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Tips for Adjusting to a Block Schedule

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

Block scheduling, to me, is the original disruptive educational strategy. Long before flipped learning and other non-traditional ways to organize classroom pursuits, schools and districts were trying to figure out ways to squeeze the most learning into blocks of time that, either by law or by human stamina, could simply not grow.

Even with all of these new ideas on the landscape, schools are still considering block scheduling. Some schools or districts may be implementing such a program in the coming school year. If you find yourself teaching in blocks next year, here are some ideas to help you transition.

Add something fun every day

This is the first thing any block trainer will tell you. You know all of those enriching, exciting activities that you wish you had time for? You have the time now! Whatever amount of time in each class you are gaining in the new schedule, make a promise to yourself to spend at least some of it every day with activities that get the kids excited about learning.

Perhaps you avoided activities that had the students out of their seats. You can now get them up and moving without worrying about the time it will take them to wind down.

Varied instruction is now your friend

We’ve been told for years that we need to vary our instruction between whole group, small group, and individualized learning, among other strategies. The common teacher retort was “Where do we find the time for that?” Now, you have more time. Try to hit multiple learning strategies in each class period. Remember college? No one wants to sit in a chair for 90 minutes, taking notes as someone lectures.

Expect your timing to be off

Veteran teachers know exactly how long a particular lesson will take, but if you move to a block schedule, all of that experience goes out the window. You will run short a lot. You will run long sometimes, trying to overcompensate for running short the day before.

Have a bank of mini-lessons prepared for the days you run short. Preferably, these lessons can be modified to fit any topic at hand. That way, you didn’t run short – you just had extra time for another activity!

Commit to review time every period

Some blocks can go for 90 minutes or more. Committing knowledge to memory might not have been an issue for students in a 50-minute period, but they might struggle to remember things from an hour and a half ago. Take five to ten minutes every period to review what was discussed over the time you were together. It will let them clarify some ideas they had and ask questions that they might not have come up with before.