PAWS lessons

Classroom counseling lessons are one of the most crucial parts of a school counseling program, but sometimes it’s not enough! With high ratios in my school(s), sometimes I’m grateful to see my students once a month for 30-45 minutes. It means I must be intentional with my time, but also I am aware that not all students will master the important skills I’m teaching them.

The SEL skills and the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors we cover in class take time to be taught and practiced in a way that students are able to generalize and maintain them. Generalization is the ability to use a skill or knowledge across multiple settings.

Students take time learning, reviewing, and practicing academic skills and the same holds true for SEL skills. Research shows that just teaching a strategy once isn’t enough. We need to commit these skills to memory in order to effectively use them. This means students need to practice and learn about it in more than just one sitting.

Sometimes I think of a pie, and each lesson is one bite out of a small slice. It’s hard to eat the entire pie in one year.

Source: The Positive Psychology Toolkit© (The Coping Strategy Wheels)

This is how the idea of PAWS lessons began. Inspired by School Counselor Stack and a session on flipped lessons at an ASCA conference I started creating mini-lessons that helped review and reinforce what I was teaching in class.

What are PAWS lessons?

As you’ve probably noticed I love animals, so PAWS was a natural name. The name inspires us to “pause” to review the skills we need to be Pawsitively Awesome and Wonderful Students.

These mini SEL lessons vary in length- from 10 slides and 2-3 minutes to longer about 25 slides and 15 minutes.

For each lesson I teach in my curriculum map, I have a matching PAWS lesson about the same topic.

I created my lessons in PowerPoint and for my staff, I also uploaded them to our school-wide Google Drive.

They are: short lessons about a specific topic that you can use to reinforce or introduce concepts and skills

They are NOT: full-length lessons designed to be the substance or majority of your curriculum

Who teaches PAWS lessons?

One of the best things about the lessons is that they don’t have to be taught by me! They are simple and scripted so that classroom teachers and even parents could do them with their students.

Of course, some teachers may feel nervous about teaching some of the concepts, so I often film myself doing a lesson that the teacher can then share the video. Using a screen-sharing site like Screentastify, Loom, or even Zoom allow me to record myself doing the lesson and share out.

When do you use the lessons?

There are 3 ways I use these lessons:

  • BEFORE I teach- to prepare students to use the skills and dig deeper into the concepts during my lesson later.
  • AFTER I teach- to reinforce and review the concepts and skills learned
  • BONUS- during the year for special events or as a responsive service.

Before I Teach:

Many years ago I heard about the flipped classroom model at an ASCA conference and I loved it. The idea is that counselors could send out information prior to a lesson or visit, so when the student entered they came more prepared. The presenter was a HS counselor and would send out videos on class selection and filling out the FASFA, so that when he met with the student he was saving time because they already had the information on how to do different things and he could spend more time assisting with problems and counseling.

I loved the idea so much, I decided to try it out. Essentially I wanted to the students to have some background knowledge before I taught them. For example, a short lesson on fixed vs. growth mindset, so that when I taught they were familiar with the terms and I could spend more time on practice, application, and assessment.

So I will sometimes ask teachers to do a short lesson or show my video BEFORE I teach, so that I can spend more time on classroom activities.

What to learn more about a flipped classroom? Here is a video fro UTK.

After I Teach:

Each month I write a newsletter with all my school counselor happenings. In each newsletter, I share out a link to a PAWS lesson that would follow up and reinforce what I taught in my counseling class.

I use Canva to create my newsletters.

Sending out the lessons afterwards helps reinforce the concepts taught. Also, my teachers don’t always stay in the room when I teach, so I think it’s helpful for them to see and hear what we are talking about so they can use similar language and be an invested stakeholder.

BONUS- during the year for special events or as a responsive service.

I also send out special event newsletters with the link to the Paws lesson that would be most applicable.

Sometimes I’m asked to do a last-minute lesson or a responsive lesson about a particular issue. I have found that PAWS lessons are so helpful because I have them ready to go and can use them for a short bonus lesson or if I am not able to do a responsive lesson I can send it to the teacher.

Do you repeat the lessons?

Sometimes I share out the lesson more than once and that’s ok. Repetition is a foundation of learning. Learn more about the importance of repetition here.

Where can I get the PAWS lessons?

You can get a set of my mini SEL lessons right here.

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