Last year our seventh grade teachers piloted an advisory period curriculum.
Three times a week they carved time out of their core classes for advisory. Students greeted each other. There was a time of structured sharing for the purpose of getting to know one another better and to discover common interests. And they played a game. Also incorporated were elements of William Glasser’s class meetings; students made plans and solved problems democratically.
In the spring of every year, our district administers a school climate survey to students, staff, and community members. Last year’s seventh graders were significantly more positive about the school climate and their feelings toward school than our sixth and eighth graders. So a group of teachers proposed that we begin school wide advisory period this year. Since no one wanted to give up any class time, the proposal carved out twenty-five minutes for advisory each morning by shrinking our passing periods from five to three minutes.
The proposal did not pass without dissent but eventually everyone was willing to give it a try. There was a four day advisory training two weeks before school started plus a shorter training for those who could not come to the four days. The training left us feeling better prepared and, as a side benefit, closer as a staff since we learned about our advisory curriculum by doing the the activities together.
At first glance, advisory period appears to be completely unconnected to any of the CCSS – but here are some reasons to consider the advisory elements as strong supporters of the standards.
Students want to come to advisory class. It begins their day with a positive welcome, some fun, and connection with another adult who cares about them. Students who want to be at school and who feel welcome and accepted are more likely to be willing to do the work of school.
Advisory period provides students with opportunities to work on twenty first century skills like cooperation and collaboration in a non-academic context structured so that everyone can be successful. My advisory class has worked together to create a menu of options to celebrate our birthdays in advisory. We brainstormed ways to welcome our Japanese exchange students. We negotiated and refined the best way to play zombie tag together.
In a more direct CCSS connection, Speaking and Listening standard 8.6 states that students will “Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.” Our sharing times include explicit instruction on how to talk to one other person, how to talk to a group, and the advisory favorite, how to carry on a friendly conversation on an assigned topic with an assigned partner while eating scones.
Going into the year we thought the biggest challenge from our new schedule would be the
three minute passing periods, and it’s true that the first few weeks there was quite a bit of anxiety around getting to class on time but there are some positive trade offs. There’s no time to cause drama in the halls between classes and less opportunity to bully or harass, though there’s also less time to get to the bathroom.
It turns out that the teachers have a harder time getting ready for the next class in three minutes, but the students who want to go back to longer passing periods aren’t willing to take any time out of advisory. “You could take it out of our core classes,” one girl told me. And commenting on a class assembly that was held first thing in the morning, a boy complained, “We had to miss advisory for that?”
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