Fourth Grade Lessons for Sexual Abuse Prevention

My sexual abuse prevention unit for fourth grade consists of two lessons that focus on how to recognize and report about grooming and sexual abuse. Each lesson begins with a read-aloud story in which a child grapples with complex uncomfortable feelings and how to tell about what has happened. Follow up activities help students think about why it might be hard to tell; understand how telling can change how a kid is feeling; figure out ways to tell, even when you’re feeling very uncomfortable; and practice telling about unsafe or uncomfortable situations.  These lessons revisit and build upon skills and concepts that I cover in previous grades, but prior knowledge is not necessary, so you can use them as a starting place even if your students haven’t already had lessons about safe touch. For these lessons you will need the books Not in Room 204: Breaking the Silence of Abuse by Shannon Riggs and No More Secrets for Me by Oralee Wachter. You will also need some activity pages that you will find linked below.  The lessons as written take 45 minutes. It will be helpful for you to familiarize yourself with the foundational information about how to teach sexual abuse prevention by reading the posts Teaching Kids How to Tell About Sexual Abuse,  Teaching Kids to Recognize Grooming, and Preparing Students (and Yourself) for Sexual Abuse Prevention Lessons before you teach the lessons. You can link to all my posts about sexual abuse prevention lessons and resources by visiting A Collection of Sexual Abuse Prevention Resources. The objectives and ASCA National Standards addressed in this unit are listed at... read more

Where Do I Begin? Identifying Behavioral Targets

Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked with a kid whose behavior was complicated. Yeah, I thought so. Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever had staff describe behaviors using terms like “disrespectful,” “rude,” “unfocused,” or any other vague descriptors and then wanted you to be able to fix everything quickly. Raise your hand one more time if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin! Join the club! We’ve all been there. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve had a conversation like this: Behavior IS complicated, and figuring out how to help kids change it is challenging. One of the best ways to begin sorting it all out is to think about which skills are necessary in order to perform a given expected behavior and which skills a student has not yet mastered. Ross Greene, child psychologist and author of the wonderfully helpful books Lost at School and The Explosive Child, offers a research-based approach to understanding and addressing challenging behaviors that is founded on the idea that “Kids do well if they can.” This approach is based on two basic tenets: (1) challenging behavior is a result of lagging skills in the areas of flexibility, frustration tolerance, and problem-solving; and (2) the best way to address challenging behavior is to work collaboratively with the student to solve the problems that result in the behavior. Now, while I highly recommend that you read Greene’s books and/or go see him speak, I know that the reality is that you probably just don’t have time right now and need a quick, down-and-dirty way to help figure out... read more

SuperCounselor Saves The Future of School Counseling

I haven’t seen SuperCounselor in ages – she’s been M.I.A!  Well, not missing, exactly, more like keeping her nose to the grindstone, her head down, her pedal to the metal – choose your cliché – she’s been working hard! She’s just been so, so overwhelmed busy at school and trying desperately to find some kind of work/life balance, that she hasn’t had the oomph for heroics (beyond the regular ones she performs every day at school, anyway.) But never fear, even on her most tired, rung-out-iest days, SuperCounselor can always be counted on to leap to the rescue!  At the end of school on one recent, exhausting day, I glanced at my phone to check my personal email and saw this: WHAT???!!! The future of school counseling was being canceled???!!!  How could this be? What could I do? I was fresh out of ideas and drowning in paperwork, so I quickly forwarded the email to SuperCounselor, who is made of braver, brighter, hardier stuff than I. No sooner had she read the message than SuperCounselor tossed aside the still uneaten lunch she had just barely unwrapped, gave up all hope of ever getting a bathroom break that day, dug to the bottom of her school bag for her long-neglected and now extremely wrinkled cape, and sprang into action! She wasn’t going to let the future of school counseling be destroyed, nosiree, not on HER watch! (See, I told you – braver, brighter, hardier than I!) SuperCounselor squinted at her phone – heaven only knows where she’d left her reading glasses (she’s super, but not perfect). Could it be true?... read more

CareerSmarts Task 2: Web-Based Career Exploration

I’m so sorry that it took me this long to find time to blog more details about the CareerSmarts unit, but finally, here are the details about the second task, web-based career exploration. CareerSmarts is a student-directed, technology-based unit that I developed for upper elementary students. I’ve heard from a bunch of elementary and middle school counselors who want to use it in their schools – which is so exciting – and I’m glad to share all the information you need to be able to recreate it yourself. (Check out the links for a unit overview, specifics about teaching the unit’s first two lessons on multiple intelligences, coordinating Career Day , Kid-Created Career Trading Cards, and the culminating avatar creation project.) At the second, third, and fourth stops on the CareerSmarts journey, students go online to explore a variety of careers. There’s even a nifty gamification incentive to encourage them to explore a number of different careers and help them remember to document their findings!  From the previous lessons in the CareerSmarts unit, they already know a lot about multiple intelligences. In the next three lessons they apply that knowledge to the careers they explore by watching videos of their choice (2 lessons) and using a search engine (1 lesson.) My original plan for the unit was to spend one lesson on career games, but instead it works out well to use the games as “filler” activities at the end of any of the CareerSmarts lessons for students who do not have time to start another task. The Career Town games (we use Levels 2 & 3) are from Virginia... read more

“Be Your Own You” Self-Esteem Resource

There’s a new resource in my office, a favorite of my fifth grade girls. It’s BYOU “Be Your Own You” Magazine, which aims to encourage healthy self-esteem in girls. The bimonthly issue of BYOU focuses on a theme: bullying prevention, positive friendships, loving yourself, happiness, etc.  BYOU is a great resource – you can use the magazines themselves in group and individual settings, or as inspiration for classroom, group, and individual activities for girls and boys. BYOU issues explore healthy, esteem-enhancing themes through articles, positive celebrity interviews, activities, advice, empowering fiction, puzzles and quizzes, and the features “Girls Making a Difference” and “BYOU Honors Inspiring Women.” Yes, there’s a requisite “beauty” column (“Beauty’s Tips” – Beauty is a fictional character), but it’s different from any other I have seen: it focuses on inner as well as outer beauty, with outer beauty equated with health. For example,  “Beauty’s Tips” for the B-Happy issue is  “Getting Your Smile On.”  The inner beauty side of the page talks about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones and the outer beauty side talks about oral hygiene. “Beauty’s Tips” from the Love You! issue is “Glow With the Flow.” It encourages girls to visualize different aspects of water as a way to get in touch with their emotions (inner beauty), and the importance of staying hydrated (outer beauty). Real girls are included in the magazine too, and they provide great examples to use in self-esteem and leadership groups. In a current group I’ll be sharing the What Does It Mean to Me to Be Your Own You? pages and having the kids come up with their own... read more

Helping Little Ones Understand Bullying

The concept of bullying can be hard for young elementary students to understand. They clearly recognize when something is mean, but once introduced to the word “bullying,” tend overgeneralize the term. Before you know it, everything becomes “bullying,” even small conflicts in which both participants share equal responsibility! In order to help kids understand what bullying is, you have to provide them with a definition. But figuring out how to translate “is done on purpose to hurt, happens over and over, involves an imbalance of power, AND is upsetting” can be a challenge for the little ones.  In our first grade bullying prevention unit, we work hard to help the kids learn how to tell the difference between mean and bullying behaviors. (You can read more about how we teach bullying prevention to first graders in my post Brave, Bold First Graders.) We’ve adapted the definition to be more developmentally appropriate, so the first graders learn that a situation is bullying when: mean behavior happens over and over, OR a group is being mean to an individual, OR it involves a threat It works (with a lot of reiteration over several lessons) for first graders, but finding a good way to help kindergartners truly understand this concept has eluded me, so we’ve mainly focused on the important building blocks of developing empathy, friendship, and problem-solving skills. But last week – ta-da – I stumbled upon a great new resource. I got kind of ridiculously excited, right there in the public library! Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger tells the story, in very few words and simple but compelling pictures, of a... read more

No Time? No Problem! Last Minute Bullying Prevention Month Ideas

  I’m surprised the truant officer from the Department of Blogging hasn’t been pounding on my door. Yup, I’ve been absent for a long time, but I’m hoping it will be an excused absence. I have been doing my homework, although I haven’t turned it in! If you need help catching up on your “homework” and haven’t had any time at all to plan, it’s still not too late to organize some activities for National Bullying Prevention month. And guess what, if October doesn’t work at your school, you can choose a different month to focus on bullying prevention. (Our Mix It Up Day will be mixing itself into a different season.) See below for some simple ideas and free resources. But first, my excuse. This has been the most difficult, intense start to my school year ever. The extent of trauma and crisis has been astounding and overwhelming. I’ve had to cancel classes and delay the start of groups. We just finished our sixth week of school and I haven’t even reviewed all the new kids’ files yet! I’ve been working late – until 6:30 a couple of nights – and spent almost every evening and weekend day at home trying to keep up with the essential things that have to get done. My preparation for this year’s Open House was a far cry from last year’s, and basically consisted of wiping tears off my face after a contentious meeting, writing my name on a nametag, and being friendly and welcoming. I did get one day off, when I got back spasms, which required medication that made me... read more

Bullying Prevention Through (Free) Songs, Posters, Videos, Dance, and More

Just in time to help you plan for National Bullying Prevention Month (October) or classroom or group activities anytime of the year  – some free resources from willUstand, Pacer, the We Do Listen Foundation, and more! I’ve written before about willUstand, a wonderful bullying prevention initiative started by a middle school student in my district that features Stand, a crowd-sourced music video, and downloadable ($1) song. Now willUstand has added eleven different free, downloadable bullying prevention posters for elementary, middle, and high school settings. (They will be adding more posters in the future.) Here are a few examples: We use the song and video in our third, fourth, and fifth grades – the kids absolutely LOVE them – and will be displaying the posters and adding lessons that use them to inspire students to create their own Stand posters. You can follow willUstand on Facebook and Twitter at @willUstand, and they’d love for you to share any posters your students create with them at either of those places. The chorus of Stand is hard to forget. You can find the full lyrics here. I will stand beside you Will you stand with me, dig your feet into The earth, cuz she’s worth Somebody to catch her Let’s join together and Stand Here’s the video: National Bullying Prevention month is sponsored by Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center.  National Unity Day, when people across the country unite to send a message of support to students who have been bullied, is scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, but since I don’t work on Wednesdays, we’ll be moving the date for our school. We... read more

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