This is not a….

This is square. Well, that is one way to look at it. It could be the overhead outline of a bedroom chamber or the heart of a robot.  It could be the close up of a brick or a patch on a John Deere hat.  It could be a mosaic tile from the ruins in Pompeii or part of a Chinese watercolor scroll.  There are so many things this “square” could be, if only it had a chance…


For this advisory activity, collect colored pencils, charcoal, or crayons for the students to use. You might also have some old magazines around for students to use as inspiration or to use as material for this project.  This is an opportunity for the students to visualize and be creative.  You might introduce this as an activity in

Give students a shape, like  a square, and tell them they can use this as part of whatever drawing they like.  You can use a form with a square already drawn on it.  (Like this one) if you like. They should incorportate the original shape in whatever picture they would like. Give them a set amount of time (20 – 30 minutes) and encourage them to be detailed and spend time creating the look they would like.

You might think about having them write a few sentences on the back detailing what they drew and why they chose this as the object. (If there is time, have people share as a large group).  This  is not a square, it is a…._________________.

Depending on your advisory culture, you could have soft music on in the background to set the mood.

You can use this with many objects glued to a piece of paper (popsicle sticks, straws, coins, buttons, etc) or shapes drawn on the Paper.



Graph It

There is something clean and simple and wonderful about a graph.  Add humor, and you’ve got a great advisory activity.


  1. Have students work together in pairs to choose one of the graphs above and discuss what does this graph say and how it says it. You might encourage students to look at the title, the x and y axis or the segments from the bar graph or the categories on a pie graph.  What is being compared?  Is the picture a story over time? What do the amounts on the charts represent? Does it show amounts in relation to one another?
  2. As  a whole group, brainstorm some topics for a graph of your own. What experiences have you seen that would be fun to show in a graph.  How would you represent it – a pie chart? A line graph?  A Bar graph?  Why?  Choose one of these, brainstorm numbers and percentages and draw the graph.
  3. Allow students to think about a graph they might create. (Their top 5 procrastination techniques, Ways their parents respond to a request for money, snack foods in a week…etc). and have them each do one that represents what is important/funny to them.  Use good graphing techniques.



Thanks Kari for the idea!

Take Cover, its “My Way”

It is hard to see ourselves the way we are, often times.  Its a blind spot of the human experience.  We can, however, easily judge things outside our cultural comfort zone.  Last week, the NYTimes ran a story that will challenge us to remain objective and reason like a social scientist.  In the Phillipines, where karaoke is a favorite past time, men have been killing each other over different songs, but singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is a ticket to gun play.


  • Ask students an introductory question to focus the students and connect to prior experience.  You might have them think about what are the most important past times in the United States and what does this say about us?  What do people take pride in – in the various countries or cultures you’ve visited?
  • Read the article with students.
  • Review the basics of the story:  Who is the article about? Where does it take place? Why is it important?
    • What questions do you have about this? (What would you ask to understand it more deeply?)
    • What do you think contributes to these actions?
  • What happens in your community or our country that might be seen by others, outside our culture, as strange or unthinkable?


Enciendalo! (Your Way)

Valentine Type Love

Another Valentine Related Series of Activities:
Lots of ways to express how you love someone. For this activity, encourage students to get in touch with their creative side.  Sure, they could give a canned Valentine (like Lisa gives Ralph in the Simpsons – “I Choo Choo Choose You” – and it has a train on it), but there are many other ways to express your love and appreciation on Valentine’s Day.  Here are a few examples of ways to do this.
  • Give students some examples of love turned into mellifluous creativity.  (If you’ve got that kind of group, help define sublimation for them and spark their interest in the unconscious.)
  1. Have students watch the “This Type of Love” above and do their own version  – what type of love are they looking for (or have). What metaphors, similes, and other comparisons can they come up with to describe their experience?  You might have students each write one of their own, or write a couple of lines that you could put together in an advisory poem (type love).
  2. Listen to (or watch) Love Songs: 311’s Version of “Love Song”; Alicia Keys “Falling”; Mary J. Blige “Love at First Sight”; Lady Gaga “I Want Your Love”; INXS “Never Tear Us Apart”; The Police “Every Breath You Take”; go through lots of older songs (“Oh Girl anyone”) 100 Greatest Love Songs (NYPost);
    1. Obviously – go wild with this one: You could have them take a song and break it down. What does love mean to the artist?  Is it a song of longing? sadness? happiness? confusion? jealousy? ecstasy? Is it about falling in love? Unrequited love? rekindling love?  The challenges of (You might try the You do, We do, they do method with this.  Have them bring in one of their own for friday for the you do part to share with a partner in advisory. Try to pick a song that (unlike what I did earlier in the blog picking “In Your Eyes” doesn’t belie your age and dorkiness…)
    2. Have students create an advisory Valentine album – each person picks 10 love songs that should be on any album (an extra 10 points for any Prince song).  You could then have people design a CD case or each choose one song and make an advisory cd.  What would the theme of the CD be? Have students write liner notes – what does this song say about love?  How does it fit the theme?  – If you were ambitious, research with students how would you get permissions for the songs if you wanted to compile, package, and sell your product.
    3. An interested student may want to make this into an action research project.  Have them make a survey of people’s favorite love songs. Go to a public place and ask people a couple of questions – maybe  a scale of how romantic they think they are, how much the enjoy love songs, and which song is their favorite love song. They can interview 30-50 people, record the info and present the results ina graph. What did they learn? What was their hypothesis going into it?


Essential Questions, Part 1

“What is Love?” – questions from the not so questioning…

So I’ve been thinking about questions lately, and love, since Valentine’s day is coming up and, well here’s an activity where two great tastes that taste great together, love and inquiry.


  • Tell students that you are going to have an activity to generate questions, to stimulate inquiry.
  • Have students generate any questions they have with Love.  What do they really want to know about it?  What do the know that they would want to learn more about?  Encourage them to think from the learning goals and think expansively. You may want them to each write at least one on a post-it (one per post-it) and bring it to the front of the room to share.
  • Categorize these for them -(group them).  You can use any framework about questioning that you are comfortable with: open ended vs. closed ended questions, five basic types (factual, convergent, divergent, evaluative, combination), lower order and higher order, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. All of these show different levels of questioning and can help in a conversation with students to ask questions from different levels and develop their skills at more critical thinking.
  • Have students review  the Blooms Taxonomy Sentence starters (or any other inquiry framework) or this Blooms Question Sampler.  You may choose to have the group focus on one level of or questioning or divide into small groups.
  • Once they have looked this over, have students generate 3-5 more questions each with various levels.  (You may want to put the levels on the board and have them write or post their new questions in the correct category).
  • You might ask them to choose the one question that interests them the most – journal on this and why it is intriguing to them.  Have students keep the list of types of questions so you can begin reinforcing that with other activities.


  1. Bloom’s Taxonomy; Blooms Question Sampler
  2. Five Basic Types of Questions
  3. Lower order vs. Higher order
  4. Blooms Sentence Starters (PDF)
  5. What is Love – Haddaway Video; SNL Spoof Compilation


  • So what IS love?  Write a journal entry, poem, paint a picture, write a song, choreograph a dance, make a photo essay, etc that presents your definition.


Energizer, Part 3

Two Truths and a Lie:

Step 1: The facilitator writes three statements on the board. Two statements are true, and one is a lie. Example:

I have been running 5 days a week for 7 years.
I have a pet fish called, “Abe Vagoda.”
I lived in Italy for a year.

Step 2: Encourage students to ask “lie detector” questions to get further information, in order to determine which statement is false.

  • Training – Where have you run? What is the most important advice for a new runner?  How do you prepare?  What races have you run? How long do you go each day? What year did you start?
  • Pet – How old is Abe Vagoda? What does it eat? How long have you had it?  Is it male?
  • Italy – Where did you live in Italy? What dialect of Italian is spoken there?  What is the local delicacy?

Step 3: Advisory votes on which statement is a lie. The facilitator reveals which are truths and which are lies.

Place participants in small groups (3 or 4 works well). Small groups repeat steps 1 – 3. Have participants introduce each other to the large group.  Remember, as a leader, don’t be afraid to be goofy (if you won’t,  no one else will).



  • Variation: Two Truths and a Dream Wish. As an interesting variation to the classic Two Truths and a Lie icebreaker, people may also play a version called Two Truths and a Dream Wish. Instead of stating a lie, a person says something that is not true — yet something that they wish to be true. For example, someone that has never been to Hawaii might say: “I have visited Hawaii when I was young.” This interesting spin often leads to unexpected, fascinating results, as people often share touching wishes about their lives.
  • Politifact – Go to this site to check the Truth-o-meter on current political discourse.


What is Looting?

“Burnin’ and a Lootin’ tonight…” Bob Marley.

Some of the most powerful images from the  Rodney King Riots in LA in 1992 were of the rampant looting of stores as the area burned.  The boundaries of civic responsibility were smashed and broadcast on tv for days.  This behavior startled the country, it tips an inherent  fear of chaos and disorder.  In the last week, new outlets in the US and England began reporting that there was looting in Haiti.  There were reports of mobs attacking suspected looters and other reports countering that these were highly exaggerated.  Regardless of the degree, it raises the question, what is looting?  How is it different than stealing? or Finding? How does the context of the situation help to define this?


  • This activity surrounds reading and responding to a text – a portion of an editorial by Rebecca Solnit.  I would recommend running a text-based activity on this short reading (consider Text Based Seminar Protocol or the NSRF Text Rendering Protocol.)
  • According to the protocols, give students time to review the short text and review with each other the basic facts related in the piece.
  • Run the protocol so that students get an opportunity to probe the meaning of this editorial. Allow people to explore the ideas related in the piece.
  • Keep a chart on the board to write out characteristics and build a definition of looting.’
  • Finally, consider running a Barometer at the end of the class with reference to one framing question (such as In this case, did the media misrepresent the actions in Haiti as looting?)

In “The Nation“, Rebecca Solnit wrote this week:

“There’s something grotesque about using the word “looting” to describe what’s happening in Haiti. Following that island nation’s devastating earthquake, dozens of survivors have been filmed or photographed digging through the rubble for food, water, medicine, and other necessities. In virtually every case, the media has identified these people as “looters.’’

But are they, really? To loot is to pillage and plunder for selfish gain. That’s not what wretched Haitians are doing when they grab a box of powdered milk from a collapsed store. They’re merely trying to “salvage the means of sustaining life from the ruins of their world.”

Imagine, for a moment, that your city or town was destroyed by some natural disaster, and you and your family hadn’t eaten in days. You’d be justifiably irate at the notion that “grabbing a box of PowerBars and a few gallons of water” from a shattered storefront made you a criminal. Yet we have no trouble smugly applying that description to those in similar circumstances if they are poor and foreign—and, yes, black.”



  • Have students research historical examples of looting, based on the definition created in class today.  When did they happen?  Who was involved? What triggered the action? What effect did this this have on the nation or the community after the event?
  • Write a journal entry about how stealing is different from looting.  In what ways are these things the same? How are they different?  Under what situations could they see themselves stealing?