Thriving On A Block Schedule

Last week, I was working with a Middle School that is transitioning from a 7-Period Day to a Block Schedule.  Using longer blocks of time effectively and efficiently help both teachers and learners slow down, dig deep, take time to get to know each other and most importantly ….breathe. There are a few guiding principles that help teachers actively plan for longer chunks of time:

Teach how you learn.  If you learn best by doing, give students time to “do” as well.  If models help you see what you are supposed to do, provide models so students can see what you want.  If targeted and immediate feedback improves your learning, consider ways to do the same for students.

Teachers are experts not babysitters.  Instead of planning how you will occupy students during class, plan how you will have students apply, practice, and demonstrate what you have taught.  Ask yourself, “What will kids read, write, solve, discuss, or create today?”

Choice drives engagement.  Offer it whenever possible. Sometimes providing choice means providing two different articles to choose to read or two different math problems to choose to solve.  Sometimes choice comes in letting kids decide how they will demonstrate understanding.  Offering the option to annotate text or use an inner voice sheet may increase the number of students who turn in their work.

Practice make perfect.  According to John Hattie’s meta-analysis, practice with timely feedback closes the achievement gap faster than any other instructional strategy.  When designing lesson plans and how you will grade, consider how you can use student work time and the work you ask students to do to provide useful feedback.

Teaching is incredibly complex.  Teachers have one of the hardest jobs there are.  No one has completely mastered the calling.  So, collaborate with colleagues. Ask for help.  Share when you can.  Take care of each other.

Time is the enemy.  We have more to teach than time to teach it. When it comes to students knowing your curriculum, consider what will make them smarter, more successful adults down the road.  Ask yourself, “What about my content is worthy of my students knowing?”
When planning for student learning, remember to ask yourself, “What will the students DO tomorrow, and HOW will I share with them WHY they are doing it?”  Start there, and you will be amazed at how large blocks of time fly by as you and your students are immersed in the “flow” of thinking and getting smarter– you’ll never want to go back to the 48 minute period again.
Have a great weekend,
Cris

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