Saturday, November 27, 2010

Making Time for Groups

A reader asked what time during the day I facilitate groups.

Q: I really enjoy  your blog. I would like to know what time of day do you schedule your groups?  I can only have them at the lunch hour, so it restricts things a bit.

A: Making time for groups can be challenging, but it is possible!

At my current school I work with late elementary and middle school school aged students (grades 5-8).  Our school runs on a six day learning cycle instead of using days of the week. However, I facilitate groups and programing using days of the week. Below I discuss the times I facilitate groups and the advantages and disadvantages of the times.

Advisory Period, Homeroom, and Study Hall

In a middle school or high school setting, advisory period, homeroom, or study hall may give you enough time to facilitate a group.  Advisory periods and homerooms are usually the same time for all grade levels. Study halls usually occur at certain time of the day, so it may be possible to pull students from multiple study halls at the same time to create a group.  Some study halls have more than one grade level, so you could meet the needs of students in multiple grade levels by creating a group.

Lunch

I meet with students individually and in groups during lunch, but I do not facilitate set counseling groups during lunch. Students have lunch at our school for 30 minutes. Once students get their lunch and get up to my room we have about 10 - 15 minutes of time - not enough time for a counseling group.  I try to reserve lunch times for when students are having a conflict with each other or would like to discuss a concern with me as a group.

If your school has longer lunch periods, lunch might be an option for you to run groups.  It is also possible to work with lunch staff to expedite students getting to your office from lunch. I talk to the lunch staff, show them the passes I give students, and ask that students with passes go first through the line so they can get to my office in a timely fashion. It usually shaves off a few minutes at least!

Morning Meeting

Morning Meeting is a time where homerooms or classrooms meet as a group and facilitate activities to build community. Morning Meeting is part of Responsive Classroom and Developmental Design. All teachers K-8 are required to facilitate Morning Meeting in my school.

Morning Meeting can be a good time to pull students because it is first thing in the morning and lasts approximately 30 minutes. Teachers and administrators do not mind if I pull students for groups during this time.  I am currently running a grief and loss group during Morning Meeting time and it is working great.

Recess

I have not utilized recess for groups yet this year, but I have utilized recess for groups in the past. At my school kindergarten through fifth grade have a 30 minute recess and individual classrooms have recess at different times. When one class is at recess, other classes are receiving core instruction. If there are multiple students in one classroom who would benefit from a group, I utilize recess time.

In the past when I have utilized recess time for groups, the school where I worked had multiple classrooms at recess during the same time. Recess is a great time to facilitate social skills groups and friendship groups. Students do not want to miss recess unless they are sure they are going to have a good time, so I make sure to incorporate games and play into groups held during recess.

Specials

Specials at my school include Art, Music, Physical Education, and Computer classes. Specials last approximately 45 minutes. Students have a different special every day of the six day learning cycle

Since I facilitate my groups using days of the week instead of the six day learning cycle, students do not miss the same special each time we have group. The administrators at our school have said that school counselors are allowed to run groups during specials for RTII Tier II interventions, which includes counseling groups.

Using specials time for groups can be difficult because it is instructional time. I let specials teachers in know in advance I will be running a group, give them information about how long the group will last and notify them of which students will be in the group.

Times Pre-Arranged by the Teacher

Sometimes, the need for a group is so great that teachers are willing to re-arrange their schedules or make time for a group.

If you determine need for a group, talk to the teachers! You may be surprised at the willingness of teachers to accommodate groups.  At my school, I have hosted group during times pre-arranged by the teacher and they worked out great. The teacher had an investment in the group time, so students always showed up on time and ready to start!

Justifying a Need for Group Time

To determine need for groups, I rely on teacher or administrator referrals, student self referral, my own referrals from meeting with students individually, and results from needs assessments.  When I determine there is a need for a specific group, I screen all of the potential members and determine if they would be a good fit for the group.

If you can prove there is a need for a group, getting your principal and the teachers on board it becomes much easier to justify a need for group time. It also becomes much easier to make time for a group when everyone agrees their is a need.

What time during the school day do you facilitate groups? Comment below, email me, tweet, or share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!

Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.

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