Whole-Student Activities Prepare Students

Whole-Student Activities Prepare Students for the Future
Posted on 09/18/2020
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Each day, Plains Junior students spend ninety minutes in ‘advisory period.’ But what actually is advisory period?

Portrait of a graduate drawingsSixty minutes is set aside for typical academic assistance from teachers and continued academic practice, while thirty minutes is devoted to whole-student skill development.

“The whole-student activities are so valuable to our students because they give opportunities for reflection, exploration, and skill building in so many areas,” said Plains Assistant Principal Justin Frost. “Students work on social/emotional learning, post-secondary education and/or career planning, skill development surrounding mental health and other areas that will benefit students both now and in their futures.”

Teacher Leanne Kniffen recently did an activity with her seventh graders based on Lakota’s Portrait of a Graduate. The Portrait is the ‘north star’ for the district, outlining the skills and experiences that will ensure that graduates are prepared for their world after graduation. 

“I teach both math and language arts and spend a great deal of time talking with the students about ‘real world’ ideas,” said Kniffen. “My hope is that in addition to learning the curriculum standards, they also recognize that each class they take part in connects to the ‘graduate’ circle. That their education isn’t just made up of required classes, but pieces of a larger puzzle that will, one day, label them as a graduate.”

For the recent activity, instead of just telling the students what the Portrait of a Graduate was, she gave her students a blank sheet of paper and asked them to draw a circle in the center with the word ‘graduate’ inside. She then asked them to fill the outside of the circle with what they felt they needed to do now to make the ‘graduate’ happen.

Kniffen was impressed by her students’ insightfulness as they worked on the project, noticing common themes in the students’ work with ideas like responsibility, empathy, problem-solving, communication, focus, time management, and creativity emerging.

Once the students finished their drawings, they shared their thoughts and then Kniffen showed students what the district’s Portrait of a Graduate looked like.

“I believe the students were proud of the fact that so many of their ideas were actual ideas the district had come up with. Not perhaps in the exact words, but in ideas,” said Kniffen. “I could tell that the students were proud of the fact that they were able to understand the end goal without having a significant amount of background on the topic.”

The project itself helped to further develop the students’ critical thinking and creativity. “The Portrait of a Lakota Graduate encompasses more than daily lesson plans,” said Keith Koehne, executive director of curriculum and instruction. “Our students must also have critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills to help them succeed in life.

The whole-student activities that take place during advisory period will continue to help students not only possess these important skills, but to master them by the time they graduate. One of the next activities will ask students to create goals for themselves and then to monitor their progress based on the Portrait of a Graduate.