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Topic: Restructuring Time for Math Class
Replies: 8   Last Post: May 2, 1995 6:56 AM

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Henri Picciotto

Posts: 54
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: structuring time
Posted: May 2, 1995 3:14 AM
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I work at the Urban School of San Francisco. I have much experience
in the block schedule (many years). In this message, I will answer
some of the questions that have been asked about block scheduling, and
comment on some of the statements that have been made. In the
following one, I will re-post a description of our schedule and some
comments on it.

> Can the students process as much material in a semester in block
> as could be processed i n the typical yearly schedule?


The answer is yes, in one sense, since our students end up going to
many competitive colleges and function well there. However, to be
honest, our goals are not to "process" large quantities of material.
You have to decide to cover less, but more in depth. This is a bit of
a problem for our AP classes because of teaching to an outside test.
But otherwise, it provides the kids with a much more thoughtful
education.

It is of course easier to do projects and labs in the block system.
This in turn has substantial advantages from the point of view of
motivation.

> what works best may depend on the course content, the
> audience, and the teaching style


Unfortunately, schools cannot easily have blocks for some teachers and
courses, and traditional periods for others. So it becomes imperative
to evaluate this question as a policy decision for the whole school.
Such an evaluation is difficult to do objectively, since teachers
always tend to favor the status quo -- it's a lot easier to continue
teaching in the format you are accustomed to.

Of course, the question in the end is not what is best for the
teacher, but what is best for the student. But to make any changes,
teachers have to agree. At my school, schedule changes are discussed
by the curriculum committee and approved (or not) by vote of the
faculty. Using schedule changes to force teachers to do things is a
real loser.

> Science and art teachers wanted to institute it
> wholesale. Foreign language teachers were the most resistant


There is no doubt that block scheduling works very well for science
and art. At my school, foreign language teachers feel that shortening
the period from 75 to 70 minutes, which we did last year, was a big
loss. Their feeling is that long periods contribute to immersion in
the language. (Our language courses include much conversation.) For
history and english, in addition to discussions, they are able to do
in-class writing, watch movies and discuss them, and so on. For math,
we can do both group work and whole-class discussions in a typical
day, and many more labs with manipulatives or technology than we would
in a traditional schedule.

> The difficulty, for everyone, was in the lowest ability classes.

I cannot comment on this based on my own experience, since our classes
are not tracked. But I have heard good things about double-period
algebra classes for lower tracks in Texas. It's entirely a question of
how you use the longer period, which gives you the opportunity to bore
the kids for longer with lectures and drills, or the opportunity to
get them engaged with lessons involving cooperative learning and labs.


Specifics of the Urban School schedule in next message.

--Henri






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