- Skills Spotlight
Group Counseling Activities for Middle School Students
Middle school signals a major change for most students. Discover three group activities that can help preteens develop important life skills!
Middle school can be a stressful time of change. Many preteens struggle with self-awareness, especially as the workload increases and their friend circles begin to shift. Group counseling activities in middle school can instill the confidence students need to succeed.
This article will explore three group counseling activities that appeal to middle school students:
- Create a Graffiti Wall
- Play “Can You Name More than 4?”
- Role-Playing for Conflict Resolution
Helping Middle School Students Adjust to Change
For many seventh and eighth-grade students, middle school represents change, and many of these students feel overwhelmed as they enter a new environment or hear about academic expectations.
For instance, middle school students travel to numerous classes, gathering various books and materials for each subject. They must arrive on time, ready to engage in lessons that challenge them intellectually and emotionally.
Moreover, middle school teachers encourage students to be more independent, and while autonomy can feel exciting, it is unfamiliar to some preteens.
Meanwhile, middle school students are also learning to navigate social circles, comprised of young people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and interests.
According to experts, a certain degree of nervousness during the transition to middle school is common, and parents can allay their child’s fear by settling into a school routine as soon as possible. To begin, parents and students should familiarize themselves with their new school by following these steps:
Tour the school before classes begin. Pay attention to the layout of the building, then noting the location of classes, lockers, bathrooms, athletic changing rooms, and offices for middle school personnel. If the school has a student advisor or guidance counselor on-site, parents should encourage an especially anxious child to speak with the adult.
Meet the student’s teachers. By making a face-to-face connection, the student will likely view the educator as an ally. If possible, take time to discuss classroom expectations so that the student understands what self-management looks like in middle school.
Encourage the student to speak with other young people at the school, many of whom are also looking for a way to establish friendships. By exchanging contact information, students can arrange to gather with their peers. Additionally, many schools encourage families to socialize at school-sponsored functions, which fosters trust, community, and cooperation.
Encourage the student to raise questions. By addressing concerns early, parents can help preteens prepare to enter middle school with a greater sense of confidence.
At Marlborough, we encourage parents to explore the benefits of attending a girls’ private middle school!
Group Counseling Activities for Middle School Students
In some instances, middle school students need help coping with anxiety, and although the reasons may vary, many schools have counselors on campus to help students overcome excessive doubt and worry.
Schools with 21st-century technology programs can help preteens decipher the context and meaning of social media, including Instagram, Snapchat, and other, emerging media outlets. Since young people frequently lack experience, it can be helpful to have safe, wise adults to clarify misperceptions from social media.
As students mature, competition in academics and athletics can become fierce, and they need perspective to distinguish between success in a pursuit and worth as an individual.
Observant and empathetic educators may offer the following some age-appropriate group counseling activities for middle school students:
Marlborough utilizes this technique in the Shari and Ed Glazer Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Other teachers may use this activity in the classroom or adapt it to suit a school-wide event, such as Spirit Week. The students choose a wall or large bulletin board, then affix large pieces of paper. The teacher should explain that students will create artwork that depicts positive beliefs about friendship, identity, community, and/or empowerment.
Middle school students may post photographs of classmates and quotations, or they may attach original short stories, poems, and drawings. To reinforce diversity and equity, the students’ work should represent a spectrum of personalities, interests, and experiences.
By adding to the graffiti wall throughout the year, middle school students craft an evolving reminder of their personal maturity and growing respect for each other.
The purpose of this exercise is to affirm one another by focusing on commonalities and shared values. This group counseling activity prepares middle school students for the workplace by emphasizing similarities, rather than differences.
By dividing into teams of 4-6, students answer questions they select from a jar or other container. As with other group counseling activities for middle school students, this game gives young people an opportunity to develop team-building skills and to discuss sensitive topics in a safe setting.
First, the class will create the game board by taking a piece of poster board or foam core board, topped with paper. They should cut out circles in colors that correspond to the number of teams. For instance, the pink, yellow, green, blue, and orange teams should have correlating pink, yellow, green, blue, and orange circles. Each team should have at least four circles.
Students should glue the circles in random order on the board to form a path that winds around the board.
Then, students gather into teams. Each student will take turns to roll a die to advance around the board. When a student lands on the team’s colored circle, the team answers a question; the teacher serves as the moderator and the one who asks questions.
Each question requires more than four answers, so the team should collaborate to come up with at least five answers. Teams have one minute to formulate their replies.
Since the goal is problem-solving and team building, the teacher should compose questions that have various answers, such as:
What careers start with the letter “C”?
Why do people dance?
How can people demonstrate gratitude?
What are some examples of heart-felt compliments?
After finishing the game, the class might choose one of the questions to discuss further, exploring its significance and how the students felt about their answers.
This exercise builds camaraderie and problem solving, preparing middle school students for tasks that require clarity, organization, and logic.
Inevitably, disagreements occur, and middle school students can benefit from simple strategies that lead to effective conflict resolution. In this role-playing situation, two students face off as the offended parties in a dispute.
The teacher sets the stage by describing a scenario. Then, the two students take turns, telling the story from their point of view; they should be sure to explain in detail why they feel the way they do.
After telling their side, the students respond to each other, remembering that the goal is to generate understanding and empathy.
To resolve the conflict, students must practice active listening and take responsibility for certain behaviors. Students should avoid alienating words, such as always, never, or ought. Instead, students should try to contextualize their thoughts with a sentence: “I feel _____ when you ____, and I would like for you to _____.”
By referring to personal feelings and focusing on specific behaviors, students can call for a change in action, rather than attacking the other individual’s character.
At the end of the exercise, the rest of the class should debrief, offering alternate solutions.
Teachers might select from the following sample scenarios:
You have recently become friends with “Kelsey” and sent her a friend request on Facebook. You really like “Kelsey” in person, but you dislike her posts; in fact, you feel that some of her comments are inappropriate. You have grown irritated, and you worry that your parents or friends will think you agree with “Kelsey.”
Every summer, you work for your grandfather, doing odd jobs around his farm. You enjoy the work and like the extra spending money. But this year, your grandpa also hired a student from your school. Over time, “Taylor” has begun to cut into your work. Some days, you arrive, and there is nothing for you to do! You do not know “Taylor” well, but you resent the intrusion.
This exercise boosts communication, listening, trust, respect, responsibility, and flexibility, all valuable skills in college, in the marketplace, and in life.
Consequently, students who participate in group counseling activities in middle school develop resilience, camaraderie, and confidence; they also enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Group counseling activities, like the ones listed above, fit with Marlborough’s educational vision, thus empowering girls for life and careers in the 21st century.
Beyond Group Counseling Activities for Middle School Students
Marlborough offers educational and counseling services, providing a safe environment in which students learn and lead each day. Our parents, teachers, psychologists, and administrators work as a team to nurture the student’s academic goals, health, and well-being. We have one psychologist on staff, specially trained to assist middle school students.
Our network of trusted adults also provides resources to support students during difficult and challenging times.
For instance, Marlborough offers two innovative services to help middle school students adapt to change, including Peers are Listening (PALS) and the Mental Health Awareness Program (MAPS). Both services provide struggling students with healthy stress management support.
Applying Group Counseling Activities from Middle School to Life
Eventually, middle school students will transition into high school, then into college and adulthood. Learning to adapt to change as young people will prepare them for significant changes later, including career choices, relocations, and alterations to family life.
Group counseling activities in middle school equip students to face real-world difficulties with less anxiety and fear. By practicing in the classroom and during school-related events, preteens improve their comprehension, compassion, patience, and self-awareness.
At Marlborough, students in middle school can build solid relationships and develop practical, life skills in courses, such as Digital Presence for Social Impact or Storytelling for Impact. Or, middle school students can join clubs on campus that foster leadership and communication, including Debate, MIX (Multiracial Identity Exchange), Girls Go Global, or the Student Equity & Inclusion Council.
Why Choose Marlborough?
Marlborough serves girls in grades 7 through 12. We are a private, college-preparatory secondary school, conveniently located in the heart of Los Angeles, California.
Our goal is to ignite intellectual inquiry and to build the problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, and communication skills that our students will need to innovate, invent, and lead in college and beyond.
If you want your daughter to become a curious, agile thinker, consider Marlborough. Our life skill activities for middle school students can peak your daughter’s interests, helping her develop the confidence to succeed.
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