REVISED SECTION Our small group topics are selected based upon the specific needs of our school. To determine small group needs, we analyze our school data profile, as well as academic, attendance, and behavioral (discipline referrals) reports. We consult with our stakeholders, including surveying our teachers, students, and parents, meeting with our administrators, and discussing student needs with our PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) Committee. Topics and activities are chosen in alignment with the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors, and designed to support our program and school improvement goals.
We consider achievement, attendance, and behavioral data when making decisions about which students to invite to participate in small groups. This year, our managing emotions small groups were developed based upon discipline referral data. Last year’s attendance and state achievement testing data was used to identify students through our Closing the Gap Action Plan (program goal #1) to participate in self-concept and worry small groups. Students for our new student small groups come from our enrollment records at the beginning of each school year.
Besides school data, a large portion of our small group referrals come from parents. We send small group referral forms home to our families in November around our district’s scheduled Parent-Teacher Conference Day. We find this to be helpful timing as concerns may be discussed at these conferences, and having a referral process available during this time gives our staff options of support to offer. Furthermore, we often become aware of student needs through individual counseling or student self-referral, and will reach out to parents for permission if we feel the need could be addressed in the group setting. Students are also considered for small groups based upon referrals from teachers, administrators, and the Intervention Team.
The “Calm Seas” (managing emotions) small group was chosen as our highlighted group this school year because it was designed to address counseling program goal #2 targeting fourth and fifth grade student behavior. Sarah facilitated these groups as her schedule allowed for more consistent availability during the times of day that teachers at those grade levels indicated were ideal pull-out times. Lesson plan content was developmentally-appropriate and driven by ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors aimed at helping students assume responsibility for actions (B-SM1,) develop self-control (B-SM2,) and utilize effective coping skills when faced with a problem (B-SM7.) During the eight-session group, students learned to identify the physical signs of anger, anger triggers, and the varying levels of intensity of anger, and practiced relaxation methods and positive ways to express anger.
Pre and post assessments were given to students and teachers. Perception data surveys were developed using the three self-management behavior standards to target what students need to believe, know, and demonstrate related to managing emotions as a result of participating in the group. For example, to assess participants’ knowledge and skills for coping when faced with a problem, we asked students to rate their ability to calm their bodies and minds. To assess participants’ self-control skills, we asked students to rate their ability to stop anger thoughts and move on after an anger-triggering incident.
The managing emotions group was successful in helping students assume responsibility for actions, develop self-control, and utilize effective coping skills when faced with a problem resulting in decreased discipline incidents and increased academic achievement. Students and teachers reported increased ability to cope with strong emotions.
Next school year, we plan to continue offering managing emotions small groups, and will consider increasing our target group to include students who receive more than one Communicator (tool used by our school to track classroom-managed behavior incidents.) Lesson plan content will be revised to include an affirmation statement during each session that reminds students it is ok to get angry, and a lesson will be developed to address overcoming revenge-thinking. We are considering building in regular check-ins with group participants following group termination to help these students maintain use of appropriate emotion management skills. Additionally, we plan to expand our perception data by utilizing pre/post parent surveys with the goal of obtaining a more accurate representation of each student, and his/her knowledge and skill growth.
Furthermore, as a result of the data collected in this year’s managing emotions small groups, delivery improvements will be made to other small groups on our action plan. Current perception data surveys will be updated for all small groups using the Small-Group Data Planning and Collection Tool. When possible, we will consider expanding perception data by creating parent survey instruments for more of our small groups.