Saturday, December 5, 2015

School Anxiety...AGAIN!

I have been so surprised with the number of student referrals on school anxiety.....still!  For me, this has been the biggest issue at my school this year, by far!

As my number of students started to increase by the day, I decided to make an activity where my students could take an active role in reducing their worries.  School anxiety has a way of making kids feel powerless.  It's sooo important for them to realize they aren't powerless and that they DO have the power within them to overcome this issue.

When I was in college, I had a professor who talked about anxiety reducing methods.  He stated that our bodies give us clues when we are worried.  By recognizing these clues, we can put coping strategies in place that target that symptom to reduce fear.  That concept has really stuck with me! So, I created an interactive lift-the-flap activity that takes this approach.

I use the color copy version as an example. Each flap represents how anxiety can affect that particular part of the body.  Open the flap and a worry busting strategy is recorded as a way to target that area of worry.
Brain Scary thoughts.........Strategy: Write in journal
Mouth: Shortness of Breath..........Strategy: Deep breathing activity
Stomach: Butterfiles in stomach.......Strategy: Eat a healthy snack
Hands: Trembling......Strategy: Trace a figure 8 on palm of hand
Feet: Frozen in spot.......Strategy: Do something active 25 times (jumping jacks, hula hoop etc.)

With the black and white version of this activity, I have my students color and write down the body clues they are experiencing to make it personal to them. We come up with worry busting strategies that they think will work to target each symptom.  I have found this activity to be SO successful in helping students reduce fears and worries.

Example from a student

For my small groups, we make Worry Busting Bags to go along with my lift-the-flap worksheet.  I include things like...small notebook for journaling, party blower for deep breathing activity, small bags of pretzels and water bottles, and stress ball buddies.

Examples of Worry Busting Bags

You can find this activity in my TpT store by clicking here.  Included in this download is the following:
boy/girl color printed copy
boy/girl color blank copy
boy/girl black and white printed copy
boy/girl black and white blank copy
Happy Thoughts Journal tags for Worry Bags

I would love to hear what strategies work for you at your school!  Please share ideas in the comments below.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Turkey Trouble

Turkey Trouble is my favorite Thanksgiving book of all time!  I teach character education lessons to every class in my school.  I don't always teach the same lesson for every grade except for my favorite lessons. This means there are occasions when I teach the same lesson 34 times!  It seriously feels like being Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day by living the same day over, and over, and over again! But, I'm happy to report, I have yet to tire from this cute book! Problem Solving is the topic I'm teaching for the month of November. Turkey Trouble is the PERFECT book to discuss this subject. In the book, Turkey has a HUGE problem....he realizes his days are numbered and he doesn't want to end up as the main course for Thanksgiving dinner! As he looks around the barnyard, he decides to disguise himself as various other animals as a solution to his problem.  Each time, he feels his costume makes him look just like the other animals...well, almost!  In the end, with no options left, he comes up with a clever solution to his problem by disguising himself as a pizza delivery guy. This is a creative solution to his problem and helps start a new fun tradition for Farmer Jake and his family.

Problem Solving is such an important skill for students to learn. Before reading this book, I discuss a 3-Step Problem Solving Model using the acronym GPS.  GPS is easy for students to remember and I always refer back to it when students come to me with a problem. GPS stands for: 
Get Calm-if you are really mad or upset you aren't in a good state of mind to solve a problem.
Plan- Making a plan means you are putting thought into what the solution may be.  Many times students avoid dealing with problems which makes the problem bigger in the long run.  Making a plan means action will be taken towards finding a solution.
Solve or Start Again-  It's great if the problem gets solved on the first try.  However, it's important to realize that doesn't happen all the time.  Students often times give up if their plan doesn't work on the first try. The book Turkey Trouble demonstrated that Turkey had to come up with several different plans before his problem was solved.

To go along with this lesson, I made a Disguise the Turkey Matching Game.  I printed 6 games to use in each classroom.  I had 4-5 students per group on the floor in small circles.  The object of the game is to try and get the most matches. One of the matching pair is a turkey in a pizza delivery disguise.  That is how turkey solved his problem in the book, so the student who finds that match gets two points. My students have LOVED the funny turkey disguises in this game.
*****Click here for a Free Copy!****

Glue turkeys on the back of disguise squares. When playing, have the glasses disguise facing up and the turkeys underneath.
Aren't these turkey disguises soooo fun???

I glued the turkeys and disguise squares on cardstock to add a little color.

My students LOVED the fun book and the hilarious disguises in the matching game.  I hope your students like it too!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I LOVE to incorporate games into my classroom lessons, small groups, and when I meet with individual students.  Games help teach students good life skill lessons like sportsmanship, patience, teamwork, and having a positive attitude. Poor Sportsmanship is one of my biggest pet peeves!!  This is a subject I cover a lot!  It gives me GREAT satisfaction when after a game is played, it ends on positive terms.  This month, I created The Poor Sport Halloween Gang to teach students what sportsmanship traits can TAKE AWAY or ADD to a game.  I think it's important for students to recognize these sportsmanship traits and do their best to be positive even when things don't go their way. Here's a quick bio of the characters:

Vladimer the Vampire: "Sucks the fun" out of every game.

Mumford the Mummy: Gets "wrapped up" in what everyone else is doing.

Beaker the Mad Scientist: "Mixes up" rules when losing.

Wilda the Witch: "Stirs up" trouble.

Fast Finger Franky: Cheats when nobody is looking.

Boz the Bat: Goes "batty" when losing.

Gus the Good Sport Ghost: Goes with the "flow" has "good game spirit."

We give POWER to words by using phrases over and over.  There are some phrases I want to send to the GRAVEYARD and not hear them again.  I bought a styrofoam headstone from the Dollar Tree and used velcro to attach dead word phrases.  Phrases like..."That's not fair!" or "They cheated!" take fun away from the game.

Before EVERY game played,  I ALWAYS front load each class with my expectations of good sportsmanship. I'll say things like....

"I'm so excited, we're going to play a FUN game today!  I have a question....If my team loses, do I put my head down on the desk and shout out, "that's not fair!!"?  The kids always answer "NO!!"  I say, "What should I do or say if my team loses?
Then I say...
"Well, if my team wins, do I look at the other team and say..."Ha Ha our score is 10 and yours is 0!"?
"What should I do or say instead?"

I have found by talking about other classes makes a difference too.  I'll say...
"I was so amazed about the great sportsmanship I just witnessed in the last class!  One team had 7 points and the other team had zero.  I was so worried they would be bad sports about losing. But, I was so impressed!  The team that was losing was cheering on their teammates.  Not only that, but the winning team was also saying encouraging things like.. "good try."
I have found giving real life examples seems to make students want to do their best.

These characters are available at my TpT store.  Click here to go to my tpt store for more information
The download includes:
Halloween Characters color/black and white versions
Character descriptions
Dead Word Headstone page with phrases
Blank Dead Word Headstone page to write your own ideas
Dead Word phrases that are pictured on styrofoam headstone


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bone Soup- Classroom Lesson on Cooperation

Bone Soup is a Halloween twist on the classic book Stone Soup.  I LOVE books that are unique and clever.  The author, Cambria Evans is quite interesting.  She and her husband celebrate Halloween every day of the year.  Seriously, how FUN is that??  I usually do this lesson in my 3rd-6th grade classes.  I've found older students have usually read the book Stone Soup and they grasp the meaning of this book a little better than younger students.

A quick summary of the book is... Finnigin, "The Eater," finds himself in a new town on Halloween.  He is hungry, penniless and has no food to his name.  He uses his smarts and a special ingredient...a MAGIC BONE to entice the townscreatures into helping make a Halloween feast for everyone to enjoy! This book teaches an important lesson of being able to accomplish great things when you work together. 

After reading the book, I play The Bone Soup Game with my classes.  This book includes several unusual ingredients only Halloween creatures would love.  Ingredients like bat wings, stewed eyeballs, toe nail clippings etc.  So, I collected as many silly, disgusting items I could find to include in my Bone Soup Game.  The Dollar Store during October is a great time to find many items that would be PERFECT ingredients for the soup.  Here's how the game works...
The Bone Soup Game
  1. Put bone stickers on 6 ingredients.  Put a number sticker on all remaining ingredients. I only use numbers 1 through 4 to make scoring easier. (See last pic for example)
  2. Put ingredients in cauldron with a cover on top so students can't look inside.
  3. Divide the class into 2 teams.
  4. Have one student from EACH team come up at at time.
  5. Have students wear a glove so when they reach into the cauldron, they can't feel what the item is.  Also....gloves are great for dramatic effect!
  6. Each student pulls out one item from the cauldron.
  7. Record score from number sticker on each item pulled.
  8. If a student pulls an item with a bone sticker on it,  they get to answer a question.  If they answer the question correctly, they receive 5 points for their team.
  9. After each student has a turn, the team with the most points wins the game.
Here are some examples of the ingredients I found for my Bone Soup. Make sure to have enough ingredients for everyone in the class to pick one.  

Here is what the ingredients look like in the cauldron with the number and bone stickers on them.

My students have LOVED this game.  I HAM it up when students pull items out saying things like...."Oh look it's Grandpa Fred's false teeth!"  Or, "WOW! Menthol cough drops adds the best flavor!" 

What fun things do you like to do for Halloween at your school? 

Click here for a FREE downloadable Bone Soup Cauldron Label and game questions.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

School Anxiety

School Anxiety has kept me busy this year.  My school is on a year round schedule and we've been in session for two months.  Since that time, I've had a HUGE increase in referrals of students suffering from school anxiety.  I've had more referrals in these past two months when compared to the entire last school year.  Since this has been such an issue, I created a Worry Buster Tear Sheet Activity to help students take an active role in reducing their anxiety.
This is a color copy version with six worry reducing strategy ideas already printed.  Students can choose and tear off a worry buster strategy and complete the action listed.
I keep items in my office for students to complete these activities. Some examples of things I keep on hand are jump ropes, mini bags of pretzels, small water bottles, games, and inexpensive journals.
I like to use blank or black & white versions of this activity in my individual and group counseling sessions.  Students can write or draw their own worry reducing strategy ideas.  It's a good physical reminder of things they can do when they feel anxious.  

This Worry Buster Tear Sheet Activity is FREE in my TPT store.  You can click on the link here:
to download a copy.  Thanks for stopping by! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

First Blog Post

Hello!  Thanks for stopping by!  Let me introduce myself..

My name is Jodi Mills and I’m an elementary school counselor in Utah. I have been a school counselor for nine years and I LOVE my job.  I chose “The School Counselor Is IN” as my blog name because even when I’m NOT at school, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for lessons to teach.

I decided to start this blog for two reasons.  The first reason is my basement has become the BLACK HOLE!  I have years worth of lessons down there that I foolishly thought having presented the same lesson in 35 classrooms, I would have NO trouble remembering them.  Sadly, I can look at many of the activities and games I’ve made and some of them don’t even look familiar!  It’s like being Dory from Finding Nemo!  So, I’m hoping this blog with pictures and instructions will help me stay on top of things a little better!

The second reason I started this blog is to connect with other school counselors.  Over the years, I have been inspired by so many educational blogs!  I’ve become a better school counselor from ideas and lesson plans I’ve gotten from blogs and Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT).  I have a lot of ideas to share including classroom lesson plans, activities for group and individual counseling, and a lot more! Thanks for taking the time to stop by. Check back often to see what’s new.