Small groups are an important part of the responsive services delivered by the school counselor. It is an opportunity to provide support to our students based on their unique needs and help us accomplish our vision of helping students “to achieve academically, develop socially, build resiliency and graduate from high school college-and-career-ready.”
When planning topics for small groups, I always begin with my classroom teachers. At the beginning of the year, I asked each grade level and teachers in our special education classrooms to complete a needs assessment. I wanted to get their input on which ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors we should focus on to help their students be more successful. In mid-September, after teachers had a couple weeks with their students, I attended grade level planning meetings where we scheduled groups for our new students and I gave them the updated group referral form I had created. Throughout the year I continued to meet with grade levels monthly to check in and schedule groups based on students’ needs. Other groups were scheduled when teachers’ submitted names using the group referral form. About a month before state testing began, I scheduled test-taking groups for any students that the third, fourth and fifth grade teachers felt needed additional support. Knowing that attendance would be the focus of one of my program goals, I began groups for those students the second week of school. These students were selected based on attendance data from the previous school year.
The past few years our program goals have focused around bullying. To help reach this goal, I wanted to begin working with younger students on friendship skills. I felt this would help create positive and supportive relationships amongst students (ASCA social skill behavior B-SS 2) and lead to students demonstrating fewer bullying behaviors. One of our kindergarten teachers had a group of girls in her class who were showing signs of “mean girl” behavior. There was a lot of drama amongst the girls and so we chose to schedule a friendship group for them.
During the five group sessions, each scheduled for 30 minutes, we addressed characteristics of good friends, words that help and hurt friendships, friendly and unfriendly behaviors, and ways to make new friends. I also had the students reflect on their own traits and behaviors and how they can positively or negatively impact their friendships. These lessons were chosen to help the students with the ASCA social skills behavior of “demonstrating ethical decision-making and social responsibility” (B-SS 5). When looking at the perception data, I was happy to see all three students could recognize the difference between friendly and unfriendly behaviors on the post-test. Additionally, the results of the post-survey showed that the students all felt that they know how to be a good friend, how to make new friends, and believe that they are good friends to their classmates. During the first two marking periods these students received an S in conduct on their report cards. Our group concluded at the end of the second quarter and I was proud to see the students all earned an S+ for conduct on their third and fourth marking period report cards. The students also did not receive any more PAWS violations or referrals for bullying behaviors the rest of the year.
After reviewing the perception and outcome data, I believe it is important that we continue to offer this friendship group for our younger students. In the past, we have had kindergarten students who did not have the opportunity to attend pre-school. These students sometimes struggle as they have had fewer social experiences with other children. I think this group could help them get off to the right start in building positive and supportive relationships with their classmates. I would also like to examine end-of-year behavioral data of this year’s kindergartners to identify students who could be good candidates for this group at the beginning of first grade. While we covered a lot of information in five sessions, I think adding additional sessions to the group would be valuable as we could do more role plays and practice of friendly behaviors. I would also like to have a session where we can talk about and practice dealing with conflicts between friends.