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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A New School Year Means New Groups

First, I want to thank everyone because I reached 100,000 visits to my blog this week! WOW THANK YOU!!

As a new school year is starting that also means the start of new small counseling groups. I like to start the groups off with casual get-to-know you activities so the kids can relax and obviously get to know each other! So I thought I would share some of my ideas with you and hopefully you can share some of yours with everyone as well.

I love to use 'Get To Know You Jenga' during the first group meeting or the start of a new lunch bunch. I previously blogged about this activity and you can check out the full details here.

I have also used a game called Totika with the Ice Breaker Question cards. It is very similar to Jenga except the students answer a question depending on what color block they pull, it can get pretty interesting when students want to pull certain color blocks only! Just like the 'Get to Know You Jenga' game this is great because it is very informal and game like but you are still learning about one another. This game is also great because there are other card sets you can purchase such as divorce, life skills, self-esteem and teen values so you can easily transition this game to other group focuses.

I also like to do 'Popsicle Sentences' with groups, although this one generally is a girls group favorite. The idea is from Creative Approaches for Counseling Individual Children in the School Setting. 

The activity includes 28 fill-in-the-blank sentences such as 'I like friends who ....', 'One thing you should know about me is ...' and 'happiness is ...'. I wrote each of these statements on a separate popsicle stick in all sorts of different colors and put them in an empty peanut butter jar (that was cleaned out of course!) The students go around randomly picking a popsicle stick out of the jar and answering the questions, I am not sure why the kids enjoy this so much because it is such a simple activity - but they really seem to! I have used this activity with students in all grades.

And finally, I like the groups to create a set of group rules they agree to follow while in group together. The students all brainstorm ideas together and we write the top 3-5 rules on a sheet of construction paper; ideas tend to be things like 'don't talk over each other', 'listen to each other' or 'be respectful of everyone's ideas.'  I then have the students sign their names on the new document and I sign it as well. If I ever need to reference these rules during group again I can just pull out the document to discuss it.

Please leave comments with your own ideas or activities that you use to start of new groups, I would love to hear what you are all doing!

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  1. I played Jenga with a group of new students for the first time. We all loved it!

  2. Kids love jenga! It is a great addition to any counselor's office!

  3. Hi Cheryl! I am a new elem. school counselor and I LOVE the popscile stick idea. Would you be able to share some more of what you have written on the sticks? I would love to create one for my friendship and social skills group!

    1. Hi Alexis - Unfortunately I don't think I can share too many more of the sentence starters because I took them directly from the book Creative Approaches for Counseling Individual Children (which also has great ideas you can use in groups) so I don't know if there would be issues with copy-write if I shared all of the sentences. I am sorry. The book is discounted to $24.19 on ( right now. It is a great book to add to your collection for your new office.
      Thank you so much for following my blog! I hope you are able to get some ideas to easily adapt to your school.
      - Cheryl

  4. Thank you for responding Cheryl. I completely understand, and have ordered the book for my office :)

  5. I am a new school counselor and just found your blog. I am finding that the teachers are making it really hard for me to pull kids out of class. When you do your small groups how long do you have your kids out of their classrooms?

  6. I am a new school counselor and am wondering how you get the kids out of school. I am finding it is hard for me to get the teachers to allow me to take the kids out of class. When you get them out of class how long do you pull them out for?

    1. Hi Jocelyn,
      It does get harder as the grades go up, but I think a lot of it is your relationship with the teachers. So keep working on building those relationships! I also tend to do more counseling individually when I am not able to coordinate schedules from multiple classrooms to form groups.
      good luck!