Implementation & Research
• Takes about 2 years of implementation to gain full
support from the educational community.
• It changes the school environment positively,
especially in the form of fewer disciplinary referrals.
• Over time the school day becomes less stressful for
both the teachers and the students.
• Ongoing Staff development over the implementation
period is essential for success.
• Lecturing for large amounts of time can be a major
problem and is not effective.
• Very few schools return to the single period schedule
after adoption of a block schedule.
Sir Ken Robinson – TED TALK
Here is the sample planning
(San Ysidro High School) Block Schedule (120 Minutes)
• Skill/Concept Review.............................................10-15 minutes
Great time for a quick formative assessment:
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 note taking (with discussion during or afterward)
Shared reading or Read aloud of 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
• 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 Journalo (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
Instructional Strategies for Reading at
the High School Level
• Pre reading 1- 36
• During reading 1- 31
• After Reading 1-28
• Discussion Strategies 1-9
Continuously engage students in active learning.
• Think-pair-share. The teacher poses a question and
asks each student to think about appropriate solutions.
Students are next asked to discuss potential answers
with a partner. Finally, the teacher calls on students
randomly or asks for responses from volunteers.
• Learning journals. Students can routinely write new
concepts they have learned in daily journals. They
should be prompted to focus on connecting this new
information to previous topics or other interdisciplinary
areas, and to write down the concepts they still have
not mastered. Guided notes. Teachers can prepare
handouts that summarize the lesson's major concepts,
with significant portions left blank for students to
complete during the lecture.
• Active questioning. Asking questions of individuals is
an excellent way to determine if a student understands
the concept being presented, but this is an extremely
inefficient method for assessing all students' levels of
understanding. Teachers can pose questions to the
class, allow sufficient wait-time, then call for "thumbs
up-thumbs down" responses from everyone. Students
can raise their left or rights hands to answer true-false
questions, or can call out or display numbers that
correspond to the correct answer in multiple-choice
questions. The point is, all students are involved, and
the teacher has a quick and accurate method to assess
student mastery of new material.
• Teachers should embrace the concept of
"teacher as coach" advocated by both the
Coalition of Essential Schools (Sizer, 1986) and
Breaking Ranks (NASSP, 1996).
• Teachers should strive to facilitate student
learning, rather than always using the direct
delivery method of instruction. Whenever
possible, students should complete the activity.
• Lessons should be active, with reduced
emphasis on such passive activities as listening
to lectures and completing worksheets.
• Lessons should be planned in which students
learn through discovery methods or teach
important concepts to their classmates.
Questioning Techniques for Active Learning
1. Ask Challenging Questions
– Avoid phrasing questions that are closed, which require straightforward factual answers, unless you simply want to check retention. Ask
probing and evaluative questions that call for higher cognitive thinking such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Challenge students to explore
the evidence for their existing knowledge, apply their existing knowledge to other situations, bring them to the limits of their knowledge base.
– Example of a straightforward question: What is the expression for kinetic energy?
– Example of a more challenging question: Why is there a factor of ½ in the expression for kinetic energy?
2. Ask Well-Crafted, Open-Ended Questions
– To start an active discussion, ask open-ended questions that encourage the exploration of various possibilities. However, the questions should
not be too unstructured as this may lead to ambiguity, and time is lost defining the question rather than addressing the issue at hand.
Questions can be crafted to bring out inductive and deductive reasoning skills. Encourage students to figure out answers rather than remember
them. At times questions are designed to help students see things from a broader perspective, but this may necessitate other questions along
the way to help the students narrow their focus before arriving at the answer.
– Example of an open-ended and structured question: We have examined the aetiology of dental caries. What factors would increase a patient’s
risk to caries?
3. Ask Uncluttered Questions
– Avoid cluttered questions that involve many sub-questions or are interspersed with background information. This type of questions confuse the
students because they are not clear what is being asked of them.
– e.g. of a cluttered question: What are some of the reasons that Newton’s laws are flawed? I mean…what seems to be the main problem,
according to Einstein? Can we then still use Newton’s laws? A few of you earlier said that you do not think Newton’s laws should be used for
some situations. What are the problems there?
Learn to Wait
• You need to wait after asking a question before answering it yourself or going on to ask further questions or making further points. Good questions, especially
profound ones, may necessitate lengthy wait times. Do not be afraid to wait. Waiting is a sign that you want thoughtful participation. 30 seconds may seem like an
eternity, but the brain needs it to process.
• Oral presentation can result in students not hearing or understanding a question. Thus long unproductive wait times are likely to follow. To ensure questions are
clearly communicated to the students, write your questions on the overhead or on the whiteboard or hand them out in the written form. It is often useful to ask
whether the questions are clear before launching into wait time.
Cooper, J.M., et al. (1977). Classroom Teaching Skills: A Handbook. Toronto: D.C. Heath.
Kissock, C. & Lyortsuun, P.A. (1982). Guide to Questioning: Classroom Procedures for Teachers. London: MacMillan Press Ltd.
Rasmussen, R.V. (1984). ‘Practical Discussion Techniques for Instructors’. AACE Journal. 12(2), 38–47.
‘Question Types’. (1998). Teaching at UNL. Teaching & Learning Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. http://www.unl.edu/teaching/teachquestions.html (Last accessed: 3 February
Include group activities to encourage
• New concepts are more likely to be retained in long-term
memory when the learner is permitted to state them orally
or to physically engage in activities. Group activities can
range from brief discussions with a partner to carefully
crafted activities that may require the majority of the block.
• Cooperative learning. A substantial body of research
exists documenting the effectiveness of cooperative learning
strategies (Johnson and Johnson, 1989; Slavin, 1990). Any
faculty that is considering implementing block scheduling
should seriously consider cooperative learning training for all
teachers and make this instructional method the cornerstone
of lesson planning.
• Writing groups. Students can critique their fellow group
members' writing for errors in spelling, grammar,
punctuation, word choice, and sentence structure. Oral and
written feedback will help students improve their writing
style as they learn to write for their peer audience.
• Case studies, role playing, and simulations. Case
studies allow students to view situations through the
depersonalized actions of a story character ("I agree/disagree
with what he/she did because..."), rather than risking peer
disapproval for personal solutions. Class discussion,
consequently, remains focused on finding appropriate
solutions rather than confronting conflicting student values,
beliefs, and feelings. Through role plays and simulations,
students have an opportunity to employ their dramatic
talents, in addition to experiencing how a person in that role
may actually feel or react when confronted with the
Use creative thinking activities
• Though teachers today are generally familiar with
the taxonomy of educational objectives in the
cognitive domain (Bloom et al., 1956), they are
likely to be less aware of similar taxonomies in the
affective and psychomotor domains (Krathwohl,
Bloom, and Masia, 1956; Harrow, 1969). These
latter two domains include learning activities that
challenge students to develop skills in such areas as
organizing preferences and developing confidence.
• Lessons that attend to the affective and
psychomotor domains, in addition to the higher
levels of the more traditional cognitive domain,
provide opportunities to emphasize the more
spontaneous and creative capabilities of students.
Examples of classroom attention to creative aspects
of learning include assignments to develop
illustrations of solutions to current affairs problems
in social studies, or to exchange and solve student-
created problems in math. Having students describe
how they arrived at answers to assignments that
require higher order thinking is also of great value in
encouraging nontraditional thinking.
Move outside the classroom.
Case Studies - Case studies are tools for engaging students in
research and reflective discussion. Higher order thinking is
encouraged. Solutions to cases may be ambiguous and facilitate
creative problem solving coupled with an application of previously
acquired skills. They are effective devices for directing students to
practically apply their skills and understandings
Field Trips - A field trip is a structured activity that occurs outside the
classroom. It can be a brief observational activity, a longer more
sustained investigation or project, or a virtual tour using multi-
Inquiry - Inquiry learning provides opportunities for students to
experience and acquire processes through which they can gather
information about the world. This requires a high level of
interaction among the learner, the teacher, the area of study,
available resources, and the learning environment. Students use
both inductive and deductive reasoning processes.
Research Projects – Action Research format - A research model
provides students with a framework for organizing information
about a topic. Research projects frequently include these four
steps: determining the purpose and topic; gathering the
information; organizing the information; and sharing knowledge.
Peer Partner Learning -Peer partner learning is a collaborative
experience in which students learn from and with each other for
individual purposes. Students reflect upon previously taught
material by helping peers to learn and, at the same time, develop
and hone their social skills.
Problem solving - There are major types of problem solving –
reflective and creative. Regardless of the type of problem solving a
class uses, problem solving focuses on knowing the issues,
considering all possible factor and finding a solution. Because all
ideas are accepted initially, problem solving allows for finding the
best possible solution as opposed to the easiest solution or the
first solution proposed.
Approaching instructional time with a commitment to
including "outside-the-classroom" resources and processes
as much as possible helps teachers and students focus on
the real-life applications of their classes. Using community
resources within the classroom, such as guest speakers and
community artifacts, effectively ties community and school
together, while simultaneously building invaluable
community support for the schools (Schmitt and Tracy,
1996). Similarly, the use of integrated field trips and
assignments to gather information from the immediate
community through "community scavenger hunts" helps to
create relevance in the students' learning.
Simulations - A simulation is a form of experiential learning. Simulations
are instructional scenarios where the learner is placed in a "world" defined
by the teacher. They represent a reality within which students interact. The
teacher controls the parameters of this "world" and uses it to achieve the
desired instructional results.
Synectics - Synectic thinking is the process of discovering the links that
unite seemingly disconnected elements. It is a way of mentally taking things
apart and putting them together to furnish new insight for all types of
problems. It is a creative problem solving technique which uses analogies.
This technique has been developed by Gordon and Prince.
Scavenger Hunt - http://www.dots-n-spots.com/?p=297
Employ authentic forms of
• Traditional paper-and-pencil tests are limited in the types of
learning activities for which these methods of assessment are
valid. If emphasis in classroom strategies is placed on less
traditional and more creative learning, less traditional and more
creative forms of measuring the results are needed.
• Demonstrations of a wide range of student behaviors, such as
cooperative problem analysis and resolution with a classroom
partner, or use of technology in accessing, manipulating, and
presenting information are more characteristic of situations
students will confront outside the classroom, and more telling of
the level of integration in multi-domain learning. The use of
others besides the classroom teacher to assist in evaluating
student growth, based on clearly-defined objectives also helps to
make assessment more authentic.
Integrate and reinforce basic skills
throughout the curriculum.
• Students can engage in the writing process in all classes;
science and math concepts can readily be integrated; and
history can be infused into foreign languages, art, and music.
Students can make connections and transfer knowledge
more readily across these artificial disciplinary boundaries.
• A natural progression to this concept is the development of
an interdisciplinary approach to the curriculum. Faculty
members can begin this process by sharing curriculum
content, agreeing upon times during the school calendar
when major concepts could most appropriately be
integrated, and identifying overarching themes and learning
activities that would connect the various disciplines.
• Technology is an excellent learning tool when it is purposefully
crafted to facilitate student understanding of concepts, and it
can be used effectively for both whole-class instruction and
• Try and stay away from lengthy videos. Keep them to 30
minutes or less.
• On the other hand, countless teachers are discovering the
power of teacher-developed multimedia presentations and the
benefits of the Internet as a student research tool. Teachers
should exercise caution when planning activities that
incorporate student use of the Internet, however, since
students can spend inordinate amounts of time "surfing" and
exploring areas that have little or no educational value.
Lessons using the Internet should direct students to
appropriate sites for specific purposes so this technology is
actually used as an educational tool.
• Use web 2.0 tools for classroom projects
Share resources and ideas with colleagues.
• One of the major fears of making change lies in confronting the unknown. When teachers change
their instructional patterns from the tried and-true methodology of the past to the uncharted
waters of teaching in a block schedule, having the support of colleagues is invaluable. Patterns of
"lone ranger" efforts to achieve should be replaced with active seeking and giving of both
information and support in a collaborative forum that brings teachers together. Longer periods of
time and more flexibility in the schedule allow teachers to plan and work together in ways not
• Teachers can capitalize on this advantage by being open to sharing both successes and roadblocks
that occurred in implementing new instructional strategies. Besides helping one's colleague think
through the "whys" of the situations discussed, the process can be directly helpful to the other
teacher. Often, what did not go so well for one teacher may be an excellent strategy for someone
else in another setting.
• Building administrators can support this process by encouraging teachers to take risks in the
classroom without fear of reprisal. Time can be set aside in faculty meetings for teachers to
share both successful and unsuccessful classroom experiences, so teachers can receive
suggestions and feedback from their peers. In this way, teachers begin to develop a learning
community while modeling the practice of continuous learning for their students.
Plan ahead for support activities.
• Longer periods of teaching time require longer-range thinking and
• Informal learning activities that enrich and supplement the formal
instructional objectives of the class should be readily available and
carefully planned, especially for classes that include more complex
learning and/or diverse student populations, or for those times when
students are just not ready to engage in additional formal learning
• Educational games of various kinds, whether commercially prepared or
student created, relieve the stress of long periods of intense instruction
while also supporting the learning goals of the class.
• "Brain-teasers" that capture the content of the class in new and unusual
patterns, such as visual presentations of ideas or cross-disciplinary
applications of the day's lesson, provide opportunities for students in
pairs or teams to review curricular content and to develop cooperative
Block Scheduling – Good, Bad Reality
• Block scheduling is a needs-driven, research-based approach to the
problem of restructuring the time element in the secondary school
paradigm. It is a restructuring that has been successfully implemented in
many locations across the country, and indeed, internationally (Furman
and McKenna, 1995; Hackmann, 1995; Schoenstein, 1995; Wilson, 1995;
Fritz, 1996; Reid, 1996; Wyatt, 1996). This change in the time structure of
the secondary school has become the springboard for both organizational
growth and reexamination of instructional goals. New paradigms in one
area of the educational arena call for new paradigms in other areas.
• Much of the success that has accompanied the move to block scheduling
is due in a direct way to the willingness of teachers to make changes in
their instructional methods and in the willingness of their principals to
support teachers in their efforts. Such a move calls for openness to the
change process on the part of all concerned, a structure for honest and
open dialogue preceding implementation about the pros and cons of the
change, and forward-thinking leadership with accompanying
organizational support throughout the process. With this type of planning
and sustenance, both material and moral, the likelihood that block
scheduling will make a difference in student outcomes, and result in
professional and organizational growth, is indeed great and more than
worth the effort.
Glossary for Block Scheduling
• 4 x 4 Block Schedule: Four classes, approximately ninety minutes in length, every day for the first semester. Four completely
different classes, again ninety minutes in length, every day for the second semester. Each class equals one credit.
• A/B Block Schedule: (also known as the alternate plan) Four classes, approximately ninety minutes in length, meeting every
other day (“A” days) for an entire school year. Four completely different classes, again ninety minutes in length, meeting on
alternate days (“B” days) for an entire year. Each class equals one credit.
• Combination Block Schedule: A combination of 4 x 4 and A/B block schedules.
• Flexible Schedule: A combination of 4 x 4 and A/B block schedules, but class length varies from day to day. One example: On
three out of every five days throughout the school year, each class could be 90 minutes in length. On the other two days,
designated as Advisement/Resource Days, each class is 75 minutes in length. An Advisement/Resource Hour is 60 minutes in
• All of the above from: The Change Process and Alternative Scheduling, accessed 6/4/06
• Intensive Block: In this format, students attend two core classes at a time. These core classes can be coupled with up to three
other year-long elective classes. Students complete the core classes in 60 days and then move on to another two. School years
are organized into trimesters (Jones, 1995; Canady & Rettig, 1995). Read more atwww.nwrel.org
• Modular: the modular schedule system is similar to the traditional block schedule, but differs in that it allows for each day of the
week to have classes (sometimes referred to as “mods”) scheduled in a different order.
• Modified block: “build your own” block schedule; e.g. schools may have students attend school based on a 4 x 4 block on
Monday through Thursday, and a regular 8 period schedule on Friday. Or, they may have two blocked classes in a day, combined
with three regular periods (Rettig and Canady, 1996). Read more at www.nwrel.org
• Parallel block: The parallel block is used primarily in elementary schools, whereas the modified block, alternating A/B, the 4 x 4
block, and the intensive block are used primarily in secondary schools. Parallel block takes a class of students and divides them
into two groups. One group of children stay with their classroom teachers for instruction in a subject such as math or language
arts, while the other group attends physical education or music, or visits the computer lab; after a prescribed length of time the
two groups swap. This schedule provides all students with a more individual learning experience (Canady, 1990). Read more
• Pullout: elective classes that take some students, but not all students, out of the regular classroom to participate in group
practices or individual lessons. NAfME’s Position Statement
• Trimester: The instructional year is divided into three cycles.
• Year-round: Schools that follow a year-around schedule do not literally meet for the entire year. The instructional year is divided
into four cycles, which generally run from late July-September, October-December, January-March, and April-early June. Each
nine-week instructional cycle is followed by an approximate two-week break, and other seasonal breaks (i.e., Winter, Spring) are
• More Time to Learn
• More In-Depth Learning
• Higher Morale and Better Grades
• Opportunities to complete different types of
• Allows for more variety in the classroom
• More in-depth lessons can lead to greater
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