A JK-12 pluralistic school that engages students in an exemplary and inspiring general and Jewish education.

Guidance Update: March 2019

Lower School Guidance Team

The CESJDS Lower School Counseling Team is excited to put out the third edition of the Guidance Newsletter for the 2018-2019 school year to our community. We appreciate the opportunity to share details and a taste of the social-emotional learning and activities that we are facilitating for our Lower School students. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to be in touch with your child's counselor.


Gayle Elster, Guidance Support Specialist 
What an exciting moment it was when we positioned the Buddy Bench onto our playground!  Many discussions between Administration and Guidance regarding the Buddy Bench focused around how would it be received by our students and what would be the best way to promote what the Buddy Bench represents...creating social connections.  What is a "Buddy Bench?" It is an identified space for students who are looking for someone to play with to sit down and send a visual signal to others that they would like an invitation to join in on their play.
We decided to create a student video to introduce our school community to our Buddy Bench.  This video was rolled out at our school-wide Kabbalat Shabbat for the month of February. The students in the video not only demonstrated how the Buddy Bench works, but also discussed the importance of why we decided to add a Buddy Bench to our playground equipment.  At CESJDS, we care about each member of our school community and, every day throughout the school day, we stress the importance of two Jewish values: empathy and community.

The Guidance Department will continue to discuss both in and out of the classrooms what the Buddy Bench represents.  Our goal is to continue to promote healthier social connections with one another and a stronger awareness for each other's feelings.


Gurim, Gayle Elster
The Gurim class is filled with strong learners who express their curiosity for the world around them through questioning, hands on experiences and explorations, observations, and peer/adult modeling.  We continue to provide a variety of friendship building experiences not only to strengthen individual social skills but to develop an understanding of how our personal choices and behavior impacts others as well.

We recently read together, "I Can't Believe You Said That," "The Way I Feel," and "That's What a Friend Is".  These books helped to introduce and support lessons on feelings, how to manage developing friendships, and emerging language and social  thinking skills. Through games such as: Choose the Right Feeling Picture, Friendship Bingo (pictures with positive friendship traits), Feelings Memory, and Choose the Correct Facial Expression (to match a shared scenario), the students are learning how to identify verbal and nonverbal messages,  problem solve common social challenges, become more familiar with their emotions and practice how to work through conflict during group work or play.

Often when visiting the Gurim Class, you can hear a student redirecting another student by using social talk or confidently stating how they are feeling and what they need their friend to know in order for a conflict to be resolved.  As the school year advances, so do the social skills of the students. Positive social talk, opportunities for various types of social play, and interactions help students develop a stronger sense of self and awareness for others.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade, Dara Buchman
In Kindergarten, we started off the new year talking about cooperating and working together.  We read the book "Splatter" by Diane Alber. This book is about the colors, red, yellow and blue which each work alone when making their own art work.  The color red decides it's no fun working alone and asks the other colors to work together. In the beginning, the colors struggle to figure out how to cooperate.   After a few tries, the colors learned to work together, even making new colors and founding out how beautiful their picture turned out. As our activity, the children were put into teams and were given one crayon each and one piece of paper. They were given instructions to use only the crayon they were given to create a picture.  Some groups worked really well together by listening and sharing ideas. Other groups were arguing and had members tell others what to do. We ended the lesson by talking about what behaviors were helpful to the group and which behaviors were not helpful.

As we continue to work with the children on social skills we want them to be able to handle disappointment.  We previewed what it means to be disappointed and shared times that we have felt that feeling. We next read "You Get What You Get" about Melvin who would always threw a fit when he didn't get what he wanted. Melvin learned from his teacher that you get what you get and you don't throw a fit or as we commonly say around school, "You get what you get and you don't get upset."  We talked about ways to handle times when we are disappointed, such as positive self talk and examples of what positive self talk sounds like.

We finished off the winter reading "My Mouth is a Volcano" by Julia Cook. The book is about a boy named Louis who is always interrupting. Louis learned throughout the story how it feels to be interrupted when his classmates interrupt him on his special start of the day presentation.  He learns ways to control his impulses to interrupt, two of which being biting down hard and taking deep breaths. In class, we practiced deep breathing or "hot chocolate breathing" and also counting to help us wait our turn when we want to talk. Hot chocolate breathing is when we imagine we are holding a cup of hot chocolate and we are trying to cool it off.

In First Grade, we are working on helping the children to make positive choices and with handling conflicts.  We started off 2019 with talking about self control and strategies that can be used to help us make positive choices.   Taking deep breaths, walking away, and asking an adult for help were among the approaches that were discussed. Another topic that was covered was fairness as we read a book entitled "Fair is Fair" by Sonny Varela. The book shares a story about different animals at the zoo and how they each get a different amount of food based on what they need. We related that just as the animals need different amounts of food, the same is true in the classroom. Every child has different needs in the classroom to help them to be successful.   With the Buddy Bench being installed, it was very important for the children to understand the purpose and to talk about how we can help friends on the Buddy Bench. We read "The Invisible Child" about a boy who feels he is invisible and is feeling left out. The kids then role played situations as if they were on the playground.

2nd and 3rd grade, Jamie Kaminsky
This past quarter in guidance, we have been exploring the idea of "feelings as visitors." We are discussing how when troubling feelings come to us, when can experience them and then we can let them go and "send them on their way." To illustrate this concept, we read "Worry Says What" by Allison Edwards. This book paints a picture of "Worry" as a little furry monster inside the brain that turns up to visit and whispers unhelpful messages. The book goes on to explain self-talk strategies to defeat Worry and make him smaller and quieter until he leaves. We are working on developing our own strategies to defeat Worry and his accomplices, such as writing our "big visiting feelings" down on paper and putting them in a worry jar. We now have Worry Jars in our classrooms and in the guidance office. We are looking ahead to Career Day and having additional guidance talks surrounding this event!

4th and 5th Grades, Leslie Ashman
In 4th and 5th grades we have continued discussing Mindfulness and what it means. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the here and now and we had discussions about the difference between being "mind full" and Mindful.  We talked in each class about what came to mind when the word mindfulness was stated. We also talked about past, present and future events and how they can all impact our ability to be mindful. We practice some mindfulness activities, such as guided imagery and listening to short scripts.  Calm was one of the websites that we used and I was pleased to learn that many students had heard of it, with some even already using it on their own. If you are interested in exploring this mindfulness resources, just click on this link.  Mindfulness includes a variety of different practices that need repetition.  It was good to see, after just a few tries, how students could see the difference in their mindfulness "success" with each successive activity.  

To enrich our mindfulness experience, we also read the book "Be Where Your Feet Are," by Julia Cook.  It was a great way to describe how our minds can get distracted or drawn away from where we are and what we are doing in a given moment.  It takes purposeful concentration and intention to "stay in the moment." Mindfulness and "being present" are things that we will continue to work on and practice throughout the year. 


We are excitedly preparing for our first ever Lower School Career Day on Thursday March 28th! Each grade level will have parent presenters share their career stories with them during the morning. In order to prepare students for the experience, all members of the Guidance Team will be facilitating lessons in classrooms related to Career Day.
We look forward to continuing to communicate with your through this newsletter and personally, as needed.

The Guidance Team

Leslie Ashman, Dara Buchman, Gayle Elster, and Jamie Kaminsky