Saturday, June 17, 2017

Organizing Effective Groups

I love doing groups but in the school setting you have to be extremely organized and maximize every minute especially if you are required to do them during lunch. Research has shown that the minimum number of sessions and time to have an effective group is 8 thirty minute sessions with follow up. Because some sessions at lunch end up being in the 20-25 minute range I always plan for 10 sessions and I purposely plan the last 2 for every other week. It usually happens naturally because there is a holiday of field trip so group gets postponed. For all my groups each member has a folder. They always take their own "attendance." For grades 2-5 I always indicate the main aim (title) of each session on the sheet. People like to know why they are in a meeting and what is going to be covered, that goes for children too. It is good teaching to tell them the learning objectives upfront and remind them what was covered in summary. Clear routines and procedures maximize effectiveness. I do not develop separate group rules. Our students know how to make rules because my school uses Responsive Classroom and this year all the rules must be based on CARES: Cooperation, Assertiveness, Responsibility, Empathy, Self-Control. I just add the participation and confidentiality rule. I review these the first session and ask/tell members we can add others as needed. I always review confidentiality again the second session and the last. I remind students confidentiality extends beyond the "life" of the group. I follow a general agenda or outline in each session. This is especially important in my groups for students with anxiety. The first session we do some type of introduction icebreaker, for the others I use some type of check-in round. The members or asked to either say their energy level on a scale of 1-5, their high and low of the week, or the emotion word that best describes their current mood. This allows me to know if the members are doing okay and I can go with my "planned" agenda or if I need to further explore what is going on with a member or maybe even the whole group. Check back for more group tips later.

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