How to Plan an ASCA-aligned Counseling Program

Planning for the entire school year doesn't have to be overwhelming! I want to share a few strategies to show you how to plan out your yearly curriculum so it's aligned to ASCA standards and MTSS.

How to Create a School Counseling Curriculum Map

There are 6 key steps to create a curriculum map:

  1. Break it down by tier - plan your class lessons, small groups, and individual sessions

  2. Don't forget data - include a column for data tracking and organization tools you plan on using

  3. Keep in mind trends and holidays - start with the obvious topics (ex: October = Bullying Prevention Month) then fill in the gaps

  4. Identify what, when, and with whom - determine who will receive which services

  5. Survey teachers - use a needs assessment so you don't miss hot (high-need) topics

  6. Stay flexible - have a plan but be open to adding as-needed class lessons and referral-driven groups

I've got a plan, now what?!

Once you decide which lessons and groups to plan, you'll actually need the materials to deliver. You can gather resources or hit the easy button and get everything you need in this complete elementary counseling program.

Back to Basics: Why 3 tiered MTSS?

ASCA says that school counselors align their school counseling program with MTSS by providing direct and indirect student services including:

Tier 1 interventions in the form of classroom instruction and schoolwide programming and initiatives

  • Real-life application: Think outside the box! In addition to your class lessons, set a goal to plan a school wide character ed event. (Check out this blog post for some ideas!)

Tier 2 interventions including small-group and individual counseling, consultation and collaboration with school personnel, families and community stakeholders

  • Real-life application: Don't forget to communicate and collaborate with the parents and teachers of the kiddos you see in groups and individually. This could be through meetings, quick email updates, or behavior surveys.

Tier 3 indirect student support services through consultation, collaboration and facilitation of referrals

  • Real-life application: Assess the data you've collected and see if you need to refer your students to outside counseling. This doesn't mean you're failing! You're helping them get the help they need (and it may be something we can't provide in the short-term solution-focused school setting).

You can read the ASCA article here.

Planning an ASCA-aligned School Year

The first component of the ASCA national model is to define.

When you're planning what to do with your students individually or in small groups you first need to define student standards. I like to weave it into my session outlines.

Follow this process:

  1. Write objectives (ex: To identify 3 coping skills)

  2. Create an outline to follow for the session (ex: icebreaker, activity, journal, etc)

  3. Select student standards that support your objective (ex: B-SMS 7. Effective coping skills)

It may seem complex but it gets easier over time and will soon be second nature. By following these steps you can create a program that supports the national model.

Seem overwhelming? I've got you covered with my complete elementary curriculum.. All of the included outlines are based on ASCA-aligned objectives.

I hope you feel more equipped to lead an ASCA-aligned program with confidence using these simple yet effective strategies.




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