New advisory format encourages grade-centric learning

Kevin Hsu and Ian Rodriguez

Poolesville has introduced a new Advisory format this year which encourages grade-level bonding through more focused lessons pertaining to each individual grade level. This change in format was an adaptation pioneered by staff development teacher Stefanie Draisen. She introduced the new format due to surveys indicating that students wished for more targeted lessons that pertained to their individual interests and what they wanted to learn about.

“Juniors wanted college prep information [and] freshmen wanted more information about transitioning from middle school to high school, so by differentiating by grade level we can build a community outside the house,” said Draisen.

Although a grade-level-focused Advisory session seemed to be the clear next step, there were challenges that needed to be overcome during the initial formation of these lessons. Draisen commented that writing a lesson that she herself is not delivering was the largest challenge that she encountered. Having to think about how a multitude of teachers might interpret and carry out her lesson plan can be a tall task.

Meeting the needs of 300 students in four different ways can also be a daunting assignment, though planners have found ways to make it an enjoyable experience. Draisen commented on how she enjoyed creating challenges like rock-paper-scissors and “gamifying” lessons to make them more intriguing to students. These grade-level advisories began with a gathering in the gym during February to get into randomly assigned groups and students were told to find their corresponding color and animal. This lesson was not universally received among students.

“The first whole group in the gym was a little less well-received than the second round,” said Draisen.

While the first meeting was not as well received, approval seemed to be trending upward for the second attempt. For the initial meeting, students were only notified by email the day of, without any note of the meeting in the Sunday message for that week. In contrast, the second meeting was announced two days before the event via email and Canvas. 

Seniors met in the auditorium on March 8th with the intent to reconvene with the previous meeting’s assigned groups. Those who attended the previous Advisory meeting had completed a Google Form which stated each group’s animal and color of choice for the purpose of identifying the group in March. Independent Studies Program senior Ian Boehm participated in both the February and March Advisory lessons.

“I was not able to recall my group’s assigned animal or color,” said Boehm. “It seemed many participants in the Advisory lesson struggled to do this, likely because of the amount of time that had elapsed since the previous session.”

Participation in the lesson involved playing Kahoot in groups, with the usernames intended to be the group’s color and animal. Each group had one member login as a representative for the team.

“The most effective lesson was the Kahoot because there was a much more clear objective to what we were supposed to be doing,” said Boehm. “The first lesson felt a little chaotic and ambiguous. The Kahoot was also more fun and enjoyable.”

Since Advisory is an MCPS requirement, attendance is mandatory, though many chose to not participate for a multitude of reasons. 

“It seems fun for those who want to participate but I don’t think the entire school needs to be subjected to it as some might prefer to spend their time on other things,” said Boehm. “Many probably didn’t participate for this reason and there shouldn’t be a problem with that.”

Changes to Advisory are not uncommon, as the scheduling for this time has changed several times since it was implemented. In the last school year, Advisory was every Friday in second period classes, instead of being with homeroom classes. In contrast to this, during the 2020-21 school year, Advisory was held online as with other classes, but with homeroom teachers. As for the next school year, no announcements have officially been made about the future scheduling for Advisory.