Kindergarten Lunch Bunch

In the past, I have had a visceral reaction to the term "lunch bunch" because many people interpret that is the counselor just invites anyone who wants to eat lunch in the counseling office.  I believe all groups should have a clear goal and competencies - even informal groups with kindergarten. However, over five years ago the part-time counselor at my school wanted to offer kindergarten lunch bunches and since that was her grade they were added to the counseling program. We agreed the goals were: 1) the students and counselors all get to know one another better; 2) the students would increase familiarity with the counselor, the counseling office and the process of group counseling; 3) the students would learn about uniqueness, feelings, friendship, and problem-solving skills. Participation has grown from about 20 students the first year to approximately 100 by year 4. My subsequent two part-time colleagues have also enjoyed leading kindergarten lunch bunches. Since they have become so popular I needed to assist with these groups.  Each small group (we aim for 4 in a group to really get to hear from each member) meets four times spaced out depending on the overall program schedule.  The counselor covers the same topics. All sessions include a book and at least one activity (usually a cube or dice game).  The sessions are 1) get to know one another and what is special about us; 2) feelings; 3) friendships; and 4) solving problems with friends.

Newcomers Lunch Bunch

Building on the success of the kindergarten groups several years ago we added September Lunch Bunch for new students.  We do a Newcomers Welcome Party the first week of school but frequently those groups are large.  The goals for the newcomers are  the students will increase familiarity with the counselor, the counseling office and the process of group counseling and the students will share their experiences and support one another adjusting to a new school. We typically have two sessions depending on numbers.  The first time it might be all new first grade boys and their second session would be the new students plus they get to invite one new friend.  If by the end of September a new student does not have a "friend" they feel comfortable inviting, then they need to be screened to see if they need to be invited to a friendship group with the counselor that begin in October.

ASD Lunch Bunch

Another type of Lunch Bunch we lead (as needed) is to facilitate students with special needs to have positive interactions during lunch.  In these cases we invite the whole class of the identified child (usually Autism Spectrum Disorder) to participate in lunch bunch with the counselor.  This is only done after consulting with the parents of the child and determining if such a group is needed.  The identified child comes every time and we invite the other children whose parents sign permission to come on a rotating basis.  This has worked well with several students.  In two cases the identified students became successful working in a small group format and were able to participate in regular counseling groups the following school year.

Small Psychoeducational Groups

The purpose of a counseling group at school is to complement and enhance student learning by helping students improve their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. A psycho-educational group provides a safe setting where children increase their: 1) self-awareness, 2) cooperation and communication skills, and 3) ability to have fun with peers. Children learn from each other and help each other. Ultimately, the goal of an elementary support group is to PREVENT problems in the future by teaching children new skills.
The counselors are getting ready to start small groups in late September or early October.  To help us prioritize the groups we offer and the order we conduct them we need to know if you are interested in your child participating in a small group with one of us this year.  Groups generally meet for 25-40 minutes per week with the number of sessions depends on the purpose and needs of the group.  This is our starting list but other groups can be added as needed:

Friendship Groups / Social Skill Development (Kindergarten-grade 4) 8 sessions
Friendship Groups are a fun way for students in the same grade level to make new friends and practice their social skills in a safe, small group setting. Children are invited to participate in friendship groups for a variety of reasons. A few examples include: a child who is shy or often appears to play alone during free choice time or recess, a child exhibiting behaviors that unknowingly (to the child) “turn off” others, a child who repeatedly complains of not having any friends, a child who has a hard time initiating friendships, a child who lacks self-confidence, and/or who needs a confidence boost, or a child who is very accepting and easily befriends other children (always a very beneficial addition to a group). Role models are welcome!

Howard B Wigglebottom Group (Grade 1) 8 sessions
This group is designed to be offered the second semester of first grade for boys to build relationships learn to problem solve in prosocial ways.  The goals are members will 1) increase feeling word vocabulary; 2) practice strategies to communicate with peers and problem-solve; and 3) give and get support in a social setting. The materials for the group are available free at the web site I have the set of 12 books which I prefer to use instead of the online session because it is easier to stop and pause for discussion with a hard copy of the book.  We use a book (select the ones that best meet the needs of the particular group of students) for each session except the first and last.  I have posted the session plans for the first 2 sessions including the pre-assessment I use for the group.  Boys love these books!

Emotion Management (Grades 1-5) 8-9 sessions If group meets at lunch we need at least one more session
These groups are designed to assist children in developing strategies to help them understand their feelings and put them in perspective so they can better relax, cope, learn and have fun with friends. The child who might benefit from being in this group may worry a lot, may show a great deal of resistance to try new experiences, may often seem anxious, have a lot of fears and/or make frequent trips to the nurse for headaches and tummy aches. Children who exhibit one of the above, or a combination, can develop understanding and coping strategies in a fun, safe environment.  I call the groups titles like Worry Wise, It's OK, or Chill.

Here is a sample of a pre-group survey I use for grades 3-5.

Self-Regulation (Kindergarten - Grade 2) 8 sessions
By utilizing the principles of learning such as modeling, role-playing, feedback and transfer students will be taught prosocial behaviors. Children will be encouraged to “think before they act” by providing them with new skills, sufficient practice and reinforcement in their home and school environments. 

Changing Families (Grade 1-4) 8-9 sessions
Family change groups are for students whose family is something other than the traditional mom, dad, and child(ren).  These groups are beneficial to students by enabling them to meet other children going through a similar experience. Many students find comfort in discovering they are “not the only one” in the school with a family that has experienced a change or does not look like the families of most of their classmates. Students also develop a greater comfort discussing feelings and skills they might need to express themselves.

Study Skills and Organization Groups (Grades 3-5) 8-9 sessions
Being successful in school and building a solid academic foundation is important to future success.  Based on the specific needs of the group skill building activities will be taught, practiced, encouraged, structured, and maintained for children to be successful.  These skills may consist of listening, focusing, being organized, using time efficiently, knowing how to study, completing homework, knowing how to take tests, and maintaining a good attitude are all essential skills for school success. Students who did not pass a SOL test or had grades below expectations last year are strongly encouraged to participate.

StarBound (Grade 3-5) 8 sessions
These groups are designed to strengthen self-esteem and self-perception. The groups promote awareness about how certain environments can affect self-esteem and encourage resiliency. The group is an adaptation of Carol Miller's book StarBound.

5th Grade Book & Bag Lunch (Separate Groups for Girls and Boys) 4-6 sessions
All 5th grade students are invited to participate in a 5th Grade book discussion group at lunch that will focus on peer relationships and how to navigate the sometimes tricky waters of friendship. Students who sign up will be loaned a book to read and discuss dealing with topics that include peer pressure, cliques, being different, and fitting in.
 For our fifth graders who could benefit from being in a personal social growth group the counselor, social worker, and school psychologist co-lead "Book and Bag Lunch Groups."  Being in a "Book Club"destigmatizes the experience and 90% of our students bring lunch so we are able to do the sessions in 20-25 minutes over 6 weeks.  Our PTA bought the books for us so we check them out to the students who sign up  and get permission.  Chapters are assigned for discussion each session.  These groups give students opportunities to: a) explore feelings about self-esteem; b) increase self-awareness; c) increase confidence in communication and problem-solving; explore and strengthen peer relationships; and d) experience positive and healthy interactions with peers and adults.  The students have rated the groups as useful and something they would recommend to other fifth graders.
The girls in my fifth grade book club really relate to the main characters in Koss's book.  They can identify the roles the various characters play in the fictional story and apply those traits to how they handle peer conflicts.  It is an easy read but contains many good starting points for discussion.  The group can last 5-6 sessions depending how long you meet and the depth you want to take the processing.  We typically meet every other week to give plenty of time to get the reading done but we have also done it every week for 6 sessions. We relate the discussion to our school wide bullying program, especially relational aggression.

The last session of the girls book club I bring in other books that deal with similar topics that would be interesting for members.  I try to include a variety of reading levels.  Usually several of the girls have read at least some of the books and can give a brief book talk about the major theme and how it is similar or different than the "The Girls."  It makes a nice bridge to using literature as a way others solve problems.  I extend an invitation for any of the members to stop by if they read one of these books and tell me if they agree it should be on my "Recommend List" in the future.  Of course we take time to do a post-assessment and share our thoughts about the group ending.

Ideas for Small Groups

"Music is what feelings sound like." STAR and other songs
These CDs from can be used in large or small groups.  There are several options for learning about emotions and how to manage strong feelings.  Using music in groups helps students remember the concepts taught and by activating another part of the brain!
Accordion Paper Person Adjectives About Self 
This activity, Accordion Paper Person,  is a favorite with third graders. I use it in groups but it could easily be adapted to a class lesson.  In the first session after we do an icebreaker and pre-assessment our brainstorm words that can be used to describe third graders.  I aim to have at least 20 adjectives so that members who struggle with writing have a variety to use. The paper is folded so they write 8 words that describe self.  I was smiling when I did this activity yesterday because the "typical peer" I had included in the group described himself on one of the folds as "role model." They draw their own face on the head cut out and add some pre-cut arms and legs.
Emotional Pie When working with members on labeling emotions, one good technique is draw their "emotional pie" to represent how much of the last week they felt a variety of feelings.  Some may have a big slice of happy, but others will show they have been proud or angry a lot.  The members share as much as they want about what they drew on their white boards.This can be done as a check in too.
Rainbow Activity These ideas are adapted from the pictures I saw on Pinterest.  First and second graders love rainbow activities and they can be used to review a variety of ideas we want children to learn in groups.  The advantage of making an appealing art project to review is it is likely the members will want to take them home to share with families, discuss, and even display.  For a boys group learning about types of feelings you can do the face with spikey hair.  For a girls group on friendship qualities I did 5 qualities they have and two they want to work on after the group ends (goals).  There are many more possibilities.  I always prepare the materials ahead of time because I want to spend plenty of time doing the art project and have time to process with discussion. I have had many students a year later say this was their favorite activity and that they saved it.
Cooperation and Communication This is always a good activity with groups to foster communication and cooperation.  They can pass compliments or ask questions and pass the ribbon to another member to work together to make a shape (shapes vary depending on number in group).  Especially with boys activity-based exercises are needed to keep psycho-educational groups engaging and fun.


  1. Hi!
    I am interested in several of your group agendas/lessons. Do you have the available for purchase anywhere? I would love to do some of the groups you have listed with my kiddos and would love the resources/lessons you have used. Thanks for your time!

  2. No I don't sell my group plans. Thanks for the kind comments!

    1. Do you share them with other counselors?