How to Plan an Elementary Relational Aggression Small Group

Relational aggression, bullying, girl drama; it is all too familiar in middle school, but its origins start at the elementary level. Leading a relational aggression small group is a good way to combat existing problems and prevent future ones.

Who should be in this group?

Girls

While aggression among boys is typically more physical and overt in nature, it is often relational with girls. I have only done this group with girls so that is who these activities are intended for, but if your male students are showing relational aggression I'm sure it could be adapted for them as well.

Offenders and Leaders

Students who have had an issue with being relationally aggressive are in need of the group and are the obvious candidates. However, it is a good idea to include some role model students who show good social problem solving skills to lead by example. When planning activities be sure to mix the two groups so cliques don't form within your small group.

A word of caution: Be mindful of bullying dynamics when planning your group. You don't want to place a target in a group with 4 girls who have bullied her.

What activities should we do?

Start with the Basics

Like I do with all of my groups, start with group rules and a feelings check. For more ideas on how to facilitate a counseling small group head to this blog post.

Identify, Self-Reflect, and Cooperate

Three types of activities make a relational aggression group successful; identifying and defining RA, self-reflecting on their own experiences with RA, and cooperating to find solutions.

1. Identify

First, the girls need to identify and define relational aggression. They may not even be aware of what it is, much less if they are doing it.

Suggested Activities: Movie, Worksheets, Games, Role Play

I showed my group the movie An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong. I split up the movie into 15 minute increments and afterwards we discussed the clip and the students completed worksheets from the American Girl / Ophelia Project Curriculum. You can download the movie companion guide here. You can watch the full length film on Youtube here. You can also use other activities from The Ophelia Project. Download their curriculum for 4th-5th grade girls here and middle school girls here.

I also used an activity pack that I created to help students identify and define relational aggression. It includes informative handouts, interactive worksheets, and a fun BINGO game to help students identify RA behavior. You can find it in my store here.

2. Self-Reflect

Second, the girls need to self-reflect on their actions. Have them reflect on their own experiences to see the effects of relational aggression in their own lives.

Suggested Activities: Self-Assessment, Journal, Discussion Cards

I used the self-reflection quiz, journal prompts, and discussion cards from my activity pack to help students self-reflect on their possibly aggressive or bullying behavior.

3. Cooperate

Third, the girls need to cooperate with one another. Plan group activities where they are slightly out of their comfort zone and need to cooperate and rely on help from others to succeed.

Suggested Activities: Role Play, Puzzles, Games

You can play a game or solve a puzzle in pairs or as a group. Any activity that allows students to work together for a common goal will work! I used the role play scenarios from my activity pack so students had to come up with a skit to show the rest of the group.

Bonus Idea: Do an after school activity to promote relational aggression prevention. A counselor friend of mine held a movie night of Chrissa Stands Strong for all of the girls in the school. The group participants hosted and facilitated a discussion after.

How do I evaluate my group?

Collect Data

Send out a survey to parents and teachers before the group to determine a baseline of student behavior. At the conclusion of the group, re-send the same form to track student growth and improvement.

You can also collect data by having the students complete a self-assessment before and after the group. You can even meet with the girls individually after the last group to discuss their improvement and gather their thoughts. This can also be done in a final journal prompt. For more ideas check out my data collection blog post.

bullying

Be Transparent

The last thing you want is for students to feel like they are in this group because they are bullies or 'bad' kids. Be upfront with them about why they are in the group and help them understand the importance of learning these life skills. They've likely been a victim of RA as much as they have been an aggressor.

Take Preventative Measures

As with most things in school counseling, a proactive preventative approach is best. I did my group with 5th grade girls in second semester. A few parents had questions about why their child was selected to participate and I explained that this is a proactive way to prepare for middle school relational aggression they may encounter. I think conducting a group at the beginning of the school year is even better and is a great way to equip students with the skills they need to form meaningful friendships and prevent relational aggression before it starts.

Have you tried leading a relational aggression group? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your experience!

Plan a relational aggression small group  - Bright Futures Counseling

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