TEACHING 90 MINUTE TIME BLOCKS

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  Author: Jennifer Prileson 

  TEACHER'S NOTE: Here's an adaptation of a resource someone passed on
  to me relating to how to deal with switching to 90-minute blocks.
  For those who were interested in tips on the "nuts and bolts" of
  doing it:

  EDITOR'S NOTE: Make sure you read Jennifer's article at the end of
  these great tips/suggestions. It provides a great insight into the
  topic -- Thanks Jen!

     1) WARMUPS:  as the students walk into class, have some kind of
     activity waiting for them:journal entries, SAT prep questions,
     review from the previous day, preview of activities for today's
     lesson, a puzzle to solve, etc.

     These can be turned in daily, weekly or monthly at teacher's
     discretion.

     2) MOVEMENT: plan opportunities for students to move around during
     the class period. Change seats, turn in work, move to another area
     of the school; give students the much-needed time to stretch their
     legs in a purposeful way.

     3) COOPERATIVE LEARNING:  group activities offer time for sharing
     ideas as well as socialization.  Any of the cooperative learning
     structures can be effective, especially midway through the class
     period.

     4) MEDIA CENTER:  use the media center as a change of scenery and
     as a location to do meaningful work (see #13).

     5) COMPUTER LAB:  use the computer lab (or have a computer station
     in your classroom) and available software programs to enhance
     classroom activities whenever appropriate.  Investigative program
     software, word-processing of reports, using the Internet to research,
     etc. are all productive ways of using 90 minutes.

     6) VIDEOS:  use videos when appropriate, but don't use the entire
     period to show the film;  make sure to have written work or other
     form of accountability accompany the video.

     7) OTHER MEDIA:  use recorded music, speeches, poems, plays, novels,
     or drills;  filmstrips, pictures/photos, other artwork,
     experiments/labs, are all appropriate and can make the lesson
     "come alive".

     8) LARGE GROUP DISCUSSIONS:  teachers guide the discussion with
     challenging, higher level questions, but may need to pull the more
     reluctant learners into the discussion.  Students are more willing to
     participate when they know the focus ahead of time and can come
     thoroughly prepared.

     9) INTERACTIVE LECTURES:  teacher lectures, stopping at intervals
     to discuss the material with the students, ask for individual and
     written student responses in journals prior to discussion, etc.

     10) INTEGRATION:  plan integrated activities with other subject
     area teachers;  natural connections often occur.  Team teaching can
     also be used during integrated activities in a block schedule.

     11) PEER TEACHING:  use the higher achieving students in your class
     to tutor low achievers.  "Teaching is learning twice";  the tutors
     will be practicing their skills & at the same time helping other
     students in the class.

     12) GUIDED PRACTICE:  after teaching a new skill, have the students
     practice the skill during class so they can obtain assistance if
     necessary. Guided practice that isn't completed during class can
     easily become homework.

     13) DISCOVERY METHOD/CREATIVE PROJECTS:  have students research
     topics of their choice related to curriculum, work towards a final
     "exhibition" or other performance assessment/presentation. Give
     students an array of different methods of presentation and allot
     class time for research (on-line, library, or in-class) and work.

     14) GAMES AND PUZZLES AS TRANSITIONAL ACTIVITIES:  use these
     diversions after tests or when moving from one concept to the next.
     These activities can be used to reinforce skills, practice for the
     SAT, review previously learned material, or simply be a challenge
     problem for them to solve.

     15) STATIONS:  remember when you were in elementary school and
     did "centers"?  Well, in middle and high school it's still a
     possibility.

     Having students work in pairs or small groups to complete a series
     of different activities/work, allows students to rotate from one
     station to the next, experiencing different facets of interrelated
     material. Pay attention to different learning styles when designing
     each station so that all learners will enjoy at least one station
     that they are strong in and spend time boosting their skills in
     other areas.  

  Note: try to make each station take approximately the same amount of
  time so there aren't students backing up others in the sequence.
          
  
           Teaching in a Block Schedule: An article

     There are two levels of staff development that I think teachers
     need when moving to longer time periods.

  The first is on a day-to-day level:

     what do I do with kids during 90 minutes without driving myself
     and the kids nuts or boring them to death? (I've seen:  the
     t-a-l-k   s-l-o-w-e-r  strategy  or the show lots of 90-minute
     movies every week campaign!)

     The nuts and bolts stuff really does need to be dealt with.

     The details, however, can easily take over if the big picture on
     curriculum isn't there. If your staff has the flexibility to
     re-examine existing curricular units and use a "Planning Backwards"
     approach, you'll find that when you design units that guide kids
     towards final performance assessments and you know where you're
     going, the 90-minute sessions become very easy to plan. This is
     because you're giving the kids a reason to do everything you
     ask them to do during that 90 minutes (and outside of class time
     too). And the more authentic the performance, the more driven
     your students will be to learn what they need to learn along the
     way.  It's also a great opportunity for you to look for natural
     connections that integrate different subjects, and also to invite
     colleagues to plan and teach collaboratively. 

                     Use next year to look at curriculum! 

  A couple of comments on process:  

     first, those who are fearful or resentful of change need to feel
     better soon.  Whatever the benefits of blocking, there are
     tradeoffs that you will be experiencing and it's important to
     acknowledge them and look hard at how you as a staff will deal with
     them. Brushing those concerns aside will only fan the flames. I
     think that using this upcoming year to visit schools currently
     utilizing this type of schedule will be very helpful. 
     Make sure that skeptics go along and talk to teachers "doing it",
     asking hard questions too.  Make sure you actually see teachers
     working in and out of the classroom, and talk to students - a
     lot!  The 3 schools that I've worked with who moved to block
     scheduling have all done this prior to taking any sort of faculty
     vote, and when the votes came in, the one thing that staff felt
     made their vote go one way or the other was how those site visits
     went.

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