I can't stand block scheduling!

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by AnnNorCal, Oct 31, 2014.

  1. AnnNorCal

    AnnNorCal Rookie

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    Oct 31, 2014

    I teach at school that has an A/B schedule with around 110 minute blocks. Everyone I teach with loves it! Honestly, I hate it!!! I think one of the reasons I'm not happy this year is that I find 110 minutes with one class too long. I have tried just about everything, but I find that many students just don't have the attention span to work and concentrate that long. They start to shut down 20-30 minutes before we finish. I have asked other teachers what they do and most tend to give the last part of the class as a study/homework time, which I don't consider the most effective use of time.

    Anyway, just needed to vent. This block scheduling has made my job not as enjoyable, which is too bad since I really enjoy teaching. I would love to teach somewhere with a traditional schedule or with classes between 50-85 minutes.

    What has been your experience?
     
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  3. Go Blue!

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    I also really hate long periods - anything over 60 minutes. At my school last year, classes were 95 minutes EVERY FREAKING DAY! It was a straight up nightmare because that is just too long for me to have to entertain anyone's child.

    The kids I teach are done after about 45 minutes; we have even had PDs on why our student population has such short attention spans. And, it's not just in the classroom; many of our kids check out and fall asleep during the SATs and state testing. Admin realized the long periods were causing problems so they made the periods shorter this year.

    I used to teach A/B day schedule a few years ago with 90 minute periods. I still hated it, but at least I knew I would get a break from the kids every other day.
     
  4. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I don't teach block schedule, but I think using the last few minutes for homework or extended practice would be a good idea, because it gives them the chance to really practice what they've learned before they move to another class and have to change their mindset for a new subject. In our school there is never enough time to practice things in class and there are also many students who just don't do the homework. This would cause them fall behind.
     
  5. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    Nov 1, 2014

    Mine are 90 minutes and I LOVE it. This is how I fill the time:
    5 minutes- Hello, Good Times, Announcements
    5 minutes- review notes for quiz
    10 minutes- quiz and Warm Up discussion
    35 minutes- Direct Instruction
    30 minutes- Classwork/Activity
    5 minutes- Wrap Up Session

    The kids are usually a bit rowdy in the first few minutes of the activity portion, but I tell them to stretch their legs, move to a different seat, shake out the jitters and begin. They do fine.

    The only downside to block scheduling for me is that if you miss a day, you miss a good chunk of content time. When you're covering 80 years of history in 5 class periods, you need everyone. We had pulled fire alarms/fights/race riots last week that cost me two class periods with my Block 8 in a row. It's been hell trying to catch up.
     
  6. GTB4GT

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    I love it for math.I work in a rural school. Tests scores aren't the best (although we have showed significant progress since going to block schedules). Prior to block we had 7 periods a day. Now we have time for the kids to work problems in class. Prior to the change, some of the work was assigned as homework (which many of them wouldn't do). I don't have actual data but I am "guestimating" that my kids are getting to 3-4 times the number of problems that they had previously. (I am a believer that repetition and exposure to the various types of problems are critical in math).

    So my chunk of time (also) 90 minutes goes something like this

    2-3 minutes of announcements, role, pass out graded work, etc.

    5-10 minutes bell work or review of ideas missed on previous quiz or test

    10-15 minutes of direct instruction
    10-15 minutes of "we do" guided practice
    30 minutes or so of individual work. i let students work with each other if they are on task. This is when I get to work one on one or one on two with students and see them work, identify issues, etc. This is the benefit of the block schedule.I didn't have time to do nearly as much of this kind of teaching before.
    The remainder of time is spent on a lesson quiz. I have found that the students take the lesson more seriously when their is a grade at the end. Their behaviors in class are vastly different too - I think they know that they are able to get attention now and I see way more effort in the same classes as I did under the old schedule. (Also, as a side benefit, I feel like I have gotten a chance to connect a little more with my students - the 48 minute period was just too rushed to allow for much, if any personal interaction with students. It was very task oriented. I think this has helped change the vibe of the classes as well).

    For my higher level courses (trig and calculus), much more time is allotted for direct instruction. A greater % of individual work is completed outside of the classroom but I can count on these students to do that.

    If we were to switch to the old schedule I would consider changing schools even though I am very satisfied at my current one.
     
  7. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I taught for several years on 100 minute blocks for language arts and math. We met every day, too. I loved it.

    I also teach seventh graders. They're squirrelly. We never did anything for more than 20 minutes. And we never had study time.
     
  8. 2ndTimeAround

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    I have taught 70 minute classes and 90 minute classes. I much prefer 90 minutes. But for my own reasons, I did not see any differences in student behavior between the two.

    On the days that I only teach 55 minutes the kids behave the same as when it is 90.

    I couldn't sit still and just take notes for 90 minutes. However, when I've been to all-day staff development and we move around, doing different activities, I can stay for three hours with no issues. Changing things up during the class period makes the difference.

    The only downside I see with block is the absence issue. This is offset by the fact that the kids have less homework, fewer subjects to keep up with and fewer teachers to "manage."
     
  9. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    What all these sample schedules include is a shift in activity levels or focus. If you split up the 110 minutes into manageable blocks of time with a couple of minutes between them (for a movement break), I think it will be easier for all of you.
     
  10. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I originally taught 90 min blocks, then switched to 80 minute blocks which seemed short. Now I have 60 minute classes which seems crazy short but I'm doing just fine.

    Make sure to have 5-6 activities for every day. No activity for longer than 20 minutes. Give the students (and yourself) a few breaks. Have them stand, stretch, walk around their desks, etc.

    I loved my 90 minute blocks, but 110 minutes seems difficult.
     
  11. AnnNorCal

    AnnNorCal Rookie

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    Thanks for all of your replies. I do change activities frequently, but I still feel the class seems to drag on and I still feel they don't retain as much. I give small breaks to get up, stretch, have a snack yet I still feel after an hour they lose their focus. I prefer not to use time in class as a study hall/homework time even though many teachers do. We are supposed to be teaching bell to bell, but I know many teachers feel it is difficult to be on for that length of time.

    It seems like a lot of people really love the block, so maybe it's just me. I feel like it makes the days go by much slower than shorter periods. I will continue to do my best and hope I learn to like it. Thanks for your suggestions:)
     
  12. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    The breaks won't help as much if they return to the same work afterward. It would be better if the breaks broke up different activities or assignments.
     
  13. AnnNorCal

    AnnNorCal Rookie

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    I only give breaks after we finish an activity and before the next one.
     
  14. GTB4GT

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    Depending on what definition you use for the word "teaching" but this is crazy. I don't know about other areas but, in math, you learn by doing...not by sitting in your desk listening to a lecture or watching the teacher work problems on the whiteboard/chalkboard/smartboard/etc.. I could provide direct instruction for 90 minutes I suppose but I wouldn't. It would be a waste of my time as well as the students'.
     
  15. 2ndTimeAround

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    teaching to the bell here simply means the kids are actively engaged in school work. They aren't on their phones, backpacks on their backs, waiting for the bell to ring.
     
  16. AnnNorCal

    AnnNorCal Rookie

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    This has been at issue at our school. Our administrators actually want us doing direct instruction, activities, etc... during the whole block time. However, a lot if teachers as I mentioned do spend some a large chunk of time at the end of class or between activities having students work on problems, homework, etc. This can be very beneficial as many teachers at my school have brought up, but not well liked by administration especially when they pop into class to observe so frequently. If the students were doing the problems on white boards admin might be happy. White boards and think, pair, share seems to be the magic recipe for success around here;)
     
  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Why not have them work on portions of their homework in groups? Then they get good group interaction like admin wants, they get time to practice, and can get help from their peers on the homework if they need it.

    The main challenge would be getting them to help each other without just sharing answers though.

    I know our math teachers do something similar, but I don't know how they get around that problem (never asked).
     
  18. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    Ok, granted, I am an elementary teacher, but because I'm self-contained, I am experienced with using large chunks of time with the same class. Right now, I have 190 minutes between recess and lunch.

    What subject do you teach? My first thought was that some kind of rotation/stations would work, but it depends what subject you're dealing with. Yes, I realize it is SUPER elementary of me to suggest stations (hey, at least I didn't call them centers....I am in fifth, after all), but I have read about high school teachers using stations with success.

    That way, it could look something like this:
    5 min check in
    15-20 min direct instruction
    15-20 min guided practice
    15-20 min independent practice

    45-50 min stations - three rotations of 15 minutes? Or something like that?

    Another variation would be to have independent practice as a station and have 4 stations...

    For example, I actually teach math in stations right now in my 5th grade class. There are three 20 minute stations because I have a 60 minute math block. One is teacher time (directed lesson and guided practice), one is independent practice, and one is partner activities practicing math skills. I could EASILY stretch this to 80 minutes, because I wish I had enough time to throw a chromebooks or ipads station in there. I know this would look different in secondary (and likely the direct instruction would be whole class), but it's just an example.

    Again, WHAT the stations are depends on what subject area you're teaching.

    Just an idea from an elementary teacher who's used to dealing with huge chunks of time with the same class. Though I realize it's different since I switch subjects during that time! :)
     
  19. 2ndTimeAround

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    I LOVE stations. My challenge is getting each station to last the same amount of time so we can rotate together. I'll typically give a LONG worksheet at the start of rotations. I expect students to complete this as they have extra time at stations.
     
  20. Mr.history

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    Classes at my school are 55minutes (6 classes a day) with the exception of 4th which is 90 minutes. My class has the last lunch which means we are together 90 minutes straight without a break. I had a really hard time with it last year because of trying to keep all my classes on the same pace. Once I gave up and just accepted that I was going to have to plan way ahead for one of my classes it got much easier. It helps to have a routine.
     
  21. AnnNorCal

    AnnNorCal Rookie

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    I love the idea of stations and have tried it a few times so far. It has gotten better each time we have done it. The only problem I find is that I have a very small room around 40 students in each class. I have tried having students move and other times having students stay put and the materials move. However, it has been challenging. I teach Spanish.
     
  22. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Quick question about stations, how do you guys manage behavior when doing stations, when one of the stations requires full teacher instruction?
     
  23. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    40 is a lot! I have a pretty small room with 28 kids right now. I have clipboards and I bought bathmats at Ikea for $4 for them to sit on the tile floor...but maybe that's too elementary :lol: I would say with more kids it's probably easier to have the materials move. Stick everything for each station in some kind of basket or container. I got scrapbook containers at Michael's on sale for my math stations - they're big and flat, which I like for paper or whiteboards.

    I used practice at the beginning without the teacher station to model what it's supposed to look like. Recently I had to assign partner locations for the partner station because they abused the privilege of picking their own spots and some were playing around. The kids who need it are located closer to me so I can see them in my peripheral. I'm hoping to change this eventually as they earn their privilege back. Also, I would recommend having a related worksheet to work on if they can't handle stations. That way, they're still practicing the skill, but not the "fun" way with everyone else. That consequence seems to work with my 5th graders. Granted, I know 8th graders are a lot tougher, but those are some ideas.

    Another idea for stations, especially with the 110 minute block, is to have NO teacher station, or have the teacher station be very fluid - just pulling kids who need extra help, etc. That way, you can check in on the stations, ask probing questions, etc, while they work. I could see that working well with such a huge block of time, because your direct instruction wouldn't necessarily BE a station.
     
  24. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I have a similar consequence for labs. They just lose lab privileges if they are messing around, but during labs I can keep my eyes on everything and it's all student centered, so I can just monitor. Stations probably just wouldn't work that well for us anyway, because we're 50 minute periods. Students wouldn't have enough time at each station to get things done.
     
  25. 2ndTimeAround

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    I don't have stations that require full attention. I could, but then I couldn't hear what was going on everywhere else.

    I luckily have never had any behavior issues with stations. The kids are so rushed generally that they don't have time to act up. I do have some awesome students, though.
     
  26. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I so miss my 90-100 minute periods! This year, I have the same number of students, and half of the planning time, on a seven period day with 52 minute periods. I constantly feel like I am treading water and never catching up. Because I teach each class each day, it's more planning and the same amount of grading, but less time to do it all!

    I loved being able to break up the block into chunks of no longer than 15-20 minutes when needed. Then, when I needed to show a movie for my film studies elective, I could show almost a whole movie in one class period, allowing them to get a better sense of the pacing, tone shifts, etc.

    I am actually considering applying to other local districts that still use block scheduling because I miss it so much. It was better for teachers, better for students, and I just miss it!
     
  27. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I know you teach science, so how are your stations structured? Like what do you have at each station? (trying to figure out if I can make it work with my content)
     
  28. teacherguy111

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    We have 75 minutes. I feel like this is pretty long. I do like getting all the way through something and checking it etc in one lesson. But I also do not really like planning for that amount of time. The last 15 minutes or so the kids lose focus.
     
  29. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    I am teaching an A/B schedule with 100-min periods this year. Last year I was at a school with 120-min blocks on block days and 55 minutes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. It's amazing how much shorter 100 minutes feels! 120 was just too long. I like block scheduling as it gives the opportunity to really get into something or to break it up with lots of different activities.

    One thing that's happening that's interesting is that of my two French 1 classes, one always gets everything done faster than the other. It's odd since they are actually more chatty so you would think they would fall behind, but really they are able to process faster and move faster than my other group which is smaller and a little quieter, but anxious and always asking a million questions! I always have to have a back-up activity for the last 5 mins for my last class of the day.
     
  30. 2ndTimeAround

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    The last time I did stations I had four different stations that I repeated twice. So I had 8 stations set up, but two of each one. Students spent 15 minutes at each station.

    It was a review day for a test. At one station the students worked on a crossword independently. They were racing to see who would finish first. That keeps them from sharing answers and finishing too quickly ;)

    Another station had the kids playing Pictionary with vocabulary terms.

    The third had a Jeopardy game on a laptop.

    The last had a Memory game (matching vocab with definitions).

    I've done it before with worksheets at one, a quick "experiment" at one, games at one and graphic organizers at another.

    I've also done it with controversial subjects where different stations have different points of view. Students have to assume different roles in the controversy, read one viewpoint at one station, a different viewpoint at another, write their own opinion in response to a prompt, etc.
     
  31. Peregrin5

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    Thanks for replying. How do you keep them engaged in the games? i.e. What keeps them from just talking about their day at the game stations rather than competing? Are there prizes?
     
  32. a teacher

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    We have A/B days as well, with 85 min. classes. It's funny because I was just recently reflecting on this subject. I have also heard many at my school say they like it, but after doing this for a few years now, I miss regular schedules.

    I teach art classes, which you would think would benefit the most because of extra time to do projects, set up materials and clean up. But it's a pain in the neck. Surprisingly I haven't seen much of an issue with attention span, although just today I was pressuring a ninth grade class I have to stay quiet and do the reflection assignment I had for them. They were like mice for about an hour, then began to come undone. I can't complain I suppose.

    The main issue for me is that it's hard to keep track of stuff. Especially when you have kids being absent, turning in late work and asking "what did I miss"? It's aggravated by the fact that I have 4 preps, not counting an extended homeroom! Yes it's nice to not see every kid every day, and there's the added advantage of having more time to plan a lesson. But generally it's too confusing and hard to keep track of.
     
  33. MissCeliaB

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    I had to be super organized. I also had to put more responsibility on the students for staying organized.
     
  34. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    We've been on it for 5 years, and I absolutely hate it. I really liked it at first, but I definitely want to go back to 50 minute periods.

    Missing one day of school puts the kids really far behind. Missing two or three classes in a row? Forget it.

    MS kids can't ever seem to get the hang of it. They constantly bring the wrong bookbag or the wrong folders and don't have what they need for class. Every day, kids come up to me and ask which day it is.

    The last 10 minutes every period are torture. The kids are DONE.

    We also don't having block planning. We have a common planning before the kids get to school, 45 minutes four times a week. It's impossible to get things done b/c everyone is trying to sign in at the same time or make copies or there's a meeting or the office needs something or a parent calls and talks for 30 minutes... or there's always someone who pops in for a "quick" question and eats up a fair portion of time.
     
  35. a teacher

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    Those sound like school-wide issues that are deeper than block-scheduling. And while I would say it's definitely going to be harder to pull off at the middle school level, my own child, who has block scheduling at their school, is doing o.k. with it.
     
  36. 2ndTimeAround

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    we don't alternate days. We work on a semester system so kids only have four classes at a time to be concerned about.
     
  37. leeshis0019

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    Block schedules are amazing in Chemistry.

    I try to keep my classroom "chaotically controlled". By that I mean the students aren't out of control, but they are able to move around freely (as long as the lab is empty), talk, do group-work, etc. They can only do these things if they get through instruction without incident otherwise they are in their seats doing something boring.

    I love it for Chemistry because we can do labs that take 1 hour and still have enough time to do more, to discuss, etc. In a normal 50 minute class we have to do labs that are maybe 20-30 minutes long if we want to discuss or look at group data. It's easier to do on the same day then letting them come back the next day and losing it.

    My school is also half-magnet and the block schedule just works for their class load. I have no magnet students, but I somehow keep mine partially interested throughout the class day. It's funny when the bell rings and they are looking at me like "Woah...did the bell just ring? What just happened?"
     
  38. Mathman82

    Mathman82 Rookie

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    We have 105 minute blocks with the same classes/same students all five days a week at my school with a five minute break in between. It's hard to keep everyone on task the whole time, which most do not. I lecture for the first 30 minutes, give math problems. Then after break it's in class homework. Many become less productive the last 30 minutes or so. Some days the second homework hour only a fraction complete work. That is how it is and I've learned to accept that. I go around and always let them know they need to ask questions and get tutoring during the in class homework time. I let them know, you are here for the block, if you do not do work, the block will go so much slower and you will miss out on learning opportunities, and you will score lower on the tests.
     
  39. DCTeacher1

    DCTeacher1 New Member

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    I'm with you. I have taught 90 minutes for years, but I'm ready to teach a smaller amount of time. Currently, I teach an A/B schedule and I hate it. Students need content subjects everyday to successful. Long blocks and every other day learning does not work!
     
  40. bartleby

    bartleby Rookie

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    Dec 29, 2014

    I once talked to a math teacher that liked to do the lesson, then do practice problems/activity/etc, and then at the end of the class do a short preview of the next lesson, no notes or responsibility to REALLY learn the new material, but even though the kids were losing focus, the preview helped the students pick up the lesson quicker when the "formal" lesson was taught the next class.

    Just food for thought.
     

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