Block Scheduling / E. Positive Personal Experiences

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

E. Positive Personal Experiences

95/05 From-> "Wilson - Mary T." <>
Subject: Re: 4-period day

I have been teaching French in a 4-period day (in Frederick, MD) since
Sept. 1992. I could talk about this ad infinitum. We have two Spanish
teachers, one Latin, two German and myself. We were all adamantly
opposed to the switch and voted as a dept. (along with Special Ed)
against this idea twice. Now we would never go back to a regular 50
minute/7 period format. Our principal at the time (Dr. Mike Riley) was a
very forward thinking, enthusiastic, creative force in this change and
made the transition a very positive experience.

I truly enjoy the longer class periods and have encountered few
problems. I do not cover as much material as previously--but I feel that
the students in general are more grounded and focused. French enrollment
has improved slightly--I will have 28 students in French IV next year!
Our FL enrollment overall has dramatically increased--students chose an
eighth elective each year. There are obvious sequencing problems--big
gaps of time between certain levels. The surprising thing is how well
the students adjust! My teaching style has changed--evolved--to where
the students are more engaged in oral activities. I absolutely do NOT
give long periods of time in class to do writing assignments or
homework. Incidentally, rate of homework done has increased. (Less
competition at home from other subjects.) Like I said, I could go on and
on... We the FL teachers at Governor Thomas Johnson HS are in favor of
this format! :-)



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

I used to teach in a program that had a four period day. It was

You can immerse the students so much more in the language. You have time
to play simulation games, to see films, to delve into a topic of
discussion, to practice a concept of vocabulary or grammar in a number
of ways, and best of all, to review from the past lessons in an
innovative way. Do the students learn as much? Well, it depends on what
you are evaluating. They become more fluent and proficient in the
language. They certainly have less time to memorize vocabulary and
facts. Which is more important?

Deby Doloff


95/07 From-> Carol Ladd <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

I love block scheduling! It makes planning easier with only 3 classes a
day.  We have 90 minute blocks. It allows time for reinforcement. It is
hard to cover as much material or give as much homework though! Change
of pace and group games are necessary!

Carol Ladd <


95/09 From -> Wendy Allerton <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling

My high school too has just gone to a block schedule: four 85 minute
blocks in a day, classes meet two out of the four days of the cycle,
science classes meet three out of four and other electives meet one out
of the four days. All the teachers seem to love it as of now and the
kids are getting used to it. It has only been one week with the new
schedule so far so we will have to wait and see.

As a Spanish teacher, I love having the extra time to let every student
participate at least a little bit and not have to rush any one of them
along. We have been able to vary activities quite nicely in our entire
department to keep the kids focused and I have had students already
comment that the 85 minutes have gone by much quicker than they



95/10 From ->
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

I am teaching Spanish in an alternate block system for the first time
this year in a middle school. Periods are 80 minutes long, every other
day. So far, I feel the good outweighs the bad.

I was amazed at how the longer class periods did not really feel any
longer than before. I like being able to present new material, have some
guided practice, and another activity all within one session. I was
concerned about retention from two days before, but it seems the kids
remember what we did better than I do!

I have more planning time than before, and am only preparing 3 or 4
classes per day instead of 6, so I feel I'm doing a much more thorough
job of planning, even though I have 5 different preps. I'm going to be
able to put together a lot more of those cultural activities I'd been
dreaming of for years but was never able to get put together.


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

After some initial struggles, the kids and teachers all seem to love it.
Their day is less ratty-in-a-cage, and everyone involved likes the extra
time for getting to know one another (not to mention the subject areas).
The staff say that they don't ever want to go back to a traditional
schedule, and it is interesting to note that the percentage of A grades
went up quite a bit as a result of intensified learning combined with
fewer areas.

The only question I have for experienced four-blockers is how teacher
planning time works. The schedule I am researching means that students
would take four year-long courses over a semester. Now, when we have six
periods, only one-sixth of the teachers are planning during any period.
It seems that the four-block schedule would mean that one-quarter of the
teachers would be planning at any one time, and that could mean enormous
class sizes. Any ideas?



Subject: Block Scheduling

Dear fellow teachers - ready to move to 4x4 scheduling,

Our school is also on the block scheduling, and for anyone that is
afraid of the new system coming to their school, my advice is give it a
try. So far, all of our foreign language teachers are exactly on
schedule with where we were at the same time of year on the other
schedule. (For example, at mid term last year we were in Spanish II -
chapter 4, and this year at the half way point we are at the same
section.) We never thought we would be able to keep up, but we have, and
I don't think my students are lacking any in comparison to last year's.
The relaxed pace of only worrying about 3 classes out of 4 per day is
wonderful. (We are on 90 minute blocks, 4 classes per day.
We change similar to colleges in December, the kids get all new
classes.) And, I haven't heard a teacher yet complain of having a whole
90 minutes of planning period! It is actually possible to get some work
done. As for the question that we worried about - what about the kids
that take Spanish I in Fall of one year and don't take Spanish II until
Spring of the next - thus a whole year gap between Spanish I and Spanish
II. It really hasn't been a problem for us. The students are scheduled
with this in mind, and just as they flowed from Spanish I to Spanish II
on the year long schedule - there were students that waited a year under
that schedule too - they are seemingly doing well.

My favorite part of the 90 minute classes is being able to introduce new
material and actually have the students practice before they forget what
is going on. They can review the previous day's lesson, go over
homework, learn a new grammar structure, practice orally, do written
practice, etc. and not run out of time!! I spend much less time
re-teaching the previous lesson, because I feel that the students
actually get a chance to retain what is taught before they leave!

Perhaps I'm simply an optimist, but I enjoy trying new things. And I
haven't heard many complaints from other foreign language teachers at
our school. We all love it!! As with anything new, there will be kinks
in the system - you just have to search for a way to cope - like most of
us were doing before the 4 period day came around.

Janene Fitzpatrick


96/03 From-> Sue Orr <>
Subject: Block Schedules

The trend to 4 x 4 schedules is spreading here in Indiana and the school
where my husband teaches is changing over to this schedule next year. I
know that they did a fair amount of research of schools already on this
plan before their vote for change. They too have a very strong music
program - but one of the factors they liked was that students would be
able to take more subjects each year - eliminating the necessity for
music ( and other students) to take summer school or 7:00am classes.

They are going to compromise on the schedule however and music classes
will meet every other day all year long. Most of their students in music
take more than one music class so they will alternate them. It will take
some fancy scheduling.

Their high school (North Side in Fort Wayne) has a page on the net. If
interested I will get the address and post it. They may also be able to
share the sources of their research. Hope this is useful. :-).

Suzette Orr


96/09 From-> Nancy Laurel Hulama <>
Subject: Block Scheduling

Our high school has completed 3 weeks in the accelerated block
schedule...four 90 classes /day...and it's been an easy, smooth
transition. I especially like seeing only 3 classes/day. It seems less
hectic and the kids say the same thing. The variety of activities which
may be included each day has made it more pleasant also. I think we're
all working harder in developing our lesson plans. I actually had
learned all my students' names in the first week! Class size is not
improved, however. but I never expected that. I have 93 kids in my 3
classes of Spanish and it's about the same in all major subject areas.
Over time that may improve as kids branch out and take a wider variety
of electives. I think our admin. need to learn more about scheduling
also. But I was generally pleased with this new plan.

Nancy Laurel Hulama


96/09 From-> Brenda Sloop <SLOOPBRE@ESUVM.EMPORIA.EDU>
Subject: Block Scheduling

Recently there has been much negative discussion regarding block
scheduling. As an undergrad in college, I can only give my opinion based
on my experience as a student in a high school which used block
scheduling... We attended all 6 classes of 50 min each on Mondays, and 3
classes of 100 min each on T-T & W-F . This system worked extremely well
for 4 reasons. First students and teachers only had three classes to
prepare for each day. Second, classes could cover material more in depth
because they didn't have to stop as soon as students became engaged in
the material. Third, field trips were easier to arrange as we didn't
have to miss as many other classes. Lastly, it truly prepares students
for the rigors of college, both in terms of scheduling and covering more
than one section of material each day. I certainly feel I received as
much instruction as students from high schools without the block

I do have one suggestion for any schools considering the block system,
students , and often teachers, need a break half way through the longer
classes. We had five minute breaks after 50 minutes in which we could go
into the halls and go to lockers, chat with friends, etc.

Brenda Sloop


Response to Brenda Sloop’s message:

96/09 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling

>I do have one suggestion for any schools considering the block system,
>students , and often teachers, need a break half way through the longer
>classes. We had five minute breaks after 50 minutes in which we could
>go into the halls and go to lockers, chat with friends, etc.

Considering that one of the big reasons given for the long block is not
losing the minutes for record-keeping, etc, it appears to me that what
you have described here is not the true block as it is currently
represented, but a double class period with the normal break in the

Marilyn B.


96/09 From-> "Dr. Paul Garcia" <>
Subject: Re: block schedules

Sandra asked about positive experiences with block scheduling; I'm new
at this, 1 year 1 month, so please allow me the exuberance of a
neophyte. Here are what I perceive to be the advantages:

1. I get to work for longer periods of time with students who seem to be
"on the verge" of getting it, but for whom 45 minutes isn't long enough
to be "with me."

2. My students get to do at least 6-8 activities of varying styles
reviewing and practicing with one another. (Would that our nation's
youth could do homework, too, with the same elan that their teacher

3. It becomes very important for ensuring that oral work and written
activities are focussed on the points you wish to make, given that you
need to be organized (both student and teacher).

4. There's a mini-immersion element to what I do and what the students
must do.

5. In addition, a personal note: the planning time really allows for
planning and getting things done. My schedule this year (we're A/B all
the way through, thus alternating from September to June):

A-Day: Hour 1: planning
Hour 2: Spanish II
Hour 3: Spanish II-III
Hour 4: Spanish II

B-Day: Hour 1: German I
Hour 2: German I
Hour 3: planning
Hour 4: planning

(Classes are 90 minutes each, my B-Day class activities end at 10:30
a.m., and I work undisturbed through 3:00 p.m., when the contract day
ends. I inherited about 85 kids in Spanish I and II last year, and have
"grown" the program so that there are now chock full 4 classes of
Spanish I taught by a new colleague (130-140 students), and I started
German I this year. There were a few kids who wanted Spanish III,
they're in my A-3 section. Everyone else is in singleton class conflict
who wanted III, but I don't forsee that as a problem for 97-98, given
that there are about 65 kids in Spanish II this year, with some 40
eligible for III next year. Please write if you have any questions. Bye
for now,

Paul Garcia


96/09 From-> Pamela Lynch <>
Subject: Re: 3rd year of Block Scheduling

We are in our third year of Block Scheduling. The first year we rotated
four classes every other day. Consequently, in one week you only saw
your classes twice. It was a disaster for the foreign language and math

To accommodate those problems, the schedule was changed the following
year. Now, on Monday, we see all our classes for 45 minutes. Then, we do
a Block for the remaining four days. It has been wonderful! We see all
our classes three days a week.

It is necessary to modify your teaching style. In the foreign language
department we have found it necessary to give "bridging activities."
Meaning homework of some sort to do the day you are not in FL class. It
has become a joke in my classroom. I do not give out the homework until
the very last minute and then I ask, "When do I want you to do this?"

I have also found it necessary to make a tape for the first year French
students which covers the alphabet, numbers, and all the vocabulary
lists for the first semester. They are instructed to listen to it as a
bridging activity. After the first semester, they have enough experience
that the tape is no longer necessary.

Hope this helps those of you who are feeling discouraged! We have
teachers that live FAR away but will not look for jobs closer to home
because the closer schools are not on Block. Hmmmm. :)

Pamela Lynch


96/10 From-> "Susan J. Mitchell" <>
Subject: Re: block schedules & lang teaching

>We are on a block schedule with 86 minute class periods four days a week.
>Monday is all 8 classes of 43 minutes each. Tuesday/Thursday is Periods
>1,3,5,7 and Wednesday/Friday is 2,4,6,8. We see our International Studies
>"majors" only 3 days a week in some cases. I must mention we are a public
>high school magnet program, and our IS majors take geography, history,
>literature and political economics classes in addition to their foreign
>language. We dislike intensely the lack of daily continuity, but find that we
>can concentrate more on reinforcing concepts during our blocks.

I agree with you about not having daily continuity, in my school we are
also on a block schedule of 90 minute periods daily. We see our students
on a daily basis and we also finish the course in a semester. The
students take 8 courses per year/ 4 per semester. They seem to like this
schedule and last year when there were rumors that the school board was
going to go back to a regular 8 period day, the students revolted--they
appeared before the school board in favor of the block and when they
felt they were not heard, they organized a sit in until the school board
members did listen to their viewpoint.

As a teacher, I have become very comfortable with this schedule and
would find it difficult to go back to shorter periods. I like having the
time in class to go in more detail with certain concepts. I still have
not solved the problem that some students do not immediately take the
second level right after the first level, but I am amazed at how they do
pick it up again after the time span---my problem is having students who
are basically unmotivated and are hard to motivate them to do

Susan J. Mitchell


96/10 From-> MRS BETH DAMASCUS <>
Subject: Block Scheduling

I am posting this because there have been a number of requests regarding
information on block scheduling. Although it is only our second year on
the full block, I would like to share my (our) experiences. I teach at a
small private school - approximately 500 students. Our day consists of 5
periods - period 3 is not a class period - it is a time for lunch,
meetings, tutoring, etc. The other four periods (of which we teach 3)
meet for 85 minutes, five days a week. We are on the one semester-one
year course system.

Currently I have students in Spanish III - some of whom have not had
Spanish since their Spanish II course ended last year at the end of
January. My observation in terms of retention ( after such a long period
without exposure to the language ) agrees with the "studies" that
everyone keeps referring to - the longer gap in time between courses
doesn't seem to have had any affect on the students. What I'm seeing is
this: the strong and/or motivated students as well as the strugglers and
less motivated students are performing at the same level as last year!
It will be interesting to see what happens when I have Spanish II
students in January who have not had the language for an entire 12
months! In my opinion, the gap between level 1 and level 2 needs to be

By the time the students hit level 3, 4 and up, they have chosen to be
in the course, therefore the motivation to succeed is (supposedly) there
and they will do what they need to do in order to achieve their goals.
Students like the block schedule. They are required to take 7 1/2
credits per year, therefore they only end up with a study hall one
period for one quarter. They like the fact that they only have to study
for 4 classes instead of 6 or 7. They consistently remark that even
though they have as much, or possibly a bit more homework, they are
learning more and they are understanding more because of the
concentrated time in class.

Also, 100% of our students go on to college, therefore they like the
fact that they are in a schedule that more closely mirrors that of the
universities. Essentially, they have realized that it is up to THEM
whether they sink or swim! They KNOW through EXPERIENCE that missing
one day of class means missing ALOT! Of course, they only have three or
four classes instead of 6 or 7 to catch up in, therefore they feel that it is
easier. THEY are telling perspective students (and they ARE honest!)
that most of the time the classes are interesting, the time goes quickly
and they actually ENJOY school more than in the past! Why?

Well, we (the faculty) have learned quite a bit in the last two years,
and we continue to learn from and with our students. There is much more
cooperation and acceptance than in the past. Students realize that the
teachers are not supposed to "pour" information into their heads, only
to have them "spit it out verbatim" on a test or final exam. We are
constantly looking for ways to involve the students in their learning
through a variety of different methods - many of us have tried to use
more cooperative learning techniques and alternative assessment.

Personally, I wouldn't go back to the "assembly line" schedule for
anything! I was opposed to the block schedule - mostly because
sequencing of courses wasn't guaranteed - and it still needs work.
Planning isn't all that difficult - mostly because of our discipline -
our department members have ALWAYS tried to include a variety of
activities during each class period to engage the students in the
language. At first, this whole thing was scary to MOST of us, but now
it's just a matter of refining. I could go on, but it's getting late. If
you have any questions, please ask!



96/10 From-> Ziperman Robin <>
Subject: Re: Research on block scheduling?

I want to say some things in praise of the block. My school is in its
6th year of the 90 minute block. I wouldn't teach any other way. I think
I'm a better teacher because I have to coordinate my activities
carefully every day. Every day my students have the opportunity to learn
something new and to practice it. My activities must build on each
other. To learn, to practice, to add something new, to practice. I
believe that the block allows my students to make French their own. As
far as the failure rate...the same students who failed before, fail now.
They might fail faster. We do take kids out at the quarter who are
failing. And we have 9 week classes like art, business, p.e., and
consumer and family studies that kids can take if they need a change at
the 9 weeks. Students are able to retake foreign language if they fail.
And others are able to take multiple foreign language.

Ziperman Robin


96/10 From-> Mark Schaaf MSD Washington TWP <>
Subject: Re: Research on block scheduling?

My two cents on blocks.

This is my first year teaching two 4x4 blocks and I love it. It appears
that the kids and their parents also approve. I am teaching more and,
more importantly, the kids are really learning more. My best years in
years. I have no failures - really! The kids' main complaint is that
they want to continue on to the next level next semester but cannot. I
hope we can work around that kind of problem in the future.

Block is not for everyone. I think that it really scared me and changed
my mind set. I'm really prepared for class, usually lots of mini-blocks
of time, much more organized with lots of short group activities. There
is also more time for my/our HyperStudio projects.

Mark Schaaf


96/11 From-> "Elizabeth M. Walsh" <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling. Help! -Reply

I teach in a 7-9 Junior High. Full year language courses are available
to 8th and 9th graders. 7th graders may take quarter "exploratory" FL
courses in Spanish, French and German. This year we went to a modified
type of block schedule. I LOVE IT! We have an 8 period day. Teachers
teach 6 classes. On Mondays we meet with all classes for approximately
40 minutes each. There is also a 30 minute homeroom thrown in on
Mondays. I call Monday my POW day. (Plan of the Week) I get to meet with
all my students, lay the groundwork for the week, give long range
assignments, check in with kids who have been absent, etc. Monday is
kind of rushed but it serves a good purpose. On Tuesdays and Thursdays
we meet with periods 1,3,5,7 for double (87 minutes) periods. Wednesday
and Friday we meet with periods 2,4,6,8 for the same 87 minute periods.
So.....basically. I see each child 3 times per week for the entire year.
We are on a quarter grading system. I t is WONDERFUL. That whole chaotic
pace with 12,13 and 14 year olds rushing from class to class, teacher to
teacher, room to room, is gone. The whole pace in the school has slowed
way down. Things are calmer. There is more time for hands on activities.
We have more fun. I have a better relationship with my students. I have
fewer discipline problems. I keep meticulous records and am slightly
ahead of where I was at this time last year. The lesson plan
possibilities are endless. As a matter of fact. 100% of the teachers
in our school love it. Please contact me if you request more info. This
is not a change that is made easily. As a staff, we researched many
instructional delivery systems, attended workshops, visited other
schools, had parent meetings, gathered student input etc. It was a very
time consuming process but well worth it. elise walsh

Elizabeth M. Walsh


97/01 From-> MRS BETH DAMASCUS <>
Subject: Block Scheduling

Our school is on the 4x4 (we meet with the same classes every day for 85
minutes for one semester, then we get new classes the following
semester). This is our second year on the block and we like it VERY MUCH
- feedback from both faculty AND students has been very positive. We
were on a "partial" block for two years, and the biggest complaint was
that we didn't see our students every day! The students are more focused
and are less "stressed out", and I can vouch for myself as well as other
faculty when I say that the same applies to us! The students have either
3 or 4 classes per "quarter" - 1/2 credit classes meet only 1 quarter
instead of 2 since a "quarter" is like the traditional "semester" as far
as time. The plusses that we have seen are: students are beginning to
take on more responsibility for their learning - teachers are using more
cooperative learning and student centered techniques in the classroom,
therefore, the students are more engaged in their learning and don't
have "time" to be bored. Those who complain of boredom tend to be those
who are bored with everything, no matter what! Teachers who insist on
sticking to the teacher centered, lecture style classroom are the ones
who have difficulty with this type of schedule. Personally, the A/B
schedule would put us back in the same situation -  we would still end
up with numerous preps even though we don't meet with the students every
day - we still need to plan! Also, the students would end up with 8 to
10 classes and find themselves in the same situation as before - going
in every direction. SO.... I recommend the 4x4 system that meets with
the same students every day.. .. this is my 2cents!

Beth D.


97/01 From->
Subject: Block Schedules

While my school seems reluctant to consider any change most of the area
schools have moved to the block schedule. My husband teaches at one of
these and they have a combined block of a sort. Officially the school is
on the 4 x4 with 85 minute periods. By the way, he finds that the
periods fly by and his students say the same thing - though there are
some classes where they are passive listeners - for the most part they
like the block.

He also says that he has accomplished more this first term -which would
equal his class last year - than previously. The combination comes from
the desire to accommodate the fine arts and physical education
departments, both felt that their disciplines would be better served if
students met all year long every other day rather than the every day for
a half of the school year. It required some dedication on the part of
those responsible for putting the schedule together and some compromise
here and there (i.e. One senior English class is also taught on the
every other day schedule).

Frankly I envy him this schedule. I get very frustrated with classes
that are supposed to be 50 minutes long but are often shortened for
assemblies and other worthwhile activities that nevertheless take time
from my class. Plus I teach 6 periods a day with a prep period that is
shortened by 15 minutes of hall supervision everyday and I have 4
preparations (French 1,2,4, 5).

My husband teaches three classes (two preparations) yet will actually
teach more students than I do in the year. I teach 115 students all year
- he will reach over 150! Certainly it calls for some adjustments. Jim
(my husband) did some hard thinking about the usual way he taught , the
material he considered essential and what was optional. He admits that a
class that he took about formatting lesson plans to encompass the varied
learning styles of his students has made a real impact on how he teaches
and it is especially conducive to teaching on the block. In talking to
others about the schedule I have discovered an old truth. Those who felt
part of the decision and whose input was valued - like the block; Those
on whom it was imposed, resent it.

Suzette Orr


97/02 From-> Dora Groskopf <groskopf@PANESU.ESU14.K12.NE.US>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling Sites

We use an alternate day block and love it! We are a small school (500
students 10-12) located in the Nebraska panhandle. This is our second
year on the block and it is going well. The keys are good preparation,
teacher ownership, and administrative cooperation. We ran a community
information campaign, did student, parent, and teacher surveys before
adopting this schedule permanently.

As for planning, the only way to learn to do it is to JUST DO IT! It
takes time the first year but is fun after that. It opens up whole new
avenues for teaching, especially in foreign language. Hop you get it!

Dora Olivares Groskopf


97/02 From-> Douglas Myatt <>
Subject: Re: block classes

I'm short of time at the moment, but I wanted to say that my school has
been on a block schedule for three years now and I love it. I taught for
years before on a traditional schedule, so I've had ample time to
experience both. Currently my French 1 classes happen to fall in periods
which meet each day, while my French 2 and 3 classes "rotate", much like
college classes. Frankly, I love the longer periods with my advanced
classes. There's more time for varied activities each time we meet, and
the trade-off for not meeting every day is minimal. I meet every class
at least three times a week.

If you'd like more info, feel free to drop me a note at the following



97/04 From-> Gayle Eikenberry <>

We are in our second year of block schedule. We see our students for 85
minutes every other day. Most of us like it very much. It does seem more
difficult to cover the same amount of material that we covered before we
went to block scheduling. Of course, we do have less contact time during
the semester with them than under the old system. That makes a BIG
difference. The longer periods are great for including several different
types of activities and for working on projects and doing presentations,
but expectations about how much material and even what material is going
to be covered in a semester have to be carefully thought out. We are
still working on it! Retention of material does not seem to be a
problem, and that is something when you consider that the classes you
meet on a Friday you will not see again until the following Tuesday.

G. Allen Eikenberry


97/05 From-> Jane Holmgren[]
Subject: Re: 8 block scheduling

Is there anyone who is satisfied with block scheduling? I am especially
interested in the 8 block. ....

I like the block schedule we are using: 4 blocks, same every day for one
semester, then a new set of classes the second semester. One of the
great advantages of ours is that the blocks rotate on a weekly basis, so
that classes that I would hate if they always occurred in , say, last
block occur then one week out of four. So that both the students and I
have a chance to know each other on reasonable terms. I like the
conversation and activity times provided by the block-- long enough (90
Min) to get things done. We have addressed the problem of coverage (
about half to two-thirds of a year, depending on subject and kids'
needs) by making Novice Spanish, aka Span I, a 45 min period first
semester, and a 90 min block second semester. Intermediate is 90 min for
two semesters. Since most of our students start their langs in gr. 7,
this seems to meet their needs. Span 3, 4 and 5 are one semester each of
90's. AP is two semesters of 90's.

We found that at the very beginning the 90 m. block was too long for
them and for us.

I do find that planning for a block probably takes more than an hour,
including making materials, etc. For classes that I have taught for a
second time in the block, the planning time was a little shorter. It is
still very demanding in terms of planning. Our administrators urge us to
re-use plans and materials, but that never really seems to work out for
me. We also have to do lunch duty when our prep rotates to the lunch
block. That puts a deficit into planning even though we do only one of
the three lunches. (We may not eat while on duty.) Next year I believe
some sort of break will be built into the schedule right after the first
block and those who have the second block free will be selected to
police the break, so that will affect everyone for another week out of
the four.

Somehow, we need to protect our preps contractually a bit better, but
can get no support from any other teachers in the system because they
have somehow decided that h.s. teachers are lazy and don't do enough
work as it is. I personally would not want to return to the 45 min
schedule. Not everyone feels that way. Some of our staff teach six 45's
a day because some courses remained on that schedule: these are
rescheduled every semester and are all, I believe, electives. The lang.
teachers who have had the Novice level 45's in first semester obviously
taught more that three classes a day so their student load was huge in
the first semester (125 or more) and are liking second semester a lot
more than first.

Ruth Cahoon


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

Three years ago we went on an 8-block schedule. If that means 4 - 1 and
1/2 hour classes meeting every other day, we did. It worked for me. I
had time every class to go through the class two or even three times.
Students had to speak, eventually, and I had time to wait. Of course, we
changed activity types every 15 to 20 minutes anyway, so it didn't
appear so long. The greatest problem might have been the review at the
beginning of periods. Then again, it might have been the difficulty in
covering material. Or even third, on losing the entire baseball team in
state finals as they missed four classes (almost 2 weeks) in a row.

We are going to a 7 module schedule arranged by board mandate this year.
We are attempting to block as many classes as students and teachers want
to block. The odd number 7 will probably give us an opportunity to
experience a flexible schedule. Some teachers and students like the 8
period alternating block, some do not. Some will undoubtedly like the 7
modules, some will not. :)

Robbie Marshall


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

As I read your message it seems more like you have adapted to an
inevitable situation the best way that you can, rather than an
enthusiastic endorsement for double class periods, which you indicate
you have tried to change to shorter more frequent classes without
success. Especially, given the fact that you say that you haven't
experienced daily classes, it seems that you feel that there must be a
better way, since you made the request to that effect. It would appear
that you sense that there is something about the arrangement which is
less than ideal.

On Sun, 4 May 1997, Ellen Serfaty wrote:

>I think it gives most teachers a management problem for younger and
>weaker students--

>students tend to work intensively during the first 45 minutes--they get
>tired out; if I don't structure the second half with more varied activities
>in smaller chunks that can be completed in 5-10 minutes each, I waste
>time on management. Obviously, I also have to do more activities that
>allow them to talk instead of concentrate/ play games, etc.

>Our scheduling realities are such that "block" or double lesson scheduling
>is here to stay--when I have requested less blocks and more day coverage,
>I have gotten nowhere--

>So every I can vary our schedule--one week I'll use a
>double material for instruction and the second period for learning center.
>The next week I might schedule learning center for a single period and use
>the longer period for more concentrated teaching. The students seem to
>manage much better when we have one "instructional" hour, and one hour
>that requires them to do lots of different tasks, at their own pace, at their
>own level, based upon their own choices, and on their own.

>Overall, I'd have to say I'm positive because I'm used to it and have learned
>how to use it--but I have never experienced the alternative.


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

I am a second year teacher and we use the block schedule. I have never
taught in any other format. Our blocks are 100 minutes with a 55 min
block the last period. Personally I love the extra time with them but
they do tend to have a hard time retaining things especially during
sporting seasons when they get out of school early. There can be some
weeks that I don't even see them especially in the spring with different
sports going on. It does force a person to be creative and segment the
period to keep things going though.

Steve Quick


97/07 From-> Meredith Sargent <Sargent_Meredith/>
Subject: Re: 4x4 Schedule

I have been on the 4x4 for one year now.  I found that I spent less time
reviewing the previous day's objectives (They retained much more), and I
found that as a result I was able to do more in a semester than I had
previously done in a year. Probably, doing more also had to do with my
own sense of urgency. We (Guidance and fl dept.)make every effort to
schedule the kids in consecutive semesters and that happens for about
50% of them. This fall I will see what happens with the other 50% (who
will be in Spanish II after an eight-month absence from language
learning). I am anticipating a need for more review and recycling, of
course. I am curious as to how much and how that will affect what we can
accomplish in a semester.

Meredith Sargent


97/07 From-> Debby <>
Subject: A/B Schedule

I love teaching in the block. Our school uses the A/B schedule, which
has its pluses and minuses, and I do prefer it over the regular schedule
with classes only 40 to 60 minutes long. However, teachers must be well
prepared for it. For a couple of years prior to changing our schedule,
our teachers were trained almost weekly on how to change teaching
methods. Therefore, I felt that I was well prepared.

In our foreign language classes, we do not get as far. That is probably
due to the fact that our block schedule allows for classes only 82
minutes long and we have not lengthened our school year. However, it is
wonderful to be able to teach a new concept and to actually have time to
practice it fully in class. I use a variety of teaching methods and never
worry about keeping my foreign language students busy for that amount of
time. In fact, I wish I had more time. We do whole class, group, paired,
and individual activities. I love being able to use videos, music, and
other media without having to rush it through or hold something over for
the next day.

Because students are not going to see me for two to four days
(weekends), I have to remember to allow plenty of practice time in class
for difficult concepts. Homework is always what I know that they can do
on their own. Students have to be trained to do their work the same day
that they get it. I'll admit that is difficult, but it can be done with
some measure of success.

I believe that it is important to have some time scheduled into the day
for students to see teachers concerning homework that they don't
understand or make-up work. Last year, we had a 30 minute period every
day in our schedule when I could have students who needed help come to
my room.

I give a thumbs up for the block schedule.

Debby Jourdan


97/08 From->    Cherice Montgomery <>
Subject: Re: Suggestions for Block Scheduling

Our school made the transition to block scheduling two years ago. We are
currently using a rotating A/B/A/B/C schedule in which students attend
four classes per day on M/W, three different classes on T/Thurs. plus a
Seminar (during which they can do homework, work on group projects, get
help, etc.), and all classes except Seminar on Fridays. Perhaps the
following suggestions will help:

To begin with, bear in mind that it is a HUGE change which will require
a great deal of adjustment for both you and your students. Give it time.
Also, if you have any input regarding inservices, ask your
administration to allow you to visit other schools which are on the
block in lieu of the typical meetings. I was able to do so and learned a

PLANNING--At first, overplan. Initially, you will feel as though you
have tons of "extra" time. In our building, almost everyone experienced
the urge to slow down, gave students extra time to work on things during
has been that although allowing extra time on some activities is
beneficial, it is easy to get bogged down in all of the extra time to
the point where a lot of time gets wasted. Most of the teachers in our
FL Dept. recognized this around Christmas time--we had all slowed to an
almost complete stop! (Of course I'm over dramatizing here, but my point
is that one of the tricks of making the block work for FL is to keep
things moving).

Aside from that, I've found that we can still cover a chapter on the
block in about the same number of weeks as we used on the traditional
schedule. However, the focus of my classes has changed. Before, a
typical outline might have been: review warm-up, present new material,
practice new material with activities, assign hwk move on to a new
concept the next class period. Now, things are much less separated.
Review is currently spread throughout the period, and I find that I am
doing a better job of showing students how the new material relates to
what we have already been doing. I'm not sure that this was a conscious
process--it kind of just happened that way. Students tell me that they
feel that they have a much better grasp of how everything fits together
because we no longer study it in such a compartmentalized way. Trying to
locate themes in your text and tying everything together via thematic
teaching also helps maintain continuity from one day to the next.

I am also more careful about the kinds of assessments I use. I
discovered that I had been doing entirely way too much testing on the
old schedule. I have found myself incorporating more performance-based
assessments because I finally have time to complete them during a class
period! I am using more formative assessments as well--again, because
during that extended period I am interacting with students more
frequently. On the other hand, the importance of assessing vocabulary
increased. The block forced my students to do more vocabulary work
outside of class--I don't see them daily = they don't see the words
daily = they have to study more at home. I had to find ways to make them
more accountable in class for the material they were having to study at
home. I also found that presenting a new method for studying vocabulary
each week really helped (flashcards, paperfold technique, tape recorder,
partner)--especially with Intro. and Spanish I students. Along those
same lines, in addition to studying, I highly encourage assigning
homework every night (except for Fridays)--especially at the lower
levels. It is the only contact that they will have with the language on
the days you don't see them. Though once again, students will really
need your help with developing more effective study skills. My homework
assignments became more meaningful instead of lots of rote drill--
students are more likely to do the homework if you assign things which
you will use as part of the activities during the next class session.
For example, writing ten questions which will be used to interview a
partner as the warm-up as soon as they arrive in class. As soon as they
saw that we would be USING the homework, they were much more dedicated
to doing it.

If you have a Seminar, let me know and I will e-mail you with specific
suggestions for that.

MANAGEMENT--Organization is the key here. I plan things in twice as much
detail on the block--it is much harder to 'wing it' effectively for an
hour and a half--and have as much ready in advance as I can. Avoiding
dead time really helps to keep them on task and out of trouble, hence,
transitions have become SUPER important. Get students to help you
collect and distribute things so that you can direct the rest of the
class in the interim. Have lots of "sponge activities" prepared in
advance: While I am distributing these, I want you to write down as many
words which begin with the letter P in Spanish as you can. Obviously, it
is even better if the sponge leads in to whatever you are going to do
next, but the point is, I seldom give them a chance to disengage--they
always have something that they are supposed to be doing.

Along those same lines, I noticed that they are more likely to stray
when they have been sitting for an extended period of time. As a result,
I find that I tend to need to refocus students' attention more
frequently. Although I've always been a proponent of activities, we do a
much wider variety of them on the block and switch activities about
every ten minutes at a minimum--although some activities take more or
less time. I also consciously plan activities that will get students out
of their seats and which will give them structured opportunities to
converse. Be especially careful to alternate seat time with movement. If
you have too many activities in a row, they also tend to lose control.
We do lots of paired activities, cooperative learning, and group
projects. Learning centers are also very effective, as are Kagan's
inside/outside circles. {You will need to teach students HOW to
participate in these kinds of activities from the start, or they can
turn into total chaos). In addition, I have incorporated multiple
intelligence theory more extensively--we use whiteboards or magic slates
frequently, flyswatters, songs, children's lit., paper plate clocks
(actually, observe in an elementary school--most of their methods work
fabulously well with high schoolers). For hyper, lower levels, coloring
worksheets have a very calming effect--the reproducible worksheets in
Juegos de Colores (also available in French) from Gessler Publishing are
great for teaching a lot of first year vocabulary & some grammar
(comparatives, for example), and the students enjoy them. I usually use
them in conjunction with centers--1/4 of the class plays a game or does
an oral activity, 1/4 of the class colors, 1/4 of the class does a
worksheet, and 1/4 of the class does magic slates or some other activity
with me (including pronunciation & oral assessments). We rotate centers
every 15-20 min. They love to be in charge of themselves and normally
stay on task much better than when I lead them through the same series
of activities as a whole class. I try to show a video at least once a
month. However, I have had students who don't respond well to them
because they have another teacher who uses the T.V. as a babysitting
service. The block is also a wonderful opportunity incorporate more
technology and interdisciplinary work into your lessons.

On the whole, I find that I use my time much more efficiently and
effectively on the block, but it is a challenge which does take some
practice! If you can reserve passing judgement on it until after the
first semester, I think you'll find (depending on which block you are
using) that the quality of your instruction and your students' work will
improve--especially if your classes are student-centered. Many students
look forward to coming to the foreign language classes because some of
their other teachers are still trying to lecture for the whole ninety

Now that I have experienced the block, I will never teach in a school
with a traditional schedule again if I can help it. I LOVE IT (as do
most of my students). Good luck!

Cherice Montgomery


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

80 minutes is great! You can do about 3 activities in a class, or you
can go more in depth with simple ones....I suggest interactive group
activities....Some the students can make themselves....

My favorite is for each group of 4 to make a set of 'cards' for the card
game, "Memory".. Each person in the group makes 4 pairs of cards.. For
level I, I ask them to write a question on one card, and the answer on
another card.. If each person in the group does this, there is a set of
32 'cards'...Then they can play the game....



97/09 From-> "Serafa-Manschot, Emily" <>
Subject: Re: block schedule/planning

With the new school year, we have started an A/B block schedule. It
really isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Students take 7 classes
and one hour is devoted to homeroom/seminar. Students get help, do
enrichment activities, hear speakers, go to college visitations, take
standardized tests, assemblies etc.--everything that used to interrupt
our classes before--during the seminar hour. We teach 3 hours on A days
and 2 classes on B days, plus the seminar period. We get a full 86
minute planning period each day, which is wonderful!

The secret to your sanity? Plan, plan, plan! Overplan--you can always
eliminate or use the activities at a later date. Try to have a variety
of activities each day that include all four skills-- listening,
speaking, reading and writing. Also, include some kind of movement
activities, pair or group work, or find your partner activities to get
them up and moving. I still have some reservations about how much the
students will learn by the end of the year, but so far the results are
generally positive. The school day is more calm because kids are not
changing classes as frequently. You are dealing with a maximum of 90
students per day instead of 150. I get more work done in school because
of the long planning period (if your school is going to this kind of
schedule, INSIST on a planning period each day.)

Some negatives: it took me FOREVER to learn the student's names, since
you see them every other day. You need to review even more than ever to
make up for the days that you don't see the students. We're still
finding our way, but language teachers are a flexible group and we will

Emily Serafa Manschot


97/10 From-> Oliver Dunn <>
Subject: Re: block schedule/planning

This is our first year on 4 block. Just this afternoon at lunch one of
the teachers ask how we felt about this school year on a scale of 1 to
10. Everyone present felt pretty satisfied and gave ratings of 7 - 9.

Under our system, students take 4 85 minute classes and teacher teach 3
with an 85 min. prep period every day. There is a 10 min. passing period
between 1st and 2nd hour, a half our lunch, one have of us have lunch
after 2nd hour, the rest about half way through 3rd hour. At 2:55 the
bell rings for the passing period to activity period which we use for
meetings, make up testing, watching Channel One, etc. Most students stay
in their 4th period class. Others like Key Club, Scholar Bowl team, etc.
sign out and go to their activities.

I have thoroughly enjoy 4 block with my Spanish 4s first period and my
Spanish 2s third period. Fourth period I have a Spanish 1 class with a
lot of freshmen who came to the high school with a reputation and they
have lived up to their bad name. The lesson I have planned for tomorrow,
Oct. 2 is what we did last year on November 7th.

Just as any other year I have students who are making solid A grades and
others who are making F. My impression now is that for the most part my
students would be making about the same grades on a traditional
schedule. Right now I and most of our staff feel very optimistic. I
think that the in services that we had and having been included in all
the planning and all the decisions have helped.

After just 5 weeks, well, it is rather early to proclaim success, but we
are optimistic, we are aware of problems, we will have to make
adjustments, I'll let you know how we all feel by the end of the year.


97/10 From-> Dee Dee and Tom Hamilton <>
Subject: Re: block schedule/planning

Blocks are great. BE prepared! When you have so much time. A long term
objectives list is useful, break it down, work backwards and plan
according to weeks. Get a lot of activities, set you time limit too. A
good thing I have tried is to set objectives in activity form on the
board in list form so kids will see what they will be doing that day. I
go with eyes-ears-hands as a guide with "voice" as an integral part of
the eyes-ears-hands scheme. Make sense?



97/10 From-> Ken & Carole Baker <>
Subject: Re: Best of the block

In our school the block schedule allows students to take two more
classes per semester. (We were on a six period day before.) Since
Indiana colleges have instigated Core 40 (the number of required classes
to get into universities in Indiana), many elective classes suffered
with lower enrollment because students didn't have time in their
schedules to take the class. This was especially a problem with foreign
language because our students are college bound. Many of my students
couldn't go on to advanced level because they didn't have room in their
schedules. We know that block "works" for us in the sense that we have
many more students taking foreign language now than in the six period
day. So perhaps the success of block depends in part on
philosophy--should high schools specialize (teach fewer subjects but in
more depth) or try different things (take more subjects but not "get as
far"? I believe the discussion is not just "we can't get as far on
block." For us it includes, "how many subjects can we take." So I
believe block scheduling has been successful in our school for this
reason. BTW, we have added a fifth and sixth year in foreign language to
help students who want study FL in more depth.

Carole Baker

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