaty concept), I know some counselors are only able to teach ONE lesson all year about conflict resolution. When this is the case, I think the most impactful skill for our students to learn is the I-statement! My schools have seen huge improvements in class culture after this skill was taught (and practiced).

Supports for Teachers and Classrooms

While great work happens in these lessons, we can contribute to our students’ peaceful problem-solving skills in other ways as well. One way to do this is through providing or posting visuals that teachers and students can refer to over and over again, like peaceful problem-solving options and conflict resolution sentence stems. Visuals are great in classrooms as well as common areas like the cafeteria and hallways.

I find that kiddos also really benefit from talking through lots of different conflict scenarios. In classrooms that are really struggling with getting along, I give my teachers a set of conflict resolution task cards to use a few at a time during morning meeting. If they’re needing help with quality apologies, I give the teacher practice cards for those as well. I find that managing conflict is something teachers hate spending time doing so they’re invested in helping to proactively reinforce the skills!

In Vivo Coaching and Modeling

Conflict happens everywhere and I believe the best learning happens in context. There are opportunities to coach and model conflict resolution every day, all over your school. Here are some examples:

  • In class lessons when students are working in small groups, conflict will pop up. This is the ideal time to coach them through sticky situations. Sit with them and help them listen to one another’s ideas, take turns, share materials, and disagree respectfully.
  • Walking around the building, I often hear kiddos using really rude voices and words to make an important point. A quick “Please try that again more respectfully.” allows for a safe redo.
  • Even with your best classroom management strategies, students will still sometimes make bad choices. This your chance to model using an I-message to share how you feel (“I feel frustrated when you interrupt me when I’m giving directions. Could you please wait until a better time to talk to your friends?”)
Mediation

Another way I teach conflict resolution to my students is through mediations using restorative justice practices. Especially in Spring time, I have lots of students self-referring due to conflict with one another. While I can often coach them through it and help them see their options, other times call for bringing both (or all!) parties together in my office. I have them sit face-to-face (for a twosome) or circle up if it’s a group. What happens next depends on the developmental level and comfort level of the students. Sometimes I pull out my talking stick, briefly explain it’s history and purpose, hand it to one of the students, and let them roll with it. While the goal is always for it to be as student-directed as possible, many of my students need significant coaching through the process. It’s intimidating to be assertive! This can look like me summarizing each side (especially if I’ve talked to the parties individually ahead of time), providing them with I-message and apology sentence stems, or helping them to see the others’ perspective and emotions.

What about you – how do you teach conflict resolution to your students?

The post Teaching Conflict Resolution: Strategies for School Counselors appeared first on Confident Counselors.

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Confident Counselors by The Counseling Teacher - 2M ago

After fidget spinners came on the scene, teachers began banning self-regulation tools from the classroom. Students misused them and teachers weren’t prepared for them. These tools get a bad rap when not used properly. Without clear usage rules, they can be a disaster and a distraction. With an effective management plan, using fidget tools in the classroom increases focus and calms students. They can work FOR you, rather than against you and your behavior management efforts. I think you will find that fidgets are for everyone, not just those with sensory processing needs.

Suggested Rules for Managing Fidgets
  • Keep tools on the desk.
  • Do not throw tools.
  • No chewing tools or putting in mouth.
  • Don’t share your fidget with others.
  • Use quietly.

Students will fidget at their desks with or without fidget tools. They chew their pencils, take the wire out of their spirals, fold paper, tap their feet on the chair legs, spin their rulers and do all kinds of interesting things to their school supplies. Fidget tools provide an appropriate outlet for students with established rules to keep distractions at bay.

9 Types of Regulation Tools for the Classroom

Squeezables

Students love to squeeze things. The squeezing and releasing of muscles relieves stress and calms the student. Examples include stress balls, pool noodle slices, and any small object that fits in the hand.

Mindful Manipulatives

Some tools are simple and don’t take a lot of thought to complete. Examples of these relaxing tools include fidget cubes, tangents, pipe cleaners, and sand trays.

Sounds

Soothing sounds can calm a student immediately. Music has amazing calming effects on our bodies. Examples of things to include are sound machines with spa music or nature sounds and headphones connected to soothing music.

Brain Stimulation

Focusing on a brain teaser can be just enough distraction to soothe the brain and rid it of other more unpleasant distractions. Examples include a Rubic’s cube, puzzles, task cards and riddles.

Creative Outlets

The act of creating something is very calming. Try out journals, coloring books, sketch pads, clay and any other craft.

Visual Stimulation

Watching things move and change is satisfying. Slow moving objects are very calming. Examples include glitter jars, liquid timers, sand timers, and a slinky.

Stretchy Things

There’s just something soothing about pulling on something and watching it return to it’s original shape. Examples include a rubber ball, stretchy bands, gummy worms, and other stretchy toys.

Tactile Stimulation

Unexpected surfaces and interesting textures are pleasing to the hand and provide calming satisfaction.  Examples of fun things to touch include “mermaid” pillows, bubble wrap, soft pillows, sand trays, slime and any bumpy toys.

Breathing

Focused breathing brings in the oxygen we need for improved concentration, better memory, and focus. Examples include visual cards with breathing tips, bubbles, a kazoo, party blower, and pinwheels. Try a free breathing activity sheet for grades 1-3 and 4-8.

You might be overwhelmed with this list and not sure if you are ready to add these tools in the classroom. My advice would be to start small. Choose one fidget tool and establish clear rules that work for you and your students. Decide if you want to let every student use them or just a few at a time. Figure out when they will be allowed and for how long. Once you decide what you can live with, you can expand and add more.

Another way to do this is to set up a calm down corner in the classroom. This allows tools in the classroom without bringing them to the desks. Read more about setting up your calm down corner from Laura of Social Emotional Workshop.

Comment below with how you have gotten fidgets and other self-regulation tools to work in your school.

The post Fidgets are Tools, Not Toys appeared first on Confident Counselors.

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Confident Counselors by Mrs. Bell The Crafty Counselor - 2M ago

Testing season can be the cause of anxiety and frustration for students and teachers alike. As school counselors, we have the unique ability to help prepare our students for test success in a multitude of ways. In addition to helping reinforce test-taking skills, we can teach students how to handle and cope with the big emotions that often accompany testing season. Below are five ways school counselors can help set their students up for test-taking success.

Classroom Guidance Lessons

School counselors can use part of the time they are in classrooms to focus on helping students to build strong test-taking skills. We can help reiterate test-taking strategies that teachers expect their students to use and help to fill in the gaps in understanding. I love using part of my guidance lessons to help to reinforce the strategies. By using the same common language and exposing students to the same skills, we can help engrain the strategies in their brain.

I speak to the teachers ahead of time to find out what strategies they would like for me to touch upon in my classroom guidance lessons. After that, I tailor my lesson to mirror those strategies. During my lessons, I challenge students to complete “Mission: Test Taking Success”.  I turn teaching test-taking skills into an interactive activity allowing students to learn skills while they have fun completing craftivities.

Calm Down Strategies and Coping Skills

When thinking of test-taking success, it is important to think of a way to help students combat the worries that surround testing taking. To help with reducing and easing worries, I like to expose students to a variety of tools and strategies they can use to calm their worries in whichever way works best for them. I like to teach students how to use a stress ball, to take advantage of calm down corners or zen zones, and to utilizes calming techniques they can do from their seat during the test such as deep breathing or visualization.

My favorite from-their-seat calm down strategy to teach is muscle relaxation. I teach students to tighten and loosen their worries away. We start with our fists. We clench our fists as tight as we can underneath our desks, we focus on squeezing all of the worries into that one area. Once all the worries are in our fist, we simply let them go. We then do the same with our arms, squeezing all our worries into our arms and then letting them go. Next is the shoulders and so on.

Create a Positive Environment

Creating a positive school culture creates a calm environment for the students in your school. This calmness will help to naturally decrease stress levels allowing students to think more clearly and be able to perform to their full potential. Therefore, maintaining that sense of calm is especially important during testing season to help reduce the test anxiety. Creating a culture of calm or culture of kindness have positive benefits year round, not just testing season.

Self Esteem Builders

As school counselors, we should teach students how to motivate themselves and to be confident in their abilities. One way to create confidence is with positive self-talk.  Positive self-talk is an amazing tool that allows students to be in charge of their thinking and helps to build a growth mindset.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” During testing season, the pressure and stress start to cause students to doubt themselves. It is of paramount importance that we teach students how to speak kindly to themselves to create that mindset for success.

Along with positive self-talk, self-esteem builders can do wonders for a student to set a student up for test-taking success. Having students write daily affirmations and leave themselves notes of encouragement will help boost their confidence and ease their worries.

Relatable Books

Books with relatable characters or problems are an amazing tool for helping students deal with stress and anxiety. Stories allow students to process their own feelings through the lens of a character in a story. It is easier for children to cope with their own stress if they can brainstorm how someone else should handle the situation. My favorite books to help students deal with worry and set themselves up for test-taking success are:

Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler and Kevin O’Malley

The Anti-Test Anxiety Society by Julia Cook

The Big Test by Julia Danneberg

First Grade Takes a Test by Miriam Cohen

What strategies do you use to set your students up for success? Drop your tips in the comments below!

The post 5 Strategies for Testing Taking Success appeared first on Confident Counselors.

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High stakes state testing can generate a lot of anxiety for students and adults alike. Counselors are uniquely prepared to support students so they have the strategies to manage this anxiety and do the best they can. Five Confident Counselors share their go-to activities and ideas for testing season.

Positive Thinking & Calming Strategies

During testing season, my focus is on calming fears or nerves and practicing positive and realistic thinking. I help students create affirmations for test day to remind themselves that their worth is not defined by test scores with our “donut stress about the test” activity.

I always save a chunk of time for students to ask all of the questions they need to ask about the test so we have a chance to clear up any misconceptions or conclusion-jumping ideas.

We also spend a lot of time practicing calming strategies and little brain breaks they can do while seated if they need a 30-second break during the test.

Keri, Counselor Keri

Visit my TPT store and get counseling ideas on my blog. Let's connect on Instagram and Facebook!

De-Stress Zone

Now that I’m no longer test coordinator (hurrah!), my focus is on helping students feel calm and confident about state testing.

One way I do this is through partnering with my librarian to make the library a “de-stress zone” with mandalas and colored pencils, stuffed animals, and glitter jars. We invite teachers to bring their classes down the afternoons after morning testing.

We also pair up lower grade classes with upper grade classes during testing weeks; the younger kiddos make posters, chants, snack bags, etc. and come deliver them and give high-fives to the big kids.

And finally, I like to lighten the mood when reviewing test taking strategies by doing a zombie-themed escape room with my students. Making things a little silly always helps calm nerves!

Sara, The Responsive Counselor

Visit my TPT store and get counseling ideas on my blog. Let's connect on Instagram!

Mindfulness Strategies

I help teachers during testing season by teaching students test taking skills for success. During my guidance lessons, I teach students calm down and mindfulness strategies that will help them to ease their mind and allow them to show what they know on the test. I find that teaching students how to clear their mind so they can focus is the best way I can support teachers and help set their students up for test taking success.

Mrs. Bell The Crafty Counselor

Visit my TPT store and get counseling ideas on my blog. Let's connect on Instagram and Facebook!

Mindfulness Lesson

I think any discussion of test taking should go hand in hand with a mindfulness lesson. I use guided meditation videos from The Honest Guys on Youtube to show students how to self-calm the night before a big event or test.

Once they are calm, I show a powerpoint with test taking strategies and send them home with a flipbook containing the same information. The day of the test, we decorate the doorways with encouraging signs that say things like “You can do this!”  or “You will rock this test!”.

Brandy, The Counseling Teacher

Visit my TPT store and get counseling ideas on my blog. Let's connect on Instagram and Facebook!

Build Confidence

I try really hard to help kids think about their inner awesomeness when it is testing season. I try to keep the focus away from “you must do your best because this test is important” to one that is “You’ve got this, just show them what you know!”. I love leaving the students little inspirational messages, and my kindness lunch bunch students help me to decorate pencils and lockers with notes of encouragement.

Carol Miller, The Middle School Counselor

Visit my TPT store and get counseling ideas on my blog. Let's connect on Instagram and Facebook!

How do you support students during testing season?

Read more ... Build Positive Attitudes During Testing Season


The post Test Anxiety: Activities and Ideas That Help appeared first on Confident Counselors.

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Although our work as school counselors can be very rewarding, it can also be frustrating! One of the things I have always found most frustrating is working with children who don’t seem to care at all about how their behavior affects others. They just don’t seem to realize that their behavior can have such a negative impact. When working with these students, it always seemed like I was banging my head against the wall trying to find interventions that would actually work. Finally, I started teaching students about expected and unexpected behaviors. This is now one of my favorite behavior intervention strategies, and has been so helpful for so many of my students!

What do I mean by expected and unexpected behaviors?

Expected behavior is simply behavior that is normal, reasonable and anticipated. Unexpected behavior is behavior that is out of the norm, and is unusual.

This way of talking about behavior is different than how it is normally discussed, in that it doesn’t address behavior as simply “positive” or “negative”, since what is expected can vary from situation to situation. For example, it is expected to speak quietly at a library, but not at a football game. It is expected to raise your hand to speak at school, but it would be unexpected to do that at home.

Why does this make a difference?

One of the key components of talking about expected and unexpected behavior is encouraging students to consider how their behaviors make others feel,  how their behaviors lead others to react, or even how their behaviors influence the way that others view/treat them. It is this piece that I believe really gets students to understand that their behavior has serious implications. If they exhibit unexpected behaviors at recess (hitting, not playing by the rules, etc.) it may lead to students not wanting to play with them.

When students begin to understand that their behaviors impact how others view them, they may be more motivated to change their behaviors.

How do I introduce this?

To introduce this concept, I always begin by talking about restaurants they are familiar with. I ask them what they expect when they walk into a pizza restaurant. They usually say things like pizza, cashiers, waitresses, tables, etc. I then ask them how they feel when they walk in. This usually leads to feelings such as happy, calm, excited, etc.

Then, I ask them what would happen if they walked into their favorite pizza place and the workers said they were no longer serving pizza, but were serving seafood instead. How would the students feel about that?  

From there I talk about what feelings are evoked from things that are unexpected. Once they have an understanding of what the terms mean, I transfer the discussion over to behavior, and talk about what feelings people have when our behavior is expected versus when it’s unexpected.

How can I teach my students more about this?
Use videos and books!

When reading books to your students, ask them if the behaviors in the books are expected or unexpected. Then, ask them how that behavior would make them feel.

There are also a lot of great videos and movies about unexpected behavior. One of my personal favorites is the movie, Elf. Buddy the Elf is from the North Pole, and when he comes to New York City he does things that are quite unusual. This makes the people around him feel very uncomfortable and uneasy. It affects how others treat him - his brother doesn’t want anything to do with him at first, people give him weird looks, etc. However, in the North Pole, his behavior is completely expected and he is widely popular! This video is a perfect demonstration of his unexpected behaviors!

Elf the movie: Buddy discovers New York - YouTube
Talk about it!

For students with whom you meet regularly, through individual or small group counseling, you can each name one expected and one unexpected thing that you have done in the past week, and then talk about how it made others feel.

For example, I once shared about how I went to another part of a store without telling my husband and that made him worry about me. I have found that being open about some of your own unexpected behaviors helps the students to be more honest about theirs. You can also ask them how they would feel if they were present when you acted in an unexpected manner.

Have them make something they can take home

One thing I try to incorporate into all of my counseling lessons is making sure that the students have something they can take home. I realize that it may just go straight into the trash, but my hope is that they keep it, refer to it, and maybe even show it to their parents.

For expected and unexpected behaviors, I love to have my students make this free foldable page. It really helps them understand the idea of expected and unexpected behaviors, and how they can be different in different settings.

If I am working with students in a small group, or in ongoing sessions, I have found this interactive notebook to be super helpful. It hits on all of the main concepts of expected and interactive behaviors, and is something they can keep!

Teaching about expected and unexpected behaviors helps students to better understand the implications of their behavior. Talking about behavior in this way has been instrumental in helping my students improve their behavior!

What has been your most successful behavior intervention strategy? Drop a comment below telling me about it!

The post Teaching Expected and Unexpected Behaviors appeared first on Confident Counselors.

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