Implementing School-Wide Counseling Lessons

My school district has made it a requirement to regularly have counselors do school-wide lessons. Districts main focus was for it to be SEL lessons, but we took it a step further. Last year, we only had one day a week that us counselors designed an activity for the teachers to complete, this year we have it every day. Essentially, the counselors are the ones that create the lesson plans and the teachers execute it, which can be challenging, stressful, but rewarding. The layout for our counseling lessons is as follows:

Every morning the school starts out with 10 minutes of meditation. Yes, school-wide meditation, it seems crazy, but it has done wonders for our school culture. Our students transition easier to their classes, the discipline referrals have decreased by A LOT, and the students actually ask for it! Granted, some say it makes them sleepy or uncomfortable, but they often times those feelings pass because the meditation becomes a school norm. The teachers seem to enjoy it because it gives them 10 minutes of relaxation before they start their day too! After the meditation the teachers execute our lessons through their advisory period, which looks like the following:

Monday: Data Chat. This means that the students look up their grades, missing assignments, test scores, etc. then fill out a google form about the information. This helps us track the school's data for where the students need the most assistance, and by having the students actively look at their grades, it holds them accountable. After, the students set themselves up for success for the week by going through their organization checklist that we provided.

Tuesday: Goal-Getting. The students are to create an academic SMART goal for the week. We have laid this out in a google form for us to review and pull students as needed. In addition, we are an AVID school, so this allows us to track the AVID team's data to see if specifically the AVID students are reaching their goals. We did not want this to be a quick form when the students can brush it off and go about their day. We want setting and achieving goals to be a culture shift the school, a norm. I made a SMART goal worksheet for teachers to print out so that the students can place their goal in their binder, that way every time they look at their binder they see their goal. It is one small step, but it is a step in the right direction to changing the school culture and helping our students with goal-setting.

SMART Goal and Data Tracking Worksheet

Wednesday: SEL Lessons. This day is dedicated to engaging, social-emotional lessons. We decided on the units based off of the teacher and student's need assessments. Most of these lessons use an activity that involves task cards or restorative circles. This puts most of the work and on the students, and it keep them engaged, which means less work on the teachers (which they appreciate). Right now, we are working on a healthy friendships unit in order to reduce the number of counseling referrals dedicated to "drama." Some of our units for the year are: Healthy friendships, conflict resolution, bullying, accountability, responsible decision making, stress management, leadership, choice and consequences, self-esteem, and growth mindset/self-care. If you're looking for free task card templates to edit and create your own units, you can check out the following:

Editable Rainbow Task Cards

Black and White Task Cards

Smaller Academic Task Cards

Thursday: College and Career Development. Our district uses Naviance to help prepare students for college or a career, even in middle school. My honest opinion is that Naviance is not as useful in middle school as it is in high school, but we try to make the most of it. The goal of this day is to better prepare students for their futures using their unique set of skills and enhancing skills that will make them successful whether they pursue a career, military, or college. On a Thursday when a Naviance lesson is not due, we work on other skills; for example, we are currently working on time management. We will be covering other topics such as conflict resolution at work, budgeting, study skills, resume building, what colleges look for in students, and high school 101. Like Wednesday, many of these activities will be done in a collaborative manner using task cards and discussion. Every once I while I will throw in something fun, like a friendly door decorating competition of what they learned from our lessons. These are the time management lessons we are currently doing on the opposite Thursdays of Naviance.

Time Management: A Solution-Focused Intervention

Time Management: Use Your Time Wisely

Time Management: For Middle School Students

Friday: Team Building/Reflection. What we do on Friday rotates weekly. One week will be dedicated to reflecting on their goals from Tuesday. It is meant for the students to look at how they are currently approaching their goals, see if it is working or if anything needs to change. This allows them to problem-solve and learn how to measure their success. On the opposite week, we will be doing a team building exercises. My school is big on promoting a open, accepting, positive school culture. Thus, we find a team building day to be essential. This helps develop cohesiveness among the students and it allows the teachers to get better insights into who they are and how their brains work.