elementarycounselingfriendshipgroup

A School Counselor Friendship Lunch Bunch Linky Party

Heather Thomas Program Management, School Counseling 0 Comments

The ever inspiring Tabitha, from Scrapbook of a School Counselor, has put together a lunch bunch linky party so we can check out what each other is doing (and hopefully grab an idea or two!) elementarycounselinggroupsA lunch bunch may look different for different counselors, but basically a lunch bunch is a group of students who meet with the school counselor/social worker during lunch time with a specific goal in mind.

Goals vary from group to group…one lunch bunch may be a one-time “meet and greet” for new or transitioning students or a 12-week social skills group. Long story short, lunch bunches are an extremely versatile way to meet the needs of your school counseling program. I

Issues that revolve around relational aggression tend to take up a good chunk of my time and I believe that lunch bunch groups will be an excellent proactive way to teach students positive social skills. I love the idea of eating together. After all, “breaking bread” with other people is one of the oldest forms of bonding and relationship building.

Lunch bunch groups have several benefits:

  • The relaxed setting helps reluctant students to “open up”.
  • Students are taught social skills, problem-solving techniques, and conflict resolution strategies before there is a problem.
  • The students are not missing out on academic instruction.
  • Since the students know they will participate in a group on a certain day, they are less likely to turn in multiple slips for on-going friendship problems.
  • A standardized problem solving/conflict resolution process can be taught and referred to in behavioral expectations. (Example: Learning what to do when someone calls you a name, instead of call them a name back.)
  • Lunch groups reduce the amount of students who participate in relational aggression because they don’t want to miss their lunch. My groups are definitely not a punishment, but sometimes students will report friendship problems as a means of getting out of their classroom…lunch bunches seem to take care of that. 🙂

elementarycounselorlunchbunchSince I cover 3 buildings, I have “anchor days” where I am usually at a specific building on that given day.  I am usually at Building A on Monday, Building B on Wednesday, and Building C on Friday. (I alternate between buildings on Tuesday/Thursdays.)

It is a lot easier for me to schedule groups on my anchor days…this also allows me to have two days a week free of lunch bunch duties, which frees me up to spend time with kids during recess (I love teaching kids how to play games like P-I-G and Around the World on the basketball court! My kids quickly learn that my bank shots and free throws are nothing to mess with 😉

Identifying Students for Groups

So back to scheduling…ah yes… Since I work with 1,500 students my groups basically form themselves when I take a look at my Tier 3 kiddos. Students that have been exhibiting chronic friendship problems get first dibs for my groups and that about fills them up.

Group Structure

Each group has 4-6 members in it. My groups will run 4-6 weeks. While I wish I could continue lunch bunches as an ongoing proactive measure, I have to base my programing on an ongoing assessment of needs and progress monitoring. elementaryschoolcounselinggroups Lunch is 20 minutes so I try to have a 5-10 minute activity that encourages reflection and sparks meaningful conversation. I like have a variety of activities at the ready. This allows me to match an activity to a current issue/theme they may be struggling with.

Resources for Groups

I’m somewhat of a compulsive shopper when it comes to buying counseling resource books. Here are few of my favorites for friendship groups: Friendship and Other Weapons by Signe Whitson (Don’t miss her great guest post about helping kids stand up for themselves here!) GIRLS in Real Life Situations by Julia Taylor and Shannon Trice-Black 104 Activities That Build by Alanna Jones (I’ve been using this book since 1998!) I also developed my own Relational Aggression Unit last year to address some of needs of my students. You can check it out here or at my TPT Store.

Plan Topics Strategically

Sometimes students will want to discuss a current situation…but I don’t allow specific examples to be discussed in the lunch bunch.

Sharing specific examples can be a violation of confidentiality (as some group members may not be involved or know of the situation). I have learned from experience that even if all of the girls are involved in the situation, focusing on “who did what, when, where, and to whom” sours the tone of the group and distracts from the main lesson.

If students need help address a specific situation offer to meet with them privately and be judicious of pulling other students out of class to work out problems. Jumping into peer mediation without individual processing can lead to students wanting to work out the majority of their friendship problems in your office instead of using their own skill set.

What Topics Do You Cover?

Share your ideas in the comments below!