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Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. Check out my Author page for recent books and news. Join me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and on Teachers Pay Teachers for helpful ideas and resources for your school counseling program or classroom! I’ve created over 100 helpful tools and resources for educators and school counselors. They include classroom counseling lessons, school counselor office printables, cooperative learning activities, a variety of newsletter bundles, planning guides for schoolwide programs and events, and more! Many of my lesson plans align with ASCA National Model Mindsets and Behaviors Standards.

Continue scrolling for my most recent blog posts!

How to Get Your Children’s Book Published: Getting Started in Publishing

Over the last couple years, I’ve had a number of people reach out to me with questions about traditional publishing. (If only I had a dollar for each one!) Most often, I’m asked to recommend a specific publisher or agent. I wish I could say the process for me was as easy as contacting the right publisher or agent, but the entire publishing process, like everything, is so much more complex, and you have to be willing to put in your homework. In this post, I’ll share the types of resources I used in getting started with writing my first children’s book and getting published. Maybe you already have a few stories written and aren’t sure what to do next — I hope my post gives you the inspiration to take the next step in the publishing process! (And I’ll just add that I’m not an expert in children’s book publishing, but I’m happy to share the steps I took here!)

After college and grad school, I completed a diploma in an 18-month program specific to publishing children’s books. The course taught me how to peruse market guides, how to write query letters to publishers, how to select a publisher for my writing, and how to identify my specific niche. I came away from the course with about a dozen professionally-edited, polished pieces, as well as a query letter. If you go this route, consider what type of writing program might interest you and approach the course(s) with an open mind. I was surprised to find myself drawn to the magazine market, which is where I got my start!

My next step in moving forward was calling myself a writer. Until I saw myself as a writer, it was all just a distant dream of mine. I am a full-time elementary school counselor, and writing a book has been on my bucket list since I was seven years old, but it was never a tangible goal or a reality I could grasp. When I began calling myself a writer, however, my mindset changed, and I had the confidence to begin sharing my writing with an audience. Soon after, I began submitting my writing for publication while writing on my own blogs. I actually hung a letter board in my home library with a quote from Seth Godin, “The book that will most change your life is the one you write.” (I kept this quote in my office until I signed my first contract!) I made a list of my writing goals and discerned my next steps from there.

Online writers’ groups are valuable resources. I joined a few membership sites for writers, where I gained not only a wealth of resources, but also a supportive community of writers with goals similar to mine. There are also countless Facebook groups and other online groups devoted to writers, if you’re not interested in a membership site, so I’d suggest searching for a group to fit either your genre or your specific writing goals. Your local library may also have writer’s circles who meet in person to share manuscripts and ideas. Make sure to contribute to your writers’ groups as much as you gain, if not more.

In the meantime, build up a portfolio of your published works and other writing accolades (contests you’ve won, recognition you’ve received, etc.). Every piece featured or published is another feather in your cap toward your next project! Consider writing guest blogs, submitting to magazines, and even doing some of these things for free until you build a strong portfolio. I then referenced my published pieces in query letters I wrote to publishers. You can learn about writing query letters from a class like I did or from an online writer’s group, or even by Googling how to write a query letter for a publisher. (Later, I’ll talk about researching the publisher’s submission guidelines before reaching out to them.)

While I built my portfolio, I also started building my online platform – a website in my niche, a social media following in my field, an email list, etc. This happened organically for me, as I began to create a community for people in my specific field, using social media to connect with my audience. Most publishers these days want to see that you have an established platform, a voice in your field, and an established audience who will read your book. Make sure you regularly contribute to your field by speaking at events, guest posting or commenting on blogs, contributing to online groups, accepting podcast interviews, etc. Be a part of the discussions going on in your field.

Actually writing a children’s book is another process, but even after I wrote my first book, I didn’t send it off to anyone right away. In fact, I waited over seven months while I field tested it on my intended audiences and researched publishers and the children’s book market. You’ll also want to have close friends or family read over your work, or take it to an editor or writer’s group for a peer review. Because I already regularly create resources for school counselors, I also had to decide whether to publish my story in my online store or whether I wanted to use a traditional publisher. (You might also be wondering whether to self-publish or use a traditional publisher. I can only really speak to using a traditional publisher, so that’s the focus of this post.)

Before I ever contacted a publisher, I scoured several market guides about the children’s book market and magazine markets, which are updated yearly with current publishers and what they’re looking for. I then made spreadsheets of publishers that caught my interest, studied their websites and books, and read their submission guidelines for the ones I thought would be the best fit for my genre. Some of my favorite market guides* and writing books are:

Finding the right publisher is a process. It has to be the right fit for your project. You have to consider what type of books they publish, whether they accept unsolicited manuscripts or whether they require an agent, whether they accept simultaneous submissions, what their submission guidelines include, and more. Many times, they’ll post a list of current topics they’ll consider. These may change seasonally or with current events and trends. The market guides will be helpful in narrowing it down before you head to their website to find submission guidelines. You can also go to your local bookstore or library, find your writing genre, and see who is publishing those types of books. Be sure to read authors’ acknowledgements; they’ll usually thank their agent or other pertinent people you might be able to contact. I spoke with many publishers in person at conferences in my field to ask about what book topics were most needed. Reading current journals in your field, attending conferences, and belonging to professional organizations in your expertise will also help you know what topics are most needed and relevant.

My first two book contracts were for children’s books (fiction), so I actually wrote those entire manuscripts and submitted them along with the query letter to the publishers I researched in my field. I also developed a marketing proposal and included it with my query letter. You can look at publishers’ websites to learn what kind of manuscripts/topics they are currently accepting. (Nonfiction generally requires a completely different type of submission that includes a sample chapter and a book proposal.)

Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle releases July 2020 with Boys Town Press!

While I’m on the subject of books, if you’d like to read further, I’ve listed below my signature many of the nonfiction books* I’ve read in recent years that inspired me to start writing, taught me how to carve out time to write and how to write for an audience, and encouraged me to follow my dream. I’ve broken them into those four categories.

I hope this post is a helpful resource for you as you pursue your writing goals. You’ve already taken the first step by identifying your desire to write and starting your research!

Happy writing!

Ashley

Writing Inspiration and Practical Tools: Suggested Reading

Writing for an Audience: Suggested Reading

Carving out time (for me, it was to write): Suggested Reading

Having Courage to Pursue My Dream: Suggested Reading (*Many of these titles are faith-based*)

*Affiliate links used: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My School Counselor Professional Development Summer Lineup

I always start my summer with high expectations, even though summer always seems to slip away like sand between my fingers. I’ll be spending almost all of my time with my three small boys, ages seven and younger. We are in the thick of puppy training and potty-training, and I know our days will look a lot like they have during quarantine. And I plan to soak up every minute of it. But without the added layer of distance learning, I’m also hoping to slowly chip away at my professional development goals during their quiet time each day.

This summer offers fantastic opportunities for taking advantage of discounted conference pricing, as many conferences are being offered virtually. Here are a few awesome upcoming conference and online learning opportunities:

  1. June 9, 2020: ASCA webinar – Pop-Up Webinar: Address Students’ Race-Based Stress and Trauma
  2. June 29-July 2, 2020: ASCA Conference: ASCA @ Home virtual conference
  3. July 6-10, 2020: TPT Forward conference (for TPT authors)
  4. July 17-18, 2020: e2e Teacher Summer Reboot Conference
  5. I’ve taken advantage of the discounted rates for many of the ASCA-U Specialist Trainings and have worked my way through most of them, including: 
    • Trauma and Crisis Management Specialist
    • Grief and Loss Specialist
    • Cultural Competency Specialist
    • Anxiety & Stress Management Specialist

I’ve been reading a lot of good novels lately, but I also want to read professional development books. Have you seen the book studies being offered in some of the school counseling Facebook groups? The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma* is starting up in the Elementary School Counselor Exchange group. I’m also planning to work through the books I started during the school year, some of which were for book studies my school had planned for spring before school closures happened:

  1. Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitve Classroom by Kristin Souers
  2. Responsive Classroom for Music Art PE and Other Special Areas
  3. The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn by Paula Denton, Ed.D. 
  4. Counseling Toward Solutions: A Practical Solution-Focused Program for Working with Students, Teachers, and Parents by Linda Metcalf

I also recognize I need grow personally by reading more books related to social injustice and antiracism. Several years ago I read the novel Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, which really started opening my eyes. Here are a few more titles I’m picking up this week:

  1. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Journals are also great resources for staying up-to-date on current trends and issues related to counseling. If you are a member of a professional counseling organization, you’ll usually receive literature with current issues. I’ll be reading the Virginia Counselors Journal as well as any I receive from ASCA.

I’m also soooo excited about launching my first children’s book, Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle! It has truly been a dream of mine since second grade. I just received a contract on a second book after submitting the manuscript, so I’ll have another project to focus on even as we launch my first book baby!

Do you have any plans or goals for professional development over the summer?

*Amazon Afflilate links used

Returning to School After Extended School Closures

Even more than ever, schools will be focusing on social and emotional learning (SEL) in returning to school after this extended closure due to COVID-19. So many students have been without structure or consistency for the last nine weeks, and we still have a long way to go. School counselors and teachers will be looking to model or reteach self-regulation skills, problem-solving skills, and social skills. I am guest-posting over at Bright Futures Counseling today with “4 Ways Elementary School Counselors Can Empower Students to Solve Problems.” Our programs are already designed to reach students through individual counseling, small group counseling, classroom guidance, and collaboration, and we can use those outlets for focusing on SEL. In the post, I elaborate on how I use each of these elements of my program to begin to equip students with the tools they need to solve problems. I hope you’ll join me and Rachel over on her blog to check out the post! You can find it here: https://brightfutures-counseling.com/blog/4-ways-elementary-school-counselors-can-empower-students-to-solve-problems.

Is your district creating a school reentry plan? I’ve been reading through idea posts in my various counselor groups, and I’d encourage you to join us on Facebook at Elementary School Counselor Exchange or “CoVID School Re-entry Think Tank” to join these conversations. Feel free to share ideas in the comments below!

4 Ideas to Close Out the Year for Elementary School Counselors

It’s hard to believe, but my district finishes up with school this Thursday! (We started in July!)

My counseling office is packed up and closed out for the year, and I’ve picked up my kids’ materials (sad day!), so now we just have some fun drive-by closing celebrations and preschool graduation photos later this week. I’ve turned in my report cards and SMARTGoal data, which was a little tricky this year, not having finished the last nine weeks in person. As you plan your end of the year, here are some fun lessons and close-out activities!

1. PROMOTING PERSONAL SAFETY

Emphasizing personal safety is so important for your students, especially this summer. My best-selling Stranger Danger lesson will help students identify three types of strangers so they know which ones can be helpful and which ones to avoid.  

Another fun lesson is about Summer Safety, teaching students how to be safe during many different summer activities, from camping to swimming.

2. TRANSITIONING TO MIDDLE SCHOOL

I use these six middle school transition activities in getting my fifth graders excited and less-nervous for the transition to middle school. (Usually we would have gone for a visit by now!)

3. CELEBRATING MILESTONES

I just couldn’t resist designing these fun “Last Day of Distance Learning” photo-op signs for my kids, so I wanted to offer them to you all as well! The set includes Preschool and PreK through 12th grade “First Day of Distance Learning” and “Last Day of Distance Learning” signs. 

4. WELCOMING YOUR NEWEST STUDENTS: KINDERGARTEN ORIENTATION

If your school is putting together welcome packets or an orientation for incoming Kindergarten students, consider tucking a welcome newsletter from the school counselor into the packet or mailing so your families will know who you are and your role in the school before they arrive! Check out my EDITABLE Kindergarten Welcome Letter! (Grab the entire bundle here!). If you can, plan to attend future kindergarten orientations and back-to-school nights to introduce yourself to your new families. You can read more about planning for Open Houses and Back to School nights on my post here!

Last but not least, I just have to share my BIG NEWS!

My first children’s book is releasing THIS SUMMER with Boys Town Press on July 14, 2020!

Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle by Ashley Bartley

Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle” helps children learn the difference between tattling and reporting and will be such a fun addition to your counseling or school library. It’s already available for pre-order on Amazon* now. Boys Town Press will also be offering book companion lesson plans and activities on their website. I hope you will check it out and share it with your colleagues!

I hope you have a healthy, happy, and smooth end to your school year… what a year it has been!

*affiliate link

5 Ways to Minimize Tattling in the Classroom

I don’t know about you, but now that I’m quarantined at home with my three little boys, I hear their nonstop play-by-plays of each other’s behaviors. Overhead during lunch today: “Moooom, he poured too much ranch on his plate.” “He’s just taking bites and spitting them into the trash.” “Mom, the flower pot is dripping onto the floor.” “The dog just made a mess beside his water bowl!”

Sure, some of these need my immediate attention. (And a roll of paper towels.) But to some of the others, I just want to say, “Whyyyy?” I’ve rounded up some of most effective strategies I’ve used with my students to discourage tattling behavior.

  1. Show students how to discern the size of the problem. When I’m teaching the different between tattling and reporting to my students, I often talk about the “size of the problem” and the “size of the reaction,” and that the two should match. When I refer to a small problem, I emphasize that “small” does not mean “not important.” I use the word “small” simply to mean the student should be able to handle it on his/her own– or at least try. A “big” problem would require the help of a trusted adult. Ask students to try to come up with their own examples of small problems and big problems! For older students, you could even add in a “medium-sized problem” category for problems that are not dangerous, but require immediate attention, such as a spill or losing a tooth. What other situations could be considered “medium-sized” problems? We do the same with discussion reaction size, and what a small reaction looks like, versus a big reaction. We talk about times when we’d need to have a small reaction by letting it go or dealing with it ourselves, and when we’d need a big reaction, especially during an emergency.
  2. Model strategies for solving small problems. I teach and model how to solve small problems using role plays, scoot games, and my favorite, the Kelso’s Choice wheel. Encourage them to try to solve small problems on their own first, before going to an adult. Give them language to use to share how they are feeling with the other person using “I statements.”
  3. Provide examples through storytelling. One of the best ways to model social skills is through storytelling. Susie Allison of @BusyToddler posted an infographic on 5.8.20 highlighting reasons to read to a child, including “Encourages social-emotional skills” and “Builds background knowledge.” Young children tattle for so many reasons, including to show the teacher they know the rules, and through story they can begin to understand that the adult does not need to know of every minor infraction. This is the premise behind the book, Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle.* It includes helpful tips for parents and educators. Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle also has five companion lessons that will be available on the Boys Town Press website soon!
  4. Talk through example scenarios. Get them moving! I love a good movement-based activity, and so do my students! This classroom scoot activity gets students up and moving around, responding to 30 different “Tattle or report?” scenarios. Afterward, we discuss our answers and when we disagree in our responses, we talk about extraneous circumstances that could be “exceptions” to the rules. Encourage students to come up with their own examples!
  5. Help children understand the difference between tattling and reporting/telling. Give examples of situations where students would need to report a large problem, such as when someone is hurt or in danger, to a trusted adult. Help them identify trusted adults at home and at school who would be able to listen and help. Encourage them that if the adult does not listen to a big problem, such as bullying, to keep telling other trusted adults until action is taken. Remind students to ask themselves, “Are you trying to get a classmate IN trouble or to help them to get OUT of trouble?”

How to do you address tattling in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below! Be sure to check out Counselor Station’s “Social Skills and Tattling” board on Pinterest for more ideas and resources related to tattling.

New title releasing July 14, 2020 through Boys Town Press!
Engage students with this fun movement-based scoot activity!

*affiliate link to support the blog!

School Counseling During Distance Learning

If you’re like me, you’re trying to navigate this new territory as school counselors all around the world are adjusting to distance learning and new routines. Here are some ways I’ve been helping to serve in my community while juggling my three little boys and their own distance learning from home and figuring out my next steps for providing connection for my students.

NEIGHBORHOOD AND COMMUNITY BEAR HUNT

Many communities are organizing community-wide bear hunts based on the children’s book by Michael Rosen, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. My own boys (ages 3, 5, and 7) loved walking around our neighborhood searching for plush bears in windows, on porches, and even in front yards and mailboxes! They were excited to be featured in our local newspaper when they shared the story. We used these fun free printables to keep track of how many bears they spotted, and they walked three miles without complaint! My resource includes printable badges and printable bears for residents to tape to windows in lieu of stuffed bears. I always try to think of how I can help, and making this freebie for my neighbors was so rewarding and fun!

MEALS FOR STUDENTS

It’s been tricky to find ways to volunteer at my school because I have little ones at home who obviously can’t come in the school building with me, but when my husband was home during spring break I was able to help distribute meals to students. Some teachers rode buses, and others gave out bags from the school cafeteria.

CONNECTING WITH STUDENTS

In the meantime, I’ve used Loom to make videos to feel more connected with my students. We also waved to teachers from our local elementary school parade through my neighborhood, which I know provided some closure to such an abrupt end to our school year. My own school’s parade has been postponed because of the governor’s orders to stay home, but I’m hopeful we can make it happen! I’ve also had lots of meetings using Zoom, and our teachers put together learning at home packets for students for continuity of learning. When I call students, I dial *67 before 1 and the area code to keep my personal number private. I keep a communication log on a shared drive with my administrators and staff.

DISTANCE LEARNING

During all of this, I’ve been working with my boys using many of the free resources that are out there. It’s OVERWHELMING how many free educational sites are out there, from websites, to virtual tours, to Facebook Live events, but I’m trying not to fill all of our time with screens and making sure to go outside as much as we can to balance our online appointments and classes. I’m using these homeschool/distance learning pages to keep track of what we do each day. I’ve found that if I plan out what we’re doing the night before, it goes so much more smoothly and doesn’t feel so much like playing Whack-a-Mole! You can download these pages here!

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

I’m also looking out for how I can best support my students who are adjusting to a new normal and the losses associated with school ending for the year without warning. So many of you have been using my Hoping and Coping Feelings Journal already, and I hope they are helping students process their feelings during distance learning and school closures. I’ve included letter templates for writing to teachers, friends, and more.

I know my activities will continue to evolve as we navigate this new territory, but I’m proud at how my community has already worked (from a distance) to support each other. Check out ASCA for more updates and information about our profession. They have been updating FAQs throughout this process and providing recommendations on ethics. How are you finding that your role as a school counselor has changed? What is a new platform you’ve learned? Are you journaling during this time? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Counseling Lessons: 8 Tips for Traveling to Classrooms

In 14 years of teaching classroom counseling lessons, I’ve had every combination of circumstances: splitting grade levels, sharing grade levels, teaching in the specials rotation, teaching out of the specials rotation, teaching in my own classroom, and traveling to classrooms to teach. I’ve put together 8 ways you can make the most out of traveling to your students’ classrooms if you do not have one of your own!

THE POSITIVES OF TRAVELING

  • Students are already in their own classroom. For many, it’s a safe place where they feel comfortable. 
  • Students have their desks, cubbies, or lockers nearby and have access to their own school supplies, which minimizes what you need to carry into the room. 
  • Teachers have most likely already seated students strategically to minimize disruptions or conflict and maximize positive relationship-building.
  • The classroom teacher might be in and out of the room and may catch parts, if not all, of your lesson to be able to reiterate with the students at a later time.

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES OF TRAVELING

  • Each classroom has a different setup to learn and may even have different technology to navigate. 
  • Sometimes younger students are confused and will ask, “Where is my teacher? Why can’t I eat my snack right now?” 
  • If students have desks, they are tempted to pull out a book or other supplies and then fidget with them. 
  • You are still reliant on the teacher to return so you can get to your next class/appointment. 

TIPS FOR MAKING THE MOST OUT OF TRAVELING

Set your own rules and expectations from Day 1 and remind your students frequently.
  1. ESTABLISH YOUR OWN RULES AND EXPECTATIONS

I find that students sometimes have a hard time separating classroom time from “specials” time when I am in their room. To avoid confusion, set your own rules and expectations from Day 1 and remind your students frequently. I bring this set of colorful classroom rules posters on the first day of class and allow students to vote on their top three rules. I write their three choices on the top of my attendance roster and remind them of their classroom expectations for each other each time I visit. They love having ownership over their rules! I usually add, “If you don’t bring it with you to your other specials classes, such as PE, Library, Music, Art, or Computer, don’t take it out during our time together, either.”

  1. CARRY CLASS ROSTERS AND TAKE ATTENDANCE

I carry a class roster with all medical notes and accommodations on my clipboard and take attendance for each class. Even if the teacher tells me who is absent or elsewhere, I make a point to take attendance. This helps me learn names, track attendance for report cards and emergencies, and make connections with my students. I usually ask a “Question of the Day” for students to answer when I call their names for roll.

  1. TRAVEL WITH EXTRA ACTIVITIES

Bring extra activities in case you finish early or the technology in the classroom doesn’t work. Keep a small ball in your bag, like a thumbball or Koosh ball* for simple energizers such as Name Juggling. I have had times where the power went out or the technology was unavailable/not working and I had to improvise. I usually bring a storybook related to the lesson for if we have extra time. Movement activities to recap your lesson are also great ways to fill time! The teachers always appreciate when I return their students back in a calm state, so I keep a ring of laminated mindful moment cards to open and close our time together. (I got mine from Counselor Keri.)

  1. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH EACH ROOM’S EMERGENCY PROCEDURES

Learn crisis procedures: how to do all drills in that room, locate evacuation routes, and carry class lists with you (there are apps for this). Along these lines, leave this information any time you have a substitute teaching your class. Keep emergency sub plans updated with a map or list of room numbers and emergency procedures.

  1. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE CLASSROOM’S TECHNOLOGY

Travel with your Chromebook or jumpdrive for quickly accessing your files. If you can, email teachers in advance if you’re going to be using their computers/presenters — as a courtesy.

  1. TRANSPORTING MATERIALS

Carry your materials in a roller case, shoulder bag, or even the cardboard lid from a ream of paper box as a makeshift desk. I loved my IKEA 3-tiered cart (similar available at Michaels and Amazon*), which I used at a pod school, but now that I’m in a two-story building, I try to avoid relying on the elevator. I stick with a tote bag, roller case, or paper box lid, depending on how much I need to tote for each lesson.

Ready for a 1st grade classroom counseling lesson!
  1. WEAR COMFY SHOES!

Wear comfortable shoes for walking all over the school, especially if your classes are back-to-back! For ladies’ shoes, I love my Rothy’s (save $20 with my referral link here!). Side note – I also love my bronze Tieks, but my feet are completely flat and my Rothy’s accommodate for my custom orthotics so my lower back doesn’t ache all day! (Gentlemen — feel free to weigh in with your comfy shoe suggestions in the comments below!)

  1. MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!

Get students up and out of their seats, especially since they aren’t traveling for their specials time. Invest in a small portable bluetooth speaker* for music, an instant energizer. I bring a class set of 30 colorful rubber spots and we do all kinds of games with music and movement.

Music is an instant energizer!*

With these tips, you can make the most out of traveling to classrooms and may even prefer it to having your own space! I love being able to see students in their everyday classroom environment, and I’m able to interact so much more with the teachers by coming to their rooms. Have you traveled to classrooms? What suggestions would you add to this list?

*Counselor Station is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.Thank you for supporting the blog!

4 Books for Addressing Sibling Rivalry

Parents sometimes ask me for resource recommendations for their children who don’t always get along with each other at home. Recently I checked out these books from my local library to preview for parents. And hey, it can’t hurt if I share them with my trio of little guys at home, too!

Dollop and Mrs. Fabulous* by Jennifer Sattler: Great for if you are working with siblings who have completely different personalities. Sisters Lili and Dollop couldn’t be more different, and their personalities clash in this sweet story where they learn to compromise, make room for each other, and mesh their interests in order to have fun together. The illustrations are adorable! I could see myself using this story with students who disagree about what to play at recess as an example of how to create a “win-win” solution by combining their ideas and interests into a new iteration of their game.

Maple & Willow Together by Lori Nichols is another book featuring sisters and is actually part of a series about the pair. Maple is the big sister, and Willow is the little sister. They are ALWAYS together, and although their interests are different, they compliment each other well… until there is a disagreement. After some time apart, they have a chance to miss each other’s company, and they learn to get along through compromise and appreciating each other.

The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon by poet Matthew Burgess features a brother/sister duo. When one is grouchy, the other tries everything, from tattling, to bribery with food, to physical force, to get him off her bookbag, which is trapped under his chair. In the end, we learn several strategies for regulating big feelings: hugs, reading, singing, and painting. This one is fun to read with its playful rhymes and Fiona Woodcock’s thoughtful illustrations.

The Evil Princess vs. The Brave Knight by Jennifer Holm highlights another brother/sister sibling set. They have to share a lot, and even though they don’t get along, they realize how much they miss each other when they are apart. (Sounds like a couple of my boys!) They agree to get along by coming up with a shared mission: “We need a quest!” and continue to prank each other even as they play together… and they even attempt to clean up their mess together(ish)… I love that this story doesn’t have a “perfect” ending or fix, as conflicts will always come and go.

Which books would you add to this list?

*Counselor Station is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.Thank you for supporting the blog!

Helping Students Diffuse Anger with Healthy Coping Skills

One of my most common questions in classroom counseling is, “Is it okay to be angry?” Some students respond with no, it’s not okay to angry, or that they are “bad” if they are angry. I always reassure my students it’s okay to be angry — we ALL get angry — but it’s never okay to hurt someone or break something when we are angry.

Unless it’s my stress ball cat. Because that just happened.

As counselors we are often called to help diffuse students in crisis, and sometimes we are working with them in the “in between,” when students are calm and seem to know all the right answers, when their bodies are calm and it’s easy to self-regulate.

For my youngest students (usually preschool, kindergarten, and first graders), I love to read “Cool Down and Work Through Anger“* by Cheri Meiners as part of her “Learning to Get Along” series. It is simple to read, with relatable examples and clear visuals for each example. It includes feelings such as sad, hurt, and angry, and helps children understand “All of my feelings are okay.” It explains how anger can manifest in physical symptoms and provides clear examples of healthy coping strategies.

My older students love the humor in the analogy Julia Cook provides in “Soda Pop Head,” which you could pair with a 2-Liter of soda (or can) for an easy object lesson — just be careful of your mess! You want to keep a good relationship with your custodians!

Balloons are excellent tools for explaining how anger works. Most students will tell you that when the balloon gets too full of air, it will pop! And I use that demonstration sometimes. I also LOVE to make up a fictional story of a child who gets progressively angry throughout the day. As I tell the story, I continue to blow air into the balloon without releasing any of it. Eventually, it gets so full that I let go, and the balloon flies willy-nilly all over the room. I explain how when we bottle in our anger all day, incident after incident, we will eventually lose control, just like the balloon. My students looooove this example (and the sound effects)! I retrieve the balloon and tell the same story again, only this time, after every anger-inducing situation, I ask the students to tell me a healthy way to cope with that problem. As they come up with examples, I release air from the balloon, so it never fills completely, and the main character never loses control or explodes.

Games are always a fun addition to a small group. My anger-themed groups are called “Rocketships.” One of my favorite group games to address anger is “Escape from Anger Island.” It allows students to choose from one of six categories they’d like to focus on regarding their anger: “Know your hot buttons,” “Self talk,” “Talk it out,” “Deep breaths,” “Reduce stress,” and “Relaxation Techniques.”

One-on-one in individual sessions about anger, my go-to game is “Mad Dragon.” It’s very similar to Uno and each for students to learn regardless of whether or not they know how to play Uno. Along the way, thoughtful prompts facilitate natural conversations and sharing related to the topic of anger. In individual sessions, I also sometimes use “What to Do When Your Temper Flares,” if I want more of a guided discussion/workbook. I found it at my local library!

In classroom counseling lessons, I help equip students with coping strategies by giving a menu of ideas and allowing them to identify and practice ones that might work for them. I help them understand that what works for one person might not work for someone else, but we all need healthy ways to cope and someone at home and/or at school to talk to about our feelings. I’ve also helped students diffuse their anger by taking walks, playing basketball, and punching my sequin mermaid pillows, which often turns into them smoothing the sequins back and forth — wonderfully calming!

Everyday Coping Skills Mini-lesson and activities to develop and practice coping skills

My favorite lessons for teaching coping strategies are Cactus Coping Skills and Everyday Coping Skills. The printable coping strategies page included in Everyday Coping Skills is perfect to print, laminate, and display inside a classroom cozy cube! At my school, all kindergarten classrooms are equipped with a cozy cube, as well as both administrators’ offices. I’d have one, too, if I had the space in my new office! The coping skills categories I highlight on the printable include: Create, Move, Talk, and Pause, with examples from each category, so students can identify their preferred strategies.

Part of my goal is always to help my students to identify resources and people who can help them when they begin to feel dysregulated and how to recognize those symptoms. It’s important to help them explore options in the various places they are most likely to get angry, whether it’s at home, at school, on the bus, or out on the field. We all get angry, but by recognizing anger patterns and healthy coping strategies, we can help them diffuse before they lose control.

Now to go find some super glue for my stress ball cat…

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Advocacy during National School Counseling Week (and Beyond)

Hi friends! Happy National School Counseling Week! This week is an excellent time to advocate for the hard work you do as a school counselor. Here are my suggestions for advocating for your role! If you already follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, I just sent you this info! Be sure to follow me there for monthly updates!

Highlight your program to your school community through newsletters!

I post about recent and upcoming programs and partnerships, and I always list what we are learning in each grade level. I also provide contact information for parents to reach me at school.

Host a family event to introduce yourself and your program! 

I host “Donuts with Grownups” in conjunction with our school’s book fair in the spring. It’s always a huge success!

Place student self-referral counseling request notes in teachers’ boxes now for the spring. Students are more likely to request to see you when they know how to go about it! This also cuts down on referrals in the hallway — I can never remember those requests! 

Coming up!

My 5th graders are gearing up for our Middle School Transition unit! 

Career Day will be here before we know it! Here’s a fun time-filler for an open block, or a fun game as part of a career exploration unit: 

I hope you have a wonderful week! Make sure to carve out time for yourself to fill your tank. I’m outside on my patio enjoying the unseasonal 65-degree weather while my boys play basketball, now that we’re all home from school!

Ashley