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How To Organize Your School Counseling Library

How To Organize Your School Counseling Library

As a former second grade teacher, my favorite part of my classroom was my classroom library. By my 8th year of teaching, I had collected over 2,500 books for my students!  I loved reading books out loud to my students and helping them find new books to get lost in.  

Now, as a school counselor, I continue to use children's books on a regular basis.  I enjoy finding books with a strong message that students can connect with, learn from, and apply to their own lives.  I frequently use books in my classroom lessons and small groups.  I even use books with during individual counseling and we sit side-by-side on my couch to read and discuss how a book applies to the student's life.  Because organization and efficiency are my jam, I keep all of my books organized in my office.  Keep reading to learn how you can organize your own school counseling library!   

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  I receive a small commission when someone makes a purchase through one of my links, which helps to support my blog.

How To Organize Your School Counseling Library

Step 1: Sort Your Books

The first step to create an organized school counseling library is to sort all of your books.  To begin this process as a new counselor, I borrowed a kindergarten teacher's classroom because I needed a wide, open space.  I started by choosing about 10 categories that I knew I had a lot of books for and wrote the categories on Post-It notes.  I took my bins of books and began sorting them into piles as I matched them by theme.  As I sorted, I took the time to skim any of the books that I was not as familiar with because I wanted to make sure they were all sorted appropriately.  When I started finding books that did not match up with my Post-Its, I began creating sub-piles with similar themes.  In the end, I had 20 piles of books that were matched by theme! 

School Counseling Library Themes

School Counseling Library Themes

Here are the 20 themes that I use in my counseling library.  Many are self-explanatory, but here is a quick description of each category:

1) Making Friends: Books about social skills related to friendships

2) Friendship Problems: Books about conflict resolution, bullying, and gossip

3) Self-Esteem: Books about individuality and boosting self-esteem

4) Feelings: Books about feelings that do not match my other specific feelings categories

5) Families: Books about divorce, new siblings, and family conflicts

6) Anxiety: Books about anxious feelings and coping skills

7) Anger: Books about angry feelings and coping skills

8) Grief: Books about the loss of a friend, family member, or pet

9) Self-Control: Books about managing impulses

10) Kindness: Books about treating others with kindness and respect

11) School: Books about new students, school anxiety, and other school-related issues

12) Life Skills: Books about character traits and manners

13) Health: Books about illnesses, lice, hygiene, and other health-related issues

14) Teamwork: Books about working together

15) Careers: Books about career options

16) Girl Power: Books specific to common girl issues such as self-esteem and friendship drama

17) Creativity: Books about thinking outside of the box

18) Perseverance: Books about not giving up

19) Diversity: Books about individuality and cultures

20) Read Alouds: Books not specifically related to counseling, but are fun to read aloud during Right to Read Week and other special school events

How To Organize Your School Counseling Library

Step 2: Catalog Your Books

There are many websites and apps that you can use to catalog your books, but my favorite is Library Thing.  Here is why I love it:

-You can add books by typing in the title and Library Thing will pull the rest of the info for you
-You can use a book scanner to easily add a large amount of books 
-You can organize your books by category 
-You can browse your categories by book cover to quickly find the book you are looking for
-You can "tag" books to break down your categories.  For example, the "friendship problems" category may have tags for bullying, conflict resolution, gossip, etc.
-You have the ability to track and lend your books (I don't use this feature, but it would be helpful if you loan out a lot of books)
-You can log 200 books for free or pay $10 per year or $25 for life.  I used the $25 deal because it is worth it!

If you want to check out how I organized my books on Library Thing, click on this link!  Use the drop-down menu on the left to choose a category and browse some of my favorite books.

How to Organize Your School Counseling Library

Step 3: Design Your Library

The next step is to figure out how you would like to design your library in your office.  My office is fairly small, so I keep all of my books on a tall, wooden bookshelf.  On the top shelf, I store all of my counseling resource books.  On the rest of the shelves, I have my books sorted into bins by categories.

I have two types of bins on my bookshelf.  Near the top, I have these neon bins from Really Good Stuff.  They are a bit pricier, however, I bought these when I was a classroom teacher and they have held up really well.  I love how they come with a clip-on label to easily add your book category.  A less expensive option are these Storex bins, which can also be found on Amazon.

The narrow bins above are great for the categories where I have less than 20 books.  For my larger categories, I use wider plastic baskets (about 13" X 10").  My bins are similar to this 6-pack from Sterelite, but you can also snag these baskets for a great price at stores like Target or Wal-Mart.

Step 4: Label Your Bins

Paint Stick Book Separators for Counseling Library

On the top shelf of my counseling library, I store all of my counseling resource books.  They are organized into categories that are separated by paint stirring sticks!  Here's how I made the book separators:

1) Go to Lowes or Home Depot.  Tell them you are a school counselor and would love a donation of paint sticks for a project! :)

2) Place the paint sticks in a cardboard box and spray paint them black.  Wait 1 hour, flip them over, and spray paint the other side.

3) Download the Avery Label Template and type in your counseling resource topics.

4) Print your topics on Avery mailing labels.  

5) Stick the labels onto the ends of each paint stirrer.  Mine have held great for 2 years, but it looks like I may need to put a piece of clear packing tape over each sticker this year to secure them better.  

The next step in organization is to design labels for all of your baskets!  If you use baskets that are a similar size as mine, I went ahead and did the work for you! :)  Click on the resource below to download your FREE School Counseling Library Labels!

Free School Counseling Library Labels

One great thing about having an organized library is that it is very easy to loan out books to students or parents!  I can quickly grab a book during a parent meeting and let a family borrow it for a week or two.  I also find that students like to peek at the categories of books when they are in my office, and when they get curious, I ask if they want to borrow a book from me.  To help me keep track of the books I loan out, I use a page in my Digital Counseling Binder, which is a Google Slides file that I use to organize my counseling life!  Here is a peek at the slide:

Counseling Resource Check Out List

I hope this post helped you to wrap your mind around how to organize your school counseling library.   Check out this post to read about 15 Must Have Books for School Counseling and stay tuned for more counseling library posts where I share my favorite books.  Don't forget to pin the image below to save this post for later!  

How to Organize Your School Counseling Library: Learn how to categorize your counseling books and download a free set of school counseling library labels!


Organize Your School Year with a School Counselor Planner

Learn how to organize your school year with a printable School Counselor Planner!

Why Do You Need a School Counselor Planner?

As a school counselor, I am always looking to improve my efficiency and organization.  Although I consider myself to be pretty tech-savvy, I prefer to use an old school paper planner when it comes to my daily schedule.  I love having a printed planner that I can easily add events to without having to rely on technology.  I also like being able to quickly write (and reschedule!) events in my planner that sits right on my desk.

I created a School Counselor Planner after trying out several store-bought planners.  Although they looked pretty, they did not help me stay organized and I found that I quickly stopped using them.  Because I have always had a knack for organization and design, I wanted to create a planner with a clean and simple design that only contained the features that I needed.

Last summer, I designed the perfect School Counselor Planner.  Hoping to help other counselors, I uploaded the planner to Teachers Pay Teachers.  It brings so much joy knowing that something I created for myself is also helping other counselors, too!  One thing that makes my planner unique is that I offer free yearly updates.  If you purchase my planner on TPT, simply re-download the file each year and you will have access to the updated planner for FREE!

FYI: I named my planner "School Counselor Planner" simply because I am a school counselor. However, my planner is perfect for anyone who is looking for a daily planner with a simple, clean design.  If you are a social worker, school psychologist, clinical counselor, educator, or even a stay-at-home mom, this planner will be great for you, too!

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  I receive a small commission when someone makes a purchase through one of my links, which helps support my blog.  All opinions are my own.)

School Counselor Planner

What is Included?

The School Counselor Planner is a practical, ink-saving weekly planner designed for documenting individual sessions, groups, classroom lessons, meetings, and more! The planner has a simple design to allow your events to stand out. Each two-page spread contains a weekly view for you to document your daily events. The day is divided into 15 minute intervals (7:00-4:00) with additional space to record events before and after school.  The planner also includes:

→Monthly Calendars (July 2017-July 2018)
→Post-It Note To Do Pages (editable)
→Daily School Schedule (editable)
→Goal Planning and Reflection Pages
→Year at a Glance (12 month view)
→Phone Call Log
→Lined Note Pages

Cover Designs

The School Counselor Planner comes with 20 cover designs.  From watercolor flowers, to geometric designs, to succulents, and even a watercolor cat, you will have a large variety to choose from.  You can quickly print your favorite cover from the included PDF file, or you can customize your cover with your name and title using the editable PowerPoint file.  Here's the design I have chosen for my planner this school year:

School Counselor Planner

Here are a few of my favorites out of the 20 options to choose from!

School Counselor Planner

Printing and Binding

Since my School Counselor Planner is a digital file, you will need to choose how you would like to print and bind it.  I like to print the inside pages of my planner at work since they are already greyscale images and I do not need colored ink.  

The nice thing about printing your own planner is that you can decide exactly how many of each page you need.  For example, I like to print 10 notes pages, 6 phone call logs, and 1 reflection page.  Simply print more or less of each page to meet your needs!

I print my custom cover at Office Max because their print quality is much better than what I could print at home or school.  If you have never used their print services on their website, it is very easy!  Simply upload your image, choose the paper type, and choose full color or black and white.  I like to have my cover printed on 110 lb card stock for extra durability.  Here is a screenshot of the options I chose this year:

School Counselor Planner

Next up, comes binding!  If you like to add other resources to your planner throughout the year, you can simply 3-hole punch your pages and add them to a binder.  Using a binder is a great way to turn your planner into a resource binder to organize all of your important files. 

I like having my planner spiral bound at Office Max because it makes the planner look professional and it is a great size to be able to take to meetings or toss in my bag each day. Since I print all of my inside pages at work, I simply take them with me to Office Max when I go to pick up my colored cover.  When you use their custom binding option, you can also choose a front and back cover for your planner.  They have several options to choose from, but my favorites are the frosted plastic cover for the front and the black regency cover for the back.  As an added bonus, if you use the custom binding option, you can also choose to take extra pages to Office Max with you to have bound into your planner.  For example, you can add your school district schedule or office phone extensions right into your planner!

Wondering how much all of this costs?!  It is cheaper than you would think.  Here is the cost break-down for my planner this year:

Colored Cover on 110 lb Card Stock: $.65
Coil Binding: $2.99
Plain Frosted Cover: $.79
Regency Black Cover: $.79
Total Cost: $5.22

Helpful hint: Make sure you use Ebates any time you shop online!  Right now, Office Max is offering 4% back, which means you instantly get money back just by clicking on the Ebates link before you order your printing services through Office Max.

Inside the School Counselor Planner

The School Counselor Planner contains many types of pages to help you stay organized throughout the school year!  Here is a photo and a quick description of each type of page.

Weekly Schedule

Perhaps the most important pages of the planner are the weekly schedule pages.  These pages are already customized with the months and dates and are ready for you to write in all of your daily events.  Each week is designed as a two-page spread for a peek at the week.  The days are divided into 15 minute intervals (7:00-4:00) with additional space to record events before and after school. 

School Counselor Planner

I do my best to color code my daily events so I can peek at my week and see my schedule at a glance.  I love using Papermate Flair Pens because their colors are bright, the ink is smooth, and they do not bleed through the page.  Here is my color coding system:

Purple: Meetings
Blue: Small Groups
Green: Classroom Lessons
Pink: Special Events
Pencil: Individual student sessions (I always write these in pencil because they are most frequently re-scheduled!

See the little box below each day?  It's one of my favorite spots in the planner because it is perfectly sized for Post-It Notes.  Often, I write my "to do" list for each day on a tiny Post-It and then re-locate it to the next day if it does not get completed!  :)

I also love using the Weekly Checklist and Follow Up box each week. These boxes can be used in a variety of ways:

→List the names of students you need to schedule for the week
→Create a To Do list for the week
→Document phone calls or follow up appointments with teachers and students

Year and a Glance and Monthly Calendars

I like to use the Year at a Glance page for staff birthdays, but it could be used for recording school events, also.  I use the monthly view for major school events and tasks to complete each month. 

School Counselor PlannerSchool Counselor Planner

Post-It Note To Do Pages

The Post-It Note To Do Pages are some of the most frequently used pages in my planner!  In the first image, you will see the page that I use to simply store my Post-It Notes.  I keep about 10 of each style in a stack and they are perfect to pull out of my planner at meetings.  The second image shows the editable Post-It Note page that is included with my planner.  You can customize the headings above each box to say anything you'd like!

School Counselor PlannerSchool Counselor Planner

Goal Setting Pages

Need a quick spot to write down your yearly goals?  Jot them down right in your planner!  I duplex these two pages with each other.  On one side, I list my short-term and long-term goals for the year.  On the other side, I pick a few goals and break them down into manageable action steps.

School Counselor PlannerSchool Counselor Planner

Phone Call Log

I created this page after I realized that I was always taking notes on random Post-It Notes when I talked with parents or caseworkers on the phone.  Now, I jot down brief notes from the call directly in my planner, which makes them very easy to find! 

School Counselor Planner

Notes and Reflections Pages

I keep these pages at the back of my planner to allow me to have an easy spot to record notes throughout the school year.  I use the reflection page to record any thoughts about areas I would like to improve or change the following school year.  

School Counselor PlannerSchool Counselor Planner

Feedback from Other Counselors

Wondering what other counselors have said about my planner?  
Check out some of their great feedback below!

School Counselor Planner

School Counselor Planner

School Counselor Planner

I hope you enjoyed learning more about how I organize my school year with my School Counselor Planner!  If you have any questions, please leave a comment or email me at

Want to read more tips about organization?  Check out my post called Google Docs for School Counselors or view my School Counselor Office Tour.

Learn how to organize your school year with a printable School Counselor Planner!


Growth Mindset Resource Round-Up

Free Growth Mindset Resources

What is a Growth Mindset?

One of the latest education buzz-words is "growth mindset."  What exactly is a growth mindset? Simply put, growth mindset is the belief that we can get smarter through hard work and challenges.  In schools, this involves teaching students how to persevere through challenges and look for success within their failures.  

As a school counselor, I try to incorporate characteristics of a growth mindset into my classroom lessons, small groups, and school-wide programming.  This post will provide you with some of the best FREE resources I have found for teaching growth mindset to elementary-aged students.

Growth Mindset Videos

I love kicking off my classroom lessons with a video clip.  It draws students into the lesson and provides a quick overview for what we will be learning about in the lesson.  Here are three of my favorite videos for introducing a growth mindset.

1) Growth Your Brain

This is a great video for grades 2-5.  It shows what happens in our brains when we do hard things!  I love how the video integrates some brain-based vocabulary into the growth mindset concept. 

2) Sesame Street: Growth Mindset

This is a great clip of a Bruno Mars song called "Don't Give Up."  I use this with grades K-1.

3) Which Step Have You Reached Today?

This is a 30 second clip that I use with grades 3-4 to illustrate the power of our words.

Growth Mindset Hands-On Lessons

One of the best ways to illustrate a growth mindset is by having students attempt hands-on challenges.  The challenges below involve very few supplies and are quick to set up. Throughout each challenge, stop and discuss what it feels like to attempt something hard.  At the end of the challenge, talk with the class about what strategies were used to make each challenge successful.  Or, if the challenge was not successful, discuss what students would try differently next time. 

If you are a school counselor and your schedule does not allow you to do many classroom lessons, a great way to introduce these challenges is to try them out with your staff.  At a staff meeting, complete one of the challenges as a team-building activity and then make all of the supplies available to staff members.  There's a good chance that if your staff enjoyed the activity, they will try it out with their students!

Here are 3 challenges my students (and staff!) have enjoyed.

1) Index Card Body Challenge

Can you fit your whole body through an index card?!  With the correct folding and cutting technique, it's possible!  I tried this activity out with 3rd and 4th graders and they were up for the challenge.  Have a large stack of index cards available because they will need several cards to experiment with!  Here are some hints to give along the way (tip: give a new hint every few minutes):

-Your whole body must fit through the index card without using any tape or glue.
-You can cut the index card, but you must use the whole card to complete the challenge.
-You will need to fold the card in half "hot dog style" before doing any cutting.

Want the answer?  Click the image below for the directions!  You can also use this video to show your students the solution.

Fit Your Body Through an Index Card

2) Solo Cup Pyramid Challenge

Prior to the lesson, prepare several sets of the following materials:

-13 Solo cups
-1 rubber band with 4 pieces of yarn (about 1.5 ft long) tied to the rubber band

Put students into groups of four and introduce the challenge: Your job is to build a pyramid of cups using the special tool.  You can only touch the yarn.  You may not touch the cups or the rubber band.  You may spread the cups out on the carpet before you begin.  

Allow students several minutes to experiment and then give the following clues, if needed:

-There are 4 members in the group and 4 pieces of yarn.  Do you think that may help you figure out how to hold the yarn?
-Once you figure out how to hold the tool, experiment with where you place your hand.  Does it make a difference if you and your teammates hold the yarn close to the rubber band vs. far away from the rubber band?
-If a team is doing very well, challenge them to create the pyramid without talking to each other!

3) Tie a Knot in a String Challenge

Give each student a piece of yarn about 1.5 feet long.  Tell students that they must hold onto the string with one end of the string in each hand.  Without letting go, students must tie a knot in the string!  

Watch out, students will get creative and try to slip the yarn out of their fingers to tie the knot!  Ask students to prove their answers to you. :)

Want to see the solution?  Here a great video from the lovely Barbara Gruener with the solution to the challenge!  

Favorite Growth Mindset Picture Books

Besides video clips and hands-on challenges, I also love using children's literature to teach social-emotional concepts.  Ok, I know this is a FREE resource round-up, and books aren't free, but I have to share my favorites with you! :)  There are several wonderful books that illustrate the growth mindset concept.  Here are just a few of my favorites! (Amazon Affiliate Links)

Parent Resources

The phrase "growth mindset" is new for many parents.  When you start working with students on the concept, it is helpful to take a moment to educate parents, too.  I LOVE this free resource from Sarah Gardner.  She uses parent-friendly language to explain the growth mindset concept and gives parents some practical suggestions to help their children.  Click on the image below to access the free printable.

Growth Mindset Parent Letter

My second favorite parent resource is this list of questions parents can ask their children to illicit a growth mindset response.  Click on the image below to access the free printable to send home to parents!

Growth Mindset Questions for Kids

Do you have any favorite growth mindset resources?
Please share your favorite ideas in the comments!

Pin the image below to save these ideas for the future!

Free Growth Mindset Resources

How to Welcome New Students

How to Welcome New Students

How to Welcome New Students

One important role of a school counselor is to help welcome students who are new to the school.  Whether the student is new at the beginning or the year or is transitioning mid-year, it is very important to help the student feel comfortable and welcome at the new school.  As an elementary school counselor, there are several ways I reach out to families and students to make the new student transition successful.

New Student Tour

At my school, all new families are invited to a New Student Tour about two weeks before school starts.  This year, we also invited families of kindergarteners, since they are technically new, too! When families register at our board office, they are given a flyer about our New Student Tour.  I also email out the flyer a few times during the summer as I get the email addresses of new families.  I embed a link to a Google form on the flyer to give families an easy way to RSVP.  This helps me easily keep track of the amount of RSVPs to help us plan for seating and treats after the tour. This year, we had 100 parents and children at our tour!

We begin the tour with a short orientation.  I put together a Google Slides Presentation that gives families basic info about our school.  Tip: Check out Slides Carnival for some fun templates for Google Slides.  On the RSVP Google form, I include a spot for families to type in any questions that they have and I make sure to address their questions during the orientation.  I try to involve some extra staff members in the orientation to allow the new families to meet as many individuals as possible.  This year, I presented the orientation with our dean, principal, school nurse, and parents' club president.  The orientation takes about 15-20 minutes and then we allow a few minutes for questions.

Next, we split the crowd into small groups and each staff member leads a group around the school for a tour.  This allows for a more personal tour and helps families feel comfortable asking questions in a smaller group.  After the tour, we head back to the cafeteria for a Popsicle treat! Families mingle as they eat their treats and also check out a table where we set out some "grab and go" resources about our school.  The New Student Tour is a fun way to make a great first impression and connect with the new families!

Small Groups with New Students

At the end of the first week of school, I schedule a small group session with all of the new students by grade level.  If there are a lot of new students in a grade level, I split the group in half.  We meet for about 40 minutes and it's a great get-to-know-you time!


We start with a quick introduction.  Students say their name and the name of the school they went to last school year.  I also ask each student why they moved to a new school--many students give a very specific reason, which is helpful for future counseling purposes.  For example, here are some of the reasons students have given for moving:

-My dad is in the military and we move all of the time.
-We needed a bigger house.
-I was getting bullied at my old school.
-We moved in with my grandma to help take care of her.
-My mom lost her job.
-We didn't move to a new house.  I just changed schools.  I was going to a private school and my mom said it wasn't working for me any more.
-We couldn't afford the rent for our trailer, so we had to find a cheaper one.  
-We ran out of money to pay rent, so we had to move in with friends.

Those reasons are pretty telling, right?!  I jot down any relevant comments students share that may help me in the future.    

New Student Banner

Next, each student creates a pennant that will be put together to form a new student banner display in our main hallway.  I print all of the pennants ahead of time on colored card stock... love Astrobrights Neon Card Stock (affiliate link)!  Students write their name and grade on their pennant and I trim them later with a paper cutter.  I snap a photo of each student with my iPhone to print later and add to each banner.  To display the banners, I made it easy and simply stapled them to the bulletin board in our display case, but you could also use yarn or ribbon.  Here's the finished product:

(Check out the amazing Starry Night crayon mural created by our 2nd graders in art class!)

If you would like to create your own new student banner, I have a FREE template in my TPT Store.  Click on the image below!

New Student Banner

New Student Jenga Game

My New Student Jenga game is the highlight of the small group time!  As soon as students see that I have Jenga, they are pumped for whatever comes next.  I explain to students that this is a special Jenga and each block matches a question that will help us get to know each other better.  

New Student Jenga Game

The New Student Jenga game was created with my Build Your Own Counseling Game on TPT. The pack comes with 16 cards that can be mixed and matched to create a customized counseling game.  For the new student groups, I use 4 cards: New Student, All About Me, Favorites, and Positive Feelings.  I love how students stay engaged throughout the game!  Often, when new students visit my office later in the school year, they ask if we are going to play Jenga again!  If you would like to check out my Build Your Own Counseling Game, click on the image below. 

Build Your Own Counseling Game with Jenga

Letter Home

At the end the new student group, I give each student a letter to take home to their parents.  The letter explains my role as the counselor, talks about what we did in the small group, and gives parents my contact information.  The letter is simply one more way to educate parents about the role of the school counselor and it helps to reassure families that I am working on ensuring a smooth transition for their child.

New Student Mid-Year Transition

Ideally, all new students would begin the first day of school and be able to participate in everything above!  Obviously, that is often not the case!  At my school, we have a process for new students who register throughout the school year.  Here is what we do:

1) When I get an email that the new student has registered at the board office, I call the family and set up a new student tour.

2) The family comes in for a tour (usually 2-3 days before the student is scheduled to begin) and I address any of their questions throughout the tour.

3) I provide the family with a New Student Folder.  The folder contains any important paperwork that the family may have missed at the beginning of the school year, such as:

-School Handbook
-School Year Calendar
-Supply List
-Meet the Counselor Brochure
-Letter about PBIS
-Building Safety Letter
-Nurse Brochure
-Most Recent School Newsletter
-Current Lunch Menu

It makes a great first impression to have everything put together in a folder to give to the new family at the tour.  I bought some cheap two-pocket folders (affiliate link) in our school color on Amazon and created a label for the front using the online Avery label maker website.

4) If several new students enroll at the same time (usually around Christmas Break), I run a new student group similar to the one above. If not, I make sure to meet with each new student about a week after their first day of school and check in to see how everything is going.

Thank you for taking the time to read about how I welcome new students!  Pin the image below to save this post for the future!

How to Welcome New Students

Looking for more ways to welcome new students?  Check out the Blog Link-Up over at The Helpful Counselor!  Visit Heather's blog to link up your great ideas for welcoming new students or comment with your favorite ideas on this post! 

Welcoming New Students
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