During the summer of 2015, I analyzed perception data from teachers, staff, and students to identify common themes for the upcoming school year. I also analyzed and disaggregated school outcome data to plan my school counseling program goals. Not only does this information inform my core curriculum, it assists me in identifying topics for small group counseling. In September, I made a list of the most common themes in the data and asked for input from all of the classroom teachers on which students they believed may benefit from participating in a small group with me. I also provided the parents with a school counseling program pamphlet that provides a detailed description of my role as the school counselor in addition to possible small group topics that I can facilitate throughout the school year. By the end of first quarter, I identified students who were recommended by teachers and parents to receive Tier 2 small group support.
Using the ethical guidelines for small group counseling, I conducted three groups beginning in November. The topics addressed were Improving Self-Control for kindergarten and first grade students, Improving Ability to Resolve Conflict Effectively for second grade students and Improving Ability to Work Effectively within a Group and Demonstrate Self-Control for third grade students.
The second series of groups that I offered were based on gaps in academic, attendance, and behavior data. Three Mindful Math Groups were developed to address a gap in the 2014-2015 VA Standards of Learning scores in Math. These groups were tied to the Close the Gap Goal One and used mindfulness and executive functioning skills to support nineteen, fifth grade students. I also created a group to increase the attendance rate for three first grade students. I included three additional students in the group who were having school anxiety due to missing their parent. The three students who were targeted for attendance improved their attendance by 36% during third quarter.
The small group that I highlighted for the Small Group Responsive Services addressed a gap with behavior-related office visits. I identified eight second grade boys who had the highest number of office visits in the school and designed a program to target increasing their ability to demonstrate self-control and reduce their number of behavior-related office visits. According to a study done in 2012, school and classroom programs that incorporate mind-body practices, such as yoga, have demonstrated positive outcomes for overall well-being, resilience, self-regulation of negative behaviors, academic performance, and test scores (Sprengel & Fritts, 2012). Recent research also suggests that providing yoga within the school curriculum may be an effective way to help students develop self-regulation and mind-body awareness, which could result in positive student outcomes such as improved behavior and academic performance (Butzer, Bury & Telles, 2016).
Based on this research and with the support of the Cherry Run Elementary School community, I decided to facilitate yoga with this group to improve their self-control. I also linked my small group intervention directly to the evidence-based Second Step program that I was using to address Program Goal Two. I witnessed tremendous success with this group! During second quarter the boys visited the office a total of ten times. During third quarter the boys visited the office twice and during fourth quarter, the boys had zero office visits! Based on the success of this group, I plan to integrate yoga into my school counseling program next year. My school administration supported me in attending a Yoga 4 Classrooms training in July 2016, and I recently completed a 95-hour Children’s Yoga Teacher Training. With these newly acquired skills and knowledge I plan to offer staff development on this topic to create systemic change within my school culture that promotes positive behavior. I also plan to address my students’ needs by incorporating yoga into my classroom lessons during the 2016-2017 school year. There are so many ways that yoga can support academic and social/emotional learning and I am excited for the future of my program.
Small groups were successful this year. Next year, I definitely plan to use the suggestions in the ASCA Implementation Guide and design all of my needs assessments using a 4 point Likert scale that address changes in students’ attitudes, knowledge, and/or skills. I will also limit the number ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors that I select and plan to make my questions on my assessments tie directly to the Mindsets and Behaviors in my learning objectives.