Playing Games or Building Skills?

Does your school currently have small groups set up for students who are in need of intervention to work on certain behavior skills, such as, social skills or conflict resolution skills? These groups are one step above Tier 1 universal supports and we often call this Tier II intervention “Social Academic Instructional Groups”, otherwise known as SAIG. As a classroom teacher, have you ever wondered what students actually do within those groups? For many, it is often a “big mystery” as to what is being discussed within groups and how it is making a difference in the student’s everyday behavior within the classroom.

This is absolutely not to say that the persons who are running SAIGs are not delivering the necessary skill instruction to students. This is also not to say that the persons who are running SAIGs are not making an impact on each student’s behavior somewhere and in some way. There is simply an unintentional disconnect between what is being taught in the small group and what is being reinforced within the classroom. There is often a frequent disconnect for persons running the groups in that there is not a structured system set up for communication to occur between the student’s teachers and families. How frequently, if at all, does communication take place so that everyone is “in the know” of what skills are being taught and how those skills should be reinforced in the settings of where those behaviors are expected to occur?

There is also often not a prominent reminder for students to practice those skills in the natural setting nor is there a reminder for staff to prompt and reinforce the demonstration of those skills that have been learned in SAIG. Students may be able to demonstrate the skills beautifully within the group (the artificial environment), but when it comes time to show those behaviors in the “real” environment (the classroom, hallways, lunchroom, etc.) – the students fall short. I call this the “un-generalization factor.” I can’t help but think that this is due to the absence of communication and follow-through, which ultimately (and inadvertently) leads to the absence of adults prompting the students to use the skills and then reinforcing them when they do so.

Here is a quick “run down” of how to set up the systems and practices surrounding Social Academic Instructional Groups in order to increase the likelihood that student behaviors, especially the behaviors of students with disabilities, will be improved as a result of this intervention.

  1. Use your data to guide you in determining the needs of your students – what skills will your groups target?
  2. Based on the needs of the students, develop groups that address those needs. Determine specific behaviors and skills that need to be taught within those groups.
  3. The skills that you are teaching within the groups should be a subset of behaviors that are directly aligned to your school-wide expectations.
  4. Choose/develop curriculum based on the needs of the students and the skills you have identified (versus choosing curriculum before knowing student needs).
  5. When delivering the lesson during group, be sure to …
    1. State the behavioral skill(s)
    2. Establish relevancy
    3. Identify the skill components/sequence of actions
    4. Model what the skill looks like/sounds like/feels like
    5. Have students practice the skill
    6. Give feedback to students during practice
    7. Remind students to use their Daily Progress Report (DPR) throughout the week as a reminder for them to practice the skill and to receive feedback/reinforcement from adults (see description of DPR below).
  6. Develop a Daily Progress Report (DPR) which should outline the skills that students are working on.
  7. Ensure teachers are trained in how to give feedback and how to award points based on the extent to which the student demonstrated the skill during specific time period.
  8. All DPR’s for all students within the groups should look the same – they are all learning the same skill! However, the goal for each student may vary.
  9. Develop a daily/weekly goal for each student.
  10. The DPR should be carried by the student to each class and he/she should receive feedback from teachers at end of each class or at natural breaks in the day. The feedback should be positive in nature, quick, and to the point. The teacher will also award points to the student based on the extent to which the student demonstrated the skill during that time.
  11. Ensure that there are identified persons who are reviewing student data at least weekly to determine if student is meeting goal.
  12. Progress monitoring data should be used to determine if the student is being successful in this intervention and, if not, what else needs to be done to ensure student’s needs are being met. Should you continue, modify, or fade the intervention?


Note: Don’t continue doing something that isn’t working! Use your data to guide you in determining what the student needs! Be sure that you are checking back to ensure that what you are doing is having a positive impact on student outcomes and getting you to that “end” goal – the desired behavior.

Please consider the above (at minimum) when setting up and structuring Social Academic Instructional Groups (or whatever you choose to call your small groups) within your building.

In short, avoid the conversations that look something like this …

Teacher: “Johnny, what did you do in group today?”

Johnny: “I don’t know – we just played Connect Four the entire time and ate popsicles!”

Simmons_Erin_300pxErin Simmons
Behavior Specialist
Mid-State RSE-TASC

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