In order to support student success, I run a variety of small groups each year as part of Tier 2 interventions. My group goals aim to strengthen the characteristics of successful learners and productive citizens: engaged, focused, personal accountability, study skills, perseverance, strong communication skills, self-motivation, solid social /emotional skills and respect for authority, self and others.
Students who behave, attend and do homework perform better.
There are several ways students get referred to a particular group. Initially, I examine our attendance and discipline records, child study team referrals, and academic and achievement-related data. Reviewing these records allows me to assess the needs of our students in conjunction with counselor observations, and parent/ teacher consultations. Collaboration of the core team members principal, counselor, teachers and parents, is imperative.
This past year, after reviewing all information provided, I noted a need for groups focused on self- regulation, effective coping skills, social skills and study and test taking skills. These skills were needed to decrease discipline issues and improve academic success. Groups provided students the opportunity to learn and practice strategies in a small setting. These skills were directly in line with our vision and mission of providing our students with the tools to communicate effectively, be able to work with others, think critically and to become problem solvers.
Once groups are identified and students are referred teachers complete a counselor referral form that is in alignment with our Approaches to Learning section on our report card (see attached), that provides us with more information about specific skill deficits that impact classroom performance. The scheduling of groups and establishing positive group dynamics can be challenging. Scheduling is difficult since the demands of the academic curriculum prohibit students from missing class time. Therefore lunch, recess or the end of the day, are available but not ideal. Group dynamics require inviting positive role models into a group to demonstrate the skills taught. Again, scheduling constraints interfere with gathering appropriate groups of students who can utilize the group structure fully.
That being said, I use a variety of books, materials and learning modalities to meet the needs of my students. The groups are small and closed in nature which promotes safety and confidentiality. This venue allows students to practice specific skills and receive individual feedback. The groups typically run for about 8 weeks, unless otherwise noted.
I have a system in place to monitor achievement-related data, homework completion, in 3rd and 4th grade. Students who do not complete homework complete a pink slip. Students who continue to have difficulty are invited to attend a school success group or organization group. This past year I also saw a need for academic groups in 1st and 2nd grade. These students lacked the basis skills of attending, following directions and being responsible for their learning and behavior. The purpose of these groups was to improve their attitudes about school and provide them with basic school success skills.
The group I submitted for the results report, Reach Higher, was also part of my Closing the Gap intervention. These students were identified by their state test results. This group of 10 students had historically been under-achievers. Most of these students went through our Child Study Team and had been receiving reading intervention every year. I designed a group to teach them metacognitive awareness and test-taking strategies. This group of 10 students was broken down into smaller groups of 2 or 3 students due to attention and scheduling concerns. Unfortunately, a few of the groups met at the end of the day when the students were tired and lacked focus. Timing of groups does impact skill acquisition. The end of the day is not an effective time for all groups.
Groups are available for all students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Kindergarteners spend two weeks meeting in small groups to develop a relationship with the counselor. Since our kindergarten is only a half-day program, I often push into the classroom to provide additional support which allows the children to stay connected to their classroom community.
Parents are a very important part of their child’s educational team. When a child is invited to participate in a counseling group, parents are contacted and sometimes asked for pertinent information. When the group concludes, a letter is sent home letting them know the activities and skills presented to their child so they can reinforce these skills at home. Working collaboratively with teachers, parents, and administrators is essential in meeting the needs of the whole child.