Friday, October 14, 2016

What book should I buy?

I hear this question all the time! What books should I buy?
Well there isn't an easy answer, because the answer is different for everyone.

First, look at your data! Do a stakeholder survey of topics that are most relevant to them.  I use Google Drive to create an easy Google Form that I can email to parents and teachers. I can also put it online for students. Also, check out your referrals. What are you getting the most referrals for? Next,  check your current inventory, do you have books on those topics? If not, start there! If bullying is not a top issue in your school, but study skills are then you know what books will be getting the most use. So as much as I love the Weird Series for bullying, I would start putting my funds towards books like Annie's Plan.

What is the focus of your school? Where are you heading? I have tons of books on friendship, but I noticed this year I needed more books on handling stress and more titles geared towards our PBIS focus.

Look at your scope and sequence. When I plan out my year of classroom guidance lessons I always partner it with a book. This helps me gauge what topics I might need, but also helps me focus on what books I really want to use.

What do others love? Some titles are must haves like Mr. Peabody's Apples or What If Everybody Did That?. Check out what other counselors are using all the time.

Here are some of my favorite titles:

Here are some authors you can't go wrong with:

Jarrett Krosoczka

Todd Parr

Corey Rosen Schwartz

Mo Willems

Need more ideas? Check out my Good Reads page here:

The where and how of picking the right book!

Recently I presented on my favorite topic- books! How to use them, share them, and get your students and teachers loving them too. I got some great feedback about wanting to know more about how to find books and then how to decide if it's the right book for you. So here are my tips on picking the right book for you:

Is it the right book for me?

* First, how will you use this book?  Who will your audience be?
Some books are great for classroom lessons, but some are better for small groups. For example, in class I need a book that would be engaging for all students and appropriate for a variety of levels. However, in small groups I can pick books that are more specific to that population. Also, for my ELL students or students on the spectrum I might need a book that's more straight forward and has a limited number of idioms or figurative language. So when I am reading the book I am always thinking who will I be reading this to?

*Next, think about the specific class you are reading to. just because a book is great for a grade level doesn't mean it's great for a class. All classes have their own unique personalities. I have some 5th graders that love Todd Parr and some that would boo when I pulled him out. So know your class and their maturity level. Worst case they do boo and then you know for the future. Also, have your students give you feedback. I am always asking my students to tell me what their favorite books where. I am also not afraid to ask them if we should read it again or if it would be better for a different grade level.

* Ask yourself what is your purpose? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you able to accomplish that by reading this book? Then look at your standards. So if I know I want to have students  in 1st learn how to take turns then I might pick and Elephant and Piggie book. Looking at my standards I know that I could have them do a readers theatre which is age appropriate and allows them to demonstrate they have mastered by goal.

*Check out the ending! I've picked up some amazing books that I thought would rock only to get to the end. For example, a lot of adorable picture books that involve bullying or friendship have "miracle endings" where everything is magically better or believe the problem is solved when one character gets eaten. So if my purpose is teaching my students how to apologize or solve an conflict with a friend I need to see that happen in the book. It's like how you never see anyone on sitcoms go clean toilets- you want it be realistic. That being said some times I love using books as just a fun introduction to a lesson. I use lots of silly, fun books to grab their attention. I've even asked my students to write their own ending for some books.  

*Look at the length! The best picture books are ones that are quick and short. Too many words and they get bored. Practice reading it and time yourself. Think about the attention span of your students and also the length of your lesson. I've picked up really awesome books before, but they were too wordy.  A great picture book is focused and fun.

Where to find a purchase your books:

I don't know about you but I get a ton of "counseling" catalogs with hundreds of titles. 
There are some I love like Free Spirit Publishing and NCYI, but don't limit yourself. Some of my favorite books came from the kids section at Barnes and Noble. Venture out of the self help and psychology section and just hit up the kids section. 

Favorite websites to search for good titles:

Purchasing the book with little or no money:

Beg and borrow from other counselors or the public library
Check out local used book stores- our local McKay's gives teachers $25 a year to spend

No money?
Watch books on Storylineonline, Bookflix, or
You Tube for book trailers or to watch it online.
You can always create your own book or read another counselor's awesome creation at

Need more information about the book? Want to know what others think?

Check out reviews on Goodreads and Common Sense Media

What are your tips on picking a good book?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September Lesson Plans

Finally getting around to sharing what I've been up to. What a school year!!

Here's what we are doing in our class in September. I'll upload my lesson plans to Google Drive and keep updating them there so check it out here.
K and 1st: Let's Listen

We started by reading Interrupting Chicken.  Then we practiced our skills by learning the chicken dance on Go Noodle.
Then we talked about all the body parts it takes to listen (eyes, ears, body, brain, etc).  We then met Howard B Wigglebottom who is also learning how to listen. After watching our story,
we practiced again by playing Freeze It on Go Noodle.
Follow up: We did a cut and paste activity about whole body listening.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Perfectly Messed Up Books

I share a classroom with 2 art teachers! There's a lot of supplies in that room. Last year I really struggled with my students taking care of our supplies, especially my books. It was made worse when they had a sub! So I was so excited to purchase A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell. It's the perfect book to talk to students about taking care of books and our supplies.

Its an adorable story just going along, until the reader starts to make a mess!

Since I am day dreaming about RAMPing up, I am writing all my lessons in the ASCA template this year. Which lead to me to brain storm ways I can gather perception data (i.e. % correct on team quiz and number of students that can complete exit ticket). So I created a freebie packet to partner with the book.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Midnight Lesson Idea

Sleeping before school starts is the worst! However, it does lead to some midnight lesson ideas.

I recently got this book, The Black Book of Colors.

"Living with the use of one's eyes can make imagining blindness difficult, but this innovative title invites readers to imagine living without sight through remarkable illustrations done with raised lines and descriptions of colors based on imagery. Braille letters accompany the illustrations and a full Braille alphabet offers sighted readers help reading along with their fingers. This extraordinary title gives young readers the ability to experience the world in a new way."  (

About the same time my librarian texted me about introducing this amazing graphic novel, El Deafo

"Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece's class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school--in the the teacher's the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it's just another way of feeling different... and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend? " (

And then my brain started going crazy!!

Icebreaker activity- Marshmallow Game:
1) Build a structure using marshmallows and toothpicks. Hide it somewhere where the students can't see. I use about 5 marshmallows and 4 toothpicks. You don't have to make it overly complex.

2) Break the students into teams. Each team needs to assign the following jobs (you can rename however you want):

Eyes- this will be the only person who can see the structure.

 Ears- this person will listen to the "eyes" and relay the information to the "mouth". 

Mouth- Listens to "ears" and shares information with the rest of the team. 
Hands- the rest of the team who listen to the mouth and build the structure. If your class is too small you can just assign eyes, ears, hands. 

* Deal breakers: I limit the time they have to assign each role. If they can't all agree their team is disqualified. Once you have decided you can't change jobs. Again, once you have a job you have to keep it or your job is disqualified.

3) How it works- (I will explain the role of each person and the game before we play.) 

I will take the "eyes" to see the sculpture. Only they can see it and they can go back as many times as they want to see it. They can NOT touch it or move it. They must then describe what they see to the "ears". Then the the "ears" describe what they heard to the "mouth." I stress the importance of whispering so other teams can't hear you. Think of this like a game of telephone. The "mouth" then tells the "hands" what he/she heard. The "mouth" can NOT touch the materials. The "hands" are the builders who must recreate the sculpture.

4) I walk around to monitor the teams and the first team to recreate the sculpture wins. 
*Deal breakers- if your team gets beyond a whisper you will be disqualified, using unkind words or being disrespectful will also get you out of the game. 

5) Come together to process the game. Discuss what worked, what didn't, what team building skills they had to use, what team skills they would improve if they did it again, and most importantly how they used their senses to accomplish the job.

*An alternative version of this can be found at:

Next, Share El Deafo with a book trailer. 

Trailer follow up discussion questions:
*What did they notice in the trailer?
*What are they wondering?
* What are the challenges the main character is facing?
* If you couldn't hear, what daily challenges would you face?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Oops I went book shopping.

Oops I did a little bit of book shopping today! Here's a sample of what I got:

The Black Book of Colors

I love the sensory text and how it also incorporates braille. What a great way to introduce what it is like for students to be blind and awareness of differences. I think my special education teachers are going to love it.


What do you do when you get a kite stuck in a tree? What do you do when you have a problem that needs to be solved?  I love this book for problem solving. 

I love this book for kids to imagine what it would be like if there were a bear. What a fun way to introduce empathy! I love this idea of having kids research nonfiction animals and then create a video of what that animal would do if there were human with a career. 

I love that this story covers so many things. You can use it to talk about the real Ron McNair and his journey in becoming an astronaut to focus on the non fiction elements. You can also use it to talk about tolerance, perseverance, or career interests. It really is a book you can pull out and use for so many topics it's a great book to have on the book shelf. 
This book is so fun. You could talk use it as a fun to way to introduce lessons on safety (running down the stairs causes E to fall), tattle vs. telling (E is hurt should be tell?), teachers could borrow it to talk about the letter "e", you could talk about friendship (when all E's friends come to help him feel better), and even how everyone on a team is important (how 'e' is used in the English language.)

I once had a student make me a poster based on the illustration of this book. I loved it. How fun would it be for students to do make their own version- "How friends really work" (as written by Sheldon Cooper) or "How could students work" etc. 

This is a great book to talk to students about a tough feeling.  Perfect for young students and students on the spectrum. 

A fun book to talk about hygiene and loving someone even when their breath stinks. 

Do you have a students who really really really wants something, only to get it and they don't want it anymore? This book is for you. I think this would be fun for jealousy (always wanting what someone else wants), patience, and thinking big decisions through. 

I love this story because it reminds me of the "Who Would Win" series. I do a how would win type lesson for careers- who should get paid more? The kids enjoy it. This will be fun to read with them. I also love the dialogue in this book and having the kids figure out how the characters are feeling as the story continues. 

This is such a fun book. I love all the different topics you can use it for. Believing in your dreams (even if you are a pig that wants to fly), not giving up, asking for help, encouraging others, being a good friend, and more. I also love these books are perfect for students to do as readers theaters to practice taking turns.

I'm going to focus on improving attendance this year, so I can't wait to use this funny book about being at school on time.  Plus it's written by Steve Martin and comes with a fun cd and sing along for large classrooms. Maybe I can collaborate with our music teacher?!