The school counseling program offers small groups to provide students additional support to acquire the skills needed to be successful. After reviewing our Longitudinal Data System, the counselors, administrators, and teachers all agreed that our high-risk students need more practice in learning how to engage more positively with their peers. Our first quarter data showed 503 verified offenses were committed. Over half of the offenses (283) were due to students’ ineffective methods of resolving peer conflicts. Students would get angry and resort to hitting/pushing others instead of using their words to solve problems. One of our counseling program goals was to reduce the number of physical contacts. Students used inappropriate or abusive language because they lacked the skills needed to manage their emotions. For example, when the unexpected happened and students did not get what they wanted, they would become disrespectful and non-compliant. The small group topics (problem-solving skills, working in groups, friends and allies, social skills, and coping skills/ self-management skills) on our action plan were selected based on data, students’ needs and the counseling program goals.
We used the ‘Student Intervention Matching Form’ and our discipline referral data to identify group participants whom teachers had said displayed a significant amount of externalizing or internalizing behavior. One identified student needed to work on using words instead of his hands to resolve problems. At the end of the first quarter, he had 18 referrals for making physical contact, assaulting and fighting with others. Another student needed to work on using words appropriately to handle situations. He had 10 referrals for threatening, harassing and bullying others. And a third student needed to work on being compliant and respectful. She had 12 referrals for being disrespectful/non-compliant.
Fifth graders in a special education resource class were asked to participate in a group because they were constantly being referred to the office for using inappropriate language, showing disrespect, being non-compliant and engaging in disorderly conduct. These offenses usually occurred when the unexpected happened. A group was formed to teach them to think positive thoughts when they did not get what they wanted.
Our social skills group was created due to the high number of discipline referrals received on these students. The principal requested we run a small group to help these students learn more social skills. Six students met for four sessions, once a week for 30 minutes. The lessons covered topics on communication/miscommunication, identifying feelings, learning calming down strategies, following directions and getting help from an adult. The lesson plans and perception data assessment were aligned to the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors.
Our small group results report enabled us to demonstrate small group effectiveness while also identifying areas for improvement. After looking at our results report, we saw that our social skills group was so effective, we will continue it and expand the number of participants next year. Our perception data showed gains in all questions and our outcome data showed 100% of the students had a decrease in the number of referrals after the small group. Our results report helped us to identify several things we could do to run our groups more effectively. We discovered that some teacher-created lessons did not go as well as we had planned. We plan to adjust these lessons and materials used. We also felt we need to scaffold the skills to be more effective. For example, in lesson #2, students were taught to understand other people’s point of view. Before a student can understand another student’s point of view, he/she must know how to restate what the other person said. After teaching the skills, we plan to give students more practice time and apply them to familiar situations. Additional two sessions will be added and tailored to the needs of the students. We plan to reword some questions on the pre/post survey and use a four point Likert scale with options ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. We are considering adding more items enabling us to better assess student’s attitudes, knowledge and skills. We will continue to collaborate and inform teachers what students are learning and get their feedback on other skills students may need to master.
Next year, we are considering running small groups on resource day when students just have P.E., library and STEM classes. By doing this, they will not miss any instruction in language arts and math. In addition, we will have more time to actually do activities since eating lunch took away a large portion of our group time.