As explained in the first part of this article, there are different types of block schedules. One of them is the Modified Block where a school continues to teach six periods a day, but increases the time of the classes. The other type of Block is the 4X4 where only four courses are taken at any one time, and they each last approximately 80 minutes. Even though these systems are very different, many of the modifications are the same. Unless otherwise noted, these strategies can be used for each.
Strategies for Teaching Under the Block Schedule
- Multiple Activities in any class period are a necessity. Research shows that the attention span of even an adult is not much more than 30 minutes. Therefore, lecturing for 80 minutes will not only kill your voice, but also result in less learning. Instead instruction should be varied. Ideas include debates, whole group discussions, role plays, simulations, and other cooperative learning activities.
- Try to engage as many of Gardner's Multiple Intelligences as you can. This ensures that every student is reached according to his/her strengths.
- Vary the learning modalities: Kinesthetic, visual, or auditory. Similar to Multiple Intelligences, this ensures that you keep the attention of all the students. This is especially important if your room is full of kinesthetic learners as mine often is.
- Do not expect too much of yourself. Especially in the beginning, you will over and under plan many times. That's okay. I always try to have two or three mini-lessons on hand to fill any extra time if I don't plan correctly.
- Take full advantage of the time allotted to institute those projects you never thought you'd be able to do. One of the main advantages to longer times is you can start and finish a simulation.
- Do not forget the importance of daily review. That extra time can really come in handy for both beginning and ending reviews.
- For the 4X4: It is very important not to waste even one day, especially if you teach a course that only lasts one semester as I often do. You have to cover the same material in one quarter. Therefore, it will often seem that you are covering a new unit every other day. Make sure to reassure the students and their parents that this is a necessity because of the schedule. Also, make sure to decide what is and is not important to your curriculum. When you are running short on time, cover what's truly essential.
- For the 4X4: According to a study in Texas, Advanced Placement courses are hurt the worst by the 4X4. Try if you can to get your AP classes extended. For example, if you are teaching AP American History, try to get it for the whole year. The studies show that students who participated in these were harmed less. Make sure that the students understand how rigorous the course will be if you only have them for one semester. Also, you might consider making it more selective to participate in AP so that students are up to the challenge.
- Finally, Do not feel as if you have to be the center of attention all of the time. Give your students independent work. Allow them to work in groups. Modular schedules, in many ways, can be very taxing on a teacher, so keep your chin up. If worse comes to worse, check out the top ten tips to manage teacher burnout for great ideas.