Our school district is preparing to transition to a block schedule for all secondary schools in Fall 2017. I spent approximately 8 years of my teaching career teaching in a block schedule. At Woodland High School, we had a 5-period modified block where block classes met for 80-90 minutes daily for a semester. At Maryknoll High School, I taught in a 3-period day on trimesters where each class met for almost 2 hours a day. Here are some of the things I learned from these experiences.
- DEPTH: One of the advantages of the block is that it allowed plenty of time for deep exploration and full investigation of a topic in a class period.
- REVIEW: My students needed more review in a block schedule than they did when taking math every day all year long. I had to find creative ways to incorporate review because we also needed time to learn new concepts. I tended to use warm-ups to refresh their memory about prior math they learned that we would need for the day’s lesson or lessons coming up in the near future.
- ENGAGEMENT: Students won’t stay engaged for 80-90 minutes of lecture! I tried to mix things up and incorporate movement so kids weren’t feeling stir crazy. Variety is the key to making the block work well.
- FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: During a 90 minute class period, I needed to know where students were at in their learning way before the end of class. Using formative assessment throughout the class period helped me adjust and address misconceptions early.
- TECHNOLOGY: You may know by now that I LOVE using technology to support student learning, and teaching in the block allowed time for this. We could use technology to explore or investigate, to review, as a formative assessment tool, or as a way to capture student thinking through mathcasts.
- CLOSURE: Closure became crucial when teaching in the block. Since I didn’t get to see my students every day, I needed to ensure they all left class with the day’s learning solidified. I strongly recommend an exit routine that includes a way to summarize the day’s learning (which also works well as a formative assessment that will help you with the next lesson).
For some practical advice and strategies for teaching math in the block, I suggest reading Math Giraffe: Teaching on a Block Schedule.