The action plan includes all groups that are part of the SCP. However, these are not all implemented yearly. I always run 2-3 groups in the fall and 2-3 in the spring, but the focus of the groups is based on student need. I currently offer ten support groups, which are listed and sent in an email to teachers every September and January. Teachers refer students to groups and if a cluster of need emerges, I will conduct that group. For example, this past spring several first and second grade students were referred for the Cool Cats group (coping skills). Another way a group forms is if I notice myself that a pattern of need is evolving (e.g. I learn of four families who are going through a divorce). This past spring, I ran the Banana Splits support group for this exact reason. Parent permission is achieved for all support group participants.
If a need/pattern evolves that does not match a current group then a new group is developed. The Mountain Climbers group was new this year, and developed in response to a needs assessment conducted in May 2017 (see section three). To select participants, I offered the group to the five students who had the lowest scores on “personal best” in the last two quarters of fourth grade (data-referred students). Of these five students, four received parent permission. I also asked the current fifth grade teachers for referrals, in case students had regressed with this skill in the first month of school. Two referrals came from teachers, for a total of six participants.
My goal in this group was to get students to believe in themselves and then use this confidence to increase their grit and perseverance. To achieve this, I first wanted them to receive an objective measure of their personal strengths. This is where the character strengths survey became so valuable (sessions 2-3). It was much more powerful than simply asking the students to list “what are you good at?” Some strengths were validated while others were more surprising to the students (both boosted confidence). The identified weaknesses allowed students to have a guide for their personal goals (sessions 5-6). Session four has a cognitive therapy essence to it where students learned how to change negative, defeating thoughts into powerful, uplifting ones. All of these pieces in place gave students the confidence and skills to work towards their personal goals.
Several factors could be added/changed to improve this new support group. A recent academic grit scale was obtained from the school psychologist (after attending a conference). This was piloted with fourth grade students in their Got Grit lesson series. The scale was developmentally appropriate and did not take long to complete, so it would be a good option to supplement perception data for the Mountain Climbers group in the future.
A slight decrease was observed with student’s awareness of career plan requirements. None of the sessions specifically targeted career planning, although it was brought up in discussion (e.g. how would your character strengths help you in your future career?). A session could be added (for a total of 8 sessions) to include career exploration, possibly using www.pacareerzone.org as a resource. Students are familiar with this website from previous guidance lessons.
As mentioned in the results report, the small group was effective in helping students grow in the targeted Mindsets and Behaviors. However, some of the behaviors were not technically observed within the session- they were measured by student self-report (e.g. B-LS 8, B-SMS 5, B-SMS 6). These could be demonstrated in session with an activity on perseverance, which could easily be added to session four. A task requiring perseverance (e.g. getting a penny out of an ice cube without smashing it) could be coupled with the idea of positive thinking. In this way, the students would demonstrate perseverance and engage in challenging work. With these additions in place, the Mountain Climbers group will remain a part of the small group action plan.