Everything you Need to Know about Small Group Counseling

Groups are my favorite part of school counseling but they can be stressful if you don't have the right systems in place. I'm here to get you prepped before back to school season by sharing some of my go-to small group strategies.

Everything You Need to Know About Small Group Referral Forms

Option 1: Create a Paper Referral Form

Keep it simple! Here are the basics you'll need:

  • Student name

  • Teacher name

  • Grade level

  • Area of need (ex: friendships, social skills)

  • Severity level (low, medium, high)

  • Type of counseling preferred (group, individual)

How to send them out:

  • Distribute them at a Back to School Night or Open House

  • Leave them in the staff lounge or copy room

  • Keep them in your office

  • Give each teacher a set to keep in their classroom

Bonus tip: Create a "kid-friendly" version as well where students can circle an image to indicate the severity of their need. (Example: Sunshine = talk to me when you get a chance, Rain drop = I need to talk soon, Storm cloud = I need to talk ASAP)

Option 2: Create a Digital Referral Form

This will have the same information as the paper version, but you will create it using Google Forms.

How to send them out:

  • Post a link to the form on your school or counseling website

  • Create a QR code to post outside your office for students to scan

  • Include a QR code in your Meet the Counselor brochure

Bonus tip: Create a screencast tutorial to show parents and teachers where they can access the form and how they can use it.

How to Use Small Group Data to Form Groups and Determine Effectiveness

There are two ways you can use data in small groups. You can use it to form groups and to measure their effectiveness.

1. Use data to form small groups

You can look at data you've collected from tier 1 and tier 3 students to see who needs more or less intervention. You can then move them into groups as needed. (Example: After seeing a student individually for 6 weeks the data shows they have progressed, but could still use more support than a class lesson can provide. You could then place them in a group.)

2. Use data to determine the effectiveness of your groups

After meeting with your group for 6-8 weeks you need to assess the effectiveness. Collect data to measure if students are progressing or not. You can use self-assessments and parent/teacher surveys to determine this.

How to Organize Small Group Materials to Incentivize Attendance

Use manila folders. That's it! Have one group folder where you will keep your group rules, student sign-in sheets, and any discussion cards or group games.

Then give each group member a folder. Inside they'll keep all of their worksheets, activities, crafts, and journals. At the conclusion of the group they can take home their folder to show parents what they've been working on in counseling. (Hello, advocating for your position by clarifying your role!)

manila folder

Sounds good for organizing, but how does this help attendance?

After each session, students get to pick a sticker to put on their folder. This simple task achieves two things.

  1. It incentives attendance because kids don't want to miss a sticker and look forward to the ritual. (It's small, but I promise they do!)

  2. It serves as a group progress tracker. Students can see how many sessions they have completed and how many they have left. This helps to prepare them for when the group will end.

How to Design Small Group Curriculum That Works

Use the following 6 steps when planning your small group curriculum.

  1. Identify your group topic

  2. Create a weekly outline with ASCA aligned objectives (Refer to the ASCA mindset and behaviors when writing your objectives.)

  3. Select icebreakers (discussion cards, dice games, videos, etc)

  4. Select activities (crafts, games, etc)

  5. Select reflection piece (discuss or write in a journal)

  6. Create self-assessments

Want to hit the easy button? You could follow these steps and create your own curriculum or you can use my all inclusive ASCA aligned curriculum. It has everything you need from icebreaker activities to student self-assessments. See all the details here.

Hopefully this helps you feel more prepared as you head into the school year. If you're looking to learn more about small groups, click here to download your free small group cheat sheet!

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