Creating Positive, Peer-Led Section Rehearsal Attendance Accountability in a low-SES school

If you have read my previous article on strategies to increase student attendance for before and after school events, then you know we have a process of working to get the majority of students on the section rehearsal train.  However, we found that we still had a few students who didn’t attend and honestly thought it was funny that we would ever expect them to come. Those students could quickly create a negative environment in rehearsal making other students feel uncomfortable about their own good section rehearsal attendance.

We agreed that we had plenty of consequences in place, but it was time to have some fun with it. Fun is the one thing that squashes the “Negative Nelly” without having to say a word.

Important Side Note:
This is my second year at my current campus. Last year, our third band students were encouraged to come to our second band’s section rehearsals and those who did got to participate with the second band at UIL. Furthermore, before my arrival, only the top band had been holding rehearsals outside of class time and those were usually a full band rehearsal. This meant the whole concept was new to the students.  This year we will be taking three bands to contest, so we have come up with some very creative ways to have all three groups meet in sections by instrument even though there are only 2 teachers and 7 available times for section rehearsals. (That’s 25 groups meeting weekly for the math buffs in the house!)

Since there is a new Avengers Movie on the horizon, we decided this was the obvious theme for our groups.  We assigned each band a hero.  The top group was obviously Captain America, our second group decided on Thor and the third group…you guessed it Hulk Smash! We decided that, though we have no problem with Iron Man, he was a bit more angsty than we would like to encourage our middle schoolers to be. I am aware there are many more Avengers to choose from, so there is no limit to the possibilities here, we just went with the ones you could get in a dollar store birthday party decoration pack.

Section rehearsal attendance
From there we have started tracking weekly attendance in section rehearsals by band.  Our third band’s section rehearsals are taught by the leadership students from our first band. In order to help track attendance, we have each leader fill out an action report that tells us: the students in attendance, what they worked on and how it went. This helps us track who was there, who wasn’t and who was joining to make up a missed rehearsal.

  • We post the attendance percentage on Friday afternoon each week.
  • This average is the running total for all weeks this semester.
  • Students can make up a missed rehearsal and it counts toward improving the class’ average.

In the first week of this being posted in our room, the second band has improved by 11% and the third group has improved by 3%.  That is a lot of made up section rehearsals as well as groups that had perfect attendance this week.  We have promised any group getting to 100% will get a pizza party (that could mean three bands worth of pizza, but that’s a small price to not have to nag about attendance). If no one reaches 100%, the highest group will get the party all to themselves.

The immediate response to this has been kids encouraging each other to be there, starting their own alarm/reminder system for their friends that are the most forgetful. My percussion section leader beat me to the band room this week so he could start sending texts to anyone that wasn’t there yet. They all made it on time. The students in third band crowded around the podium each morning after rehearsal to tell me they had 100% attendance for their group. Even the third band 8th grader, whom has always proudly protested the concept, was in his seat at 7:10am this week (eye-rolls and all).  There were only a hand full of students absent this week and most of them were absent from school (strep throat is on the prowl). Instead of nagging, we were getting to compliment the students and the students were getting to tell us how much fun they had. My only concern now is that we may need to start applying for grants to pay for all of the pizza come UIL week!

 Annette Mitchell is an active educator and clinician, who also likes to dabble in music education research. She is in her 17th year of teaching middle school band all 17 years of her career have been in Low SES schools.  When she is not teaching fundamentals and encouraging students to reach beyond their own expectations, she is blessed work at her primary full-time job of being a wife and mommy to a toddler. 

Related Reading:
I teach at a Low SES School…Language and Delivery
Improving Section Rehearsal & Concert Attendance at a Title One School
Would You Rather Band Version
10 Signs You Might Be a Band Director

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