Block Scheduling / H. Block as Concerns FL Specifically

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
Introduction, an example, and contributors


A. Rationale for the Block Scheduling System
B. Variations of “Block” systems
C. Methods Useful for Block Instruction
D. Thoughts, Opinions, Concerns
E. Positive Personal Experiences
F. Negative Personal Experiences
G. Positive & Negative Observations
H. Block as Concerns FL Specifically
I. Further Reference Sources

H. Block as Concerns FL Specifically

95/01 From-> Judith Shrum <SHRUM@VTVM1.CC.VT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Semester Block Scheduling

At first, I was delighted to learn of the extended periods--enabling
language teachers and students to really engage in communicative
projects. I thought that if anyone could use a long class period, we
could! Then I learned, as you did, that in many schools, block
scheduling means a long time away from language study, and this is not
necessarily compensated for in the longer class periods. Why do we have
to keep relearning these lessons of time and exposure?

Judith Shrum


95/01 From-> Carine FEYTEN <>
Subject: Re: Semester Block Scheduling

One of our counties here is seriously considering the Copernica model
for their schools. What is especially scary to me is the notion that
parents and administrators think that the same amount of material will
be covered in one semester of 100 min,. classes versus one whole year of
50 min. periods. While I love the idea of longer classes to allow the
teacher to do more creative activities that take more time (art, crafts,
plays....) and to give more time for oral practice, I shiver at the idea
of having to pack twice as much info in these periods.... what about
attention span etc.? Also, this would completely diffuse the possible
benefit of longer periods. As for the sequencing you were mentioning, I
guess you could request that the fl classes need to be taken
consecutively.? Any thoughts?

 Carine Feyten


95/08 From-> Glen Jacobs <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

I teach at Jefferson HS in Portland OR. We will start our third year on
block scheduling fall 95. Our students take 4 classes each semester (we
are NOT on the odd even). I have the same problem of not covering as
much material for the one credit earned. What are people's concerns and
what do people see as an advantage?

Lynn (Leena) Ingraham


95/08 From-> Felicia Williams <>
Subject: Block Scheduling

I would like to know how they are managing to cover as much. That has
not been our experience here. We came to the conclusion that we would
have to concentrate on grammar and forget the emphasis upon development
of proficiency and cultural projects in order to cover the same amount
of material.

One of our math teachers discovered that we have 18% less time on the
four period - 90 minute block schedule that we had on the old schedule.
Clearly something has to go or the classes must be reorganized as we
have done for both foreign language and math.

Felicia Williams


95/09 From -> Madeline Bishop <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling Foreign Language Classes ????

David wrote about problems with/questions about block scheduling in a HS

Would it be possible to schedule this way the first year, if you do the
"whole course per semester" model.?

1st semester          2nd semester
  French 2   French1
  French 2   French 1
  French 4   French 3

This would represent my schedule if our school were to go to block
scheduling. The seniors would have their French 4 class the first year,
during the first semester (for transcript purposes), the French 2's
would have continuity. (from French 1 the first year) In fact everyone
would have no articulation problems except for one class of French 3's.
After the first year, everyone would have continuity.

Students could enter a foreign language pattern as Freshman, Sophomores
or Juniors, knowing they could still complete a four-year sequence. (Of
course, some of them might have scheduling conflicts like they do now)
but not any more than they do now if your school is committed to
everyone being in a 90 min block mode.) This same school should schedule
math sequences in a similar manner, although, except for algebra, I
don't know if math is of necessity as "lock step" as we are.

Hope this scheduling idea is helpful.

Madeline Bishop


95/09 From ->
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling Foreign Language Classes ????

Hi Madeline et al,

I came up with just such a schedule, which was adopted the first year.
Then the second year for lack of understanding the continuity we were
seeking, the administration changed it so that we had students waiting
out not just one term, but two or three to continue their studies. Now,
at last, the administration and counselors understand the necessity for
continuity and we are using the following schedule:

Term 1 Term 2
Spanish 1 Spanish 2
Spanish 1 Spanish 2
Spanish 3 Spanish 4

This now works great for me. Unfortunately, the French/German teacher
has a more complex, somewhat unworkable schedule. By the way my Spanish
3 class has jumped up to 30 students and Spanish 4 to 16. Always before
I had split level 3/4 usually with fewer than 20 students. (Our school
has an enrollment of 680).


95/09 From -> "Kenneth W. Reed" <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling Foreign Language Classes ????

My main concern regarding the one semester/one level approach is the
instructional delivery rate. I fear that the students will not have time
to internalize the structures and concepts if they only have a semester
to do so. When my son was in Germany, totally immersed in the language
and attending the first grade, his teacher told me that experience had
shown that students in his situation would begin to speak at about
Christmas time. He did exactly that. If this is the case for total
immersion, what are we asking our students to do on less than an hour a
day, five days a week.

Block scheduling may be just the thing for other content areas, where
the emphasis is on CONTENT, but we are much more concerned with process
and form in the early stages of language learning. If the old adage is
true, "Practice makes perfect.", then where is the time for practice in
a one semester/one level approach? Maybe this whole thing needs to be
re-thought, before we go any further. If we want our students to become
proficient in foreign languages, then we should look for examples to the
educational systems of the world that have have proven most successful
in achieving this goal. Sweden begins with English instruction in the
1st or 2nd grade, Germany in the 5th. Japan, too, gives attention to
foreign language at an early stage in the student's development. The key
to achieving that goal of proficiency is, exactly as Marilyn Barruetta
indicated regarding foreign language-SAT score correlation, prolonged
language practice. We seem to be rushing the process, if we try to cram
one year's work into one semester.

Ken Reed


96/02 From-> "Erwin A. Petri" <>
Subject: Re: teaching FL in a block 4 schedule

In reference to block scheduling, even though a language class might
meet only for a portion of a school year, has anyone considered
providing some listening and speaking activities that students would
have to work on, using tapes, during the "off-months"? They would be an
attempt to have students maintain their proficiency when they are not
actually in classes. This is an idea that just popped into my head. Are
there any of you out there that have given this consideration? For
instance, students might have to turn in a tape once every month or so.

What do you think?

Erwin A. Petri


96/02 From-> Valerie Banks <>
Subject: Re: teaching FL in a block 4 schedule

Our school is changing to a 4-block schedule in the 1997-98 school year.
We've already started doing some research, and here's what I've found
about foreign languages in the block schedule thus far:

1) "Traditional" methods don't seem to fare well. There seems to be a
"saturation point" beyond which the students can't digest more
information within the same period, so successful teachers adopt a
project-based curriculum. Many teachers say that they now cover about 75
percent of the material, but do many more proficiency-oriented
activities with it.

2) I went to one high school in which foreign language was taught in an
every-other-day 90-minute block (called 4 x 4?) while the rest of the
school was on a 4-block. The teachers didn't think this made things any

3) There seems to be a pervading concern about the sequencing (for
example, once a student takes Spanish 1, when do they take Spanish 2?)
Some schools solve this problem with some creative scheduling. There are
two options here (that I know of):

A) First- and third-year classes are taught second semester and second-
and fourth-year classes are taught first semester. In this system a
student takes the first course and just misses a summer of instruction
before the second one.

B) First- and third-year classes are taught first semester and second-
and fourth-year are taught second semester. Under this system many
schools require students to commit to a full year of language
instruction when they register.

I hope this helps. I'll share more as I find it and I'm very interested
in hearing about your experiences, too.

Val Banks


96/02 From-> jeannie exum <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

At our school we teach level I during the spring of the first year. The
next year we offer level II and then level III second semester. This
allows for a full year of AP French IV the next year. We are on block
scheduling except for our AP courses which are taught for both
semesters. It also allows for a second year of AP ( one year AP
Language, the next year AP Lit.) This seems to work well for us.

jeannie exum


96/02 From-> Debbie <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

Keep in mind that offering levels I and II in the same year would be
like taking up two periods of a traditional school day for Foreign
Language classes. Our students generally do not have enough free time in
their schedules to allow that much time for FL.

I have also heard some teachers say that waiting till second semester
allows some freshmen to get a better handle on effective high school
study habits and thus experience more success in their first language



96/03 From-> Madeline Bishop <>
Subject: Block scheduling

Here's an idea about how to arrange a block schedule which is the one
whole course/one semester model (a definite advantage for teachers,
because they deal with half the students they normally do.)

The lang teacher teaches three courses each semester:


Language IV Language III

Language II Language I
Language II Language I

This schedule allows seniors to get their advanced language grades "on
the books" before they send in their transcript to colleges. It also
ensures that this year's beginners are able to pick up after only two
and a half months of no language (the normal situation.) It also gives
you and third year students a chance to communicate a bit during fall
semester....perhaps with some French Club activities or an occasional
"keep the language alive" extra class session, or a one-day marathon
review on a Saturday before the spring semester starts. It also gives
you a big Language III class in the spring.

Students who want to concentrate on languages during high school could
actually take college courses their junior and senior years if they
wanted to. Or, students who need to mature before they start language
could start Language I Spring semester during Junior year and still get
in three "levels."

Anyway, this is my idea and I wish someone would try it. I can't
persuade my faculty to change to the block schedule but I'm drowning in
work with five levels, six classes and 145 students? Arrrgh......! Au
secours! Au secours!

Madeline B
McMinnville High school


96/09 From-> Kim and Jim Sullivan <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling

Our school is on the verge of going to the same sort of schedule as
yours, and others. For me, one of the clear advantages of block
scheduling would be a change from 5 to three classes per day, and the
greater flexibility longer periods offer. But I continue to be concerned

1. Trying to cover what used to be "one year" in one semester
2. Blocks of a half year or more between classes in a sequence
3. In New York, preparing students for the Regents exam and
4. The AP class. I still sense a little bit of trying to fix what isn't
necessarily broken when it comes to block scheduling and FL. My
colleagues in the Math Department are also very skeptical. History and
English? Seems the perfect thing.



96/09 From-> Russ_Freerking <>

Our four year high school (625+ enrollment, 675 next year) is currently
studying the pros and the cons of going to a 4x4 block schedule for the
1996-97 school year with periods lasting 85-90 minutes. I think I would
be able to adapt to this type of schedule, but my concerns are the
sequencing of FL levels 1,2,3 and 4. Also, the big fight is going to
come with the music people (band, orchestra and chorus) as well as
physical education teachers. They are worried about scheduling their
classes, rehearsal and lesson times. If you are currently using a 4x4
block schedule, how are these problems taken care of?
I would appreciate any information you could share with me. Please
contact me off the list at the following address. Thanks in advance for
your help.

Russ Freerking


96/10 From-> "Cynthia K. Gerstl" <>
Subject: block scheduling

I have some serious concerns about block scheduling, based on what I
have seen and heard in my district. For example, one h.s. program that
some of my students go to offers French 2 in either the spring or the
fall. Consequently, I have students who complete level one in the middle
school in June and don't see another word of French until February. Also
(am I letting the cat out of the bag) I understand that each level in
many of our schools that use block scheduling do not really achieve
level one status. As a result level 2 classes are really still doing
level one work. What is the advantage of this? And can this create
problems with state language requirements??

I also have concerns about the amount of time students need to absorb fl
material. Like math, it's important that they have enough time to
assimilate the concepts. They have a lot of time to practice in a block
schedule, but do they have enough time to truly learn the material they
are presented with -- or, as we have seen in some of our schools, are
they really not completing each level adequately, and after two or three
years of a language, are really at a much lower level???

Cindy Gerstl


96/10 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: block scheduling

>I also have concerns about the amount of time students need to absorb fl
>material. Like math, it's important that they have enough time to assimilate
>the concepts. They have a lot of time to practice in a block schedule, but do
>they have enough time to truly learn the material they are presented with
>-- or, as we have seen in some of our schools, are they really not completing
>each level adequately, and after two or three years of a language, are really
>at a much lower level???

I think Cynthia has touched a crucial point. There is a certain amount
of "settling in" time that is necessary to truly absorb a concept. Yes,
one can present the future tense in one class, practice it, even test it
-- but can they use it a week, a month, later? Many people seem to have
found that the students really don't do double homework when they have
class every-other-day, so you are actually losing 1/2 of the homework
time per year as well. For those of us who are using homework as the
writing time so that class time can be oral, that is significant.
I can only repeat that our experience, in a school that only has block 2
days a week, is that a class scheduled into the only unblocked period
(period 3 -- Career Center problems), when compared with the same level
blocked, very quickly moved ahead of the blocked class, and with better
results. Several teachers have found this to be true.



96/11 From-> "Michele S. de Cruz-Saenz" <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling. Help! -Reply

We're doing a Block pilot with ninth grade this year and in FL the 80-90
minute class is no problem. As far as all the hoopla of oral group and
simulated activities are concerned for other disciplines, we've got them
all beat by miles. The big concern with us is too much material too
fast; maintenance when the other half of the class is not taking FL, and
only 65% of the syllabus in one semester. There it is in a nutshell. We
in FL are the odd men out; math is going "Integrated" by topic so they
raise the required number of courses and everybody takes them...because
it's math. If they must cut out a "topic" it's still OK. We, on the
other hand can't cut out verbs, or nouns, or adjectives. We are still,
and will remain always, a skill-oriented discipline. Covering the
curriculum is necessary!

M. Cruz-Saenz


97/03 From-> Sue Harbour <>
Subject: Block and retention

With all this discussion about the block I thought I would share my
problem and see if anyone has any good suggestions. I teach in a small
(500 students) school for grades 7 - 12. I am the only foreign language
teacher so I stand alone when it comes to problems. We have been on the
block and I find that it has caused great problems for the scheduling of
my French classes. Because the students want to take other electives,
many times they take French I in the ninth grade and don't take French
II until the 11th or 12th grade. You can imagine the nightmare this
creates with retention. I have become terribly frustrated when students
come to me in French II and have forgotten a great amount of things that
they learned in French I. I teach French I the first semester and French
II the second semester. This year I only had 3 students who chose to
take French II immediately after French I.

As far as the ninety minutes, I like the extra time. I find that there
is more time to do various activities that I would be hard pressed to
fit into the old 47 minutes that we had previously. From the student
viewpoint, they tell me that they like the block also. Many students
comment to me as the bell in ringing that they can't believe we have
been in the classroom for 90 minutes.

I have suggested to the principal that when we schedule the students for
next year that he stress to the students how important it is that they
take the 2 language courses back to back or at least closer together,
but he doesn't want to do anything that will cause parent anger.

Sue Harbour


97/03 From-> Nancy Frumkin <Nancy.Frumkin@ATLAS.MOA.NET>
Subject: Re: ABC News--"Creb" Memory

We are currently considering blocks, but we have not identified a
problem for which block scheduling is a possible solution. Our approach
is "Why not?" as opposed to "Why?"

One reason "why" may be this: if all six or seven teachers gave the
lesson of their lives every day, how much could the students absorb?
Would they be saturated by the end of fourth hour?

Also, why does immersion work? What is going on all day that the
immersed student is benefiting from? I remember from my own experiences
that, by 7 or 8 in the evening, I could barely speak, I was so mentally
exhausted.  But I could still listen, and I could still read. I saved
writing for first thing in the morning. Production vs reception? Is this
taking us back to the learning vs acquisition conundrum?

Drill and practice DO have a place in education. Someone has taught our
kids to say, disdainfully, "Busywork." "I had better things to do than
Spanish _worksheets_." Like what? Brain surgery? An absorbing essay by
Nietsche? An emergency episode of "Who's the Boss?"

I took several Japanese classes a few years ago, just to re-examine the
SLA process from my own point of view. The old methods were dreadful,
and I remembered why I dropped all my language studies in the 70's. All
I did was drill and practice. I could say things in many languages, but
I had nothing to say. But try to learn a totally new language
--unrelated to your current L2-- for yourself without drill and

Perhaps some of this block time could be directed to teaching kids HOW
to go about studying on their own. Or we could give them the opportunity
to drill and practice on computers. They have never experienced the
success of learning from plain old flashcards, so maybe we need to do
some remedial flashcard work and show them what is possible. (Computer
flashcards are not only expensive, they are also heavy and bulky.) (A
few years ago, our administration told us we could order any software we
wanted, provided that it WASN'T drill and practice, the one thing that a
computer is really good at...)



97/07 From-> Kenneth D Baker <>
Subject: AB or 4X Block (long)

I have a different opinion of the 4X Block than I have been reading on
this list. We changed from a six-period day to 4X Block last year. It is
true that we didn't "get as far" on the block. However, our students are
able to take 4 more classes each year now. So the question for me is
not: how far can we get? The question for me is: is it better to
specialize in high school and study fewer subjects? or is it better to
explore different subjects in high school in order to find out what most
interests the student, leaving the specialization for college?

I personally believe that college is the time to specialize while high
school is the time to explore. Also, we have been able to offset the
"lost time" in Spanish by offering a fifth and sixth level of Spanish
now. So those students who are really interested in learning all the
Spanish possible can do so; actually in the long run they can take more
Spanish with this schedule than they could on the 6 period day where we
could only offer 4 years of Spanish.

And we are getting more enrollment now because college-bound students
have time to take the advanced classes because they can now take more
classes. Before, many could only take the "required by colleges"
advanced academic classes. Even though foreign language is advanced and
academic, many students didn't have time in their schedules to take much
of it. The last year of the 6 period day, I had one 4th-year Spanish
class. Next year I will have three 4th-year Spanish classes and one
5th-year class. (We still don't have sufficient enrollment of the
6th-year class.)

In my opinion this is a great improvement for foreign language! BTW, our
students are allowed to take two levels of the foreign language in one
school year, so they don't have the long break between classes to forget
what they learned. By the time they get to the advanced level classes,
it appears to me that they don't forget any more during the longer break
than they would during the 3 month summer break.

So far, I am convinced that the Block 4 is the best schedule we could
have for foreign language.

Carole Baker

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