It's not always about what your student's need to improve. Make sure to find ways for them to see how valuable they are as they right here, right now.
Do you have students who don't realize how awesome they are?
Sometimes in our over-zealousness to help our students, and make progress on their areas of need, we forget to take the time to focus on all the ways they are already awesome.
Yes, we can and should continue to use verbal praise as we facilitate our groups but sometimes kids don't buy it (even though we mean it!) or it's sort of heard and then forgotten.
An exercise I like to do with my students is have them brainstorm about what the qualities of a leader or a good friend are. They will come up with positive adjectives like "curious," "kind," or "hard working."
Have the kids then write at least one down on a piece of paper (or you write it for them) and get up tape it to a board.
Always incorporate movement in your groups even if it's just getting up to tape things.
Then ask the students to read the words and think about themselves. Pose the question, "Which of those words, describes you?"
Have them get up again put their initials on the paper of the word(s) that they think they choose.
This act of coming up and physically putting their initials down next to the word is different than just someone telling them how great they are. This is them really taking a minute to self-validate. To get them to run through past behavior or internal feelings and be honest about their positive traits.