Block Scheduling / C. Methods Useful for Block Instruction

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

C. Methods Useful for Block Instruction

94/07 From-> WHITEHEM@ctrvax.Vanderbilt.Edu
Subject: Re: FL Curriculum and the Block Schedule

We will have 90 periods and I will probably use no more than 20 min for
lecture, followed by several 10 - 15 minute timed activities at various
"stations" - groups, pairs, etc.

The portfolios they create will become an integral part of the class,
and I found last year, in the few weeks that I had the equipment, that
it takes each student about 20 minutes to do one portfolio component. In
that way, going from "station" to "station" students will go from a
pairs activity to a group to a computer, etc. Then maybe a "quick quiz"
over the day's lesson in the last 5 minutes.....since we will be doing
this for the first time, I'm sure it will take time to get students
(especially in HS), into the "routine".

Marie Whitehead


94/12 From->
Subject: Re: 80 minute classes

In response to Clifford Kent's posting about block scheduling. I have
moved this year to a school that just started this. In South Carolina,
virtually every school is on block scheduling, or so it appears to me.
Michigan, my home-state, very few schools do this. Teaching French I
have found one major problem - the kids do not do homework, nor do they
study for anything. I used to be the quiz king. I gave vocab quizzes
Tuesdays through Fridays.

Now I hit them maybe once or twice depending on the week and they are
generally very large. The average grade level is the freshman-sophomore
level. They are not world-renown for their responsibility.

I think the block scheduling has allowed me to do more projects and
other activities that would have been a bit more difficult on the 5 day
plan. I think it would be  better received if it were only juniors and
seniors that were on it, but that can't happen. In closing, I think it
is a huge mistake for foreign language education, you do not have that
daily influence. And that is all that I have to say.

Todd Losie


95/03 From->
Subject: A/B Block Scheduling

I teach French (levels 1 - 4 and AP) at a senior high school. Our school
district recently made the decision to adopt a flexible block A/ B
schedule. This schedule requires each class period to meet 100 minutes
per period on alternating days. One period will meet every day. My
concern is with the alternating class periods.

1. If you are currently teaching in a system utilizing this scheduling
format or have experience with this type of schedule at a high school
level, please contact me at my E- mail address -

1. What suggestions do you have for time management in a 100 minute
class? Most of these students have never been exposed to this type of

2. How do you manage assignment of homework? What suggestions do you
have regarding the amount assigned?

3. Have you found it advantageous to provide weekly syllabus to
students? Does this help the students manage their time better? Do you
involve yourself with helping students manage their load assignments?
(i.e. suggestions to do this part on first night and second part of the
next evening)

4. While I have vivid memories of my college days and the transition to
this type of schedule, what observations can you share with me regarding
helping students to transition to this type of schedule?

Sue Glendening


95/03 From->
Subject: Re: Flexible Block Scheduling

Naturally, absences are very difficult to handle. If a student misses
one day, it is the equivalent of missing two - if he misses two sessions
in a row, it is as though he missed a week. I ask students to exchange
phone numbers with at least four students in class, so that they can
keep in touch about assignments, etc. if they are absent.

I give at least 7 major tests, plus pop quizzes and a final. I usually
drop their lowest test grade. If students are absent for a test, they
have the option of dropping that test as their "lowest", or having their
next test grade count double. (a major test takes about an hour to
complete and includes vocabulary and structures in context, reading,
writing, fill in , completion, listening comprehension, a cultural
component and short composition (10 to 25 sentences). I give them a
blank copy of the test they missed that they may do at home and correct
most of it from a key. This avoids the considerable time that can be
lost to administering make up tests, and discourages unnecessary
absences. If they have used their drop or double option they are out of

It is important to give specific and SUBSTANTIAL homework - more than
they can finish in one sitting - to encourage them to interact with the
L2 on a daily basis, though the class only meets twice weekly.
Incomplete or late homework is not accepted. Nor is uncorrected work . I
collect it irregularly, but we correct it at each meeting. Since
students are never sure when it will be collected, they don't usually
get caught more than once. They keep an assignment list and notebook or
folder with their homework and workbook chapters, quizzes and tests
which, if I were a secondary teacher, I would collect 3 or 4 times
during the semester. That said, it is important that the 100 minute
sessions be productive, lively and interesting with no dead time. It is
possible to do some longer activities in this format. For example, group
work can be more multifaceted and complete with the additional time.
There is more time for group recorders or secretaries to report results
or meet together to compare products or results, for example. A teacher
who is not organized, creative and energetic will find that he/she
wastes TWICE as much time in this schedule!

Another challenge is: What to do on test days? Give the test the first
half or the second half? I give it in the first half, and fill the
second half with active, interesting activities which either review or
preview other a light-handed, light hearted way. I get
excellent participation.

The decision to offer this scheduling was driven by some very practical
considerations: Many students have to work and it is easier for them to
put together a work and study plan with this schedule. Also, we have
many adjunct instructors - a common circumstance - and it is more
convenient for those instructors. I am a full time instructor and have
been teaching for XXXXXXX years. Some adjustments are required and there
are advantages and disadvantages, but I have found this scheduling to be
just as effective as the traditional.



95/05 From->
Subject: Re: 4-period day

I taught French II, III and IV/V on a block schedule for several years
in a public high school of about 2200 students. The best schedule was
the A-B in which students had four periods each day, meeting A classes
three times one week and twice the next, so that over a two week period
all classes met five times. That's the schedule we stayed with.

There was a lot of anxiety on the part of the teachers as we changed
from a traditional schedule, but most teachers were quite pleased with
the results. I found also that the benefits far outweighed the
disadvantages. Students were less distracted by meeting just four
classes per day than rushing every 50 minutes to a different subject. In
general, there seemed less "rush". The pace of the day was much less
frantic - not to mention less need for hall duty, attention to tardies,
time with administrative classroom details, and so forth since students
changed classes so much less.

One disadvantage worth mentioning though was that when students were
absent even one day, the work missed was substantial and if a student
was not conscientious enough to come in on the "off day" then a lot of
time would elapse before make up work started.

All in all, I think it worked very well in the foreign language
classroom. There always seemed to be time to get going in a skit or with
an activity. In one class, a concept could be presented, practiced, used
and even tested before the bell rang. There seemed to be time for the
students to "get into" the language - and often I heard them comment
about how it took them a while to operate in English again after 100
minutes of French!

There were other factors at work there so I'm not sure of the effect
block scheduling might have had on foreign language enrollment. In fact,
Texas now requires two years of a foreign language for a high school

We experimented with several other schedules - I was at Garland High
School in Garland, Texas. Along with other members of our faculty I
worked with visiting schools interested in making the transition from a
traditional schedule. We also did workshops for other schools, offering
practical suggestions for making the block schedule work successfully.
If anybody's interested, I'll dig it out and pass it along ... One of
the things I always mentioned was to have the students move around a
lot. For me that was easy to encourage since we were constantly getting
up to do something, forming groups of two, three or whatever, but even
if I had to invent a reason I tried to make sure the students didn't sit
for the whole class period. And if we were forming groups, I told them
to rearrange their desks or to get up and go sit on the floor.

Kathy Marker


95/09 From -> TODD B BOWEN <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling Foreign Language Classes ????

While we are discussing different schedule models and looking at
piloting a semi-block day in October, we have not yet established any
changes. The greatest advantages of a 90 minute block are the fewer
number of minutes in a week spent on administrative things and the
ability to go in depth with a lesson and not be cut off by the bell.

Of course, I'm nervous as I think about new ways to teach in a longer
class period. A student said, "It sounds neat. We can actually complete
a lab in class. But, boy, if some teachers don't change the way they
teach, they'll kill us." I think he hit the nail on the head. Has your
principal explained his reasons for choosing this new schedule? Has the
faculty done research into different scheduling options? There are some
great books out there on scheduling.

Todd Bowen


95/11 From-> Jody Klopp <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling

I taught for 3 years in block-scheduling in a 250 student Catholic High
School. We called our schedule the A-B day schedule. We would meet our
classes every other day for 90 minutes. So I had French I for 90
minutes, French II for 90 minutes, French III for 90 minutes on the A
days and two sections of Spanish I for 90 minutes on B days. On the B
day I would get a 90 minute planning period. No planning on the A day.
This schedule would continue through two semesters. I liked this version
of block-scheduling very much. I could do at least 3 or 4 different
activities during the block.

I used a lot of cooperative learning, TPR, regular text work, and
supplementary materials. What I found out about teaching techniques with
the block is that you have to be very active. Keeping the students
engaged in language learning is very important. The more varied the
activities in the classroom, the better the students responded. I also
liked planning for only 2 or 3 classes per day, rather than 5 or 6
classes like FL teachers do on the traditional schedule. This schedule
seemed to be more humane to me because I didn't have to rush through a
lesson plan. There is more daily closure with the block.

Also kids know that they are going to be in your class for 90 minutes so
they seem to be more relaxed. It gives them time to recover from
whatever traumatic thing happened to them during the passing period.
When they are mentally ready to learn, they are still in class so I
always felt that students left feeling like they learned something
through their participation. I would say that the material that I
covered in the text was about one chapter less. But this was not a
concern of mine. More time in class helped the kids learn what I did
cover a lot better. The only problem I did have was when a class met on
Thursday and then the next A day was on Monday. Some students
conveniently forgot about homework. But I learned to format my week by
doing the most intense teaching at the beginning of the week.

Del City High School and Putnam City High School have those schedules I
think. Del City FL teachers say that with this system, they only needed
about three weeks to get the kids back where they were suppose to be.

Jody Klopp


96/01 From-> Annette Guizado <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling and FL

We teach every other day for 80-minute class periods. Your main concern
is with teaching for longer periods. I have to say, when I first
started, I couldn't believe it! The period didn't seem one minute longer
than a 45-minute period. You might start out by planning 2 days' worth
of activities for one long period. I have found that having 2 or 3
different kinds of activities planned works very well. Be sure there's
some kind of change of pace involved, as well as variety of active vs.
"downtime," independent vs. interactive activities, etc. It's really

Annette Guizado


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

Our high school has been on a 4 X 4 block schedule since September. We
are now in our second semester with brand new classes. If anyone has
particular questions I shall be happy to respond to them. I am the
Department Supervisor and was an original member of the school's
Scheduling Committee which arrived at this formation. My e-mail address

World Language teachers will probably make the easiest adjustment to
such a schedule, because we are already used to including a variety of
activities during class time. And strange as it may seem, the ninety
minutes fly by. For the first few days I over-planned each block, out of
fear that I wouldn't have "enough to do". Well, I didn't have to worry
in that respect - I still don't have enough time!

Adjustments one must make:

1. Stress proficiency instead of content. Work cooperatively with other
language teachers in your area to agree on the minimum amount of grammar
that you hope to cover during the semester and then use the extra class
time with tons of oral, writing and reading work to make sure they have
mastered the material. I prefer that our students really use what we
teach them, rather than be satisfied I have covered the book.

2. Language teachers set the curriculum, not the textbook publishers.
Use a variety of materials, published and authentic, to progress through
the language sequence. This calls for more cooperative work among the
staff, but if block scheduling is done right, there should be plenty of
time during the day for teacher prep.

3. Devote more time in class to cooperative learning. In other words,
don't spoon-feed the material, make the students more responsible for
their own learning - and make the process part of students' grades.

4. Exploit the extra time for oral work. It takes a long time for my
classes of 28 and 30 students to get through an oral dialogue, but with
longer classes you can do this and more.

5. Don't fret the continuity thing. It is a down-side to the semester
system, but not something that can't be overcome with a few good days of

Adjustment to a block schedule lies mostly with the individual. If you
are a chalk & talk type, and always want to dominate, then you will get
tired. I have been teaching languages for 34 years. If I can adjust,
then anyone can! :-)

Cliff Kent


96/09 From-> "Patricia A. Kessler 813-744-8040" <>
Subject: Block scheduling activity

Our school started on 90 minute blocks this year. We were given some
valuable inservice training the week before school started by teachers
in the county who have been on block for a year already. One particular
activity seems to be working well, makes the time go quickly, and keeps
the students actively engaged. We call it "centers".

Just like elementary teachers who creatively have students performing
various tasks at the same time, that is what we do in this activity. We
divide the class into 4 separate groups. Create 4 different activities
that last 15-18 minutes each. (You need time in advance to explain and
time at the end to wind up). Each separate group works on a different
activity for the allotted time period (we are using kitchen timers that
ding to signal end of time).

At the end of the specified time, each group rotates to the next station
(students are getting a chance to get up and stretch). This continues
until each group has visited each station. Examples of center activities
we have tried so far: BINGO with vocab having different volunteers be
callers (I give homework passes to callers and winners); short video
segments with worksheets (our Dime and Discovering French series come
with text related videos); listening stations with headphones to do
workbook exercises or other activities; creating drawings or posters
with related vocabulary to be posted in the classroom; computer activities
if you have the resources (we don't :( ); written exercises from text or
workbooks; short stories to read together and discuss and answer
comprehension questions; any other games that can be played in small
groups to review concepts or vocab. Basically any activity that you do
in large groups through out the period can be broken down into small
group activities - oh, one more - work on creating and acting out
dialogs. The students have reacted positively to the variety in activity
this provides. We are using this concept once or twice a week.

By the way - we also got the white board this year and the students beg
to use them daily!

Pat Kessler


97/03 From-> Mary Young <>
Subject: Re: ABC News--"Creb" Memory

Richard Lee raises some important concerns about pacing and learning.
However, if teachers use the block well--i.e., break up the time with a
variety of activities, spend some time on input then some time on mental
"gestation" of the newly input material--doesn't that take care of the
pacing problem?

In addition, we're talking about people who will soon be holding down
9-5 jobs (if they're lucky). At work they will have to focus on their
job for at least 90 minutes at a time before they get a break. Maybe we
owe it to them to help them learn how to work for extended periods.

I hope the block will provide an experience closer to immersion, with
more minutes per day in the language, and fewer other classes competing
for their attention.



97/03 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: ABC News--"Creb" Memory

You don't get to the "communicative" phase very efficiently, in my
experience, if you don't do adequate "drill and practice" work to give
them the vocabulary and structure to be able to encode the message. On
the other hand, if you just drill and practice and stop there, it
appears that there is no point to it. I think that in this, as with many
things, balance is important. I think that the main thing that you have
to do is to decide just what you want them to do, break it down into the
required steps which are manageable, and drill, practice and APPLY it
over and over. We do a lot of grammar, but we do a lot of discussion of
a variety of topics, read newspapers, advertisements and anything else
that I can get my hands on.

I suspect that language is one of the toughest things to master because
it involves so many skills that have to be interwoven, and each students
achievement appears to be unique, not exactly like any other student's
achievement. There is an area in the center where there is overlap, and
that information which is central to the basic encoding apparatus in the
brain is what I think that we have to focus on, with all of its
different facets. I'm just very uncomfortable with any method which
begins by telling us what we SHOULDN'T do, rather than what we SHOULD
do. It seems from our experience that what was originally designated as
a floor is becoming a ceiling.



97/05 From->
Subject: Re: How to teach in block??

I teach 100 minute block classes and I much prefer the long class over
the conventional 45-50 minute class. I will give an example of what I
did to start out the year. As you get used to the longer time, you begin
to incorporate many activities to keep the class focussed and on task:

I. Roll: this will begin with the teacher giving examples of what she
wants the students to produce. The first day could be various ways of
saying who they are. They need to listen to each other because they are
not allowed to repeat the way it was said by the person before them.
(15-20 minutes).

II. Introduce new concept. Teacher can do this by TPR, using the
overhead, or whatever method is most useful. Give many examples and
opportunity for the students to practice. Allow students to work on the
new concept alone. Then allow them to get together to compare their
work. This gives them opportunity to "teach" each other. Review the work
as a class. I have the students write their answers on the board, one
answer per student. They have to correct their answers. Ask students why
they chose their answers, if appropriate. (20-30 minutes)

III. Give out the homework assignment. Explain the directions and do one
or two examples so that they don't have to guess on how to do the
assignment. (5-10 minutes)

IV. The last 15 to 20 minutes can be used for teaching a song or a
tongue twister. For beginning students, tongue twisters are good for
pronunciation.  For students who have had exposure to the language, a
handout of the song with words missing is a good listening exercise. I
have my students put all of their books away for this part. I do not
want them doing the homework assignment during this activity.

I hope that this is helpful. As you get used to it, you'll find that you
can incorporate many activities to reinforce what you have taught.

Anna Damiens


97/07 From-> Debby <>
Subject: Re: AB block teachers - info requested

Lori Albright wrote:

>Unfortunately, I'm not responding with good news about the AB schedule.
>We have completed 2 years using this system an though I like the longer
>period (85 min.) it does not balance out the fact that I only see them every
>other day. Every class period we have to try and remember what we learned
>2 or 3 days before. I teach beginning level Spanish to mainly 9th and 10th
>graders. It's hard for them to sustain the momentum. I also have more
>students not do their homework ( which may only amount to 10 minutes of
>their time) because they think they have 2 days to do it in. I 'm interested in
>hearing any good news about this schedule. At out school everyone likes it
>except the FL teachers.

I will say briefly that I do like the A/B schedule for foreign language.
The secret is in teaching differently. I will admit that another kind of
block schedule might be better for foreign language, but we have to
consider all subject areas. This one is right for our school. If my
first message does not get on, I will say more later.

Debby Jourdan


97/08 From-> Linda Roberts <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling in Spanish

I taught block scheduling Spanish I, II, and III for 3 years and I loved
it (sometimes). It has its drawbacks with lower levels because you can't
do things like debates or anything because they don't have enough
knowledge of the language. My III's could do a little bit of stuff like

However, I became a firm believer in cooperative learning when I was on
block scheduling. My kids did a lot in groups, whether it was workbook
exercises, conversational work, games, etc. And yes, I did do a lot of

Overall, I think you'll probably like the block classes because you can
get so much done during the class period. If you want more specific
information, please send me an e-mail!



97/08 From-> Justin <U280006@VM.SC.EDU>
Subject: Re: FrI/first week/80minute block/HELP

We should certainly hope that things don't wind down after 40 minutes of
an 80 minute block!! That would spell big-time trouble!

The trick to block scheduling is GREAT planning. Over plan, as a matter
of fact; it's much better than under-planning...

You also have to vary the activity. The block gives you time to practice
speaking a lot more, allowing you to ask more than one or two questions
per student, not to mention all of the other skit-type things you can



97/08 From-> Susan Shelby <>
Subject: Re: FrI/first week/80minute block/HELP

I have 75 minute classes (French I also) and this is what I'm planning
for the first two days (rough draft in my head at this point!):

Day one: BOMBARD THEM WITH FRENCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Teach Bonjour, comment t'appelles-tu? je m'appelle, ca va and a few
Have them choose French names
Create mini dialogues

Okay. Now to English so they don't cry. I'm going to ask them why they
have chosen a foreign language and what they expect to get from knowing
a foreign language? Then...introduce the 5 C's of Foreign Language

Culture, Communication, Contributions, Communities, and Connections

We'll brainstorm how these relate to foreign language learning. Go over
course syllabus.

Day two:
Review all the French material
Review the 5 c's:
Divide the class into 5 groups and assign each group one of the c's.
Tell them that they are presenting to the board of education about the
importance of foreign language learning. They will present the 5 c's.
They need to create a poster which includes:
Their c term with a correct and complete definition 3 examples of how it
relates to foreign language learning (French, specifically)
3 visuals to represent their c term

I've never done this before...............we'll see how it goes.



97/08 From-> Susan Shelby <>
Subject: level one intro :)

I just finished the first week with my students (7th and 8th grade) and
am feeling better about this year than I have ever felt before! I teach
French I...they take the first half of it in 7th grade and the second
half in 8th grade. The classes meet every other day for 75 minutes. I
absolutely blew them away (and myself, too) by speaking at least 60
minutes of pure French to them on the very first day! And this was to
the very beginning students!

They were a little lost at times, but they kept with me and picked up
many new vocabulary words. As a matter of fact, after the second day of
almost total French, I asked them to give me some words that I didn't
"teach" them (for example, I taught them things like hello, how are you,
I'm fine, what's your name, etc), and they came up with about 50 words
that they knew: Parlez means speak.. ecoutez means listen...etc. Of
course, they didn't know how to spell them, but I didn't care! I know
most of you are probably going "whoopdy doo for you Susan" but I feel
really really incredible about this experience. They were hanging on
every word and didn't have any time for misbehaving!

A good strategy I used with my 8th graders was this: I had my students
come in the room saying "I don't remember a thing from last year!" and
of course I just kept talking in French. I put a simple paragraph up on
the overhead...about 15 sentences. It was a biographical paragraph about
a girl...her name, age, where she lived, adjectives that described her,
her family, what she likes, etc. I gave them one minute to read the

Then, all in French, I asked them to give me one word from the
paragraph. They gave me words like "blonde, aime, au foot, mon, prefere"
etc. After they gave me all the words they could remember (they got a
list of about 30, and I let them give me words like "un" and "le" also.)
I told them (all in French) that they had to choose a word from the list
and use it in a complete sentence to tell something from the paragraph.
For example, the paragraph read, "Je m'appelle Micheline et j'habite a
Quebec." They picked the word "appelle" and had to change it to "Elle
s'appelle Micheline." That's all...or the more advance students tried to
pick three or four words to use together. It went really well.



97/09 From-> Maria Fanelli <>
Subject: Re: block schedule/planning

I am teaching block for the first time and it is going quite well I
think. I use the first portion of the class for instruction then the
second portion is for group work. my students are in learning centers
everyday on a rotation. my centers are reading, listening, speaking.
writing and the computer. on special days we have other types of centers
such as cultural, games, ....I had o teach them how to be in groups and
what is expected from them I grade them using a rubrics. I enjoy
teaching this class and from what I understand they love it. we feel
like class flies by


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