Counseling Littles

You might have seen my recent post on using Counseling Centers with my youngest students.  Counseling littles is one of my favorite roles as the Counselor, but even as a former Kindergarten teacher, it can be exhausting -- especially if you are not prepared.

Here are some of my tips for "counseling littles:"
  1. Set expectations at the very beginning: Tell the students what you expect of them during your time together and be clear.  For example, I have an expectation that while we are on the carpet, no one is to use the restroom to get a drink -- and I say it just that way!  My school uses a school-wide positive behavior plan, so it's easy to come in with my WOW Tickets to hand out to students making good choices.  If your school does not implement a common plan, familiarize yourself with the classroom management systems.
  2. Give attention to the positive: Point out the students doing the "right thing," and others will follow.  Young children LOVE attention -- both positive and negative.  Give attention to the positive behaviors and most students will change their behavior to match.  "I love the way Ruby is sitting.  She's got her hands in her lap, she's not touching or talking to her neighbors, her eyes are on me, so I KNOW she is READY to learn!  Thank you SO much, Ruby, for being a role model to your friends.  I'm going to put in a WOW Ticket for you!"
  3. Multiple Learning Styles: Just like older students, younger students learn in all different ways.  Make sure your lesson includes lots of variety to appeal to the different learning styles of your students.  If you're bored, chances are, the students are too.
  4. Use books and short video clips: Using picture books to tie-in to your lesson them might be a no-brainer, but my students also LOVE watching short video clips that go along with our lesson topic.  For example, I was having a hard time explaining "empathy" to Kindergarteners and found a clip by Sesame Street that was a perfect fit!  If you are using YouTube, be sure to watch with no ads or with the commercial on mute, you never know what it's going to play!
  5. Have everything ready to go: There's little-to-no "independent work" in Early Childhood and these students do not like to wait!  Have all of your books, materials, video clips, etc. cued up and on-hand ready to go!  Be sure you have all of and enough of any materials and supplies you may need for your lesson and activities. 
  6. Talk about what they know: As teachers, we talk about expanding on student's prior knowledge -- I think we should also do that as Counselors.  Popular topics in Counseling like Growth Mindset and Mindfulness can be difficult to discuss with older students.  How can you use what Early Childhood students already know to introduce them to these "new" themes?  Not that you can't, you just need to be strategic about it.  Other topics like Feelings and Careers are great topics for Early Childhood -- everyone has had a feeling before and everyone has interacted with someone with a job at one point or another.  
  7. Give them Time: I scheduled myself for 45 minutes twice a month in Kindergarten classes.  This upcoming school year, my school building is becoming a 1st through 4th grade building.  For Counselors who were not formerly Kindergarten teachers, 45 minutes might be too much.  Either way, give your students time to complete all of the activities you have planned during your time -- don't rush them.  My Kindergarten lesson structure was about 15 minutes of topic introduction, including reading a book and/or watching a short 2-3 minute video clip and some hands-on activities with the topic; about 15 minutes of an independent activity; and about 15 minutes of sharing/reflection.
  8. Allow for reflection time: I end all of my lessons with a reflection of what we learned.  This often includes sitting on the carpet and sharing in a circle.  This was critical to ensure that students fully understood my lesson, the topic, and to answer any questions they may have.  PLUS, students LOVE to share what they know and it gives the class an opportunity to practice listening skills.  
I created a set of Pre-K and Kindergarten lessons and centers to use with the littles in my school.  Within each packet, you'll find plenty of activities, book and video suggestions to coordinate, and materials to provide lessons all year long.

I hope this post gives you encouragement as you provide counseling to your littles!

1 comment

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