Counseling Corner: Facilitating Groups
Teaching social skills through small-group instruction is a fantastic way to provide struggling students with additional support. If done smart, it can very effective.
Two key factors to consider are:
- Facilitating groups based on student needs
- Stacking your groups for success
Disclaimer: As you keep reading, this may appear to be a lot of work. However, once teachers and grade level teams get use to the process, they often do this individually without the need for much additional support.
Identifying student needs
Step one: Individual Teachers
In order to determine student needs, I provide teachers with a brief list of internalizing and externalizing behaviors and ask them to determine five to eight students in their classroom demonstrating either internalizing or externalizing behaviors. After identify five students, teachers determine if the student is demonstrating more externalizing or internalizing behaviors, writing either an “E” or an “I” next to the students name. Next, teachers go through an rank the top three students that they are most concerned with in each category (i.e., externalizing and internalizing). Now, each teacher has an idea about which students they are most concerned with. However, six students from each class would result in running a ton of groups, so the number of students needs to be narrowed down.
Step two: Grade Level Team
Grade level teams get together (typically I facilitate the process at first) and discuss individual teacher nominations. The teams determine three (to 5 as sometimes students don’t get permission slips returned) students that the team recommends for extra support in both the externalizing and internalizing categories. Students are ranked from most need to least need. Now for each student the grade level team determines one target behavior that they feel the student needs to work on. For instance, this could be initiating conversations with peers or expressing emotions in an appropriate manner using words or pictures. This provides an idea about what student needs are and which students are demonstrating the most concerning behavior. This may appear to be a lot of work. However, once grade level teams get use to rank there students, they often do this individually without the need for much additional support.
Stacking groups for success
To set groups up for success, identifying the most concerning students is important. We definitely want to target those students through group counseling. Now, go back through and determine 1 to 2 kids demonstrating moderate concerns, and 1 or 2 kids that teams are mildly concerned about. Bottom line is if you put 6 to 7 kids with significantly challenging behavior in one group, your group may start to resemble a circus. In addition, the children with less severe behavior can serve to model positive behaviors within the group.