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Effective Teaching in a Block Schedule

Recently, my school site missed meeting our targeted goals for our standardized testing for the first time :-(  As multiple rationales for such began swirling around campus, one of the ideas was that maybe our block schedule was ineffective.  I have always loved teaching in the block, so I stepped up and addressed some best practices for instruction under a block schedule that I have learned and with which I have had great success.

Subsribing to a gradual release of responsibility to students,  I have a "formula" for teaching in the block that works.  Several teachers who have struggled making instruction meaningful for a full block have told me that "formula"/ model has been great for them!

Here is the sample planning model that fits my site's (San Ysidro High School) Block Schedule (120 Minutes)

Skill/Concept Review.............................................10-15 minutes
==> Great time for a quick formative assessment:
o Quick write
o Word sort
o Cloze activity
HINTS!  Take attendance and collect homework during this time!

Direct Instruction.................................................30-40 minutes
==> Interactive lecture (i.e.: 10/2 or "Chunk and Chew" format)
==> Video with Cornell notetaking (with discussion during or afterward)
==> Shared reading or Read aloudof text
==> Introduction of new concept or skill with handouts or student note taking

Shared practice.......................................................20 minutes
==> Small groups work collectively on task to practice skill or concept presented during Direct Instruction time. 
==> Stategies:
o Guided Reading
o Numbered heads
o Writing task
o Jigsaw

Individual Practice...............................................20-30 minutes
==> Standards-based assignment work time
==> Opportunity for individual conferencing
==> Opportunity for students to clarify progress on tasks

Closure/ Reflection...............................................10-15 minutes
==> Metacognitive Journal
o (What did I learn/ How did I learn it? / How will I use it?)

==> Reflection on a reading completed in class
==> Time for students to set up for homework


kate walsh

Your blog is amazing--as are you! What a terrific job you are doing and how helpful your suggestions are to teachers all over the world!


Blocking is fad that will go the way of the open classroom concept! It does not improve student achievement nor is it in the best interest of students. The research supports the fact that blocking does not improve student achievement. A recent Harvard study and Washington State study backs of the claims that blocking is just that, a fad.

Patty Blome

Hi Rick,

You cite valid research that supports your passionate stance on block scheduling, however, I caution any school, district, or teacher to insist that "one size fits all 'for scheduling classroom instruction. Our school site, for example, sees benefits from the block format because of several factors regarding our student population, however, we also make use of full menu schedules every week- we operate under a sort of a "hybrid" schedule.

I sense that your position is based around comparison studies specific to academic achievement. I am aware of another study from 2003 Colorado State University that points to marginal (not significant) differences in achievement between traditional, full menu scheduling vs. block scheduling, but also cites specific benefits in the block schedule towards reducing student behavioral concerns (i.e. fighting, truancy, suspensions, etc.).

My blog addresses one concern that teachers may not be making the most of their time under a block schedule, and offers a plan based on best practices (no matter what schedule you operate under) to address that concern.

Thanks for you thought provoking comment. I am sure we will read, hear, and experience much more on this issue.

Best Wishes,

Carol Ferguson

Hi Patty,
I am an Assistant Principal for Instruction in high school. We are preparing to go on the block next year for the first time. I am p0resenting a workshop to our teachers in a couple of weeks, many who are reluctant to change from the traditional 6 period day. If you have any lesson plan formats that you would be willing to share, I would be so appreciative!

Thank you!
Carol Ferguson
Brunswick High School
Brunswick, GA 31522

Geron Spray

Hello Teachers;
Next year I will be teaching a Language Arts/Social Studies block to sixth graders. Each block will last two hours. I'm an experienced teacher, and excited about the possibilities. I'm a bit anxious about it, though. I know it will be a challenge to integrate and do justice to both language arts and social studies standards, while keeping the kids engaged. So, if any of you are aware of resources for language arts/social studies block classes I'd appreciate a heads-up.

Geron Spray
Gonzales Community School
Santa Fe, NM

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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