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									                                                                          Group Proposal   1

Running Head: Group Proposal

                   Proposal for the Development of a Transition Group

                                   Kimberly R. Hayes

                 University of North Carolina at Charlotte, MSW Program

               Dr. Jim Dudley, Advanced Interpersonal Practice with Groups

                                   September 26, 2003
                                                                                 Group Proposal      2

Background Information

       Pleasant Ridge Elementary is a school in Gastonia, North Carolina serving children in

pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Pleasant Ridge is classified as a Title I school, which is

determined by family income and student test scores. According to the North Carolina

Department of Public Instruction website, approximately seventy-seven percent of students at

Pleasant Ridge qualify for free and reduced lunch (2003). The surrounding community is

considered “working poor”. The school has a diverse population of students: African

Americans comprise fifty-five percent of the total school population; twenty-three percent are

Caucasian; twenty percent are Hispanic; two percent are multiracial; and less than one percent

are Asian.

       The primary goal of Pleasant Ridge Elementary School is to educate children. In

accordance with this goal, Pleasant Ridge has adopted the Gaston County Schools belief

statement: “We believe every child can learn; we believe every child can excel; we believe

every child learns at different times, in different ways, and at different levels.” Gaston County

social workers are typically assigned to more than one school, so social work services are

available to Pleasant Ridge students two days per week. The goal of Gaston County School

Social Work Services is to “foster harmony between school and home to facilitate a child’s

education” (Gaston County School Website).

Unmet Needs of Potential Group Members

       Pleasant Ridge Elementary school does not currently offer any type of transition program

for fifth graders who will soon be going to middle school. This is unfortunate, as current

research suggests that transition groups are invaluable in alleviating the anxieties fifth graders
                                                                               Group Proposal      3

experience as they prepare to transition to middle school (National Middle School Association

[NMSA], 2002). During this transition, children typically experience a sharp increase in general

feelings of anxiety and stress, resulting from the anticipated differences between elementary and

middle schools. The most common fears expressed by children in this age group include: getting

to class on time, finding lockers, keeping up with materials, finding lunchrooms and bathrooms,

getting on the right bus, getting through crowded halls, remembering which class to go to next,

and issues of personal safety (for example, dealing with bullies) (Schumacher, 1998).

       The transition from elementary to middle school coincides with several major changes for

children in this age group. Pre-adolescence is characterized by physiological and hormonal

changes associated with puberty. These naturally occurring changes often result in increased

anxiety, moodiness, poor self-esteem, a decrease in academic motivation, over-sensitivity to

peers and authority figures, and an overall increase in feelings of vulnerability (Gaston County

Schools, Brochure).   Overall, the physiological and hormonal changes, combined with fears of

a new school environment, contribute to many students being at high risk of developing

academic and social problems as they make the transition from elementary to middle school.

Currently, there are no services available to Pleasant Ridge students to address these needs.

Purposes of the Group

       The overall purpose of the proposed Transition Group is to assist in making the transition

from elementary to middle school a smooth one. Because children in this age group face a

myriad of coinciding challenges, the purpose of the group is two-fold. The primary goal is to

promote self-development and resiliency, which will equip children with skills necessary to

adjust to social conditions of a new school. The second goal is to demystify fears of middle
                                                                                 Group Proposal    4

school by talking about the differences between elementary and middle school, and teaching

coping strategies.

         In order to encourage self-development and resiliency, the group curriculum will include

activities designed to build self-esteem, coping skills, stress and anger management skills, and

teamwork skills. To prepare children for systematic changes of middle school, the group will

spend time discussing what changes to expect in middle school. The group will also allow

students the opportunity to rehearse and role-play situations such as: reading a class schedule,

changing classes, getting lost at school, using a combination lock, dealing with bullies, having to

lose and make new friends, coping with several teachers (instead of one or two), and dealing

with drug and alcohol related peer-pressure.

         Group membership will be voluntary and the option to participate will be presented to the

children as a special opportunity to learn skills that will help them in middle school. It is

important that it be presented in a positive way so students will not regard it as punitive. The

children will also be given the opportunity to say what they would like to know or learn to

prepare them for middle school. This approach should increase motivation to participate in the


         The following represents a non-comprehensive list of desired objectives for the group.

The objectives will be amended or adapted as needed based on the needs of the children who are

selected to participate.

1. Members will verbalize their feelings about middle school and share these feelings (positive

or negative) with other group members.

2. Members will learn at least one non-aggressive strategy for dealing with anger as evidenced

by role playing.
                                                                                 Group Proposal     5

3. Members will learn a positive response to alcohol and drug related peer pressure as evidenced

by role playing.

4. Members will be able to read a middle school class schedule.

5. Members will be able to operate a combination lock.

6. Members will increase self-esteem as evidenced by pre- and post-test measures.

Structure of the Group

       As previously stated, Pleasant Ridge has a social worker on-site only two days per week.

Because of this limitation, group work is the most time-efficient way to meet the needs of a large

group of students with similar needs. Additionally, much of the group’s curriculum focuses on

fostering social competence. Group work, as opposed to individual work, will best serve this

purpose because a group format allows members to learn and receive support from each other,

and practice new skills within the group.

       The group will be a closed-group with membership limited to six to eight participants.

The activities will build upon each other, so if a student were to join the group late, he or she will

likely have missed important sessions. A closed-group format will also lead to greater group

cohesion, which will promote trust and openness among participants. Membership will be

limited to six to eight participants because of the age of the students, and to ensure that each

child has adequate opportunity to participate. The group will meet once per week for

approximately twelve weeks. Each session is expected to last approximately 45 minutes. The

group will meet in a small classroom within the school which is large enough to comfortably

accommodate the size of the group.
                                                                               Group Proposal        6

       As previously mentioned, participation in the Transition Group will be voluntary. Once

the group is underway, students may choose to stop attending. However, if someone wishes to

drop out of group, the social work intern will meet individually with the student and attempt to

resolve the problem so the student will continue participating.

Composition of the Group

       Participants of the group will be fifth graders, typically between the ages of ten and

twelve. Age is dependent upon when the child began school, and whether or not the child has

been retained. Both males and females will be included. The group will be heterogeneous with

respect to race, ethnicity, academic ability, and socio-economic backgrounds. Children with

serious mental illness or severe behavior problems would not be appropriate for group, although

individual work may be considered as an alternative treatment modality.

Orienting Members and Contracting

       Group members will be identified by referrals from fifth grade teachers, guidance

counselors, and school administrators. The school social worker and social work intern will

inform school personnel of the group, and request referrals for students whom they feel would

benefit from participation in the group. Candidates for the group will be students identified as

being “at-risk” due to socio-economic background and overall performance in the classroom

(including peer relationships and social skills). Referrals will be made individually, by teachers

or other school administrators. The referral process is expected to take at least two to four weeks

to ensure that adequate consideration is given to all students.
                                                                                Group Proposal     7

       Once the referral process is complete, individual interviews will be conducted to screen

and select students. The school social worker and social work intern will conduct these

interviews. A brief assessment of the students’ needs will be completed to ensure that the

students’ needs do not exceed the focus of the group. If additional needs are discovered during

the selection process, referrals will be made to appropriate community agencies.

       Once members have been interviewed, informed consent will be obtained from parents

and guardians (refer to Appendix A). The social worker intern will arrange to meet with the

parent or guardian to explain the purpose of the group. The social work intern also will explain

the informed consent letter and address any questions or concerns they may have. Because of

the extended length of the group, there will be no formal pre-group meeting. Orientation and

introductions will be conducted during the first meeting.

General Patterns of Meetings

       The transition group is a psycho-educational group because it focuses on providing

education and emotional support through the development of peer relationships. In order to

provide the educational portion, the group will need to be somewhat structured and follow a

curriculum schedule. Rules will be established during the first two sessions. When needed, rule-

reminders will be given during subsequent sessions. Ground rules will include the following:

participants must maintain confidentiality (this will be explained in detail); participants must

always show respect for other members and the leader; everyone gets a chance to talk; and no

leaving the classroom until group is finished. The members will also be asked to suggest

additional ground rules. This will be used as an opportunity to share ownership of the group

with the members, and may make members more willing to comply with the rules.
                                                                                Group Proposal       8

Agency and Organizational Policies Affecting the Group

       Vertical sanction must be obtained through the principal of Pleasant Ridge Elementary.

The school social worker has met with the principal to discuss the possibility of starting a

transition group. The principal has expressed a great deal of interest in its development and has

offered complete support.

Key People to Involve for Approval, Advice, Support

       Horizontal sanction must be obtained from the fifth grade teachers. Heavy emphasis is

placed on the students’ “end of grade” test scores. Therefore, the teachers have a vested interest

in having the children in class so they can be taught the information they will be tested on.

Because of the principal’s support of the group and the overall purpose of the group, securing

teacher support is not expected to be a problem. Input will be gathered from teachers to

determine the best time of day to hold group meetings, and the social workers will continually

work with teachers to ensure students don’t fall behind on their school work.

Evaluating the Group

       The group will be evaluated both formally and informally. Informal evaluations will be

done utilizing feedback from the members. Teachers and parents of the children will also be

asked for their feedback regarding any changes they may have noticed from the child. The group

leader will also informally evaluate the group based on the process and the individual members’

contribution to the group processes. Many of the groups’ objectives, as previously stated, can be

measured simply by observing a child’s ability to complete a task (such as read a class schedule,
                                                                               Group Proposal     9

lock and unlock a combination lock, ability to respond in role-play situations). The group leader

will informally evaluate the members’ ability to complete these tasks. Formal evaluations will

be completed using Pre and post test measures of self-esteem, ability to get along with others,

and ability to control anger will be used to evaluate goal progress (refer to Appendices B-D). Pre

and post tests have been adapted from an activity book designed for use with elementary students

(Morganett, 1994). The pre-tests will be administered individually with each student before the

group begins. Post-tests will be administered individually once the group is finished. The

combination of formal and informal evaluations will provide information on the efficacy of the

program in reaching its goals, and provide insight on ways the curriculum could be improved.

       In conclusion, the overall hope for the Transition Group is to enhance students’ ability to

find academic and social success in their transition to middle school. The social work intern will

make on-going efforts to work closely with teachers and administrators to ensure that school

goals are complemented by the activities and goals of the group.
                                                                               Group Proposal    10

Appendix A

                                     Informed Consent Letter

Dear Parent/Guardian:

Your permission is requested for your child, ___________________________, to participate in a
Transition Group at Pleasant Ridge Elementary. The group will be led by Kim Hayes, School
Social Work Intern. The group will meet once per week for approximately 12 weeks. Each
meeting will be about 45 minutes long, and will take place during the school day.

The goal of the Transition Group is to assist your child in successfully transitioning from
elementary to middle school. Participation in this group will be an excellent way for your child
to learn and practice new skills, develop self-confidence, increase social skills, increase problem-
solving abilities, and prepare for middle school.

Because group activities are based on a trusting relationship between the group leader and
students, information shared by group members will be kept confidential, except in certain
situations where there is an ethical responsibility to limit confidentiality. In the following
situations, you will be notified:

   1. If your child reveals information about harming him/herself or others
   2. If your child reveals information about child abuse
   3. If the social worker’s records are subpoenaed by the courts

By signing this form, you are giving informed consent for your child to participate in the
Transition Group. Please know that participation is voluntary, and does not affect your child’s
grades in any way. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please feel free to contact
Kim Hayes, School Social Work Intern at (704) 866-6096. Thank you very much for
considering this opportunity for your child.

“I give permission for my child to participate in the Transition Group. I understand that
participation is voluntary and my child can chose not to participate at any time. I also understand
that any information shared by my child and other group members will be kept confidential
except in the situations noted above.”

Parent/Guardian Signature __________________________________ Date ____________

Parent/Guardian Signature __________________________________ Date ____________
                                                                            Group Proposal   11

Appendix B

                                    Self-Esteem Pretest/ Posttest

Instructions: Read each sentence. Put a circle around the number that shows how you think and
feel right now.

1 = Strongly Agree
2 = Agree somewhat
3 = Don’t know
4 = Disagree somewhat
5 = Strongly disagree

1. I feel good about who I am.                               1      2   3        4     5

2. I know how to talk about my feelings with my friends. 1          2   3        4     5

3. It is scary for me to share my feelings.                  1      2   3        4     5

4. I can name many things about myself that
   I do well and am proud of.                                1      2   3        4     5

5. When I can’t change things I get very upset.              1      2   3        4     5

6. I feel good about myself when I try hard,
   even if I don’t do well.                                  1      2   3        4     5

7. It is important to be a good friend to others.            1      2   3        4     5
                                                                             Group Proposal   12

Appendix C

                           Getting Along with Others Pretest/ Posttest

Instructions: Read each sentence. Put a circle around the number that shows how you think and
feel right now.

1 = Strongly Agree
2 = Agree somewhat
3 = Don’t know
4 = Disagree somewhat
5 = Strongly disagree

1. I know how to make new friends.                         1       2     3        4     5

2. It is fun to make new friends.                          1       2     3        4     5

3. Friends never get angry at each other.                  1       2     3        4     5

4. Friends are always your own age.                        1       2     3        4     5

5. I know how to be a helpful friend.                      1       2     3        4     5

6. I know how to get help when I need it.                  1       2     3        4     5

7. It is a good idea to say good-bye to friends when
   they move away or don’t want to be friends anymore.     1       2     3        4     5

8. Cooperation means working together.                     1       2     3        4     5
                                                                             Group Proposal   13

Appendix D

                                Controlling My Anger Pretest/ Posttest

Instructions: Read each sentence. Put a circle around the number that shows how you think and
feel right now.

1 = Strongly Agree
2 = Agree somewhat
3 = Don’t know
4 = Disagree somewhat
5 = Strongly disagree

1. My anger gets me in trouble.                                 1    2   3        4     5

2. Sometimes I think I am angry all the time.                   1    2   3        4     5

3. There are some ways to be angry that are OK.                 1    2   3        4     5

4. I can relax when I want.                                     1    2   3        4     5

5. I never feel just a little angry, I only feel a lot angry.   1    2   3        4     5

6. Sometimes I get so mad I don’t know what to do.              1    2   3        4     5

7. I know how to avoid fights.                                  1    2   3        4     5

8. I can deal with bullies.                                     1    2   3        4     5

9. I have my temper under control.                              1    2   3        4     5

10. I can say things I need to say without getting upset.       1    2   3        4     5
                                                                           Group Proposal   14


Gaston County Schools. The Middle School Story … A Parent Handbook. [Brochure].

Gaston County Schools Website. (n.d.). Retrieved September 24, 2003 from: system/sss/index.htm

Morganett, Rosemarie S. (1994). Skills for Living: Group Counseling Activities for Elementary

       Students. Champaign, Illinois: Research Press.

No Child Left Behind- Title I. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23, 2003 from North Carolina

       Department of Public Instruction Website. Website:

Schumacher, Donna. (1998, June). The Transition to Middle School. ERIC Digest, EDO-PS-98-

       6. Retrieved September 19, 2003, from

Supporting Students in Their Transition To Middle School. (2002, March). Retrieved September

       19, 2003, from National Middle School Association Website:

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