The small groups were developed based on data that implicated the students who needed responsive services to meet behavior and learning expectations. I ran four groups this year. Three of those groups were in response to academic needs due to the influx of students that did not pass the state reading assessment. One group in particular that I selected to highlight in this section was in response to students’ behavior. Some of the kindergarten students were showing difficulty transitioning to an elementary school setting. They struggled with following school classroom rituals and routines, and a few of them often cried wanting to return home to their parents. They were getting behavior referrals due to their non-compliant behavior, and their teachers were often frustrated.
My goal was to select six students to form a group to teach them how to handle their emotions and make appropriate choices when faced with a challenge or problem. I explained to the kindergarten teachers that I wanted to create a balance within the group so that the students with behavior difficulties could have at least two well-behaved student leaders to follow, in regards to making appropriate choices when faced with a problem. After consulting with the teachers about specific students' behaviors as well as which students to select based on the group dynamics that I presented to them, I formed a social skills group. I selected three students with the most behavior referrals, two students that demonstrated leadership qualities, and one student that showed signs of impulsive behavior, but made appropriate choices when prompted to do so.
I used a research-based curriculum called Second Step. It is a violence prevention program that teaches social skills through the use of empathy training. The curriculum was designed specifically for kindergarten age students. Therefore, developmentally appropriate activities and materials, such as animal puppets, picture cards, and role play were included in the lessons. I selected the empathy training unit based on the behaviors that students were exhibiting. The goal was for them to identify and connect with their feelings as well as the feelings of others so that they can make appropriate behavior choices in social settings.
I selected ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors that correlated with the unit lessons to ensure that the content aligned with the standards. The perception data that I collected through the use of pre-tests and post-tests implied that group work was successful. By the end of the group sessions, students improved their perception of their ability to control their emotions, to make friends, and to recognize how their choices may affect others.
The results from implementing the group lessons also showed an improvement in student behavior overall. Kindergarten students' behavior referrals went down by 40% by the end of the school year. The group’s focus also allowed me to intervene by referring individual students to school support teams as well as outside resources. The decline of behavior referrals with the target group of students indicates that the Second Step program is effective with replacing students' inappropriate behavior with appropriate behavior. Therefore, I will form groups again when the need arises using the Second Step Curriculum not just in kindergarten, but in other grade levels as well.