How To Make the Block Schedule Work

block schedule
block schedule

Transitioning to a longer class (block schedule) is not as simple as combining what was taught in a few shorter lessons plans and throwing in some homework time at the end of class. It requires looking at the key elements of a lesson and re-thinking how they can be leveraged in the context of more instructional time.

  • Content – what knowledge and skills will be studied?
  • Process – what material and procedures will be used?
  • Product – what will student produce to demonstrate their learning?
  • Evaluation – how will the learning be assessed?

Instead of the block becoming an insufferable 80 minutes of having to “entertain” students, it becomes a learning environment filled with more student exploration and reflection on their progress as learners.

I’ve helped many teachers see the block as an opportunity to create a more engaging student-centered classroom by giving students some measure of decision making in these four elements. Instead of the block becoming an insufferable 80 minutes of having to “entertain” students, it becomes a learning environment filled with more student exploration and reflection on their progress as learners.

Of course, you can’t simply “throw students in the deep end” and expect them to take responsibility for all their learning decisions. But with scaffolding and support, students can take increasing responsibility for their reading, writing and critical thinking.

In support of a training project I’m conducting this week, I’ve created a Google web that features handouts, resources, videos and web 2.0 links. It also serves as a model for how Google docs and webs can be used as learning tools in the classroom.

Image credit: flickr/dibytes

2 thoughts on “How To Make the Block Schedule Work

  1. Reply
    Peter Smyth - August 8, 2011

    It’s important to note that all block schedules are not equal. I have taught in the three basic types: A/B, mixed A/B, and 4×4. the only arguments for 4×4 is that scheduling is easier and teachers and students have less courses to prepare for. The deal-breakers are that meeting higher level courses every day allows for soak time, and student may go a year or more between course levels. 4×4 also is terrible for AP courses.
    I found A/B and hybrids the best of all schedules, and with adjustments in instruction, appropriate for middle and high school. The only downside in pure A/B is that there can be four or five days between classes.
    I went back to a traditional 50 min schedule for a couple of years and hated it for instruction, testing, and the feeling of being rushed. I literally did not fit.

    All that being said, teaching in a block requires changes to a model that engages sudents, whethter through technology, groups’ hands-on, exploration. Mostly it requires turning learning back to the students. A teacher cannot teach for 90 minutes, but kids can learn for 90 minutes. So it’s more than building a portfolio of activities. It’s about changing a teacher’s view of learning and in some cases, such as math, their view of what they teach.

  2. Reply
    Peter Pappas - August 8, 2011

    Hi Peter,
    Glad you reminded us of the differences among some of the configurations of the block – I sort of avoided that detail.
    You had me at “A teacher cannot teach for 90 minutes, but kids can learn for 90 minutes.”
    I’ll steal that for my workshop tomorrow.
    Cheers~ Peter

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