School Counselor Questions: How do I Know Which Topics to Teach in My Class Lessons?

You may be having a difficult time determining what topics to teach in your classroom counseling lessons. How do you know what to cover and when? Which topics are most important? Check out these seven ways to source classroom counseling lesson topics.

7 Ways to Source Classroom Lesson Topics

Books

Refer to curriculum provided to you or use a SEL picture book to base your counseling lessons around.

Your school may provide you with a curriculum they'd like you to use, like Second Step. If so, this is great news because it alleviates the responsibility of planning for you! However you may not have as much flexibility as you had hoped when it comes to designing and delivering your classroom counseling lessons. My happy medium? Use parts of the provided curriculum but enhance it with supplemental materials such as videos, games, etc.

Aside from curriculum books, you may want to use books another way in your class lessons. You can use picture books with SEL topics to go with each lesson. For example, if teaching a friendship lesson you would read a book about friendship, discuss, and do some companion activities. Or you may find one book that covers several character ed or SEL topics wrapped into one. My first year counseling we based all of our classroom lessons on the Inch and Miles children’s book.

Needs Assessment

Send out a needs assessment to teachers to find out which topics they think their class would benefit most from. Check out my needs assessment template here. Teachers know the students better than anyone, so ask the experts!

Survey

Send out an informal 3-5 question survey to see which lessons teachers liked and disliked from last year.

In this survey you'll ask questions like:

  • 'What was your favorite lesson from last year?'

  • 'What was your least favorite lesson?'

  • 'Did your students benefit as a result of the counseling lessons?'

Be sure to leave some spaces for open response and feedback. I like to use Google Forms to make this simple.

Seasonal Trends

Take a look at the calendar and plan your lessons around seasons and holidays. This makes the lessons fun and relevant! Be sure to check out awareness holidays as well. ASCA has a great guide for this.

Example Seasonal Topics:

  • Teach a bullying prevention lesson in October, Bullying Prevention Month.

  • Teach healthy friendships and relationships around Valentine's Day.

  • Teach goal setting in January at the start of the new year.

  • Teach kindness in February, which is when Random Acts of Kindness week is.

Referral Data + Deficits

Chat with your admin to see where referrals are coming from and where school-wide problems are. Then teach lessons to improve these areas of need. For example if you are seeing a lot of discipline referrals regarding hitting you could teach lessons on self-control, self-regulation, and anger management. Be sure to track the referral data to see if things have improved as a result of your counseling lesson.

As Needed

Based on your needs assessment responses, offer as needed supplemental lessons to classes based on specific topics you aren't generally covering. For example, if you notice one teacher ranked cyber safety as a high need, but overall the faculty did not, you can always offer a custom supplemental lesson on cyber safety and digital citizenship for that class in addition to the monthly lesson that every class will receive.

Meet the Counselor

An introductory "meet the counselor" lesson during your first month back is a great way to meet students, clarify your role, and model what future lessons will look like. These can be as simple as using props like a Mr. Potato Head to explain how the counselor helps (ears for listening, etc) or as complex as a digital game show or interactive escape room! Check out my Meet the Counselor lessons here.

Now that you have these seven strategies to source class lesson topics from, planning should be a breeze!

The next step is to make sure your lessons are engaging! Click here to download my free cheat sheet with 15 Strategies to Engage Your Students during Class Lessons.

 

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