Picking the Topics for Elementary Small Groups
Small groups are a great way develop relationships with students and teach meaningful lessons, all while maximizing your time by serving several students at once. What’s the downside? For me it was developing an effective system that I could repeat over and over rather than re-creating the wheel every year.
The first question to tackle is what groups will you offer? The topics you choose will be determined by the needs of the students in your school as well as your own personal interest and expertise. Here are some ideas to get you started:
New student group: This group can work well if you are in a school that does not have a lot of transient students. Obviously if you have students coming and going frequently, you aren’t going to have the consistency that you need for a group experience. On the other hand, if you have a highly transient population, maybe instead of a group you want a weekly or monthly orientation time. Either way this group provides a chance for you to meet with students and assess needs while encouraging them to make friends and feel a part of the school community.
Study skills group: There are a number of things you could teach in a study skills group including organizational skills and growth mindset which in itself alone has been shown in research to improve grades even without teaching specific academic skills.
Social Skills/Friendship group: This is a general group topic that could address self esteem issues, social emotional learning and how to make friends as well as how to be a good friend.
Emotional Management group: Groups around the issue of a specific emotion, most commonly anger management or anxiety, can teach students coping skills and provide opportunities to practice the strategies they are learning.
Once you have some ideas, it’s time to assess the needs at your school. I recommend you keep it simple for lots of reason not the least of which is getting the input and cooperation from others who are no doubt busy with their own projects and lives. Create a simple checklist of possible group/student topics for teachers, other staff, parents and administration. Have a section for alternative topics that you may not have considered. At this point, listing their name and grade would be optional but helpful for follow-up. Depending on your time you could email the survey, present it at staff meeting ,grade level meeting or a PTA meeting for people to complete before they leave. You are probably going to get the more feedback from some kind of face to face meeting.
Once you have tabulated the results, you are ready to develop a process for student referral to your groups.
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