[KACT] Re: block scheduling

  • From: "David R. Stinemetze" <dstine@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: kact@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 06 Jan 2006 15:25:18 -0600

Kelly Deters wrote:

I have mixed feelings about Block. I've taught on 3 schedules--
4 block where classes meet every day for a semester and that's considered a year (like Angie described). I liked this one academically, but that I felt like I was just getting to know kids when they left at semester (but then again, you can get rid of some quicker that way, too!)
7 classes that all meet for 50 min Mon-Wed and then block days on Thur-Fri (so you'd get 3 50 min and 1 90 min for each class each week)--this one was the worst for me for AP. You wanted to do labs on the block day (which was only 1 time per week), but with AP you need to keep moving, you can't "waste" a few days waiting for the block day to do the lab. So you ended up doing labs "out of sequence" (teaching another topic before going back to the previous one to perform the lab)...not ideal for connecting the lab experience with t he "class" experience. 7 classes that all meet on Mon and then block days Tues-Wed (so you'll have 1 50 min and 2 block days a week for each class). This one is better about not having to "wait" for a block day for a lab. But the bad part is absences (just like Angie said). Especially with 7th hour in the spring--7th hour is the end of the day on Tues & Thur. Those are the days for baseball & softball games and track meets. I sometimes go a week or more without seeing students in the spring because they're always gone for sports. So this was better for AP (don't make it the last hour of the day, though!) for the lab sense, but I found that it was harder for the "class" part--in order to stay "on schedule" with them, I had to present basically 2 lectures/discussions each period (in a 90 min period), but then that's a lot of information to process. With the 50 min class, they got smaller chunk s and had processing time between the chunks. So for lab, it's better, but for "lecture" I think it's worse. For regular chemistry, any of them has been about the same--they're aren't on quite a tight "schedule" so I don't have the issues with them that I've had for AP. I do like the block days better than the 50 min days just because the 50 min days make my head spin (3 preps, with only one set of back-to-back same preps...otherwise, every hour I have to switch to a different mindset)--on block days, I have at most 2 preps, and they're stacked back-to-back better.
detersk@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:detersk@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

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For 33 years I taught on a straight 6 schedule, with some variations. My favorite schedule was 5 60-minute periods each week. I covered the most material under that format. Most recently, we had 55 minute periods with a 30 minute SSR period each day.

We went to an 8-block this year (alternating days) with 2 95-minute and 1 80-minute period each week. We lost about 17 percent of our instructional time in doing so. I have mixed emotions about the block. I fought it fang and claw for ten years, because of the decrease in instructional time, but it finally won out as a way to allow more time for elective classes. I am not as far along in class as I would like to be, but it is hard to tell whether or not I will be able to cover about the same amount of material by the end of the year, as I am teaching several topics in a different sequence than I have in the recent past. I like the longer periods for lab purposes and the day is less stressful, but not seeing the kids every day has its drawbacks. My feelings are the opposite of Angela's. I can't imagine how I would cover the entire syllabus in a single semester in a way that would allow the students to absorb all of the new ideas and master all of the skills that I think are critical to beginning chemistry.

My advice to Ron is that you need to plan at least one activity for each period that gets the kids out of their seats for at least a short time, perferably near the middle of the period, and you need to shift gears at least twice during the period. I like to spend part of the period in lab whenever possible and the rest in checking homework and discussion. When planning lessons you have to be very realistic about what it is possible to do effectively in one period in order to avoid information overload on the students' part, but, on the other hand, you must keep on task and maximize the use of your class time or you can get way behind very quickly. These are especially critical issues on a block schedule, since you only see the kids half as often. Careful planning and uncompromising execution are the keys.

David R. Stinemetze
Arkansas City High School

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