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Success in School

November 24, 2013

Let the good times commence!  Here at Bilingual Learner, we are on vacayyyyyyyy!  Our "real job" in public ed has just gone on Thanksgiving hiatus for one whole, glorious week.  We hope you are just as lucky!  Anyway, this week's post is about working with 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 all semester on getting these students on track so they are passing their classes and we use various strategies to achieve this goal.  It's so exciting to report that the stars have aligned this year and with the right mix of interventions (after many years of research, trial and error), we are finally seeing some consistent success with our underachieving students. Below is our program for helping students find success in school with links to helpful resources- click on the blue ones to take you right to an article, video, or product you can use and click on the red ones to take you to a Bilingual Learner freebie that you can download after you leave a comment below (once you leave a comment, the download automatically gets sent to you within a day). 

The first thing we do is handpick the students to go into our group, which we call Middle School 101, though it might be renamed Get Your Goal On, since our program is applicable to any age group- elementary, middle, high, or even post-secondary.  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 know what they say- you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink!  We provide other supports for these type of students who are indifferent or resistant (see page 18), but, again, that is a topic for another post. 

Once we have our list of potential group members, we send home the group permission slips and 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).  In my experience, it is best to run this group as a weekly, yearlong process, cycling the students through 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

In order to facilitate our 3 stages model, I start with a smaller number of group members, spending a month or two to get them achieving their school goals and then gradually increasing 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.


Here at Bilingual Learner, are working on a new counseling sessions guide that details and provides materials/activities for all aspects of running this type of academic goal group-- look for it Summer 2015!  However, in the meantime, here are some 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  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

There are so many more exciting aspects to share about facilitating a group like this, like the Zeroes Race, Best Binder Awards, and more- but of course we can't fit it all into one blog post.  So, I will sign off here with a promise of our Get Your Goal On Group Counseling Sessions Guide with Activities coming in Summer 2015 (if not earlier!) and of future Bilingual Learner posts about details/updates of our experiences with this group as the school year progresses. 


Finally, in honor of Thanksgiving coming in just a few days (YUM!), here are two cool Thanksgiving resources I just came across from one is a Thanksgiving PPT  and the other is a history of Thanksgiving.  Also, you can scroll down or just click here, and read our Bilingual Learner post from last week as we have several Thanksgiving resources embedded in that post.  


And that brings us to the end of this Saturday's counseling post.  Catch up with us again next Saturday for our post focusing on the ESL world.  So, see ya back here next week, same time-same place!  We'd love to hear about your experiences in working with underachieving students/clients, so please leave us a comment.  Remember, we'll trade ya a comment for a freebie resource- comment below and we'll send you the code for the resources in RED above so you can download it for free from our Google Docs account.  In the meantime, you can find out about our latest promotions, free stuff, or our counseling/ESL adventures by following us on our Facebook Page or Twitter Page.





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I am really excited to incorporate some of your suggestions when working with underachieving students. I look forward to checking out your freebies :)

This is exactly the type of thing that I have been trying to get going at my school. Thanks for the ideas...

Great ideas! Unfortunately most of my failing students are not motivated, have a lot of absences/latenesses, and/or home issues and therefore lack the desire to do well.. I like to incorporate lots of different ideas into my lessons though so thanks for the help!!

Thanks, Juliene and Ashley, for all your kind words! Juliene, I just sent you the Google Doc you requested. Ashley, let us know which freebies you'd like (or just click on them) and we will be happy to share. Ladies, please let us know how your Success in School group goes in the future...we love to swap ideas:) Happy Thanksgiving!

Anytime, Megan- we love to share ideas. One day soon, we hope to post about some of our ideas on working with resistant students or those with attendance issues. Follow us on FB to get an alert on when that post comes out...
Happy Thanksgiving!

Great resources to help students - I'm trying to find ways to help our students reach graduation.
Thanks for sharing

Anytime, Doug. Thanks for the compliment. We just sent you a bunch of our Google Docs...let us know if you need anything else.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for posting this great info! I'd love copies of the docs you use :)


Thanks, Courtney, for your kind words. I sent you the Good Grades Bingo that you requested. Let me know if you'd like any other docs in this post (you can just click on the colored link above). Happy Holidays!

I love all of the things you have mentioned. Would it be possible to email some of the things, like the progress report, Grades Bingo, google docs to keep track of everything, building good work habits and organization. I hope you will keep giving us all this wonderful info and experience you have. I have learned a lot just by reading. Thank you in advance for whatever you can send to me.