Podcast #43: Happy New Year! Now More Stuff on Advisory!

Advisory, Advisory, Advisory, Advisory, Advisory, Advisory, Advisory

News & Events: 

1.  Start planning for October’s Month of the Young Adolescent!
2.  Ohio Middle School Association’s Annual Conference, February 19-20, 2009 in Sandusky, OH.  Presenter information is posted on the page.  Download now and get it it in to your administration while they’re too confused and dazed with the opening of school’s events to say, “No.” 
3.  NMSA Annual Conference, October 30 – November 1 (Video sample)
4.  Canadian National Middle Years Conference, November 5, 6, & 7 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
5.  Rick Stiggins has a Balanced Assessment Manifesto posted at NMSA‘s website worth checking out.  
6.  Looking for news from Ontario Middle Level Educators Association.  If you have any, drop us a line. 
7.  Wisconsin Association of Middle Level Educators annual conference is coming up October 9-10, 2008. 
8.  The New England League of Middle Schools has a whole bevy of professional development planned for the 2008-2009 school year and you can access it here
9.  ADVISORY IDEAS NEEDED:  NELMS is putting together an Advisory Resource page with lessons for you to use.  They are asking for submissions here by January 1, 2009.  If your entry is used, you will be entered in a raffle for a 3 day NELMS conference ticket. 
10.  NMSA’s latest podcast focuses on using Skype for academic learning.  How many of you have access to Skype at school? 
11.  Research Summary Posted:  Vocabulary Teaching and Learning Across Disciplines is now available at NMSA.   
12.  NMSA has a Facebook !  They would like to invite you to join them on Facebook and the opportunities it affords. How many of you can reach Facebook through your district’s firewall?
13.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has collaborated with the Michigan Association of Middle School Educators to develop an 18 unit Science module.  You can access it here
14.  Keycode software has a Homework App for your iPhone/iPod touch.  You know your kids have ’em now its time to put the little ‘puters to work for you!  ($5.99 at the iTunes store) 


In his seminal work, A Middle School Curriculum: From Rhetoric to Reality, Beane (1993) argues that
“the central purpose of the middle school curriculum should be helping early adolescents explore
self and social meanings at this time in their lives” (p. 18). When teachers serve as advisors to sixth,
seventh, and eighth graders, they receive daily, if not hourly, reminders of what it is like to be a
young adolescent in today’s fast-paced world. Through conversation and contact with their charges,
teachers gain useful insights into early adolescence that they can then weave into the ongoing
classroom experience over the course of the school year.

A definition:

“An advisory is an organized group of one adult and a dozen or so kids that serves as the students’ first line of affiliation in their school,” said Stevenson in Teaching Ten to Fourteen Year Olds. “The group meets at least once daily, usually for the first 20 minutes or so of the day.…”

Among the purposes of the advisory, Stevenson writes, are to

  • ensure than each student is known well at school by at least one adult who is that youngster’s advocate (advisor);
  • guarantee that every student belongs to a peer group;
  • help every student find ways of being successful within the academic and social options the school provides;
  • promote communication and coordination between home and school.

Five Advisory Principles (From NELMS, Jim Burns)

1.  Integral Placement.
Advisories need to be team based to connect the relationships to the teachers who teach them. 
2.  Advisory Authenticity.
As much as we like resource books, they aren’t a good substitute for designing advisory curriculum around the group of students in the immediate advisory.  What worked last year will not necessarily work this year.  Each year is unique in the same way that each student is unique in what they bring to the classroom.  As much as we’d like to think of curriculum as linear in some fashion, Advisory Curriculum is more dynamic and “rubber meets road.” 
3.  Common Aims.
The building as a whole recognizes certain goals for Advisory that are easily explainable and are flexible enough for Advisories to work them into the interests and themes of the individual Advisories and Teams. 
4.  Assertive Leadership.
Leadership includes administration helping in setting goals and extending contracts throughout the summer for staff development of goals and resources. 
5.  Tangible Results.
Produce a product, like a community service project, and celebrate achievements both academic and affective. 

Example from Brandon Valley Middle School in South Dakota (via Steve Barkley):

“Advisor/Advisee program purpose:

To increase…

-Students’ sense of support and caring
-Bonding with staff, students, parents
-Student Achievement
-Relating to students’ generation
-Trust with at least one adult
-Enjoyment at school
-Comfort at school
-Staff and student connectedness

Students should find that the program will:

-help them learn more about themselves
-help give guidance in their growth as a person
-help better understand friends and classmates
-help set personal goals, make decisions, and solve problems
-help make school a more caring and sharing place to be
-help develop better relationships between students and teachers
-help create a feeling of belonging

Advisory activities will focus on three areas:

I. Activities that create opportunities for the staff to KNOW students well. 
II. Activities that provide students opportunities to learn and practice critical life, community and school skills. 
III. Activities that create fun, belonging and team spirit



Pamela Chandler’s students recently completed an activity in which they took a survey about the stressors in their lives. “Students were amazed at how many stressful things they deal with on a daily basis,” said Chandler. After the survey, students brainstormed ways of dealing with those stressors.

In Kathy Thompson’s advisory group, a recent discussion about self-esteem led two students to share their experiences with bulimia. “It was great that they felt safe within the group,” said Thompson, “and the others responded in a supportive manner.”

The students also use their advisory time for community-service projects. For example, during the December holiday time, Thompson’s students put together hampers for needy families in their community. “Some students donate so much it is astounding,” said Thompson. “We end up with about six very large boxes of donations per group. Some students come with me to make the deliveries. It is a real eye-opener for the students.”

In Jeannette Stern’s advisory, students got together and threw a baby shower for an advisee whose mother was having a baby by the student’s new stepfather. “This made her feel important and part of what she had perceived to be another family,” said Stern. “We have visited hospitals, made get-well cards, gone to wakes, and paid shivah calls — all things that students do not feel comfortable doing alone but unfortunately need to do,” Stern added.

Last fall, before parent conferences, Stern asked her advisees to fill out a form designed to gather information about how students felt about school and how they thought their parents would respond to the upcoming advisory conference. “Included on that form was the question What would you like me to discuss with your parents that you feel is difficult for you to address?” said Stern. “Students have brought up the need for privacy, how they are trying hard even if they are not meeting with the results they would like, and that even though they like and respect their parents, they need to try things out for themselves. These can be difficult issues, and parents and the advisor can then discuss how to deal with them so that everybody is happier.”

Other activities that might be included in a successful advisory program are sustained silent reading, mini-courses or exploratories, intramural sports, cooperative group challenges, and “game days.” Teachers might also construct activities around such important themes as diversity, career awareness, values, learning styles, communications skills, peer pressure, drug and alcohol awareness, self-esteem, problem-solving, decision-making, and thinking about the future.   



Use technology to do an interest inventory to determine the direction you will take your advisory.  (Zoomerang) 












Middle School Matters Resources & Reference pages: 

Our most popular advisory podcast:  https://middleschoolmatters.com/?p=78
More advisory podcast goodness:  https://middleschoolmatters.com/?p=106