Block Scheduling / G. Positive & Negative Observations

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

G. Positive and Negative Observations

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

At Bethel High School in Hampton, VA., We teach every other day with 105
minute periods. This is our first year with the system and I have
noticed the following:

1. Decreased Student retention of vocabulary.
2. Quizzing/Testing during practically every meeting.
3. Necessity of varied activities on various aspects of language
teaching.(grammar/ vocab/ reading/writing/ listening/ speaking).

On the plus side, with adequate planning, students can engage in a
variety of activities, and nothing is ever rushed. 80 minutes sounds
like a pleasure compared to the grueling 105 minute marathon.

 Sean Davis


94/12 From-> Rhonda Linscott <RHONDAL@ASMS1.K12.AR.US>
Subject: Re: 80 minute classes

At the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences, we have 2 eighty
minute periods and one 50 minute period per week. We do however have to
compact the amount of material in order to fulfill curriculum

On Mondays and Thursdays from 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, students may
have optional or required tutoring sessions with instructors and
tutoring is also available/required between 1:40 and 4:00 on Tuesdays
and Fridays. I take advantage of Tuesday afternoons to do foreign film
series of which the student is required to view at least one and respond
to an essay question about that film.

At this time, given the fact that I have six separate course
preparations and one level of students who are doing independent
curriculum plans, I appreciate the extra time the new schedule affords.
However, I don't like the fact that a lot of class time that had been
devoted to verbal communicative activities and more creative processes
has been decreased in order to try to give attention to all skills.

Rhonda Linscott


95/01 From-> "Lucinda (Cindy) Hart-Gonzalez" <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

Regina Grammatico asks people for experience with a block schedule of
meeting 5 times in 6 days, with one mtg being a period of 90-120 min.
This is the closest to what I had in high school (three decades ago).
For reasons never quite clear to me, we had little 15-20 min periods
between our main periods. One day a week the class preceding the little
period extended for a Long Class and one day a week, the following class
did. Also one day a week each class did NOT meet. Result: One long class
and three regular classes per week (It's Wednesday so this must be
French...). I think the push at the time was Independent Study; we were
supposed to be using the unassigned periods to do homework and longer
projects, going to the library or learning centers, etc.

If memory serves me right, teachers and students both hated the long
periods because they felt long compared to a regular class (you wanted a
break), and they weren't quite long enough to allow in movies or things
like that which we might have been able to do with a still longer class
like 90-120min.

I'd say the greatest benefit I got from this scheduling was that I was
comfortable in college with different daily schedules because I had
already had four years of them. And maybe I had learned something about
using my own time to study, but I doubt it.
Long periods? Block schedules? This too will pass. And circle around

Cindy H-G


95/07 From-> Marc Brune <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

We began using a block schedule last year at my hs. The first week was
difficult, but after becoming used to teaching the longer classes, I
started to really enjoy it. Comments on block scheduling:


1. Fewer students to deal with.
2. Fewer classes to prepare for.
3. More time for the students to internalize what you are teaching them.
4. More time to work individually with students.
5. Less student stress because of assignments in so many other classes.
(Under our block schedule, they only took 4 classes per semester.)


1. I wasn't able to cover as much material in one semester as I would in
a year long course. (But students still received one credit)
2. Most students did not make use of our "Focus" period. That was a 45
minute class in the afternoon set aside for extra help/etc. Such a
period allows the students too much freedom.

Fritz Brune


95/07 From-> Felicia Williams <>
Subject: block scheduling

Our small highschool (600 students) has been on a 4 period day - 90
minutes per class for two years. I still have mixed feelings about it.

Some of the negatives:
-the need to schedule levels consecutively
- beginning students, especially, lose too much if they have to wait a
year to continue;
-less time to "cover" the required material
-we and the math department have stretched out our courses
-students know they will not receive the equivalent of two years in two
years, but in three;
-if students aren't in class all year, they miss some of the important,
fun cultural activities based on holidays;
-the stress of trying to cover all the material
-hopefully this will change next year with the changes. (Part of the
reason for the expansion is we wish to teach the beginning class, at
least, through a more natural approach rather than grammar)

Some of the positives:
-Students and teachers have fewer classes upon which to concentrate;
-a more relaxed atmosphere provided you're not stressed out about
covering material;
-more time for group work -for example, last year two days a week, the
students divided their time among the following stations: computer drill
and games, small video viewing with headphones, listening exercises at
listening center, and conversation with me;
-time to complete more complex projects;
-opportunities for student/teacher relationships to develop more completely;
-fewer students at a time (75-90 instead of 125-150);
-for advanced mixed classes, more time to work with each group.

My biggest hangup was sequencing. Once we convinced the administration of
its necessity, things are going more smoothly.

Some schools in our state are working with an every other day schedule
so they have as much time to complete the course, but I prefer our
system because it allows concentration on fewer classes. Many teachers
who have used the lecture method previously have had problems changing
to a more varied activity-oriented, student-centered classroom which is

Felicia Williams


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

We just started blocks this fall. We have periods 1, 3, 5 one day and
2,4,6 the next and our blocks are a whopping 118 minutes most days.

There are some disadvantages to the block system, many of which have
already been discussed here. I would like to add some advantages,
however. First of all, I have levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 plus a dance class.
Like most French teachers, I have a lot of prep. For this reason alone,
I love blocks. I can think of 2 or 3 preps in one day instead of 5. My
prep period is 2 hours long and I'm finding I'm actually getting stuff
done rather than just shuffling papers.

The day is much less hectic since I don't have to switch gears every 50
minutes. I'm finding that the students like it too. In a split level
class, I have time to be with both levels and at all levels, time to do
projects, skits, etc from beginning to end. The students have time to
get into gear and really use the language.

Granted, for first and second year, every other day is not ideal. I'll
be working on creative ways to approach this challenge. Perhaps using
tape activities for a sort of "at home lab". The jury is still out on if
blocks will work, but so far I prefer it. Since so many of us are or
will be facing this change, I thought a positive comment wouldn't hurt.
I'd love to hear more ideas about how to use blocks effectively.



95/11 From-> "Jeffrey A. Turner" <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling

This is my first year at a private girls' school that uses block
scheduling, and I've found that I like it in spite of a few problems.

Our block schedule runs on a seven-day rotation. First and third periods
are 75 minutes long. second, fourth, sixth and seventh periods are 50
minutes long, and a 20-minute break and 50-minute lunch are thrown in.

One advantage is that the class I had last period today I will also have
first period tomorrow -- great for in-depth units or longer-lasting
activities. In addition, because the schedule rotates, I don't have to
struggle daily with a class that can't stay awake after lunch or one
that is repeatedly cut in half by athletes leaving early. Also, a couple
times a week I'll have a 75-minute planning period, which I find

This schedule is not without a downside, though. I see my 9th grade
class six times in a seven-day rotation, which works pretty well.
However, I see my seventh graders only five times per rotation, which
inevitably means that a couple of times each quarter those two
off-periods will come right before a weekend and leave those kids out of
class for four days in a row. I usually try to give them some kind of
assignment using the telephone or tape player during these "vacations"
to keep 'em talking.

Another downside is that if I lose my schedule showing what day it is
(is it day three or day four?) and what classes I have that day, I'm in

Fran Turner


95/11 From-> Woody Merriman <>
Subject: Block Scheduling

We just started block scheduling at our high school this year. We have
four 84 minute blocks per day. Most major courses meet for one block
every day for one semester. I really like the schedule for my German
classes (I don't like it for study hall), and find that the time flies
by. The students seem to be speaking more German because we really have
time to get involved in a variety of activities. I don't think I would
like having the classes every other day. This way we don't have to worry
about missing contact days. I also like the fact that I'm only planning
for two classes this semester, and three next. It takes more time to
plan for each class, but I can concentrate my efforts. I don't know yet,
how well my students will retain the material after a long break. I
won't know that until next year.

We still have some kinks to work out. There are still too many students
with study halls. There are some problems matching up quarter courses
(some former one semester courses meet for a block for one quarter,
others meet for a half block for the semester). Some teachers are having
difficulty adapting to the longer blocks. Fortunately language teaching
has always involved variety and student participation. One real benefit
that has come up, is that students are able to accelerate through a
language sequence. I have students in German 2 this semester, who are
taking German 3 next semester.

There are many schools in Massachusetts going this route. One of the
first was Dennis-Yarmouth and they seem to have been very successful
with it. They don't put their 9th graders into blocks though. It's
interesting to hear all the variations. Good Luck!

Carol Wagner Merriman


95/12 From-> Annette Guizado <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling and Texts

About block scheduling: The longer class period is great for starting
and finishing with a concept and providing practice. Meeting every other
day is not so great as they forget what they did before. I teach in a
middle school, and kids tend to lack the motivation/discipline to do
homework a little each day in between to stay in contact and practice.

Annette Guizado


96/02 From-> "Janet L. Bowler" <>
Subject: Re: teaching FL in a block 4 schedule

I teach French and German at a small high school and we have been on an
alternating block schedule since September. I see my classes every other
day for 86 minutes. Some classes I see TWICE a week and some THREE. I
LOVE BLOCK SCHEDULE but have the following comments to make:

1) We visited schools prior to voting for block schedule and they gave
us this advice: During the first year of block schedule, plan on only
covering 70% of the usual material. After the first year, you and the
students will adjust and be able to do more.

2) Teacher planning time is a VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE. We voted to change
to block schedule if we were guaranteed a prep period every day. We came
back in the fall and found out that we were to have a prep period every
OTHER day. The administration said that they couldn't work out a
schedule with 1/4 of the teachers on prep every period. It is EXTREMELY
EXHAUSTING to teach four blocks in one day with no prep. When you add
before or after school meetings and hall or cafeteria duties, it is
almost physically and mentally impossible to get through the week. My
colleagues, even the energetic and young ones, are complaining of stress
all the time. It's a little easier second semester as we learn how to
pace ourselves but it's still a grind some days. If your school is still
in the talking stage, be sure to guard your prep time.

3) Here are hints that I have used to adjust to teaching in block
a) At first plan as if you were teaching two regular periods in a row.
b) Estimate the time that you think each activity will take and write it
down on your lesson plans. Plan some optional activities. The time
estimates are really appreciated by substitutes also.
c) I went to a workshop and the presenter suggested that a teacher plan
three different types of activities for each block: i.e. individual,
competitive and cooperative activities OR activities relating to three
different levels on Bloom's taxonomy.
d) Younger students need more physical movement. We stand to practice
speaking, walk across the room to pick a new partner, and sing and

Enough from me. Be open-minded to block schedule. It really does have
its advantages after the initial transition. Change is always

Janet Bowler


96/03 From-> Diana Swedlund <>
Subject: Re: Block Sched. help needed

Hey Stan!

I'm an expert on Block Scheduling, having had it at our school for two
years. Ha. We're on an A/B block, 4 classes A day, 4 different classes B
day, A, B, etc. We NEVER change days--essential for continuity.

As far as music and sports go, when students have Band or Football, they
go everyday. Our Band is huge and meets 1st per on A day, 5th per on B
day for an hour each day. (UIL rules prohibit more time than that) The
other 30 min. is spent in supervised study hall P. S. Our band is
award-winning and marches nearly 300!

It has really made an impact on foreign language. I wrote to someone
earlier and told them that I feel that compelled to give lots of
homework every time class meets! Otherwise, I might, due to the
schedule, see them ONE day this week and only two days next week, for

I give a lot of homework, even make 'homework sheets' for them to do, to
keep the material before their eyes. I made each student a cassette tape
of exercises, songs, etc. and match it to the textbook, and assign
listening portions in it, just to keep the French on their minds.

For the most part I like it--I'm more relaxed. But it does take
planning. A lot of teachers teach for only 30 min and let them do their
homework the rest of the time. Not me.

It takes planning for 90 min, but it goes by quickly!! The day just
flies by! For real!!

However, take warning. Don't let your fellow teachers get wild ideas and
go get their nails done and other errands like that on their 90 min.
conf. period. We had 90 min. the first year, then the superintendent
curtailed our 90 min to 55 min. We have duty the other 40 min. Stay at

Oh yes, it has wreaked havoc on TAAS scores (min. exit requirement test
for all students) in math. So much havoc that math will probably follow
the example of band and football and meet everyday next year. That way,
they'll cover a whole year in just one semester.

Hope this helped. I'm always here to answer questions.

Diana Swedlund, Texas


96/03 From-> Jeff Jacobson <>
Subject: Re: Block Sched. help needed


>My school is investigating block scheduling, with the possibility of adopting
>some sort of block in the future. If any of you can answer the following
>items, I would be grateful.

>1. If your school is on a block schedule, what exactly is that schedule?

We meet four periods/day for 86 minutes each. Two days make up an eight
period cycle. Furthermore, we swap period times each day. Our schedule
looks like this: Red day- period 1-2-3-4. White day- period 5-6-7-8.
Blue day- period 2-1-4-3. Silver day- period 6-5-8-7.

>2. Does the block schedule work for you? Why or why not? Anecdotal
>information here is OK, but if you can, please be specific - cite any data
>you may have to back up your position.

No data yet; this is our first year of block scheduling. Personal
feedback? Students and teachers love the new schedule. We wouldn't want
to go back! We are much more organized and have the time to set up and
execute major activities in the course of an 86 minute period. The
biggest drawback is that students do not take the responsibility of
studying appropriately for an every other day schedule. They don't seem
to 'get it', that each night they should be putting in two nights of
homework per subject.

>3. Are there any data relating to student outcomes on the block? I'm thinking
>here of OPI results, AP test scores. SAT II scores - information about FL and
>other disciplines.

Not yet. All I can share is that content-wise, we will not cover as much
material as we have in the past. But... We will cover material more in

>4. My colleagues in the Music Department are hesitant. Not that they are against
>change, but we have a VERY STRONG music program (choral and instrumental)
>and they don't know of any block schedule schools with outstanding music
>programs. Do you know of any strong music programs in block schedule schools?
>Or do you know how a move to block has affected music programs?

Our music teachers say they like the new schedule, particularly with the
band classes. There is plenty of time to set up and rehearse.

>5. Any thing else you might have re: block?

Teachers need to learn to teach differently. Classes need to be more
student-centered and hands-on. Students need to be able to get up and
move around during the period.

Meryl Jacobson


96/04 From-> Felicia Williams <>
Subject: Block scheduling

The schedule suggested by Madeline Bishop we tried our first year of
block scheduling. It worked well for us in the language department, but
not for the administration. It seems the major problem was with
placement of students coming into our school system.

We have changed to a similar, but opposite schedule with
Fall Semester: Lang. 1, Lang. 1, Lang 3
Spring Semester: Lang 2, Lang 2, Lang. 4

This year in our high school of 600 students we had 30 students enrolled
in Spanish 3 and now 11 enrolled in Spanish 4. The Spanish l and 2
classes have all been an average of 30. It's a great schedule. Yes,
dealing with 75-90 students during a semester is better than the old

We, like the math department, stretched out our course offerings because
in the available time (approximately 72% of the normal schedule) we do
not have time to accomplish all we once did. Our first year class is now
more like a "K-8 makeup" in that the focus is upon vocabulary
acquisition and aural comprehension. No grammar is taught formally, but
the students do ask lots of questions . In the texts this places us a
year behind, so that we highly recommend that the students take at least
three years instead of two. The benefits are showing. Verb conjugations
are coming more naturally as are other facets of grammar. I agree with
those who stated it's better to teach the structures when the students
are reaching for them rather than trying to cram them down their throats

This is our third year on the program.

Felicia Williams


96/04 From-> Susan Mitchell <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling Opinions

My school has been on a block schedule the past three years. The only
concern that I have about the block schedule is the fact that in the
size of the school we have it is difficult to put electives (including
foreign language) into "periods" which facilitate students being able to
take the foreign language in consecutive semesters due to the
"requireds" that they are competing against. Our school has a small
student body and I am the only foreign language teacher beginning next
school year (our German instructor will become full time music and
therefore only one language offered).

I love having the longer time periods, but it does create problems if
students can't schedule into them consecutively and there is a time
lapse of up to two semesters before students take the second level. It
is also difficult to build the program into a 4 year program due to the
fact that students are not able to schedule because of requireds and no
other time slots where you can feasibly offer a 3rd or 4th level. In
schools with larger enrollments and more than one teacher in a language
this would not be a problem. I am also scheduled in our middle school
which is on a traditional 8 period day. Many of our teachers in our
district teach both middle and high school and trying to develop a
schedule is a task in and of itself. We are facing some problems for the
upcoming year because of the crossover of teachers in both the middle
and high school level.

Susan J. Mitchell


96/07 From-> MRS BETH DAMASCUS <>

For those of you who are currently on a block schedule - welcome to the
ranks! For two years we were on a modified block schedule - 3 days were
the traditional 50 minute/7 period classes and the other 2 days
consisted of 90 minute classes (3 classes one day, four classes the
other day). On the day that we had only 3 classes, the extra time was
used for assemblies, or early dismissal and then we had our
faculty/department meetings.

Our biggest problem was not seeing the students every day.

Last year we went to a full block schedule - one semester/ one full
course. We teach 3 out of 4 periods. The students have 3 or 4 classes.
The other period is for lunch/study/tutoring/activity. Our classes
were 85 minutes in length. (Our school is a private-all girls school
grades 9-12, student population of approximately 500 - and we are an
International Baccalaureate school with this year's seniors being the
first group to sit for their diploma exams - yikes!) As far as the
retention in Foreign Language - that is yet to be seen. I'm still
fighting for a logical sequencing of courses so that students don't have
an entire calendar year between Level I and Level II (The most critical
in my opinion).

Anyway, IMHO, last year was one of my best in 16 years of teaching.
STRESS level was WAY DOWN, in addition to ILLNESS among faculty and
students. The most challenging thing for me was keeping up with the
papers - it's a MUST that they get graded and returned A. S.A.P. with
this type of schedule. Otherwise, I did have 50% less students per
semester than I have had in the past. I saw a change in many of the
students in terms of their taking on responsibility for their learning.

They learned very quickly that if they fell behind, it was difficult to
catch up. The other side of the coin is that many teachers, including
myself, had to (and still are) learn to use a VARIETY of teaching
strategies and activities. With this type of schedule, the classroom HAS
to be as student-centered as possible.... otherwise you will die! The
end-of-the-year survey taken at our school was very positive in terms of
the schedule.

Our biggest obstacle - working out Period 3 (lunch/activity/tutoring,
etc). We do not have an open campus, and we don't have a lot of extra
room to "put" students ... so we are working on some creative scheduling
for study halls, etc. for this year. If anyone else is teaching on this
one semester/one course type of schedule, I would appreciate your ideas
- this year I am teaching Level III, Level II, Level IV( first time in a
LONG time!) and the Honors Level I. I need the most help with Level II
and Level IV.

Beth D.


96/09 From-> Jacobson Family <>
Subject: Block Scheduling

Our high school is in its second year of block scheduling. We meet four
periods (86 min.) every other day and love it! The document below is
from a handout I prepared to give to other teachers when I visit their
schools to do inservice presentations about block scheduling and
developing appropriate world language lessons based on a longer period.

Meryl Jacobson



Teachers: Advantages

* time for students to demonstrate performance objectives
* time to give students individual attention
* time to get to know the students personally
* time for group activities (cooperative learning)
* time to complete class project, oral testing, etc. in one class period
* opportunity for creative and meaningful activities
* fosters the use of a large variety of teaching techniques in each class; accommodates different learning styles
* opportunity to implement new methodologies
* more preparation time
* less time wasted; each minute valued
* time to interact with colleagues, develop quality team approaches
* varied schedule allows for different groups to be first and last each day
* opportunity to structure a full lesson in one class: introduce a topic/concept, discuss/analyze/practice it, bring it to closure
* time to evaluate and give feedback
* opportunity to implement alternative assessment techniques
* possible to begin guided homework
* fewer study halls
* opportunity for immediate application of new concepts
* no administrative evaluation of staff, first year of block scheduling
* reduction of stress
* no tardy bells at the start of each class; teacher determines tardiness
* easier to grade papers by the start of the next class
* elimination of homeroom

Students: Advantages

* easier to handle 3-4 classes per day, more organized, fewer exams on the same day
* less hectic daily routine (4 blocks not 7-8 periods daily)
* less homework per night
* greater variety of courses, more electives
* better chance to understand and master material
* more opportunity for student/teacher interaction
* fewer books to carry

Administrators: Advantages

* positive school climate, students and teachers
* less confusion in hallways

Teachers: Disadvantages

* fewer contact minutes, less content covered: How will these students do on AP's & SAT's?
(Internet: FLTeach, or 71)
* more time needed for planning
* need to learn how to plan
* need to learn new methodologies
* need to increase repertoire of games, activities, etc.
* student absence: 1 day = 2 class periods
* teacher absence: adequate substitute plans
* homework: students not taking on the extra responsibility

Students: Disadvantages

* some teachers still lecturing, very boring
* absence from school; difficult to make up work
* every-other-day schedule, subject not fresh in the mind
* field trips discouraged because too much course work is missed

Administrators: Disadvantages

* hard to find students during the day (office, guidance, etc.)
* hard to keep track of absenteeism since absent student does not see the same first block teacher until 4 days later
* hard to distribute memos and notices


96/11 From-> MRS BETH DAMASCUS <>
Subject: Block scheduling

Here is what we did... It's nothing earth shattering. For two years we
were on a partial block schedule. Three days a week we ran our regular 7
period (50 min) classes. The other two days we taught half the amount of
classes for 90 minutes each. The biggest complaint teachers had,
including myself, was the fact that we didn't meet with the students
every day. We didn't even consider the A/B schedule as a result of this.

There was a lot of discussion and presentation of "research" prior to
making the change. This is our second year on the block 4 schedule. The
summer before last there were workshops on cooperative learning,
alternative assessment, and the like for anyone who was interested in

MY concern still is the amount of time between semesters. Our school
still needs to work on "proper" sequencing IMHO of classes so that first
and third year are second semester, and second and fourth year are first
semester. That way, there won't be a lapse between the first two years,
which are the most critical. At this point, I can only react to the
third year students who are currently in my classes.

Some of them had Spanish II in the fall of last year, some of them had
Spanish II in the winter. My observation is that there ISN'T much
difference in terms of their retention. Again, these are third year
students who don't HAVE to be in the class - they've fulfilled their two
year requirement. Next semester we will have ALL the Spanish II classes,
so we'll be able to make a better judgement in this area.

In general, I LOVE the block schedule. I have absolutely NO problem with
85 minute classes, in fact, when we have shortened periods (be it 10 or
20 minutes), it feels the same as when we were on 50 minutes minus the
10 or 20 minutes - RUSHED! As far as "covering" the material - last year
I was only 1 chapter behind with my second year students, but my third
year were right on track. We are using the Scott Foresman series (Voces
y Vistas, Pasos y Puentes, Arcos y Alamedas), and we have NEVER finished
the book, in fact, in our regular classes, we only finish chapter 8. The
next year, we start the next book since the material is reviewed. Since
we know what the students have had, it's not a problem. More and more I
try to use the book as a REFERENCE, not as a crutch.

Teaching on the block is constantly a challenging and recharging
experience. Yes, there are days when class isn't so exciting - we have
to do the "boring" stuff. But , for the most part, the block has FORCED
me, as well as teachers across the board, to STRETCH ourselves, our
imaginations, our creativity. It has FORCED us to SHARE ideas with each
other, get in to observe each other's classes for ideas, suggestions and
reinforcement. It is NOT always a bed of roses, but I DO like it.
Sometimes the biggest challenge is keeping up with the paperwork... I
can't leave papers sitting for a week or two because we're on to the
next chapter, unit, etc.

The block has beefed up our program. It has also enhanced what we had
been doing that was GOOD! We went to block scheduling because it gives
students the opportunity to take many more classes that they couldn't
fit into their schedules before. It has helped our upper level course
enrollment since the students don't have to choose between a language
and something else - singleton courses can now be scheduled at different
times so that students CAN take them. It has increased our enrollment in
the fine arts classes. No - it is not a utopia, but again, I would NOT
like to back to the traditional assembly-line schedule. It has made me a
better teacher, and I have observed that it has made the students more
responsible for their own learning. They know that they can't waste time
- "quarter" grades are essentially "semester" = "permanent" grades on
their record. It took some students awhile to realize this last year as
it was our first year in the full block, but by now they have adjusted.
As far as the freshmen, they didn't know any other was, so to them it's
just another adjustment they have to make in their transition from grade
school to high school.



96/12 From-> Felicia Williams <>
Subject: Block Schedule

I have a question for the "block schedule practitioners": How have you
resolved the problem of the music offering on a 4 period semester

We have been on the block schedule for four years and have tried to
solve this problem -- without success. Our band students need to be
involved in class all year, but most cannot afford to spend 1/4 of their
high school career in band. This presents a real problem for the
director and the program.

We have explored the idea of having one period a day be a split period
of two 45 minute classes that would go all year or have that one period
on the A/B schedule. Our band instructor and band parents have presented
the problem and possible solutions to the faculty without success -- no
one seems willing to change.


Except for this one glitch, we are all basically happy with the program,
especially now that we have convinced the administration and counselors
that beginning foreign language students must be able to take the first
two levels of the language without a gap in their study.

Your suggestions and sharing of how you have solved this problem will be
greatly appreciated.

Felicia Williams
South Whidbey High School
Langley, WA


Response to the above:

96/12 From-> "Susan J. Mitchell" <>
Subject: Re: Block Schedule

We, too, had this problem and have tried several solutions over the past
4 years. We have finally agreed to put band/chorus in the last block of
the day and run them in 45 min. segments. This way students involved in
both have their 4th block filled with band and chorus. For those that
are in only one of the music offerings the other 45 minutes for them is
study hall---the only study hall that we offer. This seems to be working
for us just great. Good luck with your solution in your school.

Susan Mitchell


And more on the above theme:

96/12 From->
Subject: Re: Block Schedule

We, too, were considering a move to a modified block schedule, which we
eventually decided not to do, at least at this time. The biggest problem
was our elective program, especially the music program. It would be
IMPOSSIBLE to put all our music classes in one or two periods. We have
two full-time music teachers, five sections of choral music, and five
sections of instrumental music (band and orchestra - 45 string players
in a school of 1200). Our top chorus sang an oratorio in Carnegie Hall
just last week!

Our faculty did not see a way to implement block scheduling without
crippling some of our programs, so we are no longer pursuing this as a

Fortunately, despite some strong opinions on both sides of the issue, we
have all handled this discussion professionally rather than taking
remarks personally. Maybe it'll come back if solutions to some of our
problems can be found.

Stan Oberg


97/01 From-> Peggy Grasso <>
Subject: Block scheduling

At the beginning of the 1995-1996 school year we began using a block
schedule which consists of four 90 minute blocks per day. Courses last
90 days (which we call a semester), then change at the mid year point.
Teachers instruct 3 blocks and have 90 minutes preparation time per day.
Our foreign language department is philosophically divided about the
merits (or lack thereof) of the block schedule, although we have
remained friendly and united in our goal to advance the study of foreign

Teachers who favor the block schedule cite the following advantages:
*less students to keep track of at one time (although possibly more
throughout the year as a whole)
*more time to develop cohesive units and activities
*more concentrated attention to topics with 90 minutes time
*more personalized attention to individual students
*new faces (and possibly courses) at the midyear point allow for
recharging, especially if you can get rid of the class from hell.
*changes in retention have not been noticed, although it may
be too early to say

Teachers who do not favor the block schedule contend:
*more frequent testing is necessary, which translates to more
paperwork (although we have all found ourselves turning to nonstandard
forms of assessment to alleviate some of the paper)
*teachers who have exchange programs find it increasingly
difficult to track down students from the "other" semester, ie: it's
harder to find hosts and travellers for the exchange *national FL exams
are only administered to those currently
in the FL, so half the students do not have the chance to participate
*seasonal activities must be awkwardly inserted when they do not
fall in the correct semester
*copies of assessment materials are much more easily passed
along to friends in the second semester
*just when you're really getting to know and like a class, it's
time for the semester to end

This is just a partial list of the items which most readily popped into
my head, and in case you're wondering where I stand on the issue
personally, I have to admit that I sit the fence, leaning more towards
dissatisfaction as I am a teacher who is trying desperately to keep my
exchange going.

Although I can see some merits in the 5 x 5 block proposed by Dee Friel,
I do not agree with her insinuations that teachers on the 4 x 4 block
are boring and do not use or need all of their planning time. Without
exception, every teacher in my high school (especially FL teachers) uses
every minute of their planning time, and never before have there been so
many teachers arriving early and staying late. Kids' claims that 90
minutes is too long and that classes are boring is no different from the
bellyaching we heard when we were on the 45 minute, 8 period a day

Peg Grasso, German teacher


97/01 From-> Dee Friel <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling -- Peg Grasso

I did not say that the teachers were boring on the 4 x 4. I said that
the students I have talked to said THEY find it boring. If the students
are bored, what are they learning? True, if the teacher varies
activities frequently and incorporates cooperative learning and other
techniques, classes can be interesting. However, it is unrealistic to
expect that EVERY teacher will plan EVERY class to include enough
variety to interest every student. Therefore, students will say that
classes are boring. Most students say that classes are boring regardless
of the block schedule or the traditional method. One boring day to one
kid can make school boring in general. I don't know how that works in
the mind of the high school student, but I have found after 16 years that
it is a general truth to students.

I NEVER said that teachers don't need or use their plan time. I said
that it causes MANY hard feelings between elementary teachers who get 30
minutes or less per day and have to plan reading, language arts, math,
science, handwriting, health, and social studies (7 preps EVERY DAY) and
those high school teachers who have 90 minutes every day to plan for 3
classes. How would you feel if you were the elementary teacher? 7 preps
only 30 minutes or 3 preps and 90 minutes?

I asked my students (most who have been on this 5 x 5 their entire jr-sr
high career) what they thought of the 4 x 4 block that you are on. The
first and immediate response from more than half the class was "YUCK!
That would be boring!" They cited other reasons like What happens if you
don't get along with that teacher? What about retention for Spanish (I
thought that it was interesting that they thought of that on their own)
because many of them said that they forgot quite a few things just over
the summer. What about getting projects and things done in just one
quarter for traditional semester classes? I thought they had some pretty
valid points.

I do not mean to imply that the 5 x 5 is not without its faults. Grading
at the end of the quarter and semester is very hectic. Since we are a
small school, my numbers are lower than yours probably are, but I have
114 students over 2 days. Figuring grades for 114 people is not easy.
Students also say that they sometimes forget if it is a red or a black
day, which assignments are due when (although we supply each student
with a planner for assignments), and keeping track of 10 classes is
sometimes difficult especially for college bound kids in Spanish 3,
English 4, Chemistry, Physics, Advanced Math, Computer Tech II, etc.

On the other hand, I see many advantages that the 5x5 program offers
that the 4 x4 doesn't. I especially like the fact that I don't see the
same kids every day. I get a chance to see more of the students. The
students get a wider variety of classes. Kids who would not take ( or
not continue) Spanish are getting a chance to do so. These students are
also getting a chance to take computers, sewing, shop, ag, and speech
and drama -- a chance they would not have on the old 7 period day
because they are too busy just getting in required classes. I am
seriously considering bringing my son to school with me in 2 years so
Jon gets a wider variety of classes than he would have at his present
school. He is a kid who needs that variety and would benefit greatly
from it.

Dee Friel


97/04 From-> Julia Ann Fleming <>

We are just finishing up our first year on accelerated block. We meet
with our kids every day for 90 minutes. They complete a year's course in
a semester's time. During a school year, then, the students complete 8
year courses.

My experiences are with level II and level IV/V AP language classes.
After the first "session' (year), the kids came with about half as much
hands-on experience as in prior years. Our curriculum was cut by a
third, but mastery was even less.

One of the "advantages" was to have been that we would get to know our
kids better. Just the opposite has happened. We have to cram so much
into each class period that very little time is afforded to get to know
the kids.

My AP kids from the first session (first semester in the traditional
calendar) have been coming once a week to keep up with their language
skills to be able to score well on the test. The kids I have currently
haven't even ever been taught the language skills they need to score

While I don't teach any other discipline, I have talked with math and
science teachers who are experiencing the same frustrations. Science
teachers say that even though the extras time for lab days is great, the
steps leading up to successful labs are so hurried that the kids
ultimately end up suffering.

I do not believe that "less is better". I believe we as Americans have
already lowered our standards so that we are falling way behind other
countries., Kids are not being given the opportunity to excel. They are
in fact being encouraged to be thrilled to "get by" with minimal effort.

Sorry my comments are so negative, but over the last ten years I have
worked hard with my kids to help them become very proficient in the
language. Their AP tests scores have always resulted in 3 or above.
(I've had 2 students score a 2 during these ten years and I have about
10or more kids taking the test each year.) I KNOW that this bunch has
suffered tremendously ONLY because they haven't had the time to
assimilate the material. There has just not been enough time to
practice each skill.

Do your realize that after 2 years (clock time) of Spanish, the kids
will supposedly be at the same level of competency as those who had four
clock years in the past?

A little bit unreasonable, don't you agree?

Julia Ann Fleming


97/05 From->
Subject: Re: 8 block scheduling

I currently teach on block 8 and have mixed feelings. I haven't covered
as much material as normal, which bothers me. Students seem to "forget"
more because I only see them every other day. On the other hand, the
block is good for skits, in-class performances, alternative assessment,
and projects.
At this point, I'm still not sure....

Melissa Badger


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

Our school has been on the block for two years now. I have mixed
feelings about this system. We have 4 classes for 87 minutes each day.
Halfway through the year we switch to 4 more classes. The longer classes
are great for longer activities. I usually try to have at least 4
different activities each period. That would include some starter that
takes about 10 minutes, a "teaching time" when I present a new concept
or new vocabulary, a time for the students to work with this new
material presented, and then a fun activity for the last few minutes
which also involves reviewing something the students have had

On the other hand, I find that I am not able to cover as much material
as previously. Before we started block scheduling, teachers from
other schools already on the block came to talk to us and told us it
would be like this. They said you just have to pick and choose what you
think is important. Also the way our system is set up, students
sometimes take French I first term of their Freshman year. They do not
take French II until the second term of their Sophomore year.
Consequently, I spend a lot of time wasted on reviewing what the
students have forgotten. I have talked to my principal about this and
this year he told me all we can do is tell them it would be better if
they took French I and II in the same year. You know what good that
does. Students always seem tot think that they know more than adults.
Another problem that we have had is that we don't have enough teachers.
The board of education assured us when we went to this system that they
would provide whatever we needed. Two years later, we still have
received no extra money for extra materials to make this system work or
the extra teachers to be able to offer all the classes we should be able
to offer. Consequently, we are offering less electives now that

My advice to anyone going on the block is to prepare well. It takes a
lot of serious preparation to be able to teach in this system.

Sue Harbour


97/05 From-> Scott Aborn <>
Subject: Re: Blocks

. . . fools rush in . . .

Ah well, if the label fits I will wear it . . .

At the risk of repeating myself from some months ago, I remain as
skeptical of those who decry the absolute evil of blocks as I do of
those who declare it to be the salvation of modern education. There must
be some worth even in having students write out endless repetitions of
conjugations for homework, though I am sure none of us assign such work.
Surely there is value in blocks as well.

I teach in a small 9-12 which went to a 4 X 4 this year. I was opposed.
We spent a year and a half in preparation, and gave a great deal of
thought to all aspects of the move. We added to our staff, reduced class
size, had and have pointed in-service training, and work regularly in
our departments on block issues. The Administration, while clearly on
lead in the move to Blocks, involved the Faculty extensively from the
outset of considering the move.

Yes, we "cover" less material (in most courses). Attendance is up, but
absences are more costly and difficult to deal with. There are students
who find it difficult to concentrate for 85 minutes -- but not
significantly more than the number who found it difficult to concentrate
for 45.

As for language -- I find blocks an advantage in levels 3 and higher --
about equally effective in level 2, and not terribly well-suited for
level 1. That said, it is altogether possible that I will get better in
level one, and eventually find blocks quite acceptable at that level as
well. Other faculty, initially opposed, have found blocks to be far from
the disaster they anticipated.

Didn't we all have classes of that length in college? How was elementary
school so different; merely the change of activity with no change of
room or teacher for an entire day? For students, learning is learning,
and the move from one room to another every 45 minutes does little to
alleviate the problem of overload, or even that of increasing
opportunities for effective instruction. One prime goal of blocks (as I
understand it) is to reduce the "confusion" of multiple classes -- both
for students and teachers. This has been more or less true in my

I need to get much better at exploiting the advantages of blocks, and
reducing the inherent shortcomings. I refuse, however, to rail against
blocks or the more traditional scheduling. There are merits to both,
students more suited to one than the other -- teachers as well. In order
for any strategy to succeed, there needs to be commitment on the part of
all -- administrators need to do more than pad their resumes with
organizational restructuring, teachers need to do more than dig in their
heels and complain about poorly researched theories and ambitious
administrators, and we all need to acknowledge that however well we are
doing, we could do better.

With a common goal of benefiting our students we can accomplish great
things under any time structure.

It may well be true that at some point in the future -- near or distant
-- there will be some common agreement about the value of blocks -- but
without whole-hearted effort at exploiting the theory to its fullest
extent, we may never know whether blocks are better or worse than what
we knew before. Shutting our eyes or our minds -- even if backed by
personal experience, will not advance our profession.

Dialogue is good, I read each posting with interest, but I find myself
less attentive to the viewpoints expressed by those who seem to have
closed their minds to the possibility that they may not know all there
is to know about the potential of blocks.

My jury is still out.

Scott Aborn
Manchester, VT


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

I teach on the A/B block schedule and am reasonably happy with it. My
only objection is that our "longer" block (82 min.) isn't really long
enough to get everything done. We will probably be making some changes
as we grow into the schedule.

The longer class time is definitely an advantage in a foreign language
class. There is more time to teach and practice new concepts. In one
class period, I can introduce the vocabulary or concept, do whole class
practice, paired or small group practice, and individual work. There is
also time to integrate the new concept with what we have learned before.

Remember that an A/B block schedule takes some getting used to. In our
school, teachers have an 82 minute preparation period every day, which
helps. There needs to be some time in the day when students can come to
teachers to complete make-up work or to get extra help.

Teachers have to think in terms of numbers of class periods every six
weeks instead of five classes a week. One must be very organized, for
there is no time to waste. However, now that I've tried it I don't want
to go back to the old way. I might be willing to try a different kind of
block schedule in the future, but I never want to teach in a six or
seven period day again.



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

I'll own up to having been on the h.s. restructuring team that
recommended implementing just such a schedule in our high school 6 years
ago. At the time, when the plan was under discussion, the consensus from
us foreign language teachers was unanimous: it sounded like a good idea
for more advanced students (level 3+), but the benefits for novices
seemed dubious, and we lobbied hard to have a mixed schedule, with 2
conventional, daily 43 min. classes in the middle of the day (we hoped to
work it out with the lunch shifts). The main stumbling block appeared to
be that the cafeteria (along with the library/media center and the
theater) is shared with our contiguous middle school, and arranging that
kind of schedule amounted to an administrative Gordian knot that nobody
was willing to take a sword to -- it often appears that bus and lunch
schedules are the tail that wags the dog in this business. Anyway, I
ended up deciding that the high school desperately needed to have its
cage rattled, and the AB block schedule got my vote on the grounds that
more good than bad was likely to result.

In general, I'd say that's been true. I'd also say that our initial
instincts were probably correct, but with important qualifications. I
taught in the high school the first year the plan was implemented. First
year classes were a real challenge, especially at the beginning. I knew
intellectually that I really had to vary the menu, but I wasn't sure how
to go about it, and it took me awhile to trust myself and the students
enough to let them struggle with activities while I circulated and gave
pointers. The atmosphere, both in the classroom and in the school at
large became more centered and less frantic and constantly
confrontational (it's still a long ways from heaven!). Basically,
though, the block schedule forced me to improve (or at least vary) my
teaching. I think it's also fair to say that while we may have "covered"
somewhat less, what we did was better absorbed by most.

On the other side, the lack of daily contact, particularly with 9th &
10th graders and other hopelessly flaky types, has its definite costs.
You have to be very emphatic about expectations between classes, but the
fact remains that if someone is absent, they miss (at least) twice as
much, and it's (at least) twice as difficult, and unlikely, for them to
"make it up". It's bad enough having a week when a particular class only
meets twice, and when mother nature (blizzards) or whimsical
administrators preempt one of those meetings, you almost despair of
getting anything accomplished. Regarding this problem, we finally (after
several years) got all the sections of a particular level of a language
scheduled on the same day, so that big interruptions would have equal
effect on all of them. I remember one winter trimester when one section
of level 1 had met 20% fewer times than another thanks to Lady Luck.
Articulation is difficult enough without that kind of crap shoot. I'm
talking about a very small school system -- such problems are probably
common in large systems.

I spent the next 3 years following our language program into the
elementary school by teaching grades 3-8 Spanish. I learned a lot by
watching elementary school teachers, and grades 3-5 kids are wonderful
to work with. So are middle schoolers, in their own, peculiar way ;-)
(hormones with legs?). I spent last year on an academic leave in Europe,
and this coming year I'm back in the high school, facing 85 minute
periods a little uneasily, but with the sense that being complacent is
dangerous and unhealthy.

Jim Torbert


97/08 From-> Beverly Clinch <>
Subject: Re: block scheduling

We had the A/B day the last two years.

It's plus was the 90 minutes; but it's minus was a higher failure rate,
lack of continuity and too much time spent reviewing what we already did
after a 4 day gap.

This new schedule was supposed to make classes smaller, but it hasn't!
And after this first week I find that I'm moving so fast that I don't
know if I can keep up the pace.

With Spanish I've not got a problem, 'cept I have to remind myself to
slow a bit to allow for assimilation of the material by the students.

I want to do what I do in Spanish---make it fun; but I don't know how.
I'm on a tightrope without a net!  As for my Spanish, I just worry about
the gap of several semesters from Spanish 1 to 2 or 2 to 3.

Beverley Clinch


97/11 From-> Patt Webb <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

We are in our second year of block (4 x 4) scheduling. So far, I think I
like it better than having 6 year long classes. We teach three and have
one and a half hours planning time per day. There are fewer students to
keep up with -- 75 or so versus 150.

There are a few down sides -- attendance is crucial. Although our policy
looks tough on paper, there are always "exceptions" and students are
absent far too often. I have found that my students have greater depth
in fewer concepts that under traditional scheduling.

I also believe that FL teachers will find it easier to adapt because we
have always used lots of interactive, student-involved activities rather
than lecture as in some other fields.

Another plus is that now there is enough time to really practice a
concept after its introduction rather than barely skim the surface.
However, you must choose more carefully what you will introduce and how
it will be sequenced. In our system, we actually lost about 25 contact
hours per class -- so we must plan every minute VERY carefully -- even
more carefully than in traditional scheduling.

All this said -- most of our students and teachers prefer our 4 x 4
version of the block.

Patt Webb

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