Thursday, November 21, 2013


                        HAPPY MOVEMBER! 
Our students raised money for Men's Prostate Cancer by donating money and receiving painted on mustaches during recess time! We also had a competition between our male teachers to see who had the "Best Mustache", "Least Amount of Hair Mustache" and "Most Improved". During our MOVEMBER Assembly, the Winner of the "Best Mustache" shaved the "LAHM" in front of the audience. I can confidently say there is very few things in this world that are cuter than Vietnamese children with painted on mustaches!
Our Staff really got into it! This is our Librarian! 
Our Manly Men waiting for the results...

Least Amount of Hair (Post-shave in front of the crowd!)
                                                               Mr. Scott (Our PE Teacher)

Most Improved Mustache! 
                                                            Mr. Tim (2nd Grade Teacher)
Best Overall Mustache! 
Mr. Alex (5th Grade Teacher and crowd favorite!)

End-Of-Group Treasure Hunt (1st-4th Grade)

"ARRRGGGHH MATEYS! It is Captain Counselor here! You are about to set off on a magical adventure filled with tests, tricks, and treasure! You must use the friendship skills you learned in our Friendship Group (over the past 8 weeks) to guide you to the hidden "Treasure of Friendship!" 

This was how I was starting my group sessions every day for the past week. I found this idea online (I will try to find the link to give credit where it is due!). I adjusted it to fit the needs of my students and their English level. I was amazed at how engaged they were. They talked like pirates, acted like pirates, and were really excited to find the treasure. I made different "stops" along the way for my students (I did this for my 1st-4th grade groups and an advanced one for my 5th graders). At each different stop they had to complete a "Friendship" task to get the clue for their next stop on the map. 

These were placed at each different stop with a task written in each envelope! 

I kept the map very vague so I could use it again in the future with different groups!

When they finally finished all of the tasks, they ended up back in my room. I had an "X" hidden in my sand-tray that said "Look Behind the Blue Shelf!". With the treasure, I had gold chocolate coins that they were to share.

The final treasure! (Hidden in my room behind a shelf!) 

Pirate Pup 
I found this to be a huge success and will definitely use it again in the future! What activities have you found successful in terminating your groups?

Positive Mistakes!

The school I am currently at uses the Character Counts! Program for our Character Education program. I found some excellent lesson ideas from the site and one of my favorites is used to teach the Responsibility Pillar (Our Pillar of the Month for November).

I used this lesson under "Positive Mistakes (4-6)" with my second graders in a Classroom Guidance lesson and I feel they really enjoyed it! It was appropriate for their level and we were really able to extend the lesson into some valuable discussions. I was very impressed with how engaged and creative they were!

With the lesson comes a free worksheet. The worksheet is pretty much a plain sheet of paper with a big black mark in the middle (to represent a mistake). Students then turn the mistake into something beautiful. We focus on the importance of fixing our mistakes and being responsible for our actions. I followed the lesson plan for the most part except I used the book, "Harriet and the Garden" By Nancy Carlson .

I gave the students a lot of freedom and allowed them to turn their paper around and be creative! Here are some of their results!

"Red Pear" 

"Pirate Ship"



I was super impressed! What are some lessons you have used to teacher Responsibility?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Elementary School Counselor's Blog: What's the best part of an M&M?

Found this excellent idea for a classroom guidance lesson from another fellow blogger: CHECK IT OUT!

Elementary School Counselor's Blog: What's the best part of an M&M?: The best part of an M&M is the inside!  I've done this lesson for the past 4 years and it is one of my favorite ones to present!  Th...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Circle Statements

I found an activity to use in individual counseling that I adore. I found it from Child Therapy Techniques . I call them "Circle Statements". Through publisher, I created a document with eight circles. Inside the circles I wrote various statements. If the student agreed with the statement, they colored in the entire circle. If they disagreed they left it blank. If they agreed a little they could color in just a small part of the circle and so forth. I was amazed at how effective it was at getting students to share with me. I was surprised at some of the responses and how deeply they resonated with me. When processing the activity, I gained so much more insight on my students and their feelings.

Circle Statements:

  • It is hard for me to talk about my problems. 
  • I pretend that everything is okay even when I am upset. 
  • I feel loved and cared for. 
  • I feel I am a good person
  • I like myself. 
  • I get along well with my family.
  • I get along well with other kids. 
  • I am worried that I will not do well in school. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Skits

Since my school uses Character Counts! Six Pillars of Character , I try to incorporate the Pillars into my Classroom Guidance Lessons as much as possible. This week, I used a grab bag of different items to reiterate the different kinds of Respect that we sing in our school song (Respect Yourself, Respect Others, Respect the School, Respect Learning). Then, I grouped students into four groups and they had to create skits on their type of Respect (They had to show disrespect AND respect in the same skit).

The skits were absolutely hilarious and I was very impressed with how creative the students were. With my fifth graders, I even made it a little more challenging and had them incorporate random props into their skits (hula hoop, giant lady bug, dog puppet, and an obnoxiously massive cardboard tube I found). It was a huge success.

One of the funniest things that happened was when a student was using a hula hoop in the "respect for learning" skit. He took the hula hoop and was tapping another student who was pretending to study. When she asked him to stop, he said, "Where in the rule does it say no hula hoop tapping on other people while studying?" I love my students. I love my job.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Top 3 Challenges (Uh..I mean Opportunities for Growth?) that I have found THUS FAR in my first-year as an ISC

International School Counseling (as well as School Counseling in general!) definitely has it's challenges and I have discovered quite a few already. Below, I have listed some of the challenges I have experienced. Have a suggestion or an AWESOME resource that may help? Please share it with me!

1. Language Barrier: With the exception of one student (out of almost 300), ALL of my students have a different first language that they use at home. This can not only be challenging within the classroom (thankfully I work with awesome teachers and ESL support), but also in the counseling aspect as well. With respect to confidentiality, I work one-on-one with many of my students. This can be a recipe for a challenging counseling relationship:
Take one counselor who knows very little Vietnamese + One student with limited English-vocabulary = ??? 

But I have been trying to use as many visuals as possible, lots of sand tray activities, play therapy interventions, and art therapy interventions. I know, I know, we are not "therapists"...but the interventions have been very helpful in facilitating conversations. A lot of times, misinterpretations have been my worst enemy...on my part. I had one student tell me their sister was in the hospital...only to find out they were in the nurses office in school...hmmm....

2. Cultural Barrier: I have found the culture of my students is vastly different from my own culture. There are a lot of things that are acceptable with my students and with my student's families that are not acceptable within my own culture. For example, discipline is very different within the majority of my students' families. Slapping, pushing, hitting, and lashing is very common within my students' families. There are no DFACS or CPS here (which I will address in my next bullet point). Young children at the school are given a lot of freedom and are very pampered (we have nannies who will clean-up after them, comb their hair, tie their shoes, etc.); this also tends to be the case in many of the children's homes. It appears that once students reach about 3rd grade, their parent's expectations change and they face extreme discipline at home.

3. Limited Resources: Like I mentioned before, no DFACS or CPS. The local authorities rarely step in, unless it is life-threatening. Also, if I want to contact a parent who doesn't speak English, I have to get a translator and then my confidentiality can be compromised. It is difficult to get counseling books shipped here as well. Thankfully, I have been using Teachers Pay Teachers a lot and some of the awesome school counseling blogs out there.

What have been/ were some of your greatest challenges as a new counselor?

What helped you overcome them?

Using Clay in Small Groups

I love using art and art materials in counseling! I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to get to know my students better and for them to really stretch their thinking. I was super impressed with how much insight the activity gave me into their way of thinking.

Outline for the Clay Small Group Activity (Grades 3-5): 

Students will each be given a piece of clay and will be asked to make something that represents a special part of them as a person.

Then students will be given a numbered paper from 1-9. TCW ask the following questions to the group and they will record their answers:
1. What is the title of your sculpture?
2. If you could change the color of your sculpture, what colors would you choose?
3. If this sculpture could say something to you, what would it say?
4. If this sculpture could have a best friend, who would it be?
5. What is this sculptures favorite food?
6. What does this sculpture like?
7. What does this sculpture not like?
8. What does this sculpture want to shout out-loud?
9. What is the title of your sculpture?

After the group session, the counselor will meet with students individually to process the activity and the responses.

Here are some examples of the sculptures my small group members made: 
This one was titled "Flower"
What does this sculpture want to shout out-loud?  "Help Me"

Titled "The Best Friend"
What does this sculpture want to shout out-loud?  "Let make this world peaceful and full of nice friends"

Titled "NiNi Sad"
What does this sculpture want to shout out-loud? "Today is Thursday!"

Titled "Cake and Flower"
What does this sculpture want to shout out-loud? "Help" 

Titled "Solider"
What does this sculpture want to shout out-loud? "I am a New Person!"
I absolutely loved this activity. Plus, my students remained engaged in the clay activity for at least 30 minutes. I had to cut the time short so we could answer the questions but still many of them ask to use the clay again in group. 

What other art therapy interventions have you used in a small group setting? How did it work within the group? 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hilarious/Sweet Drawings and Interpretations of Ms. Sara Pt. 1

So one day, I come into my office and find a book sitting on my desk. In the book, students from one of the classes had each drawn me a picture with some unbelievably nice statements.. It's things like this that make my day and remind me how much I love my job. 

"Your hair is brown make you beautifuler" 

This one brought tears to my eyes. 

So many things I love about this...

"Sweet Sound" 

Turning Mine-o-Saurs into Share-o-Saurs

I met with my second grade small group (friendship group) today and we did an activity where students focused on sharing. I found an activity that used the book, "Mine-o-Saur" by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. I checked to see if the book was in our library but unfortunately it was not. Improvisation to the rescue! I found the book as a read-aloud on YouTube . The kids loved the book and then we discussed openly about how it feels when others won't share with us AND when we don't share with others. I was impressed by how engaged the students were in our discussion. Some of the comments included things like: 
  • "People said I was "yucky" and wouldn't play with me, it make me so sad" 
  • "I feel lonely sometimes when every play a game without me or use toys I don't have."
  • "I get angry when I ask for something and people don't share with me"
I did have one student say:
  • "Everyone shares with me and I never feel lonely. I am so perfect" (I was a bit unsure on how to respond to this one and the other students did seem to pay much attention to the comment...any suggestions?)
After our discussion and reflection, students were able to choose different dinosaur papers and design their own "Share-o-Saurs". Each student was given a bucket of certain supplies. Out of 8 students this is how the buckets were divided up: 
  1. Two blue colored pencils. 
  2. An entire box of crayons.
  3. Three randomly colored markers. 
  4. A glue stick. 
  5. A glue stick and a black colored pencil. 
  6. An entire box of crayons and an entire box of colored pencils. 
  7. Three brown markers. 
  8. One broken yellow crayon. 
I didn't give the students any other initial directions...It was amazing how much they shared with one another. I did have to facilitate a couple of  times and highlighted some of the phrases people were using. The students were able to reflect how important using polite language was and the importance of sharing. Super proud of my second-grade!

  • What are some other small-group activities you have found to be helpful with sharing? 
  • What have you found to be the biggest relational or social skills needed with your students? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Blank Canvas aka: My First Office

One of the MOST exciting things about your first job is seeing where you will be working. When I first toured my new school, I was chomping at the bit to see where I would be meeting with students, running groups, and spending most of my days. As my Principal was showing the new hires around, he stopped in front of Rm. 15 and said, "And Sara, this is where you will be..". As a new counselor, I had never felt something so exciting in my life. I felt tears swelling in my eyes and butterflies in my stomach. I had met a new friend and it was love at first office. Of course, my automatic reaction was, "I have to decorate!" I want things on the wall, bulletin boards, posters, things from target to make my office inviting to students, etc. Then I was hit with the reality:
  1. I am in a foreign country where Target is non-existent. (After only being in Vietnam for about a week at the time of seeing my office, I was unsure of where the nearest grocery store was...let alone a place where I could find some snazzy things for my office). 
  2. The only things I brought from the United States are clothes and other things I couldn't use to decorate my space. 
  3. I have no idea where to even start.
  4. I need help.
Though it was challenging, exhausting, and took quite some time (my office still looks a bit bare compared to other rooms in the building...I finally feel like I can call my space "home" (yes, yes, I's an office but still).

We have glass walls at the front of the room so I had to create a private area where I could meet with students one-on-one and during mediation groups. My students actually call this area my "VIP" area.

I know my room is still a work in progress and I am excited to see how different it will look by the end of the year! 

Friendship Group: The Struggle of a New Counselor

I started running a friendship group at my elementary school to build social skills and to help some of the students meet others in their grade level experiencing the same things they are. For some insane reason, I thought it would be an excellent idea to run the same group topic (friendship group) for grades 1-5. I meet with my first grade group on Mondays, second grade on Tuesdays (I think you get the gist...) all the way up to fifth grade on Fridays. Meaning I am running five groups per week. For many seasoned counseling vets, as well as well-organized newcomers, this may seem like nothing. However, I am definitely willing to admit that this has not been the case for myself. Needless to say, this scheduling bind that I have found myself in has kept me busy. I started with a simple outline of the session group topics: 

•Session 1: Introduction/Group Rules/ “Getting to Know You”
•Session 2:  Qualities of a Friend/ “What is a friend?” 
•Session 3: Different kinds of friends/ Making Connections 
•Session 4:  Talking and Listening Rules of Friendship/ Communication Building 
•Session 5:  Friendly behaviors/ Leading and Following 
•Session 6:  Friendly Skills/ Sharing (1-2)                Friendship Blockers/Reputations (3-5) 
•Session 7:  Friendly Skills/Games and Taking turns (1-2)   Saying No/ Handling Rejection (3-5)
•Session 8: Friendship STARS/ Closure 

I found these session topics with a little help from 1. Google and 2. The Awesome PDF Resources Below: 
Questions for my School Counselors out there: 
  • What groups are you running? 
  • How did you decide your topics for each session? 
  • Have you ever implemented a free form small group at your school? How was it? 
  • What are some excellent FREE resources you recommend? 
  • What is a scheduling challenge that you have made before and how did you handle it?