In the 2016-2017 school year, the school counselors were able to offer 13 small groups to students in kindergarten-fifth grade. Small group counseling is a tier 2 intervention for struggling students needing additional support outside of tier 1 classroom instruction and school-wide programs and activities. Each small group directly aligns with academic, social, or emotional development of our students. The counselors offer a variety of group topics including problem-solving, academics, friendship, behavior, changing families, and social skills. We believe providing small group responsive services fulfills our program Mission and Vision by meeting the needs of all students.
Small group counseling consists of five-ten students participating in 8-10 sessions depending on the group’s focus. Our academic groups last 10 weeks, while most social small groups are 8 weeks in duration. Each small group meets once per week for 40 minutes, with an exception of kindergarten meeting bi-weekly for 25 minutes. The number of participants, frequency of sessions, and session duration is determined by the developmental level of the participants. Evidenced-based curriculum and developmentally appropriate activities are used to ensure students receive effective lessons during small group instruction. All of our curriculum aligns with ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors, student competencies, ASCA Domains, and process for data collection.
The small group action plan is developed in collaboration with all stakeholders. For social small groups, we rely on recommendations from parents and teachers. The Counseling Department sends home a Small Group Interest Survey at the beginning of the year listing possible group offerings. We use parents’ responses to solidify which small groups are needed. The School Counseling Needs Assessment includes a section for teachers to identify small group topics would be most helpful for their students.
Weekly meetings with administration were instrumental in identifying small groups as an intervention for struggling students. In November, we noticed that eight third grade students triggered for behavior referrals. The counselors responded with an Anger Management group to equip these 8 students with coping skills and anger management strategies.
Our School Success participants are chosen based outcome data from the previous year including students’ MAP test scores, report card grades, and teacher recommendations. School Success small groups are our key delivery system for accomplishing our Academic Program Goal.
This past year, the School Counseling Needs Assessment indicated all 6 Fourth Grade teachers requested social skills as a small group need. After further investigating this request in a grade level meeting, two main themes emerged being relational aggression and making friends. In the spring, counselors provided small groups to address both of these needs. Teachers were helpful in recommending students who could benefit from both of these groups. Additionally, counselors worked with Administration throughout the fall semester to identify 11 girls with frequent office referrals for behavior and inability to get along with peers.
The Girls’ Drama Club for relational aggression aligned with Mindsets & Behaviors identified for 4th grade students. The curriculum allowed girls to explore their strengths, learn what it means to stand up for themselves and others, make healthy choices, put an end to gossip, practice strategies for critical thinking, appropriate ways to handle conflict, and learn how to respect themselves and others. Our perception data asked the girls to self-report how they saw themselves in each of these areas providing us with a measure for attitudes, skills, and knowledge before and after the group.
The counselors were hesitant about conducting this group because of the potential risks involved in putting 11 girls who cannot get along in a room together. Several factors could impact the success of this group including trust with one another, willingness to open up, group dynamics, and their motivation for wanting to change. This group was also conducted over their lunch period which we usually avoid, but lunch is a social time when many of these adverse behaviors typically surface.
The results from their pre- and post-tests, behavior outcome data, and teacher survey outcome data indicated this small-group was extremely successful. Office referrals decreased by 91%, teachers reported “somewhat improved” or “very much improved” for every participant in every category of the survey. In the future, we will provide this group again if the needs arise. Lunch is a difficult time as eating takes away time for activities, and we will cap the participants at 10 girls. It was difficult for each girl to have the amount of time she deserved to share in the allotted time. We saw significant improvements despite these few challenges.