Above: A 3rd grader and his teacher meet to plan school work for the next week.
Montessori education is well known for its value of self-directed learning. Picture students choosing their own work and connecting lessons to their interests, or sitting on the floor to complete an activity rather than at a desk. Freedom to choose helps students find intrinsic motivation, resulting in deeper, more sustained concentration and more memorable learning experiences. (That’s part of why we chose the name Wellan for our school.)
While student autonomy and freedom within limits are important pillars of Montessori education, how do teachers ensure that students progress in every area of the curriculum?
Enter the 1:1 advisory meeting and work plan.
advisory meeting (n):
Individual check-in between one student and their advisor (one of their classroom teachers). Conversation topics include academic progress and planning, as well as social-emotional growth.
work plan (n):
Weekly agenda including lessons and independent activities for students to follow. As students progress through the Elementary years, they have increasing responsibility and choice in creating their own work plan. A teacher/advisor provides guidance to ensure a variety of work within and across all academic subjects.
Above: An example of a Lower Elementary student’s weekly work plan.
1:1 advisory meetings are a hallmark of the Elementary experience for each student at Wellan.
At every age level, advisory meetings provide critical benefits to students:
With a daily check-in and longer weekly meetings, teachers get to know students well as individuals.
Teachers ensure that the curriculum is balanced for each student. Students get to engage in work they find exciting, and they spend even amounts of time in each subject area, completing a variety of work within each subject area.
Teachers are able to take a pulse on friendships within the classroom and provide social-emotional support as needed.
As an early precursor to advisory, Wellan students are introduced to work plans with daily 1:1 check-ins in the Kindergarten year. This individual daily chat is exciting for students who are completing their time in Primary and feel ready for new privileges and responsibilities. At this developmental stage, teachers provide a great deal of guidance and introduce the basic concepts of planning, time management, and prioritizing. Each student works with a teacher to choose their materials for the morning, and any activities they don't complete carry over to the next day. Within this framework, students develop their understanding of time along with their enthusiasm for learning.
As students progress into the Elementary years, they continue to develop independence and gradually increase their ownership of advisory meetings. Each day in Lower Elementary, students briefly meet with their advisor to discuss and develop their work plan for the following day. This check-in provides a regular touch point for the teacher to assess day-to-day learning and provide support and structure. The meetings also encourage a balanced workload each day, which helps students manage their time more effectively and minimize the chance of feeling overwhelmed by the tasks ahead.
In addition to these daily meetings, students meet with their advisor for a longer session once a week to review progress, set goals, and plan new lessons or next steps. By establishing a comfortable 1:1 relationship with their advisor, students are held accountable for work completion and follow through, while knowing they are in a safe environment.
Advisory meetings purposefully scaffold the development of executive functioning skills for students in order to prepare them for more independent and complex work schedules as they grow in their educational journey. As students become adept at the planning process, advisors will shift from daily to weekly check-ins and encourage backward planning for longterm projects (scheduling mini deadlines leading up to a final deadline).
Some examples of questions that teachers cover during the meetings include:
How is your work going? Is anything feeling too easy or too hard?
What are you really proud of this week? Why?
What is something that didn’t go so well? Why?
Have you felt focused and productive? Why do you think you have or haven’t?
These meetings are an opportunity for teachers to share what they’ve observed in the student regarding work habits and productivity—both celebrating their accomplishments as well as providing reminders and strategies in areas of challenge. As Elementary students are constantly exploring friendships and navigating new social situations, advisory meetings also touch on social-emotional aspects; checking in about friendships and conflicts that may arise. Ultimately, the meetings allow space and time to reflect, problem solve, and set goals for each child as a student and as an individual.
Watch an example of a Lower Elementary Advisory Meeting:
Learn more about Wellan’s Elementary program here.