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Monday / March 19

Four Strategies to Spice Up School Counseling Lessons

Did you know school counselors are teachers too?! Providing core curriculum classroom lessons (formerly called classroom guidance) ensures all students receive instruction from their school counselor on topics to support their academic, college and career, and social-emotional development. Depending on a school counselor’s caseload, their frequency of visits per class/grade level may vary from once a week to only three or four times a year. Therefore, school counselors must maximize the impact of their classroom time through providing developmentally appropriate, engaging lessons.

Here are four strategies to spice up school counseling classroom lessons so all students are actively participating and learning:

Pull Cards

Calling on students randomly throughout a class lesson, rather than relying solely on raised hands, sets the expectation that all students will participate in the lesson. Some teachers may have Pull Cards or sticks with student names for school counselors to borrow, but rather than risk it, counselors can add a quick activity to create pull cards for their lesson.

Students are distributed a card when they come into the classroom and are asked to write their name on the card. By asking the student to respond to a question that aligns with the lesson topic, the school counselor can get students thinking about the subject or quickly pre-assess the class before teaching content. Once Pull Cards are created, school counselors collect the cards and call on students to read parts of the lesson or to answer questions after they have discussed their answers with a partner. Pull Cards allow the school counselor to engage with diverse students during the lesson and ensures all students are thinking about the topic, ready to share.

Four Corners

Involving students in thoughtful discussion during school counseling lessons can be facilitated through Four Corners. For this engagement strategy, the counselor sets up the classroom by adding signs with different options to each corner of the room. During the lesson, the counselor will pose questions or scenarios to the students, asking them to move to the corner that applies to them. Signs may be “strongly agree”, “agree”, “disagree”, and “strongly disagree” or any other four options aligned to the lesson content. For instance, for an anti-bullying lesson the counselor can describe different strategies to reduce mistreatment on campus, such as “listen and support”, “distract”, and “get help”. Then the counselor reads scenarios of mistreatment seen at school, and ask students to move to the corner describing what they would do (also adding the option to “do nothing”).

 When at their corner during each round, students are prompted to briefly discuss the reasons for their choice with other members of their group and choose a reporter. Then the counselor facilitates a whole group dialogue so students can hear one another’s perspectives before moving on to the next scenario. Four corners gets students out of their chairs and engaging with different classmates during this interactive discussion.

Guided Notes

When presenting a lot of information to students during a school counseling core curriculum lesson, guided notes support engagement and retention. Counselors design a Guided Notes page by including key information from their presentation with some words missing for students to fill in. As the school counselor presents the lesson content, students write down the missing terms, which helps draw attention to the most important information. Additionally, bolding and/or underlining the missing words on the PowerPoint or GoogleSlides presentation helps alert students to the key concepts. This technique allows students to organize and save the information they are learning so they can refer back at a later time. Additionally, school counselors can monitor student engagement by walking around the room while students are filling in their Guided Notes and quietly remind students to complete the worksheet to ensure full class participation.

Ticket Out the Door

Assessing what students have learned and how they are applying the lesson content may come in the form of a Ticket Out the Door. One way to utilize this concept is by asking students to respond to a question about the lesson presented. For example, a question related to a problem-solving lesson may be, “What is one specific example of when you can use the problems solving steps we learned today?” or a question aligned to a study skills lesson could be, “What is one study skill you learned and how will you use it?”. Additionally, the completion of an activity also serves as a Ticket Out the Door, like finishing a career assessment and writing down three careers of interest. Tickets Out the Door also serve as an informal means of assessment to evaluate students’ attitudes, knowledge, and/or skills gained from the lesson content.

As school counselors develop their core curriculum classroom lessons, including appropriate engagement strategies throughout their presentation helps students think deeply, learn and apply new information, and stay focused. By spicing up their class lessons to ensure active participation, counselors promote the academic achievement, college and career readiness, and social/emotional well-being of all students. Try one (or more) of these strategies today!

Written by

Danielle Duarte, co-author of Hatching Results for Elementary School Counseling: Implementing Core Curriculum and Other Tier One Activities, trains school counselors and administrators as the Director of Professional Development for Hatching Results. A former school counselor and counseling grant project director, Danielle shares best practices and helps districts create data-driven, comprehensive school counseling programs to meet the diverse needs of all students.


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