Monday, October 04, 2010

Advising the Advisor

This is the first year we're using an advisory system. Basically, instead of teachers having a morning homeroom, we meet later in the day with a small group of about a dozen students. The advisory groups are made up of students from ninth through twelfth grade. We meet to talk about school, classes, grades, and life in general. I've taken my kids out to exercise and @schickbob and I organized a tug-of-war between our groups which was covered by the yearbook photographers.

So, now I'm looking for things to do on a daily basis. Just today we began a TED-talk series. Right now, we're watching Pranav Mistry's recent talk about augmented reality. And we're actively taking suggestions on what you all think are the best TED-talks.

We also see this as a potential chance to reach out to classrooms in other parts of the world. And so, I would like to invite teachers from -- well, everywhere really -- who'd like to share classroom experiences via Skype to get in touch. I think it would be an excellent opportunity to spend a few minutes each day engaging with the classrooms beyond our classroom.

So I'm turning to all of you to advise this advisor. What sort of things would you do if you and your students had ten minutes a day to engage with the world however you liked?


  1. We started this last year. The advisory groups are by grade, and were supposed to be by house (smaller learning communities) but there were some schedule issues this year. We actually have a "curriculum of sorts". Some of it is good, some is not so good.

    If you are interested, I can share the PDF file with you. I have the 9th and 12th grade plans digitized and I can scan the 10th and 11th for you if you want. I only use a small percentage of them and would rather give students time to ask me questions.

    DM me on Twitter (daveandcori) or email me - daveandcori at gmail dot com if you'd like them.

    We also got a book on advisory:The Advisory Guide by Rachel Poliner and Carol Lieber.

    I use it as a time to advise the students on things like high school success tips, homework help, study help, note taking help, point them to great Web 2.0 technologies that can help them, and SAT prep help. We talk about issues affecting them and their ability to succeed in school. This is my first year with Freshmen, so I am going to spend a lot of the time on note-taking skills, study skills, test taking skills, and sharing Web 2.0 tools with them.

    I also share a few good resources with them from:

    The Keys to High School Success and Keys to College Success are very good (and free download).

    Hope that helps!

  2. Oh, we get 20 minutes, every Wednesday for our advisory.

  3. try running little interventions to help make the school a better place. Start by having the students brainstorm 100 things that bug them around campus...and then they can run small interventions and even measure the progress. For example, we realized there was a lack of 'play' during our discretionary time periods. So my 10th graders and I spent one advisory session a week ago making are on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk. We even drew out a four square court as well. Our aim was to inspire more play. We also watched Stuart Brown's TED talk on play.

    Another great advisory activity is supporting global entrepreneurs via the Kiva network. Each advisee contributes $5 OF THEIR OWN MONEY and then you work as a group to decide who to lend to.

    We also just wrapped up our '5 picture digital stories' in voicethread. Students created a low resolution, 5 picture audio narrated story about the "B Roll" sides of their lives. The goal was for each student to spend no more than 20 minutes doing this. The point was not perfection...the point was for people to learn new things about one another. The students groaned about this a little bit, but when we were done they indicated that they really appreciated this activity.

    Anyway, there are some ideas for of luck!!!

    Matt Montagne
    Palo Alto, CA

  4. Just ten minutes...gosh, that's tough. When time is short, I guess you can go one of two ways: fill it with action, or stop and consider.

    I'm finding that my middle schoolers really crave the time and attention we give one another in conversation. Simple, straightforward, sit-in-a circle-on-the-floor, old-school discussion. Any topic is game as long as everyone shows active listening and respect. The "advisor" role shifts depending on needs and topics within the group. Most of the time, I learn as much from my students as they might from me.

    If no one has anything to ask or say, sometimes the space/time can be filled with a short read aloud. Allowing students to select and bring in different texts makes a lot of sense, depending on the timbre of the group.

    When all else fails, go with a poem.

    And hey, it's still paperless, right?

  5. If you are looking for some great Ted Talks, there is a great list here:

    and although it isn't a TED talk, it is still a great video, Karl Fisch and Scot McLeod's Shift Happens video is still the best:

    Great question about advisory as it is such a interesting discussion about what the purpose of advisory is. What 9th graders need is so much different sometimes than the Seniors.

    We tend to break into teams and while we don't have a set curriculum, the 9th graders focus on study habits and organization/time management, 10th graders on school culture and how to support it, 11th graders on college apps and scholarships, 12th graders on impacting the world.

    All of the grade levels do each of these in varying degrees. On a daily basis, we play games, we have discussions, discover their individual strengths and areas of growth, follow up on their grades and progress, discuss school, local, world issues and more! It can be a wonderful chance to bridge the teacher/student gap and connect as human beings.

    Thanks for providing space for this conversation to happen. If you are interested in talking more you can find me on twitter @brokenairplane.

  6. Try a minute or two of silence as part of it every once in a while. School is one of the very few places where kids ever get to experience silence...They'll become aware of the world right around them in a different way, and have a chance to reflect on those connections.

  7. With multiple grades we have treated advisory as a time to build relationships. Occasionally we practice get to know you activities and ice breaker games. There are lots of good websites for these. We also occasionally practice quieting the mind with meditation time (although we don't always use that term). Learning how to quiet the mind can be helpful for more focused listening during class time. A little quiet time to think can also get rid of those pressing issues that clog up their active brains and have nothing to do with school learning.

  8. I also find that 10mn is a bit tought to share anything sustantial. Having said that, if I had the opportunity to skype with another class somewhere in the world, I would encourage students to share their cultures, and soci-economic situation in their countries so that they learn from each other and expand their knowledge.

  9. I am about to show my classes TED talks by Derek Sivers (weird, or just different), also Adam Sadowsky (engineering a viral video - although there is some language) and Dan Pink's surprising science of motivation. My former students also enjoy Adora Svitak on the word "childish"

  10. Shelly,

    I just watched this TEDtalk earlier in the week and it blew me away (lots of them do, like duh! they are TEDtalks!)

    I would like to know if students like to learn this way and if we give them the space to do so. Seems to me like the system too often co-opts their autonomy and drive. Should be a good discussion. Wish I were there!


  11. Shelly,

    We used to do advisory (once a week for half an hour) but have moved to a system of monthly whole school meetings instead. I was planning on "stealing" this idea to use this year with my advisory but alas with us not doing advisory I won't be able to. Maybe it would be a good idea for you to try :

  12. I work with the upper elementary grades and feel like they might know through talk or text what the rest of the world is like, but they can't truly connect to it. For me, travel has allowed me to experience the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences in culture. To raise student awareness of the world and connect with their visual sense, I use LENS, the blog from the NYTimes. ( It has pictures of the day and photo essays that are remarkable. I check the photos to see which ones I need to edit, but my students get exactly 10 minutes a day to experience the photos and then they get 5 minutes to record two thoughts on world maps that they maintain throughout the year. Obviously, I'm not explaining how I structure the teaching so "thoughts" are intentional and important, but I figure good teachers begin to reflect on the nuances of these types of learning experiences.

  13. I had an advisory class in middle school for four years. The first year it was 40 minutes (a little too long), then we shortened it to 20. It was first thing in the morning, and we also had our intramural schedule built in. I had a weekly schedule for myself, so I wasn't scrambling for things to do.
    Monday - podcast on the week coming up (and posted it to our class website)
    Tuesday- Team Building - Amazon has some books with great ideas if you don't have a bunch up your sleeve all ready.
    Wednesday - Intramural day
    Thursday - Silent Reading - or read aloud depending if your students are into it or want to share some of their own writing or books they're reading. You could even call it book club. Using Goodreads or something like it could help them continue their book conversations throughout the week.
    Friday - game day - sometimes we would have competitions with the class next door.

    Have fun! I LOVED advisory!!


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