Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back-To-School Guest Post

Hi, it's Barbara from The Corner on Character and I'm already back at school. When do you start? In honor of the Olympics, I created this bulletin board; click {here} for the questions that make it interactive.

Click the graphic for a blog post about the board.
Since I'm busy at work, I'm welcoming Marissa Rex, who has graciously agreed to take my turn today. She's got an AmAzInG education resource on her counseling website {here} and I know you'll be blessed by her ideas and insight.

A New Beginning by Marissa Rex

At the beginning of the school year, our kindergarteners have a lot on their plates. This group of students must quickly learn academic and social skills, find their way around a new school building, and muster up enough self-control to last, in many cases, an entire school day. While we allow some transition time and offer support, the change of pace can be overwhelming for these students.

As an elementary school counselor, I spend a lot of time working with my kindergarteners individually, in small groups, and as a whole classroom family. My goal is to create an environment where my youngest students can feel successful. To do this, I often use games that teach important school skills while simultaneously fostering peer relationships.

One of my favorite team-building activities is called The Memory Circle. Students sit in a circle on the floor and are reminded that the better they listen, the more team points they will earn. I start with the first five students, asking what their favorite color is. Then, once each student has answered, I quiz the rest of the group: What is Jack’s favorite color? Who remembers what Sarah’s favorite color is? The entire group works together as a team to answer the question and for every correct answer, the class earns a point. I typically set a goal for 15 points (for a class size of 25 students). This way, students can reach the goal and feel excited about how far they can exceed it; often, students create a new, more challenging goal once they see that they can achieve beyond 15 points. When finished, we reflect as a group: What did we have to do to hear the right answers? What does a good listener look like? Why should we listen to adults and other kids? Throughout the year, you can play additional rounds of The Memory Circle with other topics, such as favorite animal, book, center, number, letter, etc.
Tim and I are best buds!
Additionally, I enjoy using puppets with my students. At the beginning of the school year, a great way to utilize puppets is to role play positive school behaviors. For example, ask students to brainstorm helpful ways to behave on the bus. When a student shares an idea, they can pick a puppet and a friend to act out the behavior. This continues with various locations (playground, classroom, hallway, cafeteria, etc.) until every student can participate. It may sound simple, but puppets can be magical. I love hearing my students’ giggles and seeing their entranced stares—puppets are indispensable.

Overall, I find that my students respond best when they can be part of the lesson rather than a passive observer. Students, especially kindergarteners, love sharing who they are and what they love. By connecting the essential school concepts that they need to learn with their innate desire to share and feel part of a group, school counselors (and teachers!) can make a big impact.

As I think about these team-building ideas, refreshing my school brain, I cannot help but feel excited for this upcoming school year. I love watching this fresh group of students walk through the doors, ready to learn; they are blank slates just waiting for the chance to, metaphorically-speaking, doodle and paint. I wish everyone the best of luck as summer winds down and your newest kiddos come knocking at your door. Here’s to a great year!

Marissa Rex is a licensed PreK-3 teacher, K-12 school counselor, and founder of ElementarySchool She currently works as an elementary school counselor in an urban Ohio school.

In her spare time, Marissa loves to spend time with her husband, family, and friends. Also, she is active in her local community theatres, takes art classes at the Toledo Museum of Art, and volunteers at Camp Quality Ohio, a summer camp for children with cancer.

In addition to her website, you can connect with Marissa through Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Thank you, Marissa, for stopping by and contributing to our collaborative! Click {here} to travel to The Corner for a few more getting-to-know-you connection ideas to use with students or staff or {here} to go to the Kid Activities page for even more first-day-back suggestions. Happy New Year!


  1. I love the way you and Marissa collaborated on this post, Barbara! Lots of great ideas! I pinned different parts of the post to 3 different Pinterest boards. Deb @

  2. Deb, you are the queen of connections AND you have such a gift for encouragement and support. Thank you, thank you. I am truly blessed with such a caring community of counselors out in cyberspace!! I knew I'd need a break to get my keynote ready, and Marissa didn't even hesitate to jump in and help out.

    Thanks for your kind affirmations.


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