Block Scheduling / D. Thoughts, Opinions, Concerns

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

D. Thoughts, Opinions, Concerns About Block Scheduling

94/07 From->

There is indeed a little data on the block schedule...and it is not
good. The studies compared the standard hour and a half MWF college
schedule with an hour daily drill schedule. Daily drill was shown to be
much superior in teaching oral proficiency. (See the Dartmouth Method
etc. info from the late 70's and early 80's. The Prof's name begins with
an "R" and sounds like Rah-see-us. I apologize for not knowing how to
spell his name.) The block schedule is basically the standard college
schedule only worse because as it is every other day, not MWF, and some
weeks you will see the kids only TWO times!! I have resigned myself to
the fact that for foreign language acquisition, this is a backwards step
but I will try valiantly to maintain my students' level. In order to do
this I am attempting to leave no stone unturned!



94/12 From-> Clifford Kent <>
Subject: 80 minute classes

Next year our high school will begin a system of 80-minute classes which
will meet every other day, an idea being pushed by math and science
teachers. We are to offer more hands-on activities and spend more time
with material so that students can master it. We are definitely not to
cover two periods of work a day.

I have examined lesson plans of language teachers at other schools
running extended periods and all I really see is more time being given
to homework and personal help, something we now do after school and what
students do at home.

If we are to operate this way, I expect to cover the material in a
regular two-year course in four years. Not exactly good preparation for
achievement tests and the like.

Are there any high school language teachers in this group who are
already involved in such a system? Are my concerns real?

Clifford Kent


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

>Are my concerns real?

I'll say your concerns are real!!!

All educators are supposed to know that the average attention span of an
ADULT is ABOUT 25 minutes. If this statement is true, it is likely that
the attention of HS students is even less. We are lucky when we can get
students to focus for 45 or 50 minutes. Eighty minutes will be a real

Another thing we know about learning and memory is that both are
enhanced by Frequent Retrieval, that is, Frequent Contact with the

In my 30 years of experience in teaching foreign languages (10 of which
also include experience in teaching University 101, an extended freshman
orientation seminar which entails some academic advising), I have found
that my university students, as a rule, do not do at all well in block
classes, especially in FLs and Math (algebra) classes which meet for
"2.5 hours" (ha!!) twice a week.

They seem to be lulled into complacency and persuade themselves that
this is "only a 2-day-a-week" class and that they have to study for it
only twice a week. Besides, there is so much material "covered" in such
a long class period that they can't focus on it, especially studying
only twice a week. Of course, this incredible block is a far cry from
your 80-minute classes, but I don't predict much better results for you.
Students need "absorption time" between class presentations, and they
need their information in little "chunks." Not BIG chunks.

Lee Bradley


94/12 From-> Clifford Kent <>
Subject: Block Scheduling

I have had the opportunity to view lesson plans of FL teachers in
neighboring communities who work within Block period configurations and
cannot be convinced that a good part of the lengthy period is devoted to
work that my students are currently *supposed* to be doing at home, call
it what you may. Is this the tactic to which we must capitulate because
American HS students simply will not study?

Cliff Kent


95/01 From-> MICHELE J WHALEY <>
Subject: Semester Block Scheduling

I have been reading the comments about block schedules with great
interest because our school is undergoing restructuring, and block
scheduling is on the list of strong recommendations from the main
committee. As I understood it, block scheduling meant that classes met
less frequently, for longer periods, and that there were several
variations possible in the scheduling.

Yesterday I learned, to my dismay, that block scheduling has a
completely different meaning as it would apply in our school (or maybe I
just didn't understand the discussion). Currently, students sign up for
six fifty-minute classes which meet five times a week. The schedule
under consideration would make the classes 100 or 110 minutes long, and
students would complete a year's worth of study in one semester. Thus,
if their schedule included, in ninth grade,
English 9, world history, biology, pre-algebra , the schedule would now

first semester: English 9, world history and biology second semester:
pre-algebra, p.e. and Russian I

Kids in arts programs are already complaining to me, saying this
schedule would essentially force them to focus on one specialty, which
they would have to decide early, especially if the class were
performance-based. They would not be able to take more than one
elective. My heart chilled at this idea, because many of my best
students are also talented music students. One committee member said
that there would be a first hour class each day for such
performance-based classes. I cannot imagine how that would help, because
we have several levels of Russian, several levels of music, and so on.
The students also commented that they felt very rusty after just a
summer off in Russian. Under the new plan, they would have as much as
seven and a half, instead of three, months away from Russian.

Michele Whaley


95/02 From-> Angela Ellis <ELLISA@TEN-NASH.TEN.K12.TN.US>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

I have been following this thread with interest. No mention has yet been
made of block scheduling in our system (thank God) but at ACTFL it was a
hot-button topic and I was amazed how many systems are looking at it.
Our school does "double periods" on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the FL
department hates it - there is considerable loss of continuity and I
find that I don't get as much done as I did with the usual daily
schedule. The idea was to benefit the science department and the English
department and give them a longer block of time. Now it's entrenched and
there seems little possibility of negotiating any change. My question
for those people on a block schedule is how has it affected the national
FL exams given in the spring if the kids did FL 2 or 3 first semester?

And what has been the effect on AP if the course was given first
semester? We offer 22 AP courses in a school of 650 students and there
is no way that all of them could be put in the second semester. In
talking to former students who have gone on to college and done
"intensive" language courses, I find that if I ask them how much they
retained the answer is nearly always "not much." It seems to me that
block scheduling can only mean sacrificing absorption time which is
vital in FL instruction. I'd be interested to hear from people who are
dealing firsthand with block scheduling at the pre-collegiate level. Even
with level 3 and 4 courses, there has to be plenty of time for
repetition, drill and practice of topics and structures. Just for fun, I
asked my AP class this morning how they would like a one-semester
course. They looked at me in absolute horror. One kid asked (in German)
who dreams these things up. I know that kids (and teachers) hate change,
but far too many things at the pre-collegiate level are done for
administrative convenience and not for the kids. Who did dream up block
scheduling, anyway?

Angela Ellis


95/02 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Block scheduling

I've been following the questions and comments on various types of block
scheduling, and have noted the various people requesting research.
Perhaps the following will be of interest. It is quoted from _Use Both
Sides of Your Brain_, by Tony Buzan (pp. 59-66):

"This...shows very dramatically that MEMORY and UNDERSTANDING do not
work exactly the same way as time progresses--all the words were
understood, but only some were recalled. The differences between the way
in which memory and understanding function help explain why so many
people find they can't recall very much after hours of learning and
understanding. The reason is that recall tends to get progressively
worse as time goes on unless the mind is given brief rests.:

" is clear that under normal circumstances and with understanding
fairly constant, we tend to recall: more at the beginning and ends of
learning periods; more of items which are associated by repetition,
sense, rhyming, etc.; more of things which are outstanding or
unique...and considerably less of things from the middle of learning
periods. If recall is going to be kept at a reasonable level, it is
necessary to find the point at which recall and understanding work in
greatest harmony. For normal purposes this point occurs in a time period
of between 20 to 50minutes. A shorter period does not give the mind
enough time to appreciate the rhythm and organization of the material,
and a _longer period results in the continuing decline of the amount

The above helps explain a major difference between the study of any
skill or detail subject; we are primarily concerned, at least at
beginning levels, with MEMORY skills, the ability not only to
_understand_ how to manipulate the linguistic forms and structures, but
to _recall_ them in sufficient detail, and with sufficient rapidity and
accuracy to convey the meaning we wish to express.

Marilyn Barrueta


95/02 From-> HCLSA <HCLSA@Jetson.UH.EDU>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

As a parent, I think block scheduling is the best thing that ever
happened to the American education system. As a former High school
teacher, I also think it is a positive move. When class meets on a daily
basis you don't have time to pursue anything in depth. You spend your
time running a race. As a language specialist, I have second thoughts
because of the interrupted time. However, with new technologies and
different approach to curriculum, valuable assignments could be given to
students to bridge the gap .

Claire Bartlett


95/02 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

As long ago as 20-25 years ago, some schools were doing modular
scheduling (by hand, no less!), in which not all classes met for the
same length of time. It's a constant amazement to me that, given the
computer capabilities that we have today that didn't exist then, that
somehow we can not seem to even get a reaction to that possibility now.
The reaction last year in my school from some teachers who wanted longer
periods (art, English, etc.) was "you all have had it your way; now it's
our turn."

Why it has to turn into a tug of war as to whose "way" it is going to be
is beyond me. Why can we all not work out a schedule that gives the
maximum number of disciplines something at least close to what is best
for each? 5 or 6 years ago we went from a 6 period day to a 7 period
day; the rationale at that time (and everyone, at least around this
area, was doing it) was that this would allow students to take more
electives and "save jobs" as well as giving them some "non-homework" type
classes to "reduce stress".

The fact that we didn't have very many of those classes, and haven't
really developed many, didn't seem to matter. Now the block has come
along, and we're probably going to jump on that one, too. If you read my
posting on the research on memory-based subjects, it's clear why
languages, at least, are such a sore-thumb in this whole picture.
Actually, in our school, our vocal music teacher is finding that a
90-minute period doesn't give close to 90 minutes of singing the way 2
46-minute periods do -- the kids just can't keep singing that long.

At least here, there are 2 different types of block schedules -- at
least two, actually more. The most prevalent that I've seen are the same
number of courses, but each class meets every other day for 90 minutes.
The time lost there, of course, is 1) you don't actually accomplish in
90 minutes twice what you would in 45, partly because 2) you are losing
homework time half of the nights of the school year. In the other, which
goes by various names, the students take 4 subjects per semester, each
class meets every day for 90 minutes, "completing the year" in one
semester; 4 other subjects the 2nd semester, 8 credits per year. Among
the problems for FL are again, 1/2 cut of homework time for
reinforcement (and teachers tend to now give some of that time during
class, further reducing class practice); possible non-continuity, in
that some students may have FL 1 in the fall semester and not continue
to FL 2 until the next fall, or in extreme cases, the next year's
spring; problems with AP courses, etc. Both of these plans tout "reduced
stress" for the student, in that they only have to concentrate on 4
subjects daily. If you all are looking at a way to increase above 6
courses per *semester*, would seem that you're going in the opposite

 Marilyn Barrueta


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

We solved the AP in 4X4 Blocks by making all AP courses 1 1/2 credits.
Students meet for an entire block first semester, then half a block the
second (during time AP exams are usually administered) The other 1/2
block time is usually spent in an elective.

Clifford Kent


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

I'm on a committee to investigate Block Scheduling. I'm VERY smacks of a contract breaking gimmick to me - a way to
get around class size contractual obligations. I haven't seen any solid
research that it improves student achievement in a long term and
significant way.

One of my problems comes from being unable to visualize the big picture
over the course of say four years of a student's program. (I'm one of
those global thinkers/learners) No one seems to be able to explain it to
me well. (I'm also very visual)

So....I would sincerely appreciate if anyone could send me master
schedules using block scheduling either by the every other day or the
semester plan, I'd truly be grateful. I need to see how the whole fits the they handle phys ed? science labs? All that mundane
stuff that the literature doesn't explain.

Sincere thanks, de antemano!
Bill Heller


96/03 From-> Stan Oberg <>
Subject: 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?
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.
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.
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?
5. Any thing else you might have re: block?

I am somewhat familiar with Wasson HS's block and have visited their web
site, but we're looking for as many kinds of input as we can find.
Besides, I suspect that Wasson's 4x4 plan is too radical a departure for
our fairly traditional faculty. But hey, convince me!

Stan Oberg (


96/04 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Block scheduling

Without getting into the pros and cons of a block schedule per se, I
would like to make the following points. First, that IMHO changing the
time frame is not the logical beginning place for educational change --
and in many cases, that is what I see happening, including in our case.

It seems to me that as educators we should first begin by defining what
it is we want our students to learn or accomplish within a given time
frame of a quarter, semester, year, whatever. The next step is to
determine the methods or activities as to how this will be accomplished.
Only then, I believe, should we address what is the best time frame in
which all of this can work.

To leave the curriculum and pedagogy as they have been, and simply
change the time frame, is window-dressing, not real change.

To believe that by simply changing the time frame, pedagogy will adjust
itself, is wishful thinking. Many have discovered that expecting
students to accept a little more homework per class, even with less
classes daily, to make up for the lost homework time of any every day
schedule, is a pipe dream. Those who have expected the time frame to
modify teaching techniques have also found it to more often that not be
a lost cause.

Many people have noted that material "covered" (don't we hate that
word!) tends to be less -- so to a certain extent the curriculum is
"being adjusted" -- but are we controlling it, or is it controlling us?

I will conclude with a personal note (you knew that was coming, didn't
you?). Our school went through a very painful process / debate over the
4x4, 90-90 system (4 subjects per semester, 4classes of 90 minutes
daily, a year's work in one semester). It was defeated, particularly by
the community. Since that time, several years ago, we have been on a
"modified block", defined: 3 days "normal 7-period schedule", 2 days
alternate blocks of 90-minutes each, with our 3rd period unblocked,
meeting daily for the regular period (this is due to bus problems, our
Career Center, etc., etc.). The person in our department perhaps most
positive toward the block at that time now strongly wishes to return to
regular, and even a 6-period day. Several of us in these years have had
"control classes" -- that is, a 3rd-period meets-every-day class of the
same level as (an)other class(es) we have. In each case, all of us have
found that -- even where the 3rd period was not as strong a group as
others -- the every day class pulls ahead of the blocked classes.



96/09 From-> Steve Rosenzweig <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling activity

Why is it that the stuff that was labeled "inappropriate" when I began
teaching Spanish 27 years ago is now something wonderful.

I chose to have a similar set of activities for my students (5 "stations"
with varying activities for each rotating group) at my first teaching
assignment... a very progressive middle school in suburban Chicago.

I was severely criticized for what I thought was wonderful (and so did
many teachers!).... now look...

What goes around comes around.

Steve Rosenzweig


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

I feel I must finally ask a question that has been bothering me for a
long time. In a posting recently that gave a nice listing of advantages
and disadvantages of block scheduling, I saw among the advantages that
there was "time to get to know the students personally". Yet under the
disadvantages I believe the first thing mentioned was "less contact

I submit that, if it is indeed true that teachers get to know the
students personally in less contact time, then the crucial factor here
is not block scheduling, but a change in teaching techniques and
activities. I very much doubt that the teachers mentioned who still
lecture for the block are getting to know the students better.

I keep seeing this mentioned, and I would like to know how the change to
block is considered the factor that causes this, strictly because of the
change of time distribution?



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

Marilyn Barrueta wrote:

>I feel I must finally ask a question that has been bothering me for a
>long time. In a posting recently that gave a nice listing of advantages
>and disadvantages of block scheduling, I saw among the advantages that
>there was "time to get to know the students personally". Yet under the
>disadvantages I believe the first thing mentioned was "less contact

In response to this question, I think the interpretation of "less
contact time" needs to be clarified. In this case it refers to the fact
that the classes meet every other day, and therefore the FREQUENCY of
contact is less. The students may be exposed to language as many hours
as before block scheduling, but not on a daily basis all year. This is a

However... I still believe that the advantages far outweigh the

Marilyn- You are absolutely right. The quality of the teacher-student
interaction depends on techniques, personalities, etc. A teacher can
have all the time in the world with the students and still not get to
know them.

Meryl Jacobson


96/09 From-> Mark Schaaf MSD Washington TWP <>
Subject: Re: Reply: Block Scheduling

At our high school we are doing a block-4 schedule. In fact we do have
more contact time with our classes because we group 2 class periods
together and do not go every other day. The time advantages are that 1)
there is no need for a second startup, taking attendance, getting the
kids to settle down, etc. and 2) we work right through the 7 minute
passing period. The result is that we have a minimum of 630 more minutes
in a 90 day semester (which really is the entire year because we finish
the course in a traditional semester). During one of my classes which
runs through our 5 lunch periods, we actually have 1260 extra minutes.
This adds up to an extra 21 days of class per semester! And that's

Not only do we have time to get to know the kids better but there is a
lot of extra instructional time as well. So far I really like what's
happening. Obviously all of the other comments about teacher
personality, etc. are so true. I'm not discounting that.

Mark Schaaf


96/09 From-> Cathy <mcnlj@MAIL.TELIS.ORG>
Subject: Re: ques.about block schedules & lang teaching

The data shows grade points are up. (grade inflation? or better
students?) Ds and Fs have remained the same. Students say they like the
system and do not want to change. Teachers have changed their method of
delivery to accommodate the longer periods.

We have four departments at our school that have reservations about the
trimester: Spanish, English, Math and Counseling.

Hope this gives you some ideas.



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

Your "research" coincides with ours, and we only have block 2 days a
week, with regular 7-period days the other 3. Period 3 is always an
everyday class, due to our Career Center class schedule. In the three
years that we have done this, nearly all of us in the department have
had a "control" class of the same level in period 3 and one in a blocked
period. All of us have found that the everyday class moves ahead of the
blocked ones.



96/09 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: block schedules

When I was in graduate school, teaching undergraduate classes, the
supervising professor had a sign on the wall of his office which said,
"Dribble is Better than Plop". (Ray, if you subscribe to the list and
read this, I would really love to hear your opinion on the subject.) The
idea was that frequent practice sessions enhanced performance more
efficiently than longer periods which were less frequent.

I recall my dad saying something similar (he taught typing) when I was
living at home. After I would type for 30 minutes, he would tell me to
quit for a while and come back to it later, the number of exposures to
the material being more important than the length of time of the
practice session by virtue of his belief that attention span, etc. would
limit the amount of progress that could be expected during each lesson.

The block concept seems to turn this upside down. Contacts with the
classes are longer, but less frequent. I have heard a ton of rhetoric
about alternative learning styles, varied activities, lower teacher
stress, etc. but I am interested in hearing more from colleagues who are
actually engaged in this kind of program with regard to pedagogical
results. My interest is further sparked by the post in which Jeff
Lindsay's article is mentioned (I checked it out on the WEB), as well as
a bit tonight on 60 Minutes (CBS) in which Dr. Lorraine Monroe, the
administrator of the Frederick Douglas Academy in New York presented a
rather compelling view of the problems which education faces today with
solutions that look back to tried and true methods of the past. She
said, as nearly as I can remember the words she used, (...we keep trying
to find a new way to do things that we already know how to do...).

How does everybody out there perceive the situation. Are we just
rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or have we found a real
lifeboat? Is it your experience that the increased time length in the
class is more important than the frequency of reinforcement? Are the
kids learning as much? (This is a difficult question because it appears
that we are not all really working toward the same goal, but that brings
up the grammar vs. culture argument again, because I'm not really sure
that we all are in agreement about what "speaking" a language really
means.) Do the students stay "on task" during the entire length of the
period or is it necessary to fill in the time with "activities"? Does
the hiatus disrupt the educational process, or impede it in any way (in
block 8 classes meet every other day during the full year, but I am
aware that in some schools there is a semester or more break in
continuity from one class to the next). Do students at the high school
level seem to possess the self-discipline and study skills to bridge the
time gap between classes and keep current, particularly in subjects in
which skill development is the focus of the activity?

I can see the benefits for classes like science where they appreciate
the longer time for setting up equipment for labs, etc. but what is this
arrangement doing to other classes? Is there any good research to show
that the old concepts of learning psychology are no longer valid or is
this something that has been promoted, perhaps prematurely without
adequate studies to show how this schedule is going to affect academic
performance? Who is the driving force behind the movement and what are
their motives? Are there some unhappy campers out there among those
with experience with the program, or is the consensus that this is the
best idea since sliced bread?

We are in our first year of this arrangement and I would sure like to
hear some discussion and shared ideas from those who have experienced it
first hand.



96/09 From-> Stephanie Powell <>
Subject: Re: ques.about block schedules & lang teaching

I too had several concerns about the block or 4X4 schedule, which my
school is on. My main fear was that students who had a semester and
summer break (or worse yet, those with a semester summer semester break)
would not remember as much as those who had a summer only break. For grad
school at the Monterey Ca, I had to complete a research project and
chose to look at" The consequences of language attrition on a high school
four-period day". I will only give you the "nutshell" version here. If
anyone is interested in the details, you can e-mail me and I will send
them to you via e-mail or snail mail. The study (empirical based) was
set up so that the data could be analyzed via an ANOVA (Analysis of
Variance). There was a glitch (ANVOA not carried out), which means I am
using the first study as a pilot study and replicating it this year.
However, what I was able to discover was the following: Those students
who had a "summer only break" scored much better on an exam given the
first day back to French 2 than did those students who had a "semester
summer break" or those who had a "semester summer semester break".
However, at the end of French 2, when final grades were averaged for
each the three groups, it was discovered that all groups were at the
same place. There was a range of .47% - less than 1% in their scores.
Like I said this is extremely sketchy. I still have several concerns
about the 4X4 schedule, as well as many things that I like about it.
Hope this helps a little.



96/09 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: block schedules

A friend of mine has a daughter who is in a school in Kentucky which
uses this kind of schedule. Both he and his daughter feel that the
"semester on, semester off" approach makes very little sense, and the
girl has lost all interest in studying Spanish because she feels that
she isn't making any progress toward acquiring a functional skill. She
plans to drop language study for the coming year.

Richard Lee

>My question--maybe I've missed the postings--is about non-alternating blocks.
>My school is investigating a block schedule that covers a year's work in a
>semester by having 4 90-minute sections every day. So, my French I kids would
>complete their study in Jan. or Dec., take another 4 classes Jan. - June, and not
>pick up French II til September, maybe? Is anybody dealing with this kind of
>schedule? How does it work? Are kids OK with level II after 9 months off?
> Mary Young


96/09 From-> Ken Reed <>
Subject: Re: BLOCK OUT

I don't know why, but in our system block scheduling has been promoted
as the answer to the "education gap" between the U.S. and Germany/Japan.
I have no firsthand knowledge of the Japanese education system, but the
public education system in Germany does not in any way, shape, manner or
form incorporate what we term "block scheduling."

The daily schedule in German schools is dictated by the number of
courses that students are required to take (14 or so by the 10th grade).
Some courses, for instance German and math, are scheduled more often
than others. For example, music, art and religion may meet for only one
or two periods a week. The schedule is complicated by American
standards, but students and teachers rarely forget where they should be
when. A student may have German, French, biology, religion and physical
education on Monday; then on Tuesday the schedule may consist of a
double period of math, and one period each of English, art and
chemistry. In fact, the approach in Germany is one of "content area

Ken Reed


96/09 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: 4x4 block = 3+2 or 3+3??

You can't really count the number of classes and make sense of it
because of the difference in class time, etc. I would guess that if you
figure the number of minutes per week that you teach with 3 out of 4
block sections, you are teaching less time that you were with 5 regular
classes of 50 or 55 minutes. With 85 minute blocks I teach 20 minutes
less time per day than I did when we had 5 blocks of 55 minutes. The 5
class limit doesn't seem to apply to the block schedule, or IMHO to be
reasonable to ask for (I'm not an administrator).

Richard Lee


96/09 From-> Ines Lormand/HHP/International Thomson Publishing <>
Subject: Re: BLOCK OUT

In addition to Ken Reed's words about block scheduling and German
education this from a German. As he pointed out, there is no similarity
between the German system and block scheduling. There are core subjects
everybody has to take on a daily basis, one foreign language, German,
Math, and a Science. Biology, Physics, and Chemistry are taught all at
the same level starting normally in 9th grade. In the last three years of
school the students can make a choice of 1 or 2 sciences or 1 or 2
foreign languages, depending on the track. Math, 1 foreign language, and
German remain core.

Twice a week there are Geography, History and Music as well as Art. Gym
is regarded as an extra, which is only twice a week. Organized sports
like in American schools only exist outside of school in clubs. School
is first of all academic!! The history cycle is completed twice, moving
from local to world history with the emphasis on Europe. Computer
science and philosophy are optional. Foreign languages are regarded as
essential not as an elective. And, last but not least, there are 3
different tracks, 2 leading into the workplace and apprentice ships and
one leading into colleges and universities. Homework is a must, not
optional and the parental support for students is never in question!!!

Ines Lormand


96/09 From-> "JOANNE T. GOLDSTEIN" <>
Subject: Block Scheduling

I teach in two different middle schools. Both are considering block
scheduling for next year. The main reason for the change is because the
superintendent wants the middle schools to offer students the
opportunity to take both year-long courses in foreign language and
music. Right now we offer 7 classes a day but students may only take one
year long elective thus foreign language and music compete for

This fall one of our high schools went to Block 8 and the other high
school is considering some kind of block scheduling for next year. Many
of middle school teachers think classes longer than 45 minutes for
middle school students would be a disaster. However, there are a number
of science, social studies, art and home economics teachers that like
the idea. Also many see block scheduling as a means for doing more
interdisciplinary classes or thematic units.

Are there any middle school who use block scheduling? How has it
effected your foreign language programs? Can you cover as much material?
Are the students as proficient? What about your enrollment rates?
I teach a typical 2-year sequence that is equal to the 1st year at the
high school level but I also teach an accelerated class which most cover
all of the 1st year high school curriculum in one middle school year. I
have 25 percent less seat time than a standard high school schedule. I'm
concerned that having even less seat time will be a detriment to these



96/10 From->
Subject: Block Sched. Question

For those of you who have experience (say more than 2 yrs.) using the
4x4 in FL classes, could you help my department with this question,

Because of the unique nature of learning/teaching a second language, we
understand that we can't expect to (for want of a better word) "cover"
as much material as before. But we need some experienced input as to how
much we should at least plan to cover.

Our need is rather urgent because we learned yesterday that we will
definitely switch to 4x4 (90 min. l sem. plan) for NEXT school year and
our new courses of study reflecting that change are DUE on Friday,
Nov.1!! We struggled all yesterday PM trying to figure out how to plan,
but it is rather overwhelming which is why we need your advice.

I have the NC report and much other material from FLT all of which
states that we should plan to cover less, but there's not much in the
way of how much less.  I seem to recall from somewhere (but I can't that
info now) the suggestion to plan for the first year on covering 75% of
what would be covered in the traditional program, but more thereafter.
So should we plan on an average of 80% of a traditional plan? WHAT IS

We also understand that we will need to plan/visualize/design programs
differently under 4x4 but we simply don't have the time to devote to
that considering the deadline we're under. We would GREATLY appreciate
any input you can give us.

One other question. I've read on FLT that some schools have been able to
extend the traditional 2 year program into 3 semesters. How were you
able to convince your administration that this is a good idea? (We think
it makes a lot of sense but we're not sure how to present it.) Any ideas
you can give us on this will also be greatly appreciated.

Terri Marlow


96/11 From-> odunn <>
Subject: preparing for the block

For about 2 years we have been informally discussing Block Scheduling.
This fall a number of faculty, administrators, parents, and students
made visitations to some nearby schools to get first-hand data. As of
today we as a faculty have made the decision to make a change although
we are still undecided about which kind of block. As time goes on we are
leaning more and more to a four block.

Some of us would like to see this implemented next school year. Others
say that we should move more slowly, and that there is not enough time
left this year to make all the decisions and preparations to get off to
a good start. My question is this. How long did it take for those of you
who are now on the block to make the switch once the decision was made?
We want to be realistic. We don't want to do this too hurriedly but I
and others are also afraid that by delaying longer than necessary we
might lose the momentum and not really gain anything. Any suggestions
would be appreciated.

Teachers here have asked me to ask if those of you who went on the block
followed a definite plan. Our project here is not being pushed on us by
administrators. It is all in our hands to plan and work out. We would
like to know if any of you could give us some tips on setting up a plan
and time table of events. Did you require a lot of after school
planning, departmental planning, summer planning and workshop sessions,
etc.? Any advice at all would be deeply appreciated.

Oliver Dunn


96/11 From-> Margretta Josephson <jamjo@OLY.SILVERLINK.NET>
Subject: preparing for the block

Our high school has been on the block schedule for the third year now.
For the entire year before the switch to the block schedule was made,
our administration made add kinds of inservice classes available to the
staff: cooperative learning, Glasser's discipline model for example.
Before we made such a major move, they wanted us to be as prepared as we
could for teaching 100 minutes. Most of the teachers who wanted to  were
also able to visit other high schools which were using block scheduling.
After a full year of visitations, inservice, and much discussion, we
(the teachers) voted to move to a block schedule. I felt the year we
spent investigating the pros and cons of teaching in a block schedule
was time very well spent. About 2/3's of the teachers voted for the
change and I do not believe that many of them want to go back to the 50
minute periods.

We chose the alternating block schedule: three classes one day and the
other three the next day. Most of the foreign language, music, and math
teachers wanted nothing to do with the 4 block schedule because students
must wait an entire semester before they continue on to the next level.
One of my former students is now attending school with a 4 block
schedule and she feels that her French has suffered because of the
semester she is without the language instruction.

If you would like more info on how we handled the transition, please
feel free to contact me privately.



97/01 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling

Since the topic of block scheduling is back with us, I thought I'd throw
out a few comments about details that my school has wrestled with.

Re the "90/90" or "4x4" block: (Students take 4 classes per semester,
doing a year's work in one semester, changing to another 4 at
mid-semester; 4 classes per day, approximately 90 minutes long each

Proponents say students can take 8 classes per year rather than 7.

In our school we have a very strong music program. Most music students
don't want to take music just half the year, and the instrumental music
teachers in particular can't deal with training two bands, two
orchestras, etc., per year. When I surveyed the music students in my
classes, all but one (and I had many) said they would sign up for music
for the whole year. So now music would become 1/4 of their year's
schedule, not 1/7.

Students in foreign languages, particularly the advanced levels, also
stated that they feared being out of language for 7 months would be
damaging. Those planning to take the AP exam, given in May, would either
finish their year's study in January, then have a 3-month hiatus until
the exam, or if in second semester, would have their preparation cut
short by a month to take the exam in May. All but two said they would
plan to take both semesters of the FL -- so between FL and music, 1/2 of
their year's schedule would be taken instead of 2/7.

The science teachers were concerned, among other things, about events
such as the Science Fair. They felt students who took science first
semester wouldn't be participating in the spring event, and those who
took it in the spring would not have the amount of time and preparation
necessary to do well.

The social studies/government teachers have a certain amount of papers
and research papers to give. Their concern was that they would be
constantly assigning papers in the shortened time.
Everyone wanted to know what would happen re final exams. We have a week
in June devoted to finals. Would we now lose a week at semester for
semester finals?

Everyone wanted to know about transfer students. We are a highly mobile
area -- what to do about students coming in during the year?

Proponents kept talking about "more time to do things." People started
to figure out exactly how much time there was. Our state requires 180
days. Our current classes are 46 minutes. Assuming perfect attendance
and no pullouts (dream on!), that is 138 hours of instructional time.
Assuming as little as 15 minutes of homework per night, that adds
another 45 hours of contact time -- a total of 183 hours in the year. In
this type of block, 90 days times 90 minutes = 135 hours of
instructional time. A number of people have reported that students do
NOT in general do twice the homework per day; let's say 20 minutes, a
little more, but not double (in reality, the reports we have heard show
that many classes allow students to at least begin the homework during
class): 30 hours. Total: 165 hours, or 18 hours less. Even if students
are willing to do double the homework time, it still adds up to 180
hours, 3 hours less. How can you have "more time" with less hours, or
even the same amount of hours? The illusion is that there is more time
for videos, etc., because each day has a longer time frame -- but it's
just that, an illusion. Hence the "less is more" argument.

We have a lot of pull-outs -- field trips, college visits, you know the
list. Each class lost means 2 days gone; a student can get far behind
twice as fast.

Our state mandates 5 classes per teacher for school certification. With
90/90, teachers would be teaching 6 classes per year rather than 5.
Proponents said there would be fewer students per class -- but if you
have 1/4 of the faculty non-teaching each period, rather than 1/7, we
couldn't see how there could be fewer, if the total number of students
still had to be accommodated by 75% of the faculty rather than 85%.

Proponents argued that those students who elected 8 different subjects
per year could earn 8 credits in a year -- 24 credits in 3 years, more
than enough to graduate from high school, allowing them to graduate
early and go on to college at an earlier age. Parents (and some
colleges) were not thrilled at the idea of 16-17 year-olds heading out
for college.

Proponents said students could take more "non-academic" subjects to
sample different fields -- but the fact is that our school at least
really didn't offer that many. We don't even have a lot of semester
courses (which would become quarter courses). The guidance counselors
are sometimes hard pressed to come up with two semester courses that
dovetail for a particular student. (Our school population is about

Research into writings by memory experts told us that in any given time
span, what students tend to remember is what occurs at the beginning and
at the end; and that one hour is approximately the optimum time for
memory-based learning -- FL's category. The longer the time span, the
greater the "middle" that tends to be dimmed. (Not to mention that a lot
of people put videos or other such activities at the end, as they and
the kids wind down -- thus losing half of the crucial learning time
according to these writers.)

Proponents said that valuable time taking attendance and housekeeping
chores would be eliminated with less changes daily. Then we discovered
that a number of people were giving the students a break in the middle
of the block -- thus canceling out this "gain."

In the A/B block schedule, students go to half their classes one day,
the other half the next, for the entire year. The time factors are
approximately the same for this schedule.

We are currently on a modified block -- that is, we have regular days (7
periods) on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and block on Tuesdays and
Wednesdays. The report from virtually all of my students is that they
don't do any more work on a block day -- they are simply given twice as
long to do any activity. The argument that block changes the way
teachers teach has not proven to be true in many cases; proponents say
that training teachers is the answer -- students say that a number of
teachers simply can not, will not, do not change.

Where do I stand? Personally, I think changing the time frame and
assuming that that will change education is backwards. I think you
determine what it is you think students should learn, what are the best
ways to teach that material (yes, I think there are multiple ways --
haven't found any magic bullets, and don't think there are any), and
then you determine what is the best time frame to do that.



97/02 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: ABC News--"Creb" Memory

I wonder if anyone saw the ABC news tonight. They had a piece on "creb",
a substance that has been discovered in the brain which is believed to
be the physical component of long term memory. The report says that the
material is released in a "burst" and that a certain amount of time is
required for the brain to "recharge". The conclusion was that you can
only learn so much during a session and that the brain has to rest for
an optimum period before new learning can take place. Specifically, the
scientists pointed out that short daily lessons are more productive than
"cramming". I think that this has been a given for a long time. I
wonder, however, if this gives us any insight into the mechanics of
learning on the "block" schedule.

Richard Lee


97/02 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: ABC News--"Creb" Memory

On the ABC piece, Peter Jennings said something to the effect of "we
know what works". He then described the Kumon method as returning the
the traditional repetition, drill, and practice (I believe that he used
those words). This is certainly revolutionary, or perhaps
counter-revolutionary, in today's educational environment. It seems to
be suggesting that we return to methods in use in the 40's and 50's
before the "modern" era of education gained momentum. There may not be a
clear consensus of what "reasonable educational practices" are at this

The piece on "creb" pointed out that the traditional view of teaching
being more effective when it is "properly" spaced, meaning frequent
lessons which are brief rather than long periods of study which occur
less frequently, may be valid, based on physical phenomena in the brain
itself. It seems to me that this speaks to the issue of block
scheduling. The concept that the brain requires time to "recharge"
suggests that, like physical fatigue, the brain reaches a point at which
it can no longer function optimally on a given task and must "rest". If
I understand correctly, it appears that the most effective "work period"
is somewhat less than one hour. The question remaining is whether the
last half hour of the 1 + 1/2 hour block is really productive learning
time which compensates adequately for the fact that there are fewer
class sessions.

I have heard comments from many teachers and remarks made in workshops
that emphasize the need for a different kind of teaching in blocks. I
simply am raising the question of whether these other activities are
producing the same level of learning that the more intensive on task
work achieved when the students followed a daily schedule with shorter
periods. The whole country seems to be jumping on the block schedule
bandwagon. This is a major restructuring of things which involves the
expenditure of huge sums of public money, and will undoubtedly affect
the future of the country either positively or adversely. We are
literally gambling with the future of our students, placing our bets on
a practice which seems to be flawed in theory and which seems to be
supported for the most part by anecdotal testimony. I have heard "we
love it", "it's the best thing since sliced bread", etc., but I have not
really seen any evidence that learning takes place as effectively,
measured by some objective standard in controlled experiments. Have
schools abroad adopted the idea?

We have seen the damage that unproven theories of educational reform
have done in the past, such as the "look-say" reading approach which
gave us a generation of "disabled" readers. Parents seem to be aware
that something is wrong (witness the popularity of home-remediation
reading programs such as "Hooked on Phonics", etc.).

It would seem reasonable for some good research to be done to determine
whether students who have a 45 minute class daily achieve differently
from those who have 90 minute classes every other day. It also brings
into question the effectiveness of block 4 scheduling, if the extra time
is less productive, since these students would be receiving essentially
the same number of classes (one semester vs. one year) with only the
interval being a variable.

We are very cautious about allowing new drugs on the market and require
extensive testing to make sure that they are effective and do no harm
before they are available to the general public. It seems that there are
a sufficient number of questions remaining to be answered to suggest
that caution is appropriate, if we truly believe that the education of
the student is important.


97/03 From-> Robert Ponterio <PONTERIOR@SNYCORVA.CORTLAND.EDU>
Subject: Re: ABC News--"Creb" Memory

We should also remember that, except for the first period of the day,
students are not resting during the hour immediately preceding our
classes. The fact that learning takes place more effectively when
preceded by an hour of mental repose does not necessarily mean that an
hour of rest produces an hour of heightened retention. Nothing I have
seen about CREB suggests more than very short term effect (long term
retention but of something learned in a short period of time). I doubt
that the heightened retention is worth allowing students to take a one
hour nap between ten minute classes ;-) Nothing in this suggests that
the rest period is "required" before any learning, only that the
learning will require less practice. I imagine that if the effect is
localized in the brain, this could mean more for the variety of
activities than for the overall scheduling of the day's work.



97/03 From-> Pamela Knapp <>
Subject: Creb memory and Block Scheduling

Richard Lee's recent posting is perhaps the most intelligent commentary
on block scheduling and its influence on foreign language teaching and
learning that I've seen thus far! I teach in a high school which is
currently in its second year of a semester block schedule (90 minutes
classes daily for 90 days.) I am also the co-chair of our Block
Scheduling committee, and I can tell you that this is NOT the best
situation for our language students, especially those at the lower

It is not possible to cover two lessons a day, because of the time
needed to practice, absorb and digest the material. I am sick of hearing
that "less is more" from people who sing the merits of block scheduling
because it's the new thing (or, as our school administrators love to
say, "on the cutting edge.") We recently surveyed our staff to determine
just what they think about the block. We also asked if they would prefer
to remain on this schedule next year or go to an alternative schedule or
back to the traditional schedule. Well, only about 50% of the teachers
bothered to respond, and, what was interesting to me was the fact that
those who wanted to go to an alternate schedule or back to the
traditional 48 minute classes, put a lot of time and effort into their
responses and gave some helpful suggestions for change. (The vote was
pretty evenly split between those wanting to stay with the block and
those not happy with it.)

Those who said they wish to keep block scheduling responded, for the
most part, with one line answers, including: "I'd resign before I'd see
block scheduling eliminated" "Never look backward!" "Teachers need to
change the way they think!" "I love it!" We also have the complication
of being tied to our vocational center, whose schedule drives that of
our school. These teachers have always had a kind of block schedule, and
they certainly don't want to see it eliminated.

The new Vocational Center Director - our former Head of Guidance and
former scheduler - thinks it's just wonderful that block scheduling has
allowed academic students to "explore" agriculture and automotive
repair. He's one who firmly believes that BS is "the best thing since
sliced bread" and has actually told our committee that he "doesn't have
any real data" to back him up, but "FEELS" that BS is so much better for
our students. He turned off the parent members of the committee when he
said that he thinks one of the major advantages of BS is "less
homework." Well, when I recently presented the results of our survey to
the whole staff, some of the vocational teachers started complaining
that they hadn't responded to the survey because they had thought that
we were committed to the present BS for the next year, since our
principal had made a three year commitment to the school board. The
Vocational Center Director saw this as a good opportunity to "take a
vote" of how many teachers wish to stay with BS and how many want
something else. I haven't seen the results yet, but I can easily guess.
What disturbs me most is that the education of our students is being
decided by the results of a contest between those who "LIKE" BS and
those who don't!!

Richard Lee is right when he says that BS is supported not by conclusive
data but rather by "anecdotal testimony." My personal experience shows
that we foreign language teachers are not covering the same amount of
material as we did with the traditional 48 minute classes. We are
covering only about two-thirds of what we used to teach, and this
obviously has detrimental effects on the following levels of the
language. I have asked - two years in a row now - that at least the
first level of the FL be offered all year long for 48 minutes, but have
been told that it's not possible. We do have some classes which are
offered this way to back up against the band/chorus classes, but it's
just a matter of numbers. The result is that classes which would be
better taught in the traditional schedule are not, while others which
seem to work well with an extended amount of time, are forced into 48
minute segments so that the students can take band and chorus all year

Nothing is being done because it's right for the education of our kids.
It's simply whatever makes the scheduling task easiest! One of the
parents who serves on our committee spent a lot of time putting together
a plan he calls the "flexiblock" schedule. It makes a lot of sense, but
our Vocational Center Director doesn't like it because we have 41
students who come to the center from two neighboring towns, and it might
not work for them. When you consider that we have almost 800 students in
our school, you wonder how "what might not work" for 41 of them decides
what has to work for all of them!

Pamela Knapp


97/03 From->
Subject: Reflections on Block Scheduling

I taught French and Spanish with traditional 50 minute scheduling for 10
years and with 90 minute block scheduling (A/B format) for 3 years. Now
I am working in a different district as the coordinator of languages ,
and it is the task of the coordinators to investigate going to block.

My personal reflections concerning block scheduling:

Why students like the block:

a)there are fewer classes to prepare for on a daily basis;
b) classes are more fun when teachers use more hands on activities and
vary their activities;
c) teachers who don't change their methods for block and still just
lecture during class tend to give students class time to do their
homework, so students don't have as much homework;
d) students feel like they have more time to figure out complex ideas
within the class setting and can come to closure before the next class
period begins;

Why teachers like the block:

a) there are fewer classes to prepare for on a daily basis;
b)there are not as many bells during the daily class schedule - it is
more comfortable not having to deal with the classroom management
hassles at the beginning and end of class;
c) planning periods are longer blocks of time;
d)teachers who vary activities enjoy the extra time to be able to do

Why administrators like the block (have to guess at this one since I
have not been in their position):

a)there are fewer passing periods, therefore less problems that they
have to deal with that happen during passing periods;
b) the block gives students more choices of electives (something that
parents demand, but only seems like the top 25% of students really want
to have more electives);
c) Is it cheaper? I don't know. It does seem as if teacher classloads
could increase in a large district, thus saving the district from hiring
more teachers. In Oklahoma we have a limit of 140 students per teacher
(excluding vocal music, p.e., band). The whole year in one semester
block would give you 280 students to evaluate within a years time.

Have I mentioned anything about the effectiveness block scheduling has
on learning? No. Nor can I find research that supports this. I could not
see a measurable change in learning when I was teaching using the block

Students who want to learn, learn just as well under both systems, in my
opinion. Are districts changing to block because it is more manageable
and more convenient to students, teachers, and administrators? I don't

Searching for answers,
Jody Klopp


97/03 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: Creb memory and Block Scheduling

After reading Pamela's posting, I wanted to ask in what room in my
school does she teach! I've already posted both long and short about
this topic, so will try not to repeat myself.

I am currently on yet another "scheduling committee," convened because a
new interim principal (who came from a school on A/B block) is pacifying
a vocal minority (English, Art) in our school who have been unwilling to
accept the will of the majority. We are charged with trying to come up
with a schedule better than our current one, which was a compromise
position reached two years ago after the bitterest and most divisive
debate I have known in all my years of teaching. Proponents (and at that
time, it was the 90/90 schedule that we were debating) accused anyone
against the proposal as being "against kids", "for stress", etc., etc.
The community reacted violently, and it was defeated -- for two months.
The day before Winter Break we were told in an "optional" faculty
meeting that we would go to a pilot program in January. As happens with
many "pilots" we are still on that schedule, which consists of two days
a week blocked classes of 90 minutes, and 3 days the normal 7-period

We learned last fall that our previous principal, who left suddenly the
first of October, had planned to change the schedule to another "pilot"
beginning second quarter in November, to a 4/1 block -- 4 days a week
block, 1 day regular. Although his departure forestalled that, the new
interim principal said this all "wasn't going to go away" and took a
faculty vote before Christmas ( those who say that is a stressful season
don't begin to know of what they speak!), in which we were given two
choices -- go back to all 7-classes days, or "forward" to more block;
while we could abstain from voting, an abstention would NOT count as a
vote for the status quo.

The result was a tremendous "write-in" vote for the status quo, along
with a fair percentage for return to traditional; apparently about 1/3
(we weren't given the exact numbers) wanted more block. To his credit,
the principal decided not to make another mid-year change, but did ask
for a committee to revisit the whole issue once again.

12 people volunteered for the committee (you'd think after all these
years I'd learn, but I'm an idiot); a teacher with one year experience
asked to chair it. The majority of the people on the committee, I
believe, came with the honest intention of trying to come up with
something that would give everyone some more of what they felt they
wanted or needed. Two or three, most specifically the chair, think it is
their job to educate the rest as to what's best -- that being block. The
meetings have turned into disorganized shouting matches. We held two
all-day sessions where we gave up our planning periods to stay in the
teachers' room to get input from the rest of the faculty, and sent out a
form to everyone on the faculty asking for the "best possible timeframe"
for each and every specific course taught. Few people came to the
sessions to discuss the issue; those who did (or those we trapped on
their way from the restrooms!) generally said they were sick of the
issue. The result of the timeframe survey showed that the great majority
said "45/90" which is what we currently call our combination schedule.
We are told that it still "is not going to go away." (Maybe *we*

Now that I've numbed you with the gory details, a few comments, in no
particular order:

1. Pamela's comment that there is little or no "hard data" on block
concurs with both the findings (for a doctoral thesis) of one of the
current applicants for the principal's position, as well as what has
been published on several very extensive websites. On the contrary,
there have been several extensive studies of the 90/90 or 4 x4 block
that state that students on full year rank first, alternate (A/B)
second, and semester last on outcome tests. I indicated earlier that I
have been told that a number of schools around our state who were the
proponents of 90/90 have now abandoned it, and others are trying to. As
she states, the typical remarks are based on "liking" and "feeling" and
"longer planning" rather than on hard results.

2. I feel she is absolutely correct in her analysis that factors other
than what is educationally best for a student in a given class drive the
schedules. We, too, have a "Career Center" which drives our schedule,
along with bus schedules, teachers shared with other schools, what the
guidance department (who makes the master schedule) feel is the easiest
to deal with, etc., etc.

3. Virtually all of the members of this current committee (including the
strong proponents of block) have concurred that reports from students
indicate that in the vast majority of their block classes, they don't do
more actual work than in a shorter period -- they simply are given more
time to do the activities, or there are "fillers" -- videos, etc. (Well,
the chair reported that her kids had told her she was the only teacher
who knew how to teach block 8-) Many of the kids feel they have been
"grouped" to death, another of the current rages. One of the arguments
of the English teachers is "more time to do in-depth discussion" which
many of the kids characterize as "ad nauseum," and which makes for a
rather simple lesson plan. (My personal comment about that is that
"in-depth" is not necessarily a function of time -- I've been witness,
sadly, to many a lengthy but very superficial discussion.)

4. Proponents say that block will change the way people teach. In many
cases, I doubt it. Actually, in FL we are among the best prepared
without any additional training -- most FL teachers that I know long ago
learned to include a wide variety of activities in any length period --
those who didn't are not likely to change easily. Part of the variety is
writing activities -- I personally prefer for most of my students'
writing activities to be homework, rather than spend valuable oral class
time on things that can be done at home. I also believe that the writing
reinforces the oral -- so, particularly at the beginning levels, a new
concept, oral practice of varied types, then some writing to help with
another learning mode. You don't change the quality of merchandise by
rearranging it; and you don't let the arrangement determine the

5. I have seen some comments about how ETS will eventually have to
change the AP exams to twice a year to accommodate the 90/90 students --
who would either have a long hiatus between the course and the exam, or
be a month or more short from finishing the course when the exam is
given in May. As an AP reader, I strongly doubt this. First, AP exams
now take two weeks in May, at which time most who teach the academic
courses can simply say goodbye to seeing a number of students -- can we
afford, time-wise, to do this twice a year? Second, to convene readers
twice a year would be financially and physically difficult -- since
you're probably not adding to the numbers taking an exam, you're now
paying out twice for transportation, housing, etc., for readers. That
doesn't even take into account that it would be hard, if not impossible,
for many of the secondary readers to get away for a week in mid-year;
housing facilities on campus sites, used for the readings and which are
emptied in June, would still be in use.

6. People always cite the time lost taking attendance, etc. My reaction
is that anyone who can't take attendance while starting the class (at
least after the first week or two) simply hasn't worked out viable
procedures. Interestingly enough, many of the same people who insist on
the 90-minute block have proposed that we give a break in the middle of
the block, effectively canceling out any such gain, and converting a
block back into 2 periods!

As I mentioned in an earlier message, the whole "creb" business simply
repeats what I found in research 3 years ago coming from memory and
learning experts. I think part of the issue is that some subjects are
not skill/memory-based -- art, English; are a combination of memory and
reasoning -- math, science. Another language, however, at beginning
stages (and I define those as being virtually all of our levels) can not
be reasoned, but has to be learned as a skill, hopefully somewhat
automatic. Would coaches prefer to have double-length football practices
every other day rather than daily? There is both a physical and a mental
saturation point in highly-concentrated subjects or activities.

I'm sure more will occur to me the minute I hit "send" -- and I
apologize for the length of this message -- to those who have come this
far. I figure there are lots of routes to God -- but each one of us has
to try to find his/hers based on more than just what "feels" good.

Marilyn (who has another committee meeting on Monday -- sigh)


97/03 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Block and the work world

After responding to Mary Young's post about longer blocks better
preparing students for the work world, something inside me kept saying
that my answer was very inadequate.

I think we have to ask ourselves exactly what is the purpose of
education, and what it means to be an educated person. I may be on an
island alone, but the purpose of my class is *not* to train students for
the work world -- heresy though that may be. It is to give them a
lifelong skill and a window on the rest of their world; it is to expose
them to different ways of thinking and doing. It has been too narrow a
view, I believe, to focus our goals primarily on job orientation and
specific job skills, at least at this stage.

(This reminds me of the constant argument with regard to computer
platforms -- and the people who say schools should use PCs because they
are predominant in the work world. My answer to that is that I don't
teach business ed -- and they can use whatever platform they wish. My
job as a language teacher is to USE computers to better teach my
subject, and for that, I will choose the platform and software that is
best for that purpose, which requires the least amount of time away from
my subject content to teach its use.)

Therefore, IMHO, it is my job as a language educator to try and
determine what are the desirable outcomes of FL study, what my classes
should reasonably be able to accomplish, and what is the optimum time
frame for accomplishing those goals.

I noticed that while Mary was suggesting that the longer time frame
would train students for the work world, she was also suggesting --
quite rightly -- that that time frame be broken up into a number of
varied activities, something that may or may not be true in a work
environment. I would suggest that, as adults in the work world with a
motivation we can't begin to match, our class time frame will have
little or no impact upon their working lives. After all, generations
have gone into the work world from the traditional time frame without
many that I know of blaming that for whatever problems they face.

I still think we have the cart before the horse. Decide what it is that
students should learn; decide what would be a reasonable amount to learn
in a given level; decide what are the best ways of conveying that
material; *then* decide what is the best time frame for that delivery.
We have started at the end rather than the beginning.

On Friday's Op Ed page of the Washington Post, a columnist (sorry I
don't have it here) wrote about education's failure to put
responsibility on the students for learning. The sentence I liked best
was "Instead of teaching for competence, we should be teaching for
excellence." I paraphrase as "Instead of teaching for work, we should be
teaching for life."



97/03 From-> Irene Moon <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling

Last year my HS thoroughly did research on BS.. so much so that I had a
file drawer full of articles etc. And I do mean a real file drawer. I
was on the committee that studied it and presented 2-3 times to the
faculty. I attended seminars on the block and collected tomes of "How to
Teach Science, English etc.. on the Block." I was convinced the block was
the WAY TO GO! I personally liked dealing with fewer students and having
less hurried classes.

In Feb of last year we did a 2 week trial of block on alternate days. I
even helped prepare a booklet chockful of strategies called "Survival
Guide for the Block." I loved those 2 weeks! (But then Staff Development
and Change were my focus in Grad school).

The reaction was mixed by both faculty and students. Most kids felt that
homework was actually doubled and a major problem (at least on alternate
days) was having students remember their HW. Incidentally, if we decided
to change to the block, I think we were going to go for the 4x 4. It
came to the vote in late spring...with no decision, but lots of let's
consider other means to improve the school and/or another type of

We have strong performing arts programs and they were very much opposed.
At any rate...we lost our principal in late summer and the Assoc. (who
had actually been the one to 1st attend a BS seminar) became our
principal. It just seemed to die, or at least go on the back burner.
Besides, we were getting ready for our North Central review. We've
narrowed our focus to 2 areas: motivation and learning strategies/study
skills...developing a better climate so kids can be more successful. The
action plans have just been completed and EVERYBODY has been involved.
WE are a community committed to working on these 2 elements.

A principle of adult learning, for example, is that adults are more
motivated when given choices. I began this year to try incorporating
more student goal setting and choice into my classrooms. I like what is
happening.. not that it is perfect, but I'm doing better and I think it's
created more ownership of our Sp. class.

Now, here's the KEY point I wanted to make (yes, finally :-) Maybe the
block, after reflection, is not as great as I thought it was...

the change that improves things for kids happens INSIDE each of us and
results in learning that is acquired easier and retained longer because
we, as high schools or we as a profession, decide that together we can
commit to changing some of our practices. My hope is that next year as
we fully implement our NC target goals we will achieve, in a more
satisfactory way.. one that all can buy into, what we hoped BS would do.

Irene Moon


97/03 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: Block Scheduling

I think that Irene Moon's point is well taken. I think that WHAT we do
in a class period is much more important than the length of the class
period in terms of student performance. That still leaves the point,
however, that with the block, no matter how you slice it, you only have
half as many contact sessions, i.e. opportunities for reinforcement. I
would guess that there is very little that a manipulation of the normal
daily schedule could do to improve instruction *, but I suspect that it
can in fact have a negative impact.

* I have wondered if a half hour twice a day, a morning class and later
an afternoon class, would truly produce more learning by "awakening" the
brain's language learning centers more frequently, creating more neural
"links" a la creb.



97/03 From-> Scott Aborn <>
Subject: Re: Block and Retention

Occasionally my views on issues tend to be a little simplistic, so if
that is the case here, I apologize.

Allowing for variations of very slight degree, I am persuaded that the
discussion of the relative merits of Block v. Traditional structure is
by and large irrelevant. We teach to such a variety of learning
abilities (not to mention interests and motivations) that to declare one
schedule superior to another (or, more to the point, markedly inferior)
seems a trifle facile.

To assert that 46 minutes is far better than 90, or the reverse, is to
presuppose that there exists some magical length which is "perfect"
(63.4632??). I don't believe that is true. I do believe that there are
students who would thrive better on 46 (but perhaps more so on 20), and
others who would benefit from 90 (but who would perhaps surge forward
with 2 hrs).

I believe the most critical variables are the teacher and the teaching
style. Needless to say, there are those of us more suitable for 46, and
others more oriented to 90. In no school (I bet) is the faculty
homogeneous in this regard (nor, obviously, would the student body be

My school adopted a 4 X 4 this year, and I confess to having been among
the most skeptical (perhaps due to the marketing hype). That being said,
I have been, for the most part, very pleased with the change. We need to
work more to derive the most benefit from the schedule, specifically as
it relates to the types of activities that take place in the classroom
and the type and amount of work which we require as homework. For FL
study I am pleased. Trying to foresee as many of the difficulties as
possible (we are small, but offer 5 yrs (under Block) of 3 FL), we have
required (to the best of our ability) that students wishing to study FL
through level 3 must do so in consecutive semesters. I found Blocks
well-suited to levels 2, 3 and especially 4, but am slightly less
persuaded of its merits as it relates to first year study. Listening to
my own arguments, I am not ready to state that the problem is the
schedule, I think that perhaps *I* have some more work to do in
restructuring how I teach Level 1.

If a move to Block does nothing more than to force some of us to
strongly re-examine intensely what we do and how we do it, then perhaps
that in itself is argument enough for change. I am, of course, not
speaking of those in our profession who challenge themselves to improve
on a daily basis [that would be we Listeros, n'est-ce pas (?) :-)], but
we all must confess that there are those who teach who have not
stretched themselves recently.

So, to teachers who believe the Block is evil: I tend to disagree. To
the Administrators who believe the block to be the ultimate panacea for
education's ills: sorry. In either case, the solution is good teaching,
good administrative support, community involvement, and parental
cooperation. With those elements we can succeed in 5 minute or 5 hour
blocks. Without them, we will never help our students reach their



97/03 From-> Irene Moon <>
Subject: Re: Block and Retention

>>I believe the most critical variables are the teacher and the teaching style.
>I couldn't agree with you more and one of my major points is that we
>-- well, some -- have leaped on a time-frame bandwagon assuming that
>will cure everything by "forcing" teachers to change their style. My
>experience is that it doesn't in general. We should have started with the
>teaching styles and worked from there, IMHO.

That's exactly what I meant in my response earlier today! At first, I
thought of the block as being the great hope, providing a vehicle
through which teacher's would see the need to change their style of
teaching. It may do that for some of them, but it is a very few!

That's why professional development, on a district- wide scale is so
desirable. What does good teaching look like? Many schools, nationwide
have incorporated as their base of that "good teaching" The Essential
Elements of Instruction.. and then they build on that with options in
several other strategies.. cooperative learning, interdisciplinary
teaching, peer coaching, best practice forums, mind-mapping and graphic
organizers etc. etc. Staff development, along these lines is best done at
the building level ...colleagues having an opportunity to interact with
each other.

One thing we found when we tried the block and some research bore this
out was: At the end of the day (as someone mentioned) teachers who
taught their best lessons were exhausted and kids who had 4 classes
where they were exposed to those "best lessons" were also exhausted. How
long can that be kept up?

Irene Moon


97/03-> From:  Marilyn Barreuta
Subject: Re: Reflections on Block Scheduling

Just a word of clarification about where I stand on block scheduling --

I am *not* against the block for those people who have analyzed their
curriculum and delivery and have decided for valid educational reasons
that it may be their best format. I wish them well and sincerely hope
that it meets their expectations.

I *am* against it where it has become one of the many bandwagons I have
seen in my career, promoted by those who feel they have been given the
word for everyone and who feel that a time period is a panacea for a
multitude of problems that have little to do with actual learning. As I
mentioned some time ago, we did the A/B bit in my school well over 30
years ago and abandoned it after two years; does that mean it can't work
now? No, but it never ceases to amaze me that we never stop to reflect,
analyze what went wrong, and figure out what needs to be adjusted before
we leap in and experiment with more children's education. (Part of that,
I'm afraid, is that it's only long-timers like me who are the historical
memory of a system, at least in mine.)

In our particular case, those who are opposed to full block are still
willing to have it once a week to allow for special projects or
activities. Interestingly, we originally had the two block days on
Wednesdays and Thursdays; the administration arbitrarily changed those
to Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Although the faculty in general has
requested a number of times since to return to the Wed/Thu schedule,
feeling that this gives two days to set up a special activity and then
one to evaluate/wind down, it has consistently been refused. I have yet
to hear an educational reason for this.

To Scott, with respect, I say that probably any time frame will work
given committed learners. My reality, however, is that year by year I
see markedly less achievement in the advanced levels, and it saddens me
that each year that I know and could give my students more, I feel able
to impart less to generally nice kids who seem to feel that they are
working hard, many of whom don't have a clue as to what that entails.



97/03 From-> Mila Khayutin <khayuti@mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>
Subject: Re: ABC News--"Creb" Memory

I'm new to the forum and have been lurking for a while before jumping
in, but this present thread on retention... I must take my hat off to
every FL teacher out there who is trying to teach FL's to kids who are
lacking in one of the major components for the task - continuous
development of their memory apparatus.

Granted, I am coming from the different teaching culture, the one which
emphasized solidly so outdated and boring "drill". We had to memorize
slowly but surely from the Grade 1. And more so, in Grade 2. And even
more in Grade 3. And, so on.. We had no other choice, because if we did
not now this by heart by tomorrow, it meant "F ". Period! And so it was
in math, and in history and in geography and in languages..

So by the time we came to Grade 5 where we were first introduced to the
foreign language, we'd have like a 5 years of practice in memorizing an
increased amount of different info in different formats, like oral
descriptive, visual descriptive, etc. There never was any question about
homework. Homework meant what it was designed to mean: work at home,
based on a new material that we would learn in class. (Try and tell this
to my 9 and 10 year old!?)..

Why am I telling all this? Because IMHO, you can not teach anything, let
alone, FL without spending a good amount of time in drilling vocabulary,
pronunciation, memorizing (yes, memorizing) whole paragraphs of text,
expressions, etc, etc. And writing tests on it. Again, IMHO, we are
spending too much time thinking of more <entertaining> methods of
teaching at the expense of the old "boring" but tried and tested ones.
Including FL teaching. And I can tell you, the old methods work. And
what you drill helps in enlarging your brain's capacity to remember
other things, subjects, facts, expressions of different nature.. ..And
no, I am not re-inventing the wheel.. I know that.. I am just dusting one

Mila Khayutin


97/03 From-> Robert Ponterio <PONTERIOR@SNYCORVA.CORTLAND.EDU>
Subject: Re: Block and Retention

>And here I thought it was the student's learning style that was of importance!
>Are the learners supposed to adapt to the teachers, or is it the teachers who
>need to present the material in various ways to cover the various LEARNING
>styles? In the worst of all possible worlds, learning would still occur even
>without teachers (in fact it is going on all around us if we just pay attention).
>It wouldn't be as efficient, probably, but it would happen.
>>>I believe the most critical variables are the teacher and the teaching style.

I would argue that it really makes sense to recognize that both teachers
and learners have cognitive styles and personalities that make them more
or less effective in particular situations. To some extent, success
comes to those, on both sides of the table, who learn to adapt to a wide
variety of the styles of others and to use their preferred skills most
effectively to overcome their weaknesses. All teachers cannot be all
things to all people, though that flexibility might indeed be a good
goal. Students stand to benefit from exposure to a wide variety of
teaching styles because in addition to learning the language, they must
also learn to learn in spite of what might be considered a
"less-than-perfectly-adapted-to-their-specific-needs" teaching style.



97/03 From->
Subject: Re: Block and Retention/Learning Styles

You teach a student through his strengths and have him review and
achieve mastery through his weaknesses, remembering, of course, that
strength and weakness are relative terms when referring to multiple
intelligences and reflect where a student is at this moment in time, not
where he can go or where he will be later.

>From someone who has been MI'd to death this year,

B Stratis


Subject: Re: Block Scheduling -Reply

The question is not whether you can find any research that says that the
current system is better, it is can you find any research at all that
says that the block schedule is better. I tried at ACTFL and on the net
and have yet to find any research on the effect of block scheduling on
foreign language that says more than "you can survive". I don't want to
just survive. I have a very good program going and I don't want to
destroy it. Everything that I have received says that I will lose
curriculum ( estimates run from 10% to 30%) so how does that benefit the
learner ?



97/03 From-> Samantha Earp <ssearp@UNCCVX.UNCC.EDU>
Subject: Learning Styles / Was: Block and Retention

Food for thought:
At last weekend's Language Mission Project meetings in DC (sponsored by
the National Foreign Language Center and AACU), Dick Brecht of the NFLC
made an interesting point, which I will try to summarize without
butchering too much: while it is certainly necessary for us to know how
to accommodate various learning styles in our teaching, it is equally
important for students to learn how to succeed *regardless* of the
teaching style, so that they can cope with the inevitable instructor who
doesn't teach in the way which best suits them or who is simply a bad

Samantha Earp


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

>Hate to say it, but your principal must be one of the most supreme asses
>on the face of the earth. The one most strident urging in all of the block
>literature that is sent out by all the block proponents (genuflect now!) is
>that inservice training is an absolute must. Without it, the block system
>will surely fail.

Gotta agree. But all is not lost. Get your principal to send you to a
workshop. Louis Mangione does one designed for teaching on the block. I
saw him do one for addressing learning styles in the class. Everything
he demonstrated was applicable to FL classes. He teaches Spanish and
Italian at a high school in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle?) Our school
sent several mentors to see his block presentation, and they're supposed
to share what they learned. If he doesn't come to your area, check with
Bureau of Educational Research and see if they have someone doing
something similar in your region. My kids really responded to his
"invisible map": you outline the country in the air and get the kids to
do the same, TPR-style. It's surprisingly effective. Lots of ideas.
Make your principal make it up to you.



97/05 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: More Block Feedback

Well, I might as well get back into this topic. I'll state up front that
I've lived through innumerable bandwagons and quick fixes in the
profession, and that I just hope I live long enough to see this one die,
too. So those of you who don't agree with this can merrily delete now if
you wish! Just to give you my framework, I currently teach in a
"modified block" -- 3 days regular, 2 days block -- which was a
compromise reached by a faculty that currently is about 3/4 accepting of
that schedule, a little less than 1/4, plus the administration, who keep
pushing for full block. We have had this for 3+ years.

A lot of the current change was started, I believe, by a college
professor who, to my knowledge, had not attended a public school, nor
taught in one, and who currently teaches in one of the elite
universities. While he may be accustomed to the serious student who can
concentrate for extended periods, many of us don't have that type as a
majority. Memory learning experts -- Tony Buzan is one who has published
a great deal -- generally state that memory-based subjects (that's us)
have an optimum time frame, which has been given at about one hour; that
we tend to retain best what is done at the beginning and the end of that
time frame. Discussions on this list a month or two ago about the brain
and "creb" investigations that were in the news at that time seem to
support this. In our school, the current emphasis on inclusion, with
special ed students mainstreamed -- mainly into Spanish as usual -- has
lead the special ed people who work with our department to be very much
against the extended time period.

Helen mentioned that part of the change was an attempt to force people
to stop lecturing and develop other ways of teaching. As she stated,
most FL teachers I know have long ago done this, if indeed they ever
"lectured". At the risk of sounding pretentious, I would venture that,
with the possible exception of the APs, I plan more activities for a 45
minute period than I have seen described here for a 90 minute one. I
mentioned briefly in a previous post that the reports I get from both
students and other teachers say that in most block classes they do not
accomplish any more than in a regular class time frame -- they are just
given longer to do everything, and there are a lot of fillers. Watch the
VCRs float down the hallways on block days. Our English teachers talk a
lot about "in-depth discussions." My answer to that is that "in-depth"
is not a function of time -- I have heard totally vapid discussions go
on for hours, and short ones that left you with some real meat to chew

I confess to being of two minds about "getting training" for extended
periods. On the one hand, I'm not convinced that anything other than
"vary your activities, try to hit different learning styles, and keep
things moving" is of much help -- and this would be my advice no matter
what the time frame is, anyway. On the other hand, if there are people
(yes, I know there are) who don't know how to do that, then that's the
training they need irregardless of what is going to be their schedule. I
find it interesting that several people who have posted have given
almost the same division of 4 class activities. Am I wrong, or is this
part of the standard "training" that people are getting?

Along with this particular bandwagon has come the "cooperative learning
/ group work" mantra. Our school paper published last week some
reactions to this, including one from a really irate parent as well as
from some students. In my personal opinion, the students are being
group-worked, paired, and cooperated to death. All have their place --
but they're not the panaceas they're cracked up to be. There's always
the problem of how many in the group actually contribute fully to the
group, and hard feelings and excuses when some don't. The usual
rationale I hear is that of the work world -- that they need to learn to
work with others. That's true in some cases, but there's an important
element missing -- in the work world if you don't contribute you're out
on your butt! ( I might as well stick in here that I'm tired of us being
compared to the work world -- I've stated before that my job is to help
produce a reasonably educated being who can then learn and adapt to
whatever is required of him/her in the work world.)

I have been able to find absolutely NO hard data at this time as to
positive results of block. On the contrary, there are some studies that
show the opposite, particularly of the 4x4 block. We are accepting soft,
"feel good" data on faith, and I don't want to experiment that much with
my students' education. I suggest that maybe the post-secondary teachers
on this list might survey their current students who came from several
years in secondary, and find out whether the better-prepared students
came from block, regular, or both.

It has been stated several times that block does NOT give you more
contact time, but less.

Less is definitely not more. (Who ever started such an inane statement,
anyway?) We have found out that students will not do double homework on
block days -- so for every alternating block day, we lose the written
homework reinforcement. There is simply only so much material that a
student can absorb in a sitting. Last week I saw my classes 3 times. Due
to testing, field trips, and whatever, there are a number of students
that I will not have seen since last Monday. I have tests I can't give
back, groups that are missing members, not to mention classes who,
seeing so many people out, didn't want to do any work. Assuming you
actually do two days work on a block day, absence of any kind is
devastating, and if you don't, you've obviously lost ground. Several of
us in my department have now had a "control class" situation -- our 3rd
period remains a constant 45-minute daily period due to scheduling our
Career Center. In all cases and all levels we have found that the daily
45-minute class soon pulls out ahead of the blocked class(es) of the
same level. In my case, the 45-minute class was also initially the
weaker group.

I keep hearing how kids have changed. We have contributed and are
contributing to that change. Until someone proves to me that the gene
pool has changed, I refuse to believe that these kids are not capable of
doing what kids five years ago could do, and if the truth be told, a
number of them also feel they're not having much demanded of them. I
posted a message about a month ago about a nationwide survey done by an
independent group, the results of which stated very clearly that the
majority of students didn't feel challenged at all by school today.
Somehow we keep talking about raising the bar and providing more
educational rigor, but it seems painfully clear to me that we're doing
the opposite.

Marilyn (who is quite capable of teaching in a 90-minute period, but
who sincerely feels it is not the best teaching situation for languages)


97/05 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: 8 block scheduling

According to RUTH CAHOON:

>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.

Interesting. If  I read this correctly, the original idea of 4x4 block,
that of teaching a year's work in one semester, isn't really happening
-- in effect one-half to 2/3 of a year's work is being done for what
used to be a year's credit.

How lucky that Ruth can rotate the blocks -- I don't know how many
others can do this, but given our Career Center, shared teachers between
schools, etc., this is not an option for us. It would appear that Ruth
would be less enthusiastic if she had to meet the same class every day
for the same period.

Recognition is given to the fact that 90minutes is too long for
beginners -- again, Ruth is lucky that her school is able to accommodate
both time frames, something that some schools can not.
Is AP (two semesters/90) given two credits?

>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.

One of the reasons this seems to be popular with administrations ---

>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,

Again, apparently this school can and will support a dual time frame.
The fact that staff teach six 45's a day was one strong reason that
language departments we interviewed when we were researching all this
were pleased to go to block -- because they had been told they would
have to pick up an extra class if they didn't. I noticed in Sue's
posting that the board of education's promise to provide more teachers
and whatever support they would need for the change was empty, and can't
help but wonder whether the advantages for administration, school board
budgets, and teacher planning periods are not taking precedence...



97/05 From-> Steve Rosenzweig <>
Subject: Re: More Block Feedback

I, too, have seen fads come and go, but this one really doesn't want to

We have a VERY strong superintendent who is willing to wait until 2003,
when most of our older faculty will have retired, to implement "her" plan
for a block schedule. (We had a long and bitter "power struggle" strike
last fall... nobody won)

She even flew 40 teachers and administrators to a suburban D.C. school
district in Virginia a while back to change people's minds. Didn't work,
wasted thousands in taxpayers' money for all that hooey.

Those of us who are not yet on the block should resist every step of the
way. I am of an open mind for change, but not for the sake of change.
Some people just want to make their mark... but this fad misses that
mark completely.

Steve Rosenzweig

>Well, I might as well get back into this topic. I'll state up front that I've lived
>through innumerable bandwagons and quick fixes in the profession, and that
>I just hope I live long enough to see this one die, too.


97/05 From-> "Sharon L. Kazmierski" <>
Subject: Re: Blocks

Mary Young wrote:

>Scott Aborn wrote

>>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?

I took a few evening courses that met *once* a week at night for three
hours at a shot. It was really a test of my skills of concentration to
manage to hang on that long. There were always several breaks during the

I remember being in high school and taking courses that were not quite
an hour in length and I remember quite clearly that after about forty
minutes, I was ready to move on and do something else. My high school
teachers employed many different teaching styles, from lecture to
discussion to hands on.

Sharon Kazmierski


97/05 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: Blocks

I think that the argument is wandering somewhat off the point. Although
many of us feel that the time beyond 45 or 50 minutes isn't the period
when learning is at peak efficiency, the PRIMARY objection is not the
length of the class, but rather the lack of daily contact with the kids
to reinforce what is taught. The question of the length of the period
merely comes into play tangentially, because the supporters argue that
this increased time compensates for the loss of 50% of the classes,
which many of us don't find to be true.

In addition, even with the longer periods, there is still less contact
time with the students over the cycle of the course, whether block 8 or
block 4. Once you question the efficiency of this added time per class,
you are left with the fact that essentially these kids are truly getting
only about half the "input" time, or whatever you might wish to call it.
If you then note the many posts which indicate that people are
accomplishing somewhere around a half of what they did previously, the
coincidence of the two ratios seems to suggest a relationship which is
difficult to dismiss lightly.

In addition, the comparison to grade school experience seems invalid to
some of us because the students at that level don't focus on one subject
during the entire corresponding time frame. They may remain with the
same teacher, but during the 90 or so minutes, they will do reading,
spelling, math, geography, etc. Granted, you can throw in "alternate"
activities to try to keep their attention, but what bothers many of us,
I suspect, is that these other activities don't apparently produce the
same language skill learning as do more traditional approaches. Once
again, we are left with a vastly reduced exposure to language learning
opportunities, whatever other experiences they might receive in the



97/05 From-> Julia Ann Fleming <>
Subject: Re: How to teach in block??

I agree that in-service training is a must...if only to brain-wash a
person into believing that LESS really is BETTER. Our curriculum was cut
by a little more than a third. Yet we have to cram all the info into the
kids' heads. It sickens me to see how our standards (expectations ) have
fallen so over the past years. I believe the only answer lies with each
individual teacher ...that she or he must not expect any less than the
most from her/his students.

Julia Ann Fleming


97/05 From-> Mary Young <>
Subject: Re: Blocks

I hear every year from the Spanish II teachers how much they have to
reteach in the fall. Yet Spanish I teachers work hard to cover the
required material. Does covering the material equal learning the
material? Maybe good teaching in blocks offers a chance to learn in
depth, for better retention. Others have stated that kids didn't lose
any more between levels under block scheduling, even though they may
have a long delay. How can they retain so much?

FL isn't so much a topic as a tool for talking about topics. If the
class is talking about the language for 80 min. that would kill any of
us. If they are talking about a variety of things in a variety of ways,
what could be the problem? The ideal : recycle opportunities to practice
the same structures and vocabulary in a variety of settings for 80
minutes so that more dendrites are established around the new

We all agree, I think, that the nature of learning a language is far
different from learning about ... history, geography, psychology,
physics...because the language is a tool that we have to be able to
*use* without puzzling over what to say. Those other disciplines can be
in files in our brains that we can access for data as needed. What we
know about learning those other disciplines might not apply to the
unique learning processes needed for L2 acquisition.

>Will any theory that we can conceive
>succeed if there is enough commitment?

I was looking through journals to find "the answer"--the right
methodology, and came across an article stating that *any* methodology
or technique will be successful in the hands of an enthusiastic teacher
for about 2 or 3 years -- as long as the teacher's enthusiasm holds out.
It sounds like teacher commitment and faith are better indicators of the
success of a technique than any features of the technique itself.
OMYGOSH--what if methods don't matter?!?!?

That's too much for me. I should be doing grades, anyway.



97/05 From-> Dawn Santiago-Marullo <>
Subject: Re: Blocks

I am usually a lurker on this list, but this topic has prompted me to
respond. I have to agree with Scott Aborn, I have heard many "negative
comments" some of these come from people who state that they were never
interested in making the move to the block schedule. Is this a product
of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

I have taught under an alternate day block schedule for almost two
years. I teach levels 1, 3 and AP. I have found that there is value in
blocks. Yes, I have found that it requires much more of me as a teacher
and much more of my students (while this is tiring, it is not a BAD

As a faculty we spent two years in preparation, we also added staff, had
in-service training, and continue to work regularly on block issues.
Yes, I also "cover" less material (in some courses). I have also noticed
that in most cases this "less" is "more". How you use the extra time to
achieve the learning is the most important consideration. Our change did
give us more contact time, we went from 41 minute periods to 85 minute
periods. Many of the activities I use require students to work with
material more in depth.

There are many teachers in my building (from FL and Math as well as
other areas) that speak to the benefits of block schedule because students
are engaged, and achieving. Yes there are also some that are negative. We
are all new at this, our students however are not suffering some
horrible experiment.

I've heard the argument about a class meeting on Thursday and then not
again until if this never happened in the "old" schedule,
remember long weekends, vacations, etc. If I can't expect my students to
retain something from Thursday to Tuesday, what on earth will they do
when it comes to the Final Exam, or next September... I refuse to allow
my students to use the excuse that they forgot. They are responsible for
learning organization and taking responsibility for their own learning.

Do they all do this? No!

Do I excuse their behavior as a "problem" related to the block schedule?

I have seen significant changes in the performance of my students in
some areas and no changes in other areas. I refuse to automatically
blame (or credit) the block schedule for any of these observations yet.
How can I automatically assign this blame or credit when I'm teaching
different students this year than two years ago?

I have seen students who are not rushing into y class, having changed
subjects and "bosses" eight times a day! I am learning how to teach in
the block schedule, it will take me a while for me to hone my skills.

To make decisions about a change this large after only a couple of years
is just ridiculous. This change requires a lot of adjustments on the
part of teachers and students. Many nay sayers have not really given
this change a chance. Change is difficult. We don't operate the way we
"used to do it", it will take time for us to work at our best to make
this change. Only then after a real and honest effort will I be willing
to evaluate the effectiveness. I agree with Scott that as professionals
we should keep an open mind, adjust, reflect, adjust again. As Scott
said "we all need to acknowledge that however well we are doing, we
could do better." The eight period day is/was familiar, it was not
necessarily the end all and be all it is claimed to be.

Dawn Santiago-Marullo


97/07 From-> Diana Ellsworth <ddells@LANMINDS.COM>
Subject: 4X4 Schedule and Language Program

At Alameda High School in Alameda, Ca. we have experienced adapting to a
block schedule over the past two years. Classes meet three times a week,
a 6 period day on Mondays of 55 minutes each and then four block days.
Each block is 110 minutes.

Language teachers (as well as many others) have found 110 min. to be TOO
long for the attention span of most students. It does seem to work well
for advanced classes, where you have many more options for activities. .
. Our staff is beginning to collect info on the 4X4 (with this schedule
students receive a year's credit in a semester). One question is how
does this effect continuity of lang. learning, if a student skips a
semester, (i.e. takes French 2 first sem, no French the second sem. and
then French 3 in Fall sem. of following year)?

Another question . . . did learning seem to be increased or decreased?
Have you collected any data re. this? Finally, are u generally more or
less satisfied with this schedule, for whatever reasons. Appreciate your
info and will be happy to supply more re. our particular block schedule
as well.



97/08 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: Block scheduling in Spanish

>I'm a bit concerned about that; plus with this block schedule I have 32 kids
>per class. Seems to me whenever the schedule is changed to try something
>else my student ratio goes up and there are no more teachers hired!

Interesting comment -- all of the pro-block presentations, articles,
etc., that we have had stress less students per semester and per class.



97/09 From-> Dorothy Raviele <>
Subject: Re: block schedule/planning

The trouble is that many schools have implemented block without
providing the appropriate support technology. I am in my first year of
block also, but we are in a system that wants to suck us dry. We are
teaching 6 classes, 3 per day. We also have a duty period every other
day, so we only have one prep period every other day. We have no tech
support---no language lab, computers, vcr's etc. What we do have is a
little cassette recorder in every language room.

I am finding that the block works very well in my upper level classes.
Even with the paucity of material we are given, I am able to do my own
activities and cooperative activities in a very rewarding way. the kids
are using the language more than ever, are getting concentrated practice
in reading and listening comprehension etc. The level 1 and 2 classes
are a different story. There is very little they can do cooperatively,
they need the daily reinforcement of new material ...there are too many
negatives and not enough positives.

I hope you will enjoy a real successful student teaching experience in a
system that supports its staff.

Dot Raviele


97/10 From-> Valerie Mantlo <>
Subject: Best of the Block (a bit long....)

I teach at a middle school that is one of the only schools in our
district NOT on a block schedule of some kind. We experimented a few
years ago with a modified block that involved meeting all classes for 50
minutes daily on Monday, Thursday, and Friday but for 90 minutes on
Tuesday and Wednesday for enrichment activities. These long periods
turned out to be days when teachers would show videos, allow students to
make presentations, etc. On these same two "long" days, we generally got
behind in our curriculum and couldn't wait to catch up on Thursday and

Now, we hear that we are being urged (read "mandated" :-) to go to a
full block schedule next year. We have had visitors from other schools
who presented opinions about whether the day should consist of 4 periods
(3 classes taught with one planning period daily) or not and what the
8th period should be. (study hall? activity period? ) We hear good and
bad things about going to block and teachers like me in foreign language
and my colleagues in keyboarding nearly panic at the thought of not
being able to practice DAILY with our students. We have been told that
one of the main reasons we will be switching to a block schedule is to
reduce traffic/potential problems in the halls during class change time.

How does block scheduling affect students' retention? What about having
to change activities every 5-10 minutes or so? We wonder why we have to
jump on this bandwagon that's come around again after 20 years when it
hasn't been proven that this block scheduling will fix all the ills it's
purported to.

My department must meet this upcoming week to decide exactly what block
schedule we will use for 1998-99 and I was hoping that some of you
teaching on this kind of schedule could advise me what class lengths
work best (75 minutes, 90 minutes, 110 minutes?) and what is best to do
with the 8th period. I have checked various web sites to investigate
various block scheduling models but have found no real explanations as
to why something works/doesn't work---just bell schedules and nice home
pages. :-)


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