Advisory Intramural Program

Projects, competition, and cooperation bring order and fun to a middle school

For Middle Level

Physical Education teaching partners Nadine Moeller and Brian Rud have started something special during advisory time at Ordean Middle School in Duluth, Minnesota. They created intramural tournaments for advisory groups.

Borrowing a good idea
They got the idea from Phy Ed teachers at neighboring Woodland Middle School, who were talking about it at a district staff-development meeting. "Brian and I had to try it, too. It sounded like the kids at Woodland were really enjoying it," said Nadine, who gave up her own advisory group to run the intramural program with Brian. The program ran 4 days a week, Monday through Thursday and sometimes on Friday if a make up was needed.

Principal's enthusiasm
Ordean Principal Jerry Maki describes the change, "A couple of years ago, when we went to our current advisory schedule, we couldn't imagine how we were going to spend twenty minutes each morning building community with our kids. Now, thanks to our regular CPR morning meetings and special advisory activities like Nadine's and Brian's Intramural program, and the work of many other teachers, we wonder why we didn't start doing this years and years ago.

If you walk into our school on any Friday morning, you'll find at least two classes in the gym having a blast competing in a tournament––nothing too competitive, just a lot of intense fun. But on your way to the gym, you'd have to pass through throngs of students dancing in the hallway with Tim Churchill's "Polka Friday" advisory. At the same time, many kids are out in the community doing service learning or wildlife preservation projects they develop in advisory. It's such a great thing to see!"

Goals of the tournaments
Cooperation, teamwork, proactive preparation, and efficient use of time were keys to the intramural program's success.

"We wrote clear descriptions of the games, with as many rules and specific directions as possible, so teachers could go over them with their advisory classes before they came to play," Nadine said. "Many teachers elected to play a practice game during their advisory time a day or two before they were scheduled to compete in the tournament so their kids understood how to play. With 34 groups, and only about 15 minutes for each to play, we just couldn't afford to spend a lot of time going over strategy or rules. Teachers understood this, and did a great job of preparing their groups."

In addition to the formats of the games, advisory teachers covered important behavior guidelines with their groups before each intramural day. They began with the goals of the program to:

  • Build community
  • Have full participation
  • Develop good sportsmanship, including how to win and lose gracefully

Nadine said one of the most important parts of the planning process was that all teachers communicated the same message about the goals before the tournaments began. The stress was on full participation. "Teachers did a great job of encouraging participation and of talking it up in a positive, energetic way. Everyone got on board."

Tourney structure
Competing in these games, teams played three single-elimination tournaments throughout the year:

Five-Line Frantic Football

Multi-Mega Soccer

Five-Base Rapid-Fire Kickball

Nadine has some hesitations about using this format: "It's too bad we had to go to single elimination. It would have been much better to use a double-elimination or round-robin format. Interest levels dropped for some of the teams that had lost in the first round. But then we went into another tournament, and everyone was participating again. I hope we can come up with a way to keep everyone involved more often next year."

Results of the games were posted on a designated "intramurals" bulletin board near the cafeteria. As the tournaments reached the semifinal and final stages, many other advisory groups attended the games to cheer on the remaining groups. 



Cheers to this advisory intramural program!

  • Students from many advisory classes have made colorful t-shirts for each of their classmates to wear on special occasions.
  • Cheers, chants and other original incantations are being developed to encourage teamwork and group cohesion.
  • Student teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and other staff without advisory responsibilities of their own are joining in the fun by aligning themselves to an advisory group and sticking with its members through thick and thin.
  • Attendance and meaningful participation in advisory time have dramatically improved. On one occasion, a student who was scheduled to leave for a family trip insisted on staying-delaying the entire family's departure in the process––so that he could attend the first period of school when it was his advisory's turn to participate in Nadine's and Brian's program.

Chris Hagedorn is a Developmental Designs consultant and staff writer for Origins.

Published September 2007