What is a Functional Homeroom | Steps to Make Sure Your Homeroom is Successful

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Planning (and not dreading) homeroom & advisory time

How to tackle the “I’ll plan activities for homeroom later” (aka never) syndrome:

  1. Remember, you’re not on an island

  2. Clearly explain the WHY behind all activities

  3. Keep structured activities short

“Congratulations, you’re hired! All you need to do is prepare for six different classes. And oh, by the way, you have 30 minutes of homeroom/advisory time with your 7th graders every day, so make sure you’re planning something to do during that time, too.”

Welcome to teaching!

To help prepare for my classes, I developed a schedule of when I’d plan for each class, and at the end of every list was homeroom. As all teachers know, there was never enough time, so homeroom quickly devolved into a free-for-all where I prayed students wouldn’t try to imitate Lord of the Flies.

While I didn’t have a solution, I knew my approach to homeroom was unsustainable. A time allocated for building relationships was now a time I dreaded. I felt overwhelmed, under-prepared, and questioned why I even got into teaching - a feeling too familiar at schools across the country as studies indicate 41% of teachers leave education within five years. It’s true that everyone has their own reasons for leaving teaching, but “teachers who are well-prepared leave at more than two times lower rates than teachers who are not fully prepared,” according to an NPR interview with Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford and President of the Learning Policy Institute. I clearly wasn’t prepared for how to plan for my homeroom time, and as a result, I felt like teaching wasn’t sustainable.

Thankfully, I had a moment of clarity, and I reached out to one of my professors in graduate school who provided me with some sage advice and concrete activities to test out.

While I haven’t yet mastered the use of homeroom/advisory time, the following three steps helped lighten my load (I let other people plan homeroom for me now!) and turned homeroom into a time of positive relationship building.

  1. Remember, you’re not on an island

    Leverage community partners and let others work for you. From social & emotional learning programs to ice breakers, there are amazing resources out there built by teachers. I utilized CNN Student News (now called CNN 10) and a corresponding worksheet a friend of mine created to foster a climate of civic engagement. I also used ASSET’s social & emotional learning tools, which come with all the materials necessary for implementation, to help my students develop strategies to regulate their stress.

  2. Clearly explain the WHY behind all activities

    I’m a realist. I know students generally balk at any structured activity and just want to be on their phones during homeroom. However, I believe that the more teachers can explain how a certain activity can benefit students outside of school, the more likely students are to give it a try. When I first introduced CNN Student News, I informally polled students about their interest in a WIDE variety of current events, then framed watching these short daily videos during homeroom as my way of helping satisfy their appetite for knowing about the world.

  3. Keep structured activities short

    I’m a firm believer that students need time to decompress and just be kids. For this reason, I always keep any structured homeroom activities nice and short so that there is a balance between structured activities and letting kids be kids (with supervision of course). Both the CNN Student News videos and ASSET tools take 5-10 minutes, so I knew there would always be a nice balance of teacher-structured time and student “free” time. This really helped me get student buy-in, as they didn’t feel like I was monopolizing every second of homeroom.


About the Author

Brent Modak followed the example set by his grandfather and entered the classroom first as a middle school teacher before moving up to teach high school history. As a member of the ASSET team, Brent helped develop the curriculum and led in the implementation of the program across all of ASSET’s partner schools. When not teaching Brent enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife and newborn baby, Lewis.


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