Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Block Schedule

Next year our school is going to block scheduling. I'm not too happy about it (how will I successfully get the students to practice good skills every day? how can I adjust the topics so that they learn all I want them to learn? how in the world did they get 20% more work out of us without paying us 20% more?) , but since it's happening, I will use the summer to get ready. My strategy is to read a book our school provided for us (Teaching to the Block) and to scour the internet for ideas. We're going to an ABC block, I believe, Mondays (C) all 8 classes, T/Th (A) 1,3,5,7, W/F (B) 2,4,6,8.

Things I need to do:

* Plan a toolbox-full of ways to structure each class in general so they don't sit in one place for too long.
* Rearrange the topic list (especially AP calculus) so that we learn enough.
* Other stuff/issues/challenges I'm probably not aware of yet.

On top of that we're starting school 2 weeks later than usual, and I'm stressing about finishing up my AP Calculus topics in time to review for the AP exam. Deep breaths. I can do it.

6 comments:

  1. I loved teaching on the block, but I am an English teacher. The math teachers struggled with it much more because math is one of those where you need to keep in touch with your students. The students will do much better if they remember to do their homework the night it's assigned rather than the night before it's due. I still don't know how the math teachers did it, but I know it was a constant struggle for them. The teachers who didn't struggle were the ones who only ended up covering half the material because they gave their students too much time to work in class rather than giving the home they used to.

    You're on the right track, though, by quickly realizing that you're going to have to teach a little differently!

    Check your textbook resources. A lot of companies have resources and plans for using their books on a block. Some are generic, but others give you a plan of what sequence and time frame to use.

    Good luck!

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  2. One strategy that I've seen used (and have been able to pull off successfully from time to time) is to have two topics open at once. So you use the first half of the class to deal with one thing (say, polar coordinates) and then the second half is devoted to something totally different (like complex numbers). They key is to make a big deal out of the switch so that the students can reset themselves. Have them switch to new desks or something. Of course, I like it best when eventually the two topics come together as one (like in my examples) but I think this way of structuring time and content works even if that's not the case.

    Block with math are hard, but they do allow for deeper work and if you can find ways to take advantage of the extra time you can get more done. Right now I'm having pairs of students teach mini-lessons for review and I can fit three 20-minute sessions with time for feedback to each pair and time for class business into each block meeting. That's pretty cool. I don't think I would make them prepare and teach such detailed lessons if it was going to take 2 weeks to get through the whole class. But if it's one week of presentations, I feel good about it.

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  3. Anonymous5:05 PM

    Thanks for both of your comments. Something new to add to my toolbox :). I didn't think about looking at the textbook resources, so that should garner some good ideas. Also, I was wondering if I could teach 2 topics in one class, so that gives me a place to start.

    Ms. Cookie

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  4. We teach 4 slightly extended periods per week. One danger is just letting a topic go on for a few more minutes. I try my best to cover old 2-lesson topics in one lesson. Also, I try to use the smaller bits of extra time (topic takes 35, I've got 20 left) to cover little "extras." In the four years we've worked this schedule my students have been able to see many many more extra topics, extra applications, extra hands on, extra puzzles, extra games then they would have ever seen before.

    Biggest problem? Trips and Holidays. Talk to other teachers and admins now, before you get into it, to let them know that if Friday in two weeks is a day off, Wednesday this week is a horrible day for a trip. Someone should keep score.

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  5. Anonymous8:19 AM

    Jonathan,

    That's a good point. I can see how it's alluring to just go on a wee bit longer and before you know it, time has run out. I keep flip flopping in my mind with the breadth versus depth argument. I want them to know a lot, but ultimately, what will they remember, and what do I really want them to take away from class. Things to ponder over summer.

    Ms. Cookie

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  6. Well written article.

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