More Time Means More Learning
“Last year I was teaching a 60-minute curriculum in 42 minutes,” says John Powaski, seventh grade math teacher at Roxboro Middle School. “There was no time for review or practice.” Not any more. Every middle school student in our district now receives 84-minute blocks of language arts and math each day. “More time together means more learning,” Mr. Powaski says.
Each class includes a mini-review to assess students’ readiness to learn the next math concept. Then he adjusts his lesson plan to make sure he is teaching what they are ready to learn. After he has fully explained the day’s new concepts, he has students complete a few practice problems together.
Powaski strongly supports block scheduling. “It gives time for students to move through the inevitable ‘uncomfortable zone’ of learning a new math idea to get to a couple of ‘a-ha’ moments each day.”
In Lia Radke’s eighth grade English/Language Arts class, block scheduling allows time for meaningful group work. Class begins with a mini-lesson about a specific literary concept. Then the class reads a piece of writing aloud that gives a good example of that concept.
As in a writer’s workshop, students break into groups to review their own writing with the new concept in mind and to edit classmates’ writing. Students work on specific skills in collaboration stations. Ms. Radke, who floats from group to group or meets with individual students, appreciates the 84-minute block. “Students learn so much more by hearing from me and then working together and teaching each other. And I feel like I have time to meet with students one-on-one when they need that kind of support.”