I’ve been thinking about my favorite things about small counseling groups lately, and I feel like I’ve reached a point that I really love my group structure. It’s only taken me about 10 years to get there.
I start all of my groups, regardless of topic, in the same way. 99% of my groups are run during the lunch blocks, so we often have to wait for group members to make it through the lunch line and arrive.
I really needed something for the kids to do while they waited (besides eat their lunch). I adapted this idea from someone in the Elementary School Counselor Exchange on Facebook a couple years ago (despite my best efforts, I cannot find the original poster. If it was you – or you know who it was, please tell me). At the start of every new group, the students create a “feelings card.” These are pretty simple, rectangular bookmarks that the kids decorate and label with their name (if they want). When I’m feeling super fancy and ambitious, I laminate them, and then I store them in a grade-specific pocket so they’re easy to find. I’ve gotten smarter over the years, and now I print each grade in a different color cardstock. As the students come in, they find their card and pick how they’re feeling that day. You can download the template that I use for free here.
As you can see, all the pockets are labeled with an emotion and an image. I shrunk the Feelings Posters by School Counseling Files and attached them to the pockets using paper clips. Simple, right? The posters are really cute, and I use them for other group activities so the kids get used to recognizing the clip art images and emotions.
The kids love to start each counseling group this way. They spend quite a bit of time looking at the emotions, thinking about how they’re currently feeling, and sometimes during the group or at the end they put their feeling card in a different pocket as their feelings change. I’ve found it really opens students up to discussing emotions, and it lends itself well to our group check-in.
For group check-in, I typically use a feeling frogs, and the kids take turns sharing good/bad news, and/or how they’re feeling that day. Students also seem to really enjoy guessing which color/emotion frog I’m going to pick. It’s the little things, I guess.
From there, we move on to the activity of the day! Easy peasy! The kids like the consistent structure, and the opportunity to share with their peers. It gets them focused on feelings, and ready to roll for group.
Do you have a certain outline or structure to your groups? What have you found effective during elementary school counseling groups? If you’re looking for more ideas, check out my friend Laura’s post on how to start counseling groups over on Confident Counselors!
I’d love to hear about it – share below!