Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Start a Chain Reaction of Kindness in Memory of Rachel Scott and Others Who Died at Columbine High School Ten Years Ago

by Ali Adair, Associated Content Society
The students at Midvale Middle School near Salt Lake City, Utah are starting a chain reaction of kindness and taking Rachel's Challenge for their 2009 New Year's Resolutions. I recently saw a middle school presentation of Rachel's Challenge, the very popular school non-violence curriculum based on the life and death of Rachel Joy Scott. Click here to learn more about Rachel.

A month after the Rachel's Challenge presentation, the school dance classes at another middle school presented a moving Rachel's Challenge Holiday Dance show to the entire school body. Rachel was the first person to be shot and killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. The dance show included a choreographed depiction of the fear, panic, and grief the students must have gone through at Columbine High School that day. Then, the dancers presented all five challenges that Rachel gave the world in her essays and journals to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. Rachel's five challenges are:

Eliminate prejudice by looking for the best in others

Dare to dream - set goals - keep a journal

Choose your influences - input determines output

Kind words and small acts of kindness = HUGE impact

Start a chain reaction with family and friends

As a certified high school business teacher, Rachel's Challenge made a big impact on me to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. I decided to poll 150 middle school students to see if they had any clear written goals and what impact Rachel's Challenge made on them. I asked if they had any 2009 New Year's Resolutions. Here is their remarkable, compassionate response.

What are your New Year's resolutions? Think of Rachel's five challenges as you write them.

A new type of news reporting: Illustrated Columns (Current Events)

Maria Kalman is an artist and a journalist. She has started a new form of news media called, "Illustrated Columns". Click here to read "Back to the Land". This illustrated column should spark conversation about the way the information is spread as well as the message about using organic food. It is a great tie in to our organic garden at school!

Use these questions for discussion:
  1. Is there anything surprising or humorous about this post?
  2. What does Kalman think has changed as America evolved from its original, agrarian society?
  3. What are the goals of the Edible Schoolyard project?
  4. Which is your favorite image in the post? Why? Why do you think she chose not to include any paintings or drawings in this post?
  5. How would you characterize Kalman’s style?

Want to have students create their own illustrated columns? Use this template to help them. You can easily post their illustrated columns on a wiki or a blog.

Or have them illustrate a news article that is already written by using this story board template.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Current Events: News Game

Click here to play the game.

Current Events: Check out today's headlines!

Check out today's headlines! This is a great activity to compare and contrast news sources.

Snowflakes: You are Unique!

Create snowflakes with your advisees. Have them write unique attributes about themselves or others (like the bucket activity) and hang them on your wall. This is a festive way to celebrate each other's unique qualities! If your students don't want to make their own snowflakes, here is a cut out pattern.

Holidays: History of the Holidays

Curious about your favorite holidays and the history behind them. Click here to view the History Channel's History of the Holidays. This is a great time of year to talk about holidays that we are familiar with and some that we aren't. Discussion can revolve around traditions, memories, foods, people, etc.

Current Events: A Year in Review

Challenge your students to create a year in review for 2009. If you could only pick 10 important things that happened in 2009, what would they be? You can take this a step ahead and have students find pictures and create powerpoint presentations or photostories that represent what they think was important in the world this year.

For inspiration, Reuters has begun their 100 pictures of the year series.

Also, Wikipedia has a list of things that happened in 2009.

Current Events: 25 Great Ideas for Teaching Current Events

Click here to see 25 ways to teach current events!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holidays: Some laughs

What's your favorite holiday movie? Have a discussion about what makes a great holiday movie. Do you have a tradition of watching a certain movie every year?

Holidays: 5 ways to stay healthy for the holidays

Read this article. Then, have a discussion about holiday stressors that your students experience. Have students create a plan to help reduce stress during the holiday season.

Holidays: Are they too materialistic?

Read this article. Then, have a discussion about steps each student can take to make the holidays more meaningful. This is also a great opportunity to discuss family traditions.

Current Events: CSPAN student cam 2010

C-SPAN's StudentCam is an annual national video documentary competition that encourages students to think seriously about issues that affect our communities and our nation. Students are asked to create a short (5-8 minute) video documentary that responds to one of the topics listed below.

This Year's StudentCam Topic:

Students are asked to create a 5-8 minute documentary on:

A) One of our country's greatest strengths;


B) A challenge the country is facing.

Choose one, grab a camera, and get started on your documentary today!

This could be a great advisor activity that could last the entire month of December!

Current Events: UN Cyberschoolbus

Check out what is going on around the world through the UN's cyberschoolbus.

Current Events: World News for Children Podcasts

Explore 4 minute weekday news bulletins for 7-14 year olds by the BBC in a podcast format. Also, go to their home page to check out their entire website for kids.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Surprise

What really happened at the first New England
feast? Was it duck or turkey on the plate? (Were
there any plates?) A historian shares some secrets.
Click the picture above to find out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gratitude: 20 Little Things to Treasure

Have students create a list of 20 little things to treasure about: _________. You can choose the topic. Here is an example using the fall season:

20 Little Things To Treasure in Autumn

  1. Quiet dinners by the fire
  2. Reading mystery novels in darkened rooms
  3. Flannel sheets at the end of a long day
  4. Candles Flickering
  5. Smelling cinnamon, oranges & cloves
  6. Pumpkins
  7. Roasts, Potatoes & Carrots
  8. Fluffy feather beds on a cold night
  9. Watching movies snuggled in soft blankets
  10. Cozy socks
  11. Pie in the oven
  12. Warm crackling wood stoves
  13. Squash with buttered brown sugar
  14. Chili and corn bread smothered in honey
  15. Wind blowing through leaves
  16. Glow of lamps through windows
  17. Laughter filling a room
  18. Scrabble and popcorn
  19. Caramel apples
  20. Family

Gratitude: Make a Thankful Tree or Pile of Leaves

Use this printable sheet and copy it onto fall colored paper. Have students create thankful leaves by writing directly on the leaves. You can choose to do this activity in a general way or have students focus on what they are thankful for from each other as we did with the bucket drops.
Additional leaf shapes can be found here:

Gratitude: Create a Journal

Students are often asked at this time of year to recall all for which they are thankful. It may involve one lesson or a week's worth of lessons and/or a culminating activity on the last day before the Thanksgiving holiday. Instead of making Thanksgiving break the stopping point for thankfulness, why not make it the starting point? Students can start a gratitude journal over Thanksgiving break and maintain it until winter break. This way, middle school students can truly see the many people, places, and things for which they should give thanks.

Current Events: Student News Daily is an incredible current events website designed for middle school to high school students. They feature the following:

Current World Events:

If you want your students to get lost in the world, is the place to do it! Each section of the world has its own films in a documentary form with shorter films called "moments" that are great to use if you don't have the luxury of time to view the entire film in class.

There are also photos that are tagged into categories such as "culture". The photos are stunning and offer a great springboard for discussions as well as an incredible source for writing prompts.

Included are interviews with people that are making a difference in that part of the world. These interviews will encourage discussion about what the challenges are in trying to make a difference.

Another great feature is the question of the month. This month's question is: What is the key to a happy life?

This site has it all...high interest video, beautiful photography, and connections to people. Students will love to explore! Teachers will love to use this educational site as a guide to exploring the world with their students!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Current Events: Sesame Street Turns 40

This week, the beloved children's show Sesame Street turned 40 years old! The New York Times wrote an article called Same Street, Different World. Have a discussion about how the world has changed in 40 years. Here are some guiding questions:
  • What do you remember most about Sesame Street?
  • Who was your favorite character?
  • What is timeless about Sesame Street?
  • What changes have happened in the world over the past 40 years?
  • If you were to make an updated version of Sesame Street, what would it be like? What characters would you include? Where would it take place?
ps.... cookie monster is NOT veggie monster is an urban legend.

CNN Heroes

Click the picture to go to the CNN heroes page to watch videos of everyday heroes. You can even vote for your favorite hero! All of these videos will spark conversations in your advisor group about what it means to be a hero.

Heroes: What is a hero?

  1. How do you define the term "hero?"
  2. What adjectives would you use to describe heroes?
  3. Who are some individuals whom you would classify as heroes? Explain why you would assign that label to each person you listed.
  4. How would you define the term "celebrity?" What are the differences and/or similarities between heroes and celebrities? Can celebrities be heroes? Explain.
  5. Do you think that it is important that we have heroes? Why or why not?
  6. How do you think that we should choose our heroes? What criteria should we use?
  7. Do you think that heroes are born or made? Explain.
  8. Do you believe that one person can make a difference in the world? State your rationale.
  9. Who is your hero? How has this person made a difference for the better? Is there a specific event or turning point that motivated your hero to take action?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Current Events: Using Cartoons


1. What is the point of Nate Beeler's cartoon?

2. Do you agree with this assertion? Explain your answer.

Current Events: Using Cartoons


Tone is the attitude a cartoonist takes towards a subject. Which pair of words best describes the tone of this cartoon?

a) paranoid/fearful
b) solemn/serious
c) light-hearted/humorous
d) condescending/mocking

Sunday, November 1, 2009

World Series 2009

Check out the World Series website to talk about the games and watch some great replays!

Current Events: Daily Local News

The Daily Local News can be an excellent source for local current events!

Current Events: CNN student news

CNN Student News has a video news clip from each day that is about 10 minutes long. There are discussion questions and quizzes for each video. I would preview the clip before showing it since it is based on real-world news. This is an outstanding current events resource!

Do you have a phobia?

Almost everyone is afraid of something and most of the time these fears keep us safe. However, some fears are stronger than usual and become phobias. The word phobia comes from a Greek word meaning "to be frightened." Arachnophobia, or fear of spiders, is one of the more common phobias. Here are some others:

Agoraphobia—the fear being in open spaces
Coulrophobia—the fear of clowns
Glossophobia—the fear of speaking in public
Nosophobia—the fear of catching a disease
Acrophobia—the fear of heights
Phasmophobia—the fear of ghosts

Some people are afraid of things that seem very unusual.

Triskaidekaphobia—the fear of the number 13
Zoophobia—the fear of animals
Amathophobia—the fear of dust
Macrophobia—the fear of long waits
Chromophobia—the fear of colors

Do you have any phobias?

What is daylight savings time anyway?

Click the picture to find out all about daylight savings time. Also, read more here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Design your own Jack-o-Lantern

Want to do a fun Halloween craft and spruce up your room? Print out some of these pumpkin templates to decorate.

tall pumpkin template

short pumpkin template

Haunted Philadelphia

Halloween Discussion Questions

  • Describe your scariest childhood Halloween memory.
  • Describe the best Halloween costume made yourself or that you helped to make.
  • Describe the best way for children to celebrate Halloween.
  • How would you like to celebrate Halloween differently?
  • What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
  • What is your favorite Halloween candy?

History of Halloween

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Current Events: swine flu

Click the picture above to watch a short video, “Watch Out, Swine Flu!”, in which Ariel Kaminer, the Times’s City Critic, gauges New Yorkers’ reactions to her H1N1 flu prevention garb.

Discuss this "social experiment".

Current Events: opinion

Did you follow the story yesterday about the boy who was thought to be aloft in a balloon for two hours, only to be found hiding at home? What questions does it raise for you?

Click the picture to read the full story.

Digital Citizenship: Brainpop topics

Click to explore more videos and quizzes in brainpop's digital citizenship highlights. Learn about blogs, computer viruses, copyright, cyberbullying, email & im, information privacy, online safety, online sources, plagiaism, and social networking.

Advisors...use these topics to spark conversations about "netiquette" or being appropriate using technology, which includes cell phones, video, and anything on the computer. This is a real character education that you can relate to their own lives and the real world.

Digital Citizenship: Etiquette Quizzes

After you watch the movie, click to take these quizzes to test how much you know about digital etiquette.

Digital Citizenship: Etiquette

Click to watch the movie about digital etiquette.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Digital Citizenship: Downloading Music

Click here for a FAQ about everything you ever wanted to know about downloading music!

Some answers you will find:
“I’m only downloading a few songs. How does that hurt anyone?”

“What’s the worse that can happen if I’m caught?”

“Why do my parents have to pay for what I did?”

Digital Citizenship: Creative What??

Check how much your advisees really know about what is legal on the internet regarding everything from videos to music. Click here for a printable quiz. The answers can be found here. This should prompt a great conversation with your students. If you need some conversation starters, try these:

What is intellectual property and creative content?
Why are creative rights important?
Are all citizens protected equally by
copyright law?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Conversation: One word answers do not create conversation!

How was your day?


How was school?


How was your test?


Anything you want to tell me?


Let's try to have some real conversations in advisory this week...the only rule?? There are no one word answers. Use these questions as a guide, but feel free to make up your own!

1. If you had to give every human being one quality, what would it be and why?

2. Do you have any recurring dreams? Describe them?

3. What is the meanest thing someone could say to you?

4. If you could be a famous athlete, actor, writer or musician which would you choose and why? (It is fun to guess what the other people in the group will say before divulging answers)!

5. If you were invisible where would you go and what would you do?

6. If your life was made into a movie, who would play you? why?

7. If you could invent one thing what would it be?

8. What is the greatest song ever written?

9. Do you believe in heaven? What does yours look like? Is it different for everyone?

10. What is the most important quality for a boss to have?

11. If you could know one thing about the future, what would it be?

12. How do you choose your friends?

13. What is the first thing you notice about a person?

14. What do you think is the biggest problem in the United States and Why?

15. Describe the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.

16. What would the cover of your autobiography look like if it could not be a picture of you or your family?

17. If you could trade places with anyone in the world who would it be and why? How about someone in your family?

18. Do you ever talk to yourself? When and what do you say?

Current Events: worldpress

Click here to read news and views from around the world. Our version of the news is not necessarily THE version of the news. Always double check to see what people around the world are saying about a specific "hot topic".

Current Events: worldbook online

Did you know that you have access through our school to The student section has current events, quizzes, research sources, and most popular articles. If you want to learn more about what is going on in the world, I've sent the username and password to your email!

Current Events: online news hour extra

Check out the online newshour extra for news specifically written for kids!


Want to learn something new? Check out the image on every day and you'll find out things you never knew about!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sleep: Quiz

Take this quiz to show how much you know about sleep!

Sleep: CBS News Video

Watch CBS Videos Online

Sleep: How much sleep do I need?

Check out this article about sleep and teens. Discuss how much sleep they get in a night. Offer these suggestions for how to get more sleep.

What is Yom Kippur?

Check out this great site for kids about Yom Kippur...find out why it is important to have the day off from school! You can even hear what a shofar sounds like here!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Homework: Scholastic Homework Hub

Check out Scholastic's Homework Hub Organizer! Some features are:

Homework: Discussion Questions

Use these questions to prompt discussion about homework:
  1. When do you usually do your homework?
  2. Where do you usually do your homework?
  3. Do you use your assignment planner?
  4. Do you listen to music while you do your homework? If so, why?
  5. Do you use any electronic devices to help you organize your homework?
  6. Do you do you start your homework independently or does someone need to remind you to do it?
  7. What homework do you usually do homework first and why?
  8. How do you manage long-term homework assignments?
  9. What is your favorite type of homework? (reading, worksheet, creative assignment) Give an example of it.
  10. If you were a teacher, what kind of homework would you love to assign? Create an assignment in each subject area (language arts, social studies, science, math) can't have "no homework" as an assignment! ;o)

Homework: Organize through Color

Here are some great tips about color coding to organize your work!