Well, my January post comes early this year because I just can’t contain my excitement over academic achievement counseling groups! This month’s post is about working with chronically underachieving students and leading them to academic success.
Chronically Underachieving Students
These are the kiddos who have the ability to succeed in school, but continue to fail their classes throughout the school year. In our counseling office, we have been working to get these students on track so they are passing their classes. We use various strategies to achieve this goal. After many years of research, trial, and error, we are finally seeing some consistent success with our underachieving students. Below is my program for helping students find success in school with lots of links to helpful resources. You can click on the links to take you right to a resource you can use!
How to Start Academic Achievement Counseling Groups
The first thing I do to set up an academic achievement group is handpick the prospective group members. The criteria for the student to be admitted into the group is quite specific: failure of two or more subjects, a desire on the part of the student to improve their grades, no chronic attendance problems, and no undiagnosed learning problems. Of course, we have other means for supporting students whose absences or ability to learn interfere with their success in school, but that is a topic for another post. Since this psycho-educational group is primarily goal-based and focuses on building good work/study/organization habits, it would be unfair to include students who cannot raise their grades no matter their goal or how hard they work because of learning or attendance issues.
Further, if the student does not WANT to improve their grades, there’s not much we can do in this group setting. We provide other supports for these types of students who are indifferent or resistant, but, again, that is a topic for another post. For additional group resources, you can check out my Resources Page or my Shop Page on this website. If you don’t have time for an entire group, but want to do a mini version of the academic achievement curriculum, you can check out my school success guidance lesson here.
The 3 Stages of Academic Achievement Counseling Groups
Once I have our list of potential group members, I send home the group permission slips. The first ones to return them go into the group. Our counseling office ALWAYS has a waiting list for groups and we see A LOT of failing students as poverty and high stakes testing really impact our kids and their grades. It is best to run this group as a weekly, yearlong process, cycling the students through the following 3 stages.
- as a beginning group member who is mentored in group by a more “expert” member (for the first set of group members in September, the group leader can serve as the mentor)
- as an “expert” member where they get their own mentee
- and finally, after consistent success and goal achievement, the member is ready to exit the group
Facilitating the 3 Stage Model
In order to facilitate our 3 stage model, I start with a smaller number of group members. I spend a month or two guiding them to achieve their school goals. Then I gradually increase the group by adding new group members where the “expert” original group members can mentor the new ones. And after a month or two of this, I exit the expert members who are showing consistent improvement/success in school.
Guidelines for Running Academic Achievement Counseling Groups
I actually have a counseling sessions guide that provides activities for all aspects of running this type of academic goal group! Here are some of my guidelines for running each session:
- Start each session by giving the students a report of their current term class/assignment grades that they have earned. Combine this report with a copy of their goal they created in the last group session. Members can also sign in at this time on their progress chart which is displayed in the group room to keep track of their goal achievement and use of minilesson strategies.
- Allow students time to review their grade sheets and goal and then share with group a success (no matter how small) they have had with their goal.
- Allow students to continue working towards their same goal or model for students how to create a new improving-grades goal based on the low class grades on their grade sheets.
- Each group member reads their new or continued goal to the group.
- Teach a 5-10 minute minilesson on study skills, organization, or good work habits.
- If time, play a game such as Great Grades BINGO to wrap things up in a fun way and keep the overall mood of the group very positive.
The Goal Getters
There are so many more exciting aspects to share about facilitating this group, like the Zeroes Race, Best Binder Awards, and more! Unfortunately, I can’t fit it all into one blog post. So, I will sign off here with a freebie downloadable preview of the guide The Goal Getters Group Counseling Guide. This guide is included in my latest book, Get Your Group On: Multi-Topic Small Group Counseling Guides! Incidentally, this academic group guide is applicable to almost any school age group- upper elementary, middle, and high!
Newsy & Noteworthy
I was so very honored that this School Counselor Stephanie blog was featured alongside so many amazing counselor websites! Check out the article and listing of best counselor websites at the link below!
That brings us to the end of January’s counseling post. Catch up with me again next month when I discuss all the ins and outs of running psycho-educational counseling groups. Please leave a comment because I’d love to hear about your experiences in working with underachieving students/clients.