Student Independence: Applying Skills Outside Your Office (Middle School)

Our goal is to help students apply the skills we’ve worked on in other settings too, right? Teaching them to cope and problem-solve on their own can sometimes be the most difficult. Not only do they have to remember to use a strategy in the moment (when they are already having trouble processing), but they have to figure out which one would work best. There are a few tools I love using that promote student independence. They help students apply skills outside of my office without taking away my support completely.

Ways to help students be independent outside of counseling

Journaling

This is such a simple way to help students cope independently. They can use a notebook to process thoughts or write down things they want to share with you later – decreasing office visits outside of their appointment time. I always keep a stack of notebooks in my office in a variety of designs and colors. You can stock up for cheap around back-to-school time! For a student who doesn’t like writing or prefers typing, you could create a shared Google Doc for them to use instead. I’ve even had students share it with myself and their teacher, in case there was something going on that day that they wanted their teacher to know.

Trackers & Processing Sheets

Coping journal for student independence

Trackers and processing sheets are great because, like journals, they create a record students can share with you later. I love using a coping tracker with my middle schoolers because I can see what happened, what they tried, if it worked for them, and any patterns. If the strategies we originally chose don’t seem to be working, this lets me know to explore others.

A processing page is just how it sounds. It gives students the opportunity to process a situation, explain how they handled it, and what they would do next time. You can make the prompts generic or relate them to a particular skill like behavior mapping. A processing page can work in a few different ways. It can be used independently by the student or given to the student by the teacher when the student is struggling. If you decide to have the teacher give the page, it can sometimes be seen as a consequence, so it’s important to keep that in mind along with what you are hoping to achieve.

A daily entry journal is another great tool that can be used independently. It is similar to a coping tracker but can be designed for different skills. I often use a growth mindset journal and require students with a negative or fixed mindset to write in it daily. Although I am making it a requirement, they are still reflecting and completing it outside of my office in a different setting.

Visual Aids

Flipbooks, brochures, and bookmarks. All of these provide information and strategies in a visual way. Students can also bring them wherever they go for easy reference.

Student independence flipbook

Virtual Calm Corner

A virtual calm corner is a great way to promote student independence. It can be accessed anywhere and usually includes several options for regulation. I keep a virtual calm corner on my page of the school website and show my students each year how to access it. I’ve added tools for visualization, guided breathing, calming music, printable coloring pages, and much more. To learn more about what it has and how to set one up, read this post.

Other Coping Resources

Index cards and flowcharts are also visual aids but offer smaller amounts of information. This can be helpful when a student is having trouble regulating and/or needs reminder(s) to be right in front of them. They can be adhered to the top or side of their desk or inside of a notebook for a more discreet location.

Take care,

Kylie

Interested in independent tools for elementary students? Check out this post here

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