As I shared in my last post, we offered eleven small groups with five different topics for students in grades 3-5 this fall. It required a great deal of organization to keep everything running smoothly! Luckily, I had many school counseling blogs to use as reference for efficient methods and systems. Below are a few tools and systems that were implemented.
To organize group projects, each group was given a cardboard book box or plastic basket (I bought 25 at a dollar store, and they come in so handy!). Students clip their checking in clothespin to the box/basket at the end of the group, as well as storing any art projects or worksheets for safekeeping. This has proven to be an efficient and space-saving way to keep track of many items and pins for eleven different groups.
The check in scale (modeled after that of Tabitha's at Scrapbook of a School Counselor) proved to be extremely popular with group members! The scale is a simple piece of laminated cardboard with the numbers one through five, and is attached to the edge of a large whiteboard. Every week, I wrote two emotions/ states that could be considered along a range (satisfied/longing, extroverted/introverted, shy/outgoing, etc). Every group member had a clothespin with their name, and clipped their pin to the number that best suited their feelings at that moment. Each member then had the opportunity to share about their choice or pass. At the end of our groups, students reported this was one of their favorite parts of the group experience.
For my own organization, I have a groups binder with tabs that contain the list of group members by topic, permission form letters, lesson plans, and notes from each group. Each curriculum also has its own binder filled with clear plastic sleeves. As we completed projects, I placed extra worksheets and samples of group members' work to show in future groups. When I find ideas for supplemental projects or worksheets, I place these in the back of the binder as well.
This school year, I have had the opportunity to provide six week cycles of classroom lessons and small groups (see my blog post advocating for (a schedule) change for further details). This means I am scheduled into every classroom like music or P.E., but rotate every six weeks. I teach in grades K-2 while I run small groups for grades 3-5, and after 6 weeks I start small groups for Kinder through 2nd grade students and teach in grades 3-5. I really enjoy this schedule, because it allows me to run more small groups than I could if I taught all 24 classes weekly. For the past six weeks, I had the opportunity to run eleven groups with five different topics. Here are the topics, along with the accompanying curricula, and a sample lesson that went over well with group members:
Topic: social thinking
Popular Lesson: Using the Superflex Distractor Shield against the Unthinkable the Brain Eater
Curriculum: G.I.R.L.S.: Friendship
Popular Lesson: Creating artwork from random scraps to discuss perspective taking
Lesson Details: Group members selected 4-6 items from a random collection of scraps, then arranged the items into a work of art. They were then asked to think of a theme for their art. The group went around the circle guessing what each person's artwork was themed. Members were excited to guess the theme, or to "see" it once it was revealed by the artist. We then discussed as a group how gratifying it can be when someone sees our perspective from the start, or can learn to see it after talking for awhile. We then extended this to our experiences at recess and other common social interactions.
Topic: self esteem & social skills for boys
Curriculum: Operation Breaking the Boy Code (see below)
Popular Lesson: Creating superhero characters
Lesson details: The book provides worksheets with prompts to help each group member to create their own superhero, with powers, costumes, sidekicks, vehicles and more. Group members were asked to think of heroes who could help our school, and were excited to draw pictures of their created heroes.
Topic: self esteem & social skills for girls
Curriculum: Operation Breaking the Girl Code
Popular Lesson: Creating symbolic badges
Lesson details: After discussing Juliette Gordon Low's life and the use of badges in Girl Scouts, group members chose three symbols and colors. They created a unified badge that represented their unique traits and individuality.
Curriculum: Building Everyday Leadership in All Kids
Popular Lesson: Leadership Talk Show
Lesson Details: Members split up into pairs and chose A and B. "A" was instructed to play talk show host and choose one question from a long list (i.e., what kind of furniture would you be and why? If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?). "B" then played talk show guest and spoke for 1 minute while "A" listened without speaking. Then the two switched. "A"s then found new "B" partners and repeated the activity, but for 3 minutes. Afterward, the group discussed how it felt to talk and listen for a shorter and extended time. Group members reflected on how difficult it can be to be a good listener, but that when you stop and really listen you learn more about the speaker. They also discovered that body language impacts how much the "guest" could talk, especially during the three minute stretch. This activity was a favorite of the entire group, and they requested to play it again with their class.
* This group also created a video about solving problems with Kelso's Wheel. When it is completed, we will attempt to get permission to share it here!
This year's Giving Tree program is themed "Deck the Halls." Rather than creating the sign on my own, I asked a group of fifth grade girls to make our signs (didn't they do a great job?). They used butcher paper and die cut snowflakes were added.
Our Giving Tree program is a food drive that benefits families in our communities. Here's how it works at our school:
1. Students select an undecorated paper ornament with a label (for a food or hygiene item) from the tables on either side of the tree in the lobby.
2. Students then bring in the food or hygiene product from their ornament/tag (with parent permission, of course). The item(s) are placed in the proper labeled box in the lobby.
3. Students hang their uniquely decorated ornament on the tree; it's a visual way to display the school's generous giving on our tree!
4. Donated items are sorted into boxes and delivered to families in the community.
Below is the Q & A posted on our school website:
In addition to the tree, tables and "Deck the Halls" sign, another display was added to the lobby. This bulletin board says, "Tis the season to be JOLLY!" and includes clean holiday jokes sprinkled generously in the "snow!" A box under the display allows students to submit jokes to add to the display. With all the stress and rush during this time of year, I wanted this year's holidays to be fun and festive, as well as a time for giving and contemplation.