Advisory Philosophy and Practice


We believe it is important for every student to have one faculty member who is in touch with her/him personally on a regular basis and is well-informed of the student’s overall academic and social status within the school.  An advisory program has a teacher-student ratio that allows all students to personally know an adult in the school who cares about them and who acts as a mentor, role model and advisor.                                        

Possible Activities

  • discuss topics of interest with students (social, political, personal, etc.)
  • help students organize homework
  • time management and goal-setting
  • other possible scheduled activities:
  • group guidance conducted by the high school counselor (e.g. college guidance, PSAT prep, etc.)
  • IB sessions (e.g. information, scheduling, test sign-up, etc.)

Regardless of the activity, this is an advisor-directed time in which students and teachers may have a positive and non-academic time together, to strengthen bonds of interests and confidence in one another.  Discussion topics, activities, and other types of support will be provided by the administrative and counseling staff.

Sturgis Faculty Handbook


Robin Singer, Mathematics – West

 Jen Walts' Advisory

Jen Walts’ Advisory

Advisory at Sturgis West has taken shape this year around the I.B. Learner Profile, with activities so far representing   BALANCED,   REFLECTIVE,   CARING,   PRINCIPLED,  THINKERS,  COMMUNICATORS  and   OPEN-MINDED.  The goal has been to vary the activities so that students learn about and contribute to the Sturgis culture, while getting to know students from all grades and at least one teacher in a more relaxed setting.

Many advisors started with Learner Profile Pictionary, which helped reinforce the importance of the I.B. Learner Profile Traits in a Sturgis education.   Here are some other activities that took place in advisory at West.

BALANCED:         Students need a break from the stresses of a rigorous academic program, so advisors were given the opportunity to lead their advisees in a breathing exercise, for relaxation and for a quiet moment away from the hectic pace we often keep at Sturgis.  Abby Rhoads, who has expertise in wellness and relaxation, provided the script for the exercise.

On another occasion, a word puzzle was provided for the entertainment of students in advisories with clues like:

| reading | 

which stood for the phrase:  reading between the lines.  The students really enjoyed these word puzzles.


Camp Burgess

REFLECTIVE and  COMMUNICATORS:  Students are often asked to reflect on various topics during advisory and to share their thoughts.  Recently, students reflected on the best way to keep corridors clear for people walking to classes during break and lunch.  Students have been asked to reflect on their own academic paths, including what went right and what goals could improve their academic endeavors.  Students reflected on their experiences at Camp Burgess and also on the extra -curricular activities in which they have participated in over the years. The sharing of these reflections has been useful to each of them individually, and also to their peers in other grades, and has also helped them become Communicators.

Turkey 001

Turkey Basket Delivery Nov 21, 2014

CARING:   Advisory is a great place for students to learn about how they might help others both in our community and around the world.  The Turkey Basket program helps families in our area, and students assembled food baskets to share with families in need over the holiday.  Advisories also watched videos on Human Trafficking around the world and were invited to buy bracelets made by survivors of modern slavery, often girls and women rescued from brothels, in order to help them succeed and support themselves after being rescued.  Students have contributed to UNICEF vaccination programs and Dress a Live Doll (holiday gift giving to the needy) through advisory.


Bulbs 011PRINCIPLED:  A principled student takes responsibility not only for him or herself but also for his or her surroundings.  Students participated in a flash mob to plant bulbs around the school, under the auspices of the garden club led by Luisa Froes.



One Day One Goal

Students participated in the One Day One Goal athletic events and in advisory they were able to reflect on the principle represented by this activity to promote peace among nations.

The students also had a presentation on the meaning of Veterans Day, the sacrifices made by those who serve or have served, and discussed their relatives who currently are or who have been in the armed forces.


OPEN MINDED:   Laurie Carah, our librarian, helped us learn about censorship through some web sites about Banned Book Week.  Students discussed questions such as:

What characteristics might a book have (if any) that should cause a school not to include it in the curriculum?

What can be lost by allowing activists in a community to force a ban on certain books?

At another session, we discussed a story about a girl in an airport who is disgusted with a fellow traveler who was taking cookies out of the packet she had bought and put on the table.   He was very courteous as they shared the cookie package, but she was furious.  To her surprise, she later realized that she had not been the one to put the cookies there; in fact, she was taking cookies from his packet!  Her perspective on the situation and her viewpoint changed instantly.  That was an example of a PARADIGM SHIFT, in which suddenly the lens through which one views a situation is changed dramatically.  Advisories had some great discussions on Paradigm Shifts, a topic very related to having an open mind to alternate ways of viewing things.

THINKERS:  Advisors were encouraged to show the web movie:   Stuck on an Escalator, a comic sketch about 2 people who are on an escalator that stops moving.  Instead of walking up the escalator stairs, they wait helplessly for someone to come fix the escalator.  The metaphor of people waiting for solutions from external sources, rather than using initiative and THINKING of solutions was poignant.  At Sturgis, we hope our students will always be Thinkers and never find themselves metaphorically stranded on a broken escalator.

This is a small subset of advisory activities at West.   Advisors are free to pick and choose among suggested activities and to initiate activities of their own, based on their own interests and the interests of their advisees.  The feedback on advisory has been positive and we are always open to new ideas.

advisory 014

Dan McKay’s Advisory

Marion Weeks, Community Outreach Coordinator

During professional development workshops for faculty at the beginning of the year, Will Mathews and Emily Williams led a workshop on Sturgis Advisories.  They opened the session with an  Advisory PD 2014  PowerPoint that began with several photographs and asked faculty to comment on how their advisories relate to the photos. (If you take a look at the photos, you can probably imagine that many of the comments were humorous.)

Will and Emily discussed the philosophy of the advisory program (printed above) as stated in the Sturgis Faculty Handbook and provided an Advisory Model that illustrates how the program relates to the Sturgis Mission Statement.

Advisory Model

Faculty were asked to discuss the following questions:

  1. If you could forecast the perfect advisory experience for your advisees what would this perfect experience include?
  2. What would you see in your perfect advisory? What would you hear? What would it feel like?

Following the workshop, faculty were asked to review the following questions and generate ideas for advisory in a shared Google Doc:

    1. How might you encourage reflection on and the development of Learner Profile traits in your advisory?
    2. How might you reinforce Sturgis’ school culture in your advisory?
    3. How might you build positive relationships in your advisory?
    4. How might you incorporate your and your advisees’ personal interests into your advisory?

Here is the list of ideas they created:

advisory 019

Rebecca Wheeler’s Advisory

Faculty Generated Ideas for Advisory

Relationship Building & Personal Interests

  • 2 minute life stories
  • mini film festival
  • show & tell
  • advisory “pinterest” board
  • students bring in an interesting article or book they have been reading
  • explore an interest of each advisee throughout the year (“Today is Jane’s day”)
  • question & answer sessions
  • each student leads an advisory activity/discussion/session
  • have returning students “adopt” a new student—big brother/big sister
  • students bring in favorite quotes
  • most embarrassing story you are comfortable sharing/earliest childhood memory/most defining event in your life so far
  • discussions of family heritage
  • internet culture (cat videos)

    Human Knot

    Human Knot Team-building Exercise in Emily Williams’ Advisory

  • “tours” of main street
  • activities to promote internationalism (food or music related)
  • work to break down cliques that might form within your advisory. How?
  • create group norms/expectations for behavior
  • silly joke festival/ “dumb crime of the week”—involve humor
  • check in with your advisees about their activities—outcome of sports games, chess matches, passion project initiatives, etc.
  • create something together, artistic or otherwise
  • challenge another advisory to a game/activity
  • set temporary themes that can be flexible as the year progresses
  • advisory “picnics”
  • personal facts memory challenges
  • circle discussions on serious topics as well as silly ones “what kind of superhero would you be”—students responsible for remembering each others’ answers in next advisory session
  • favorite current music, movies, TV shows, etc.
  • plan random acts of kindness (for a friend, an acquaintance, a teacher, a parent, a sibling)
  • theatre style games, “whose line is it anyway” (ask students to share their favorites from theater class)
  • group challenges/tasks (perhaps ongoing) between advisories (egg drop, toothpick sculpture, etc.)
  • explore a topic no one is familiar with (including yourself)—learn together

Reinforcing School Culture

  • discuss school clubs & sports/CAS activities

    Smile Cards

    Smile Cards

  • share highs and lows of week, IB experiences, etc.
  • discuss successes and failures
  • bullying/clique discussions
  • competitions between advisories (e.g. during spirit week)
  • ask students to predict their grades and then analyze why their predictions might be different from or similar to the grades on their progress reports/report cards
  • student counseling (academic mentoring) between upperclassmen and lowerclassmen
  • academic honesty discussions
  • student-led “socialization” of freshmen
  • give upperclassmen a forum to express their views of Sturgis & Sturgis culture
  • discussion of IB program to better orient underclassmen.
  • do CAS style activity with the group
  • student council involvement

Learner Profile Traits

  • rank traits as they apply to you, discuss goals
  • skits to represent each trait
  • movie/cultural icons identifications (perhaps scavenger hunt style)
  • learner profile traits as they apply (or will apply) to students’ lives
  • relate specific learner profile traits to relevant current events, discoveries, designs, studies, etc.
  • graphically represent the traits—e.g. pictionary
  • in discussion of “problems” or “issues,” identify which learner profile traits might remedy them.
  • personality testing (e.g. myers briggs) exploring which traits are more “naturally you”
  • adopt a community service project
  • TedTalks/media that reference the traits in a “real world” setting
  • have students think about people in their lives that demonstrate each trait
  • have advisees nominate other students whom they believe exemplify the traits (like superlatives in the yearbook)
  • historical figures/famous people that exemplify traits

advisory 016Last but not least, what do students think about advisories?

In preparation for this article, I visited several advisories and asked students to comment on how they feel about Sturgis and what they think about advisories. Here is what they said:

Sturgis is……

growth every day

a place where students can fit in and feel comfortable

challenging and fulfilling

advisory 005Advisories……

provide a home base

help students connect with people from every class

make it easier for freshmen





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