A few years ago, I teamed up with my friend Noelle from Maneuvering the Middle to put together our favorite teaching strategies and class management ideas as middle school teachers. This post offers some ideas for homeroom and advisory suggestions to consider for your classroom.
Homeroom/Advisory time is becoming more commonplace in schools today, and not just for a 5-minute check-in to take attendance. With lunch schedules, planning times, student services, and other components added to make the most of student learning, schools are building these windows of time into the student school day. It may be a 25-30 minute chunk of time at the very beginning of the day, in the middle of the day, or to close the school day.
If administrators are not specific about how this time needs to be utilized, it can be a tricky amount of time to optimize student productivity. At the end of the day, it gets even more challenging to keep students inspired and focused. If your middle school team is looking for new ways to make the best use of this homeroom time, here are 5 middle school advisory activities to consider:
Idea #1: Community Service Projects
No matter what community you live in, students benefit greatly when they are working toward a common goal and helping others. At the start of the school year, use the first week to let students brainstorm ways to work together to help others in the community. You will be amazed at what students come up with…
- Clothing drive (anytime)
- Canned/Boxed food drive (anytime)
- Penny drive (anytime)
- Blanket drive (fall/winter)
- Hats and gloves drive (fall/winter months)
- Sincere Thought Cards for Seniors (anytime)
- Valentine’s for Veterans (February)
Often times, we leave community service work to student council and leadership groups when ALL students feel good helping others and making a positive impact. Decide which projects would be most beneficial to your community and let students get to work. Some of the logistics will fall on the shoulders of teachers, so be aware of delivery/pick-up procedures and postage costs. A community service project once a quarter will truly bring your students together, working toward a common positive goal.
Idea #2: Intervention and Enrichment
This is one of the main focuses of my school’s homeroom time, which was scheduled into the middle of the school day. The idea was that students would be assessed on a weekly outcome, then grouped based on the data from the assessments. Teachers on the instructional team would work with various groups of students; in addition, student groups change on a weekly basis with re-testing and new data.
With state testing and the mandates that are required, intervention and enrichment time that is built into the school day is becoming an increasingly common practice, but it is best practice because students are receiving instruction that meets their needs as learners.
Idea #3: Independent Learning Projects or Genius Hour
As teachers, we do our very best to motivate, encourage, and inspire our students on a daily basis. We do what we can to make learning connect to our students, engaging, and fun. However, students won’t love every writing prompt, math skill, novel, or other curriculum focus. While we expect students to stay on task and focus when they are less-enthused learners, it is important that we also incorporate independent learning opportunities and projects to allow students to pursue their own interests.
What is Genius Hour?
Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students with a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. It is more than just letting students pick their elective classes; instead, it is learning time built into the school day that allows students to:
- brainstorm topics of interest (not something they already know all about)
- generate questions about their interest topic
- have consistent check-ins with the teacher to share learning and project goals
- create a final project that allows them to share learning with their peers
Final projects can be Google Slide presentations, videos, performances, etc. The sky is the limit. This homeroom time is the ideal time to allow students to pursue independent learning activities, or genius hour quarterly. You will be amazed at how engaged your students will be during this time as they learn about topics that are of the utmost interest to each one of them.
Idea #4: Character Building
What are some challenges your grade level or school building is having with students? I feel as though there are times when the school counselor and my instructional team are working overtime trying to help my middle school girls navigate friendship concerns. We have lunches and countless team meetings to help strategize ways to be thoughtful friends with a specific few, when more might benefit from our tireless work.
What are some age-appropriate tools you can bring into the classroom that will benefit all students? Maybe social media issues are wreaking havoc within your school building. What work can you do during advisory time that will impact all students in a positive way and help them better navigate their digital footprint and their positive relationships with others?
There are so many different tools available to build character with students. One idea I have used in the past is having regular class meetings.
Idea #5: Homework/Study Hall Time
While allowing students to complete homework while at school may be an unpopular choice for teachers and administrators, it is something to consider. If you are on the fence about whether or not completing homework is acceptable at school, here are some thoughts to reflect upon…
- What is the purpose of the homework you are giving? Is it a reflection and assessment of the understanding of what was shared, taught, and learned in class?
- Is the purpose that it is completed or that it needs to be completed at home? Why is home a better option when teachers are available at school to answer questions or assist with confusion?
Perhaps homeroom time every day of the week is not utilized for homework or study hall, but if it greatly benefits student learning, perhaps 1-2 days a week isn’t such a bad idea after all. You know your students better than anyone else.
There are so many things that we can be doing with our students each day that will give us the “biggest bang for our buck” as educators. Maybe different days of the week call for a different task? The hardest part is managing the work with the members of our instructional team and mapping out a plan, so this chunk of instructional time does not go to waste.
If you enjoyed this post, check out the rest of my series with Noelle using the links below…