Using An Escape Room As A Growth Mindset Counseling Lesson

Each year I go into the 8th-grade classrooms for 3 days to talk about mindset, goals setting, and future planning.  This year I wanted to throw a new twist on Growth Mindset, so I decided to challenge all the classes with an Escape Room.

The evil Dr. Dread has broken into the school and is trying to turn the students' brains to mush, but the only way to combat him is to have a growth mindset and solve all his puzzles.  

I had the students break into teams and then gave each team a set of challenges to work through.  They had 30 minutes to look at the puzzles, decide what they needed to do to solve them, who would be responsible for working on each puzzle, how to find the ciphers that were hidden around the room, and how they would use their time to use the cipher when another team wasn't.  (I had only one of each of the 5 different ciphers, so all the teams had to share.)  As they solved the puzzles, they were able to collect keys that held the code to escape the room.  Not all the groups were able to escape.  In fact it was about 1/2 that were successful.  Word got out and with each class the students were more eager to beat the last winning time to solve the escape.  I enjoyed just watching them.

The Escape Room was teaching the students to work together, to use time management skills, to compete while being collaborative, and to grow their mindset.  Every student was engaged, and it didn't matter if it was the shyest kid, the one that always seems to be in trouble, or the classroom leader, they all had jobs to do. 

I did give each group "I Need A Hint" passes they could turn in for help.  It was interesting to see how they decided to use them and how they would come together to help their peers who were in need of help.  

Because our classes are only 38 minutes long, I did not have time to process the Escape Room the same day we completed it (which was yesterday).  We did process it together during today's class. Since the purpose of me going into the classes is to help them to begin to think about high school, and what comes next, I asked them the following questions:
  • Did you have fun?
  • Why would I have you do an escape room if I wanted to talk about growth mindset?
  • Were any of the challenges too hard?  Were they too easy?
  • Why do we need a growth mindset for high school?
  • How can you take what we experienced yesterday (in the escape room) and apply it to high school and future planning?
They all told me they had fun ( and were disappointed I didn't have another one for them to do today) and they were able to make the connection that they needed the growth mindset to complete the challenges.  In terms of applying what they did to high school, a school should be fun.  They need to take courses that are neither too hard or too easy.  The same holds true with goals.  Having a growth mindset will help them obtain their goals and keep learning fun because new challenges are waiting. 

I do believe they understood what I wanted them to walk away knowing.  I can't wait to do my next Escape Room!

If you would like your own copy of this Escape Room, you can find it in my TpT store here.

Best On-Screen School Counselors

As we head into the holidays, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to find a way to give way to the seasonal stress and spend a moment to de-stress with a little humor in our profession. When Sam Frenzel, a writer for, asked me if he could write a guest post on the Best On-Screen School Counselors, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to add some humor into our day and to celebrate the movies that showcase School Counselors in a positive light.

From Sam:

Best On-Screen School Counselors

While it is often school principals who steal the spotlight in movies and television (who could forget Mr. Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Richard “you mess with the bull you get the horns” Vernon from The Breakfast Club?), school counselors have their place as well across both the big and small screen. Here are's picks for the most iconic school counselors from tv and movies:


Tammy Taylor, Friday Night Lights (portrayed by Connie Britton)

Mrs. Taylor never played second fiddle to her football coach royalty husband Eric Taylor, opting to carve out a legacy of her own in Dillon, Texas in this sports drama. Tammy possessed one of the most important skills in every good counselor's repertoire: an ability to meet the students at their level. She never failed to play advocate for the underdog and seemed to genuinely care for her students - regardless of their past. Though her advice may not have always been gentle, her no nonsense attitude always had the students best interest at heart.


Emma Pilsbury, Glee (portrayed by Jayma Mays)

Emma was a quintessential member of the William McKinley High School faculty in the unforgettable teen musical/drama Glee. Not only did she guide her students through difficult personal and academic problems, but was also an integral part of the wildly successful glee club. Though her personal life had it’s ups and downs, it never interfered with her love of her students and her unwavering efforts to see them succeed.

freaks and geeks.png

Jeff Rosso, Freaks and Geeks (portrayed by Dave Allen)

The free-spirited Mr. Rosso is a frequent character on the short lived, but beloved teen comedy Freaks and Geeks. He spoke to his students like adults and, rather than patronizing them, offered topical and current solutions to their problems. He gets bonus points for suggesting The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty record as study music!

last chance u .jpg

Brittany Wagner, Last Chance U (portrayed by… Brittany Wagner, a real academic counselor!)

One of the most memorable characters from this documentary-style show about a scrappy community college football team is the academic counselor Brittany Wagner. She is both a source of support for the football players and someone they take advice from in their pursuit of a better life. Best of all, she is a real-life advisor! As well as being “the mother” to most dominant junior college football program in the United States, Brittany is a nationally respected athletic academic counselor.


Mr. Abbott, Everybody Hates Chris (portrayed by Chris Rock)

In Everybody Hates Chris, a coming of age television comedy, Chris Rock plays the role of guidance counselor to a character that he based off of himself. Chris Rock’s Mr. Abbott serves as a no nonsense imparter of wisdom to middle-school aged Chris. He is, as many counselors are, a wake up call for Chris to take his studies more seriously and a reminder to follow his dreams.

Honorable Mention: Ms. Perky, 10 Things I Hate About You (portrayed by Allison Janney)Perky.jpg

Although she wasn’t a particularly good guidance counselor, Ms. Perky stole her scenes in 10 Things I Hate About You and provided unforgettable laugh-out-loud moments.

What’s another word for engorged?

Rotten Apple Award:


Mr. Porter, 13 Reasons Why (portrayed by Derek Luke)

Mr. Porter is the school counselor in the controversial teen drama 13 Reasons Why and is, generally, the worst. When a distraught Hannah Baker comes to his office for help dealing with a whirlwind of events, from bullying to sexual assault, he is dismissive and disbelieving. He does everything wrong that the good counselors on this list do right and, for that reason, has landed himself the rotten apple award for failure in school counseling. Don't be like Mr. Porter.  

Final Thoughts:

The best on this list demonstrates just how effective school counselors can be in altering the lives of their students for the better. Each of the school counselors on this list come to life through powerful writing and masterful performances and, much like actual school counselors, carry the ability to inspire and amaze.

Sam Frenzel’s love of pop culture started at an early age and has culminated in his ability to catch obscure references and dominate a trivia night. He’s a writer for based in upstate New York where he covers topics from education policy to teacher welfare.  

Do you have any favorite on screen School Counselors not mentioned here? I'd love to hear who you think represents our profession well! Leave me a comment!

How to be a Tech Savvy School Counselor

Here is my presentation and links to the different tech tools that will help you to be a tech-savvy school counselor.

Powered by emaze

For Notetaking/ Inspiration and Ideas/Lesson Planning:
•  Evernote-  
•  PollEverywhere   
•  Livebinders   
•  Pinterest
•  Dropbox  
For Presentations and Newsletter:
•  Emaze-  
•  Prezi
•  HaikuDeck -  
•  Powtoon-  
•  YouTube 
     YouTube Downloader– add SS before youtube in the link you   want to watch—
•  Smore -  
•  Animoto  
For Tutorials:
          •  SCOPE    
Ipad Apps
•  Fotovidia 
•  iMovie
•  Legend 
•  Quik
For Networking:
•  Twitter
                  Caught In The Middle School Counselors
                  Elementary School Counselor Exchange

Guest Post--Using Calma and mindfulness to help students in schools

I have really seen the benefits of using mindfulness techniques with students. I have a calm down corner in my room, and have taught all my groups coping strategies using mindfulness. I'm always on the lookout for new strategies and programs that will compliment what I already do. I am pleased to share today's guest post by Nellie Springston from Calma.

Hello school counselors, educators, parents and everyone else who follows Carol’s blog! I am very excited to be guest blogging on Carol’s page to let you know about Calma: Calm & Loving Minds Achieve. First, let me ask you a question… (and be honest!) How many of you have said to a student “You JUST need to calm down?!” or “Why can’t you just follow directions?!” Me too! We ALL have! Just being able to calm down, or simply being able to hear directions and carry out a task are actually skills that can, and should, be taught in schools. It wasn’t until I began teaching these skills that I had any luck with my most behaviorally challenged little friends while working as a behavior interventionist at an inner-city charter school. Just as we teach children to add, subtract, read and write, we must equip them with skills of self-regulation, focused attention and metacognition if we expect them to learn. 

Skills of self-regulation (being able to calm d own once emotions take over) and executive function (being able to listen to directions, absorb and comprehend the information, then carry out the task) require a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. But, unfortunately, this part of the brain isn’t fully developed until early adulthood. And, what’s worse, it doesn’t just develop in positive ways on its own but is almost completely dependent on a child being raised in a nurturing home environment. Therefore, children growing up in stressful homes due to the busyness of everyday life, overscheduling, constant stimulation and especially poverty, often see a negative development of this part of the brain, which means these students lack the ability to control their impulses, carry out tasks and, most importantly, absorb information. 

Fortunately, the same type of cognitive research shows us there's a way to build this part of the brain through mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the focus and clarity that develops through intentional moment to moment awareness. It is an exercise for the mind. It’s like doing a bicep curl for the brain, specifically for the prefrontal cortex. Practicing mindfulness helps increase skills like self-regulation, executive function and focused attention while decreasing disruptive behaviors by equipping students with the skills of mental awareness and emotional control.

It is with this research in mind that I had our entire staff trained in mindfulness by Dr. Lindsay Bira, a local Clinical Health Psychologist here in San Antonio, TX who specializes in mindfulness with military soldiers suffering from PTSD. Although we understood the science of mindfulness after the training, and realized the importance of practicing it with our students, our staff lacked the tools we needed to practice mindfulness exercises consistently and had a hard time helping students understand the importance of mindfulness to their academic and social and emotional well-being. And, with that, Calma was born in order to provide educators the tools they need to practice mindfulness with their students in the classroom not only to foster calmer, happier schools where more effective learning will occur, but so that students also understand the importance of mindfulness to their brain development, academic success, and social and emotional well-being. 

Together with student-centered focus groups, teacher feedback and the scientific oversight of Dr. Bira, we wrote three (K-2nd, 3rd-5th, and 6-12th) five lesson research-based mindfulness curricula complete with step-by-step instructions for classroom implementation and guided mindfulness audio. The 5 modules include a body scan for present awareness, mindful breathing for emotional and behavioral regulation, mindful listening for focused attention, gratitude toward opportunity and others, and empathy: perspective-taking. We also offer a two-hour staff training, mindfulness audio for parents and supplemental resources for curricula implementation such as our Calma Mindfulness Journal. 

Lastly, the question I hear all the time from those who observe our program is, “So what’s up with the sunglasses?” I have two answers for that. First, wearing sunglasses during the mindfulness activity helps students avoid eye-contact and privately focus while being in a public setting. Secondly, it’s just fun. When I started doing mindfulness I noticed elementary aged kids thought it was silly, and middle schoolers thought it was weird, but when I walked in with a bag of sunglasses, the little kids really began to focus and the teenagers were more inclined to fully and willingly participate.

I am so grateful to Carol for allowing me to share Calma: Calm & Loving Minds Achieve with you. Please check out our Website:, read our blog that covers topics ranging from “mindfulness in schools” to “how to use Psychology language in the classroom” and “parenting tips and tricks”. Also enjoy our library page full of books and some articles covering the work of the best psychologists, doctors, economists, and educators of our time who are currently developing research-based approaches that enable kids to learn and flourish, academically, socially and emotionally. And, of course, contact us if you have any questions, comments or feedback - it’s the only way we can ensure our program is working most effectively. 

May Calm and Loving Minds Achieve in your Schools.

Thank you to Nellie, for letting us know more about this great program!

Be The Change -- A Lesson on Empathy

It's important to help students understand the importance of empathy--especially with the recent natural disasters, the shootings, and the political climate.  One song I love that reminds me of this premise is Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror".   If you want to make changes, you have to look at yourself first.

I decided to use this song to help my kids look at empathy.  I started with a few discussion questions about what they thought needed changes in today's world, and it started a great discussion.

 I then had them listen to the song and we talked about what it meant.  Once they were done, I asked them to color a pennant to show their commitment to helping to make the world a better place.  Once they are finished, we will hang them around the school.

You can find  the lesson in my TpT Store HERE, if you would like it for yourself. 

A Lunch Bunch Lesson on Team Building, Self-Control and Listening

If I handed you a piece of paper, a pencil, and 13 small Lego pieces, would you think that you could teach team building, self-control, and listening during a lunchtime group?  Not only is it possible, but it is a fun activity your kids will love. 

I did this activity with two groups today.  One that is working on social skills and another on leadership.  Both groups were equally engaged, and I was surprised at the level of focus, and teamwork the students displayed.  It was really interesting to watch and listen to them work.

To begin I sorted through my legos to sort out similar pieces.  I wanted each group to have the same pieces.  (Actually one of my groups had 13 Lego pieces and the other group had 8 since it was a larger group and I didn't have enough of the same Legos.)  

When the students sat down, I asked them to each grab a partner.  Then handed each group their Lego pieces.  I asked them to each work together to build a creation.  I gave them no further instructions.  Even though they didn't have a lot of pieces, it took a few minutes for them to figure out what masterpiece they were going to build.

When they were finished, I handed each group a blank sheet of paper and a pencil.  I asked them to sketch what they built.  Some simply traced their creations, while others gave a detailed, professional guide.  As they finished, I asked them to take their Legos apart.  Then I split the partners.  I had one stay with the drawing and their pieces and the other had to go to a  different group.  Once in the new group, that person was given the Legos and their partner then had to give verbal directions how to build it.  The drawing was only for the instructor to serve as a visual reminder of what it looked like.  

This was challenging for several kids.  They wanted to see the drawing and not be told how to build something they didn't know what it looked like.  It was also challenging for the instructors not to build their creation for their new partners.  One student was on the verge of a melt-down, but I was proud how his instructor said "Don't worry.  We've got this.  I'm going to walk you through it."  And, he did.  Step by step.  The cool part was when this kiddo was done, he was ready to do another one!  

We processed the activity when everyone was finished.  
  1.  What did we do in this activity?
  2.  What made the activity difficult?
  3.  What made it easy?
  4.  If we were to do this over again, what would we do differently?
  5.  What did you learn?
  6.  How does this relate to school?

I love how they were able to relate it to school.  They needed to be able to listen to directions to solve a problem, they had people there to encourage them when things were tough, sometimes they need to be patient.

How else could you use this lesson?
What could you use Legos for?
Leave a comment and let me know.

Need a few more lesson ideas for teamwork or self control?  Click on the links below.

20 Ways To Increase Self Esteem

Most students I see, whether it's for a social skills group, drama problems, academic troubles, family groups, or friendship issues, all seem to have one thing in common.  Their self-confidence has taken a hit somewhere along the line.  If we can help them to feel better about themselves, then we can help them to improve their grades, relationships, communication, and reach goals.

Here is a handout I put together to give to students and parents about simple things kids (or adults too) can do to raise their self-esteem.

I also put together this infographic:

I also created these discussion cards for my groups to foster self-esteem.

I love the versatility these cards have.  They can be used as icebreakers to my friendship groups, as well as review for the mindfulness and self-care lessons we have been working on.  I made some Scoot recording sheets and art therapy worksheets, so these cards can become lessons.  

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top