Pass the Torch without Anyone Getting Burned

Eric Charlesworth

by Eric Charlesworth

For Middle Level

Now that the school year is in full swing, students know and appreciate many of the routines and rituals of our class. This is the time I begin to give my sixth-graders more responsibilities in the classroom.

One of the best ways to have students work on their responsible independence is by letting them take over running the Circle of Power and Respect (CPR). But because CPR is such a key community-builder and tone-setter, this transfer of responsibility must be done carefully. We can't do it if students aren't ready to lead a quality CPR, as well as show respect to those who take on the responsibility. 

Last week, I spent my entire "Advisory Plus" period (we get one longer advisory period per week) talking about our plans for student-led CPRs and having each student work with a graphic organizer to plan a meeting (every student leads at least one meeting in the fall, either solo or with a partner). During the planning period, the kids were excited to be given this responsibility as well as a chance to pick the activity they have been dying to play (here comes Wax Museum!).

Student-led Advisory

Starting next week, students will run two meetings per week. Once everyone has managed a meeting, people can request to do so again (of course, they must submit their planning sheets to me).

In addition to using the graphic organizer, here are some tips that improve chances of success:

1) Allow students to work alone or with a partner, but not more than one partner, because of the "too many cooks in the kitchen" rule.

2) Ask questions about their plan to make sure it will work and they have thought it out carefully-for example, "How will you pick the narrator for Wax Museum?"

3) Make sure the class knows that only you manage behavior. CPR-runners can set expectations but should not redirect other students.

4) Allow as much choice as possible. If something flops, be sure to reflect with the class and learn from what happened.

Student-led CPRs are without a doubt a phenomenal way to build student leadership and communication skills. And when they go well, sometimes it's a bunch of fun to just relax and play the game!

Read more about student-led CPR in this excerpt from The Advisory Book.

The Advisory Book

Eric Charlesworth is a sixth-grade mathematics teacher and advisor at Paul Cuffee Charter School in Providence, Rhode Island. Recently, he obtained principal certification. He has practiced the Developmental Designs approach in middle school for eight years.

Posted November 2013

Read more posts from the Developmental Designs blog.