Individual counseling with kindergarteners is anything but simple. They may not be able to understand some concepts, have limited vocabulary and experiences, and are still developing self-regulation skills. Plus, if they are coming to counseling, they are most likely missing some skills that their peers have. Oh, and you are probably doing this at lunch.
Develop a consistent routine that you can use every time a student comes to see you for counseling. Do a feelings check-in, introduce a new skill paired with a short activity, and then end with some calming strategy practice.
When students know what to expect, it will save you time and make them feel comfortable. Sessions with kindergarteners also tend to be short. Routines will help you save any wasted time explaining what to do next.
REFLECT: What consistent structure can you have for your counseling sessions? How would you adjust this for counseling with kindergarteners?
Pair Words with Visuals
At this young age, many kindergarteners can not process much verbal information, especially with how fast most adults talk. We must partner our words with visuals, music, or movement.
If your session is on matching a calming strategy to a feeling, have visuals for emotions and for the calming techniques.
There may be a short jingle/song that can go along with a new skill.
They may be learning a new calming strategy, such as deep breathing. It's an excellent opportunity to partner the instruction and concept with a pinwheel or bubbles.
REFLECT: Where can I pair words with visuals? How can I add movement to make a concept more straightforward?
There is nothing better than camouflaging learning in games. They will keep a student's attention and practice a learned skill. I wouldn't recommend using games to teach a new skill, but they are perfect for practicing.
Creating a game is simple, too. Use a gameplay you already know (i.e., Jenga, Uno, Apples to Apples, Bingo) and create situation or question cards to pair with the game.
- Every time you remove a Jenga block, you answer a question.
- Play Go Fish with feelings cards.
- Play Apples to Apples with feelings cards and calming strategies.
REFLECT: When would you use a game to practice a learned skill? How could you collect simple data while playing to show what the student has learned? What games do your students love? Can you start to create card decks for each grade level?
As soon as students start to wiggle, their minds start to wander. Aimd to build opportunities to move within activities or between them. This will keep students engaged and focused on the activities.
It is also an excellent opportunity to teach students about self-regulation. When they notice their bodies feeling wiggly, it tells them it's a good time for a mindful stretch or chair push-ups.
REFLECT: When can you build movement into your session? Can it be part of activities, or does it work better between activities?
Use Children's Books
Children's books are a perfect tool for counseling kindergarteners. They often have messages that align perfectly with students' goals. Students identify readily with the characters and connect to the main message.
Make sure the books are appropriate for kindergarten and are not too wordy or too abstract.
REFLECT: What books are students using in their classroom that you can use in counseling? What books align with your student's goals?
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned having a consistent session routine. A 3-step session plan (I Do, We Do, You Do) should look familiar because it is how many teachers structure their lesson plans.
First, you introduce the skill, then practice with them, and finally, have them try independently.
In real life, this looks like a "mini-lesson" (5 minutes). Then, move on to a guided activity where they explore and practice the skill (7 minutes). Last, they complete a more independent activity to show their newly learned skills (10 minutes).
For less skill-based sessions, try incorporating a feelings check-in, a coping strategy practice, and something with dolls/sand trays to explore the presenting problem.
The simple routine for the meat of your session helps students know what to expect and streamlines your planning.
Which of the six steps do you think would make a difference in your counseling sessions with students?
- Consistent Routines
- Pair Words with Situations
- Use Games
- Get Moving
- Children's Books
- 3-Step Sessions
Color Monster Read Aloud Lesson and Activities
The perfect read aloud lesson to pair with social emotional learning activities about feelings. This low prep book companion includes a lesson plan, discussion questions, 2 student activities.
Feelings Posters and Worksheets
29 Feelings Posters, Chart and worksheets to help students identify and explore different feelings.