Guest Post: One Counselor’s Experience Trying Centers for the First Time

Centers are the perfect way to maximize engagement during classroom guidance lessons because students are working in small groups on focused, time-limited tasks. If centers are new to you, you might be wondering how to actually use centers in school counseling. I’ve written several blog posts with some practical ways to implement centers, but I wanted you to hear another first-hand experience from a counselor to get her perspective. I asked fellow counselor, Annette Nietzsche, to share about her experience trying centers in classroom guidance for the first time. She put together some helpful tips for other counselors who are curious about how to do centers in school counseling. Here’s what she had to say:

Are you wondering how to do centers in school counseling? Read how a fellow counselor used centers in classroom guidance for the first time! Centers are perfect for classroom guidance lessons or counseling lessons on a variety of topics: emotions, self regulation, anger management, conflict resolution, friendship, coping skills, and more!

How to Do Centers: One Counselor’s Experience Using Centers for the First Time

Last year was my first year as a School Counselor; it flew by and it was incredible. I learned so much about this amazing career and I love everything about it. I work in a K-5 school with 500 students. I am the only Counselor and I’m part of the specials rotation. I never taught and during my internship – lesson plans or guidance lessons were not a priority. Needless to say, it was a reality check when my principal said I would be in the specials rotation and needed lesson plans every week.

All I can say about that is Thank God for TpT! My guidance lessons were okay last year – some better than others – but often times, I felt like I wasn’t engaging my students enough. One of my goals for this year was to use less paper and find fun ways to do during guidance lessons. After reading a few posts on centers in counseling I decided to give it a try.  

Tip 1: Do some research

Again, because I have never been a teacher, the first thing I did was observe how teachers do centers. It was very helpful and I got lots of ideas. Then I read Counselor Keri’s free School Counseling Center ebook. I printed it and highlighted as I as read. Next, I purchased Keri’s centers bundle. This was totally worth it!  

That would be my first tip: read and learn about it before you start planning.

free school counseling ebook: how to do centers in school counseling. centers are great for classroom guidance lessons!

Tip 2: Keep it simple

Next, I picked a grade with small class sizes to start with. In my case, this was 3rd grade. I decided that I was going to use what I had and not purchase a bunch of additional materials. I’m so glad that I did because it helped me realize that keeping it simple is the key to success with centers. So that’s the second tip: KEEP IT SIMPLE. Use what you already have. Activities I had saved for groups were perfect for centers!! I also used a free activity I found on Pinterest and one that a fellow Counselor in the district used.

Are you wondering how to do centers in school counseling? Read how a fellow counselor used centers in classroom guidance for the first time! Centers are perfect for classroom guidance lessons or counseling lessons on a variety of topics: emotions, self regulation, anger management, conflict resolution, friendship, coping skills, and more!

Tip 3: Use a timer

Once I decided on 3rd grade, I started planning what each center would be and how many centers I would have. This semester I am focusing on self regulation so that would be the theme. I planned 5 centers (7 minutes each) and ended up having to change one last minute because part of it wasn’t working right. (This is where keeping it simple is important). Third tip: use a timer! I used the Class Dojo timer and it worked out great.

Tip 4: Teach & check for understanding

Doing a lesson on the subject prior to the day you do centers was extremely helpful. I have 50 minutes with each class twice a month, so on the day for centers, I took 10 minutes to do a mini-lesson revisiting the Zones Of Regulation and to explain each center in detail. I also walked around the entire time because I did have to answer a few questions – I had to help with the memory game and they all wanted to show me how well they were doing. Fourth tip: make sure you explain each center and ask them if they understand prior to starting.

Tip 5: Assign groups

I divided the students into groups by assigning numbers instead of letting them choose their group. This helped make sure I didn’t have groups bigger than the number of supplies in each center. It also helped with the amount of talking. Fifth tip: Assign the groups rather than letting students choose.

Are you wondering how to do centers in school counseling? Read how a fellow counselor used centers in classroom guidance for the first time! Centers are perfect for classroom guidance lessons or counseling lessons on a variety of topics: emotions, self regulation, anger management, conflict resolution, friendship, coping skills, and more!

(find these blank emotion printables here)

Reflection:

I’m so glad I tried it – all four classes loved it!  I will definitely be doing centers again and with other grades. I already have friendship centers ready, and getting them ready took a lot less time than the first time.

Bonus tips from Annette:

  • Use the TpT wishlist and wait for TpT sales. Because who are we kidding? We don’t make a lot of money.  
  • Explain expectations of how they must leave each center before moving to the next one.
  • Explain in which direction the rotation will be.
  • Print in color or on color cardstock and laminate everything. It’ll help make everything last longer.
  • Dry-erase markers are harder to erase on laminate. Use 91% rubbing alcohol to erase.
  • Make signs for each center and use binder clips to hold them up.

Are you wondering how to do centers in school counseling? Read how a fellow counselor used centers in classroom guidance for the first time! Centers are perfect for classroom guidance lessons or counseling lessons on a variety of topics: emotions, self regulation, anger management, conflict resolution, friendship, coping skills, and more!

I’m so happy to hear when other counselors try centers and love them as much as I do! These tips from Annette are spot on and will help with organization and execution of your first round of centers! Curious to learn more about how you can use centers in your school counseling lessons? Watch this free 30-minute webinar all about setting yourself up for success with centers!

Interested in being a guest blogger on counselorkeri.com? Fill out this form to let me know!

 

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: One Counselor’s Experience Trying Centers for the First Time

  1. I am so excited to try centers this year with some of my classes. I have been an elementary school counselor for 13 years and needed to change things up a bit. Centers is just that opportunity! I meet with all of my classes weekly and am currently in the process of planning some centers to begin in the middle of October. I’ve added this blog as a shortcut on my desktop so I will have easy access to it. Thanks so much for all of the awesome ideas and resources that you provide! Keeping up with the latest and greatest in the school counseling world just became a lot easier!!

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