In my school counseling program, I have enjoyed doing attendance small group sessions. My students have really enjoyed the activities and seem to get the big picture of why regular school attendance is so important.
The small group meets six times. Each year, I use attendance data to form the group and include it as part of my ASCA National Model Plan for the school year. For the past two years, I’ve worked with third graders. The selected students usually have 15+ absences from the previous school year.
During our first session, the students brainstorm reasons why school attendance matters. This year, I had them brainstorm on their own sheets first. I used discussion cards to help students who couldn’t think of enough ideas for their sheets. While we discussed the different ideas, they were free to add them to their own lists. We concluded by filling in the bubble chart together.
For the second session, the students made a foldable. Inside, they wrote about Responsible Routines. After assembling the foldable with the labels, they wrote under each flap giving responsible routines for the morning, after school and at night. This includes routines such as waking up on time to get to school, having everything ready for the next day the night before and going to bed at a decent hour.
When we met for the third session, the students watched two videos about the importance of school attendance. One video is an attendance rap and the other shows the staff at a school, along with students, talking about different reasons why it’s important to attend school regularly. While watching, they write points from the videos that stand out to them. Afterwards, the group members share their notes. Next, we begin making a fortune teller using information shared by the group along with the brainstorming sheets from the first session.
Our fourth session involves finishing the fortune tellers and completing the “Set the Scene” activity. “Set the Scene” allows us to discuss the path from good attendance in school to a career. The students cut out, sequence and glue six strips in order and illustrate each on the filmstrip sheet.
During the fifth session, we play an attendance board game. This game includes questions about the information from the first four sessions. If there are any activities that students need to finish from previous meetings, time is allowed during this session.
When we meet for our final session, we play Roll and Respond. Students roll a die and respond to sentence starters about attendance. Before leaving, they complete an exit ticket which reflects what they’ve learned during the small group. They take all of their completed activities with them to share with their teachers and families.
After we have completed the small group, I continue to keep up with the attendance patterns of each of the students when I meet monthly with the attendance committee at my school. I will also meet again with the students to review what was learned in our small group. Individual sessions are held with students who continue to have attendance concerns. The good news: This year’s attendance data for the group is looking good and is much better than what they ended the school year with last year!
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