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Blocked ClassesFor all of you English teachers at enotes, how would you plan for a...

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englishteacher72 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted May 10, 2010 at 4:02 AM via web

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Blocked Classes

For all of you English teachers at enotes, how would you plan for a 90-minute high school English class?  Are there certain activities you would include on a daily basis?  Thoughts?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 10, 2010 at 6:54 AM (Answer #2)

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My classes are blocked and arranged by A and B days.  Some weeks have 3 "A" days and 2 "B" days, and vice versa.

I do a bell ringer every day (an activity the students are expected to do as soon as they get to class and completed before or soon after the tardy bells rings)--it is a sentence or two from a story that runs all year long, and the students correct the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, parallelism, misplaced modifiers, etc.  We also review prefixes, suffixes, and root words for vocabulary practice.  It takes about 5 minutes daily after the first couple of weeks (the first few days takes 10-15 minutes as they are getting used to the drill).

I review what we did the day before daily (since we've had at least one day in between, more if there's a weekend involved) and then go into whatever is on the docket for the day...literature or grammar or writing.

I try to break up the day into 3 sections daily--some lecture, some hands-on, some groupwork, impromptu speaking, socratic seminar, oral reading, whatever we're working on at the time.

It goes by much more quickly than you'd think, and I do love block schedule since we can get so much more done in a class period than 50-minute classes. This is especially true for research projects.  It's also a plus that we can watch more excerpts of a film or the entire thing in 1-2 class periods instead of taking an entire week to get through it.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted May 10, 2010 at 8:43 AM (Answer #3)

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I think perhaps the most important element is to include a variety of mediums and instructional delivery methods within any 90-minute class period. Ninety minutes of any just thing--whether it is lecture, discussion, writing, etc.--may not be the most efficient use of one's time.

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englishteacher72 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted May 10, 2010 at 8:56 AM (Answer #4)

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My classes are blocked and arranged by A and B days.  Some weeks have 3 "A" days and 2 "B" days, and vice versa.

I do a bell ringer every day (an activity the students are expected to do as soon as they get to class and completed before or soon after the tardy bells rings)--it is a sentence or two from a story that runs all year long, and the students correct the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, parallelism, misplaced modifiers, etc.  We also review prefixes, suffixes, and root words for vocabulary practice.  It takes about 5 minutes daily after the first couple of weeks (the first few days takes 10-15 minutes as they are getting used to the drill).

I review what we did the day before daily (since we've had at least one day in between, more if there's a weekend involved) and then go into whatever is on the docket for the day...literature or grammar or writing.

I try to break up the day into 3 sections daily--some lecture, some hands-on, some groupwork, impromptu speaking, socratic seminar, oral reading, whatever we're working on at the time.

It goes by much more quickly than you'd think, and I do love block schedule since we can get so much more done in a class period than 50-minute classes. This is especially true for research projects.  It's also a plus that we can watch more excerpts of a film or the entire thing in 1-2 class periods instead of taking an entire week to get through it.

Awesome!  Thank you so much!  Out of curiosity, what grade(s) do you teach?

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 10, 2010 at 9:28 AM (Answer #5)

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What I like about block schedules and English classes is that you can have students complete an entire writing process in one class period - draft, revise, final draft.  In other words, students have a chance to complete concepts and ideas, without as much emphasis on unguided homework.  This also means, for in-class writing or research papers or even novel analysis, at least some of the work is done with the teacher present - which also means less plagiarism, internet copying, etc.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 10, 2010 at 3:44 PM (Answer #6)

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I also have ONLY taught HS English on a block schedule - every day for 90 minutes, one semester.  There are multiple reasons I'd vote to change to a traditional period ALL year, however, I've mastered teaching bell-to-bell in 90 minute chunks.

I too break the class into 3rds, roughly.  A typical day's time break down for me is like this:

15 minutes: warm up - always a grammar exercise and a journal prompt
45 minutes: main lesson of the day which is always a variety but usually includes direct instruction, guided practice and independent practice (often done in groups)
15 minutes: clean up and closing

On the other hand, every Friday I do exactly 45 minutes of silent reading.  My classes love it.  I love it.  It is the greatest day of the week.  It is the only way to get most of my students to read independent novels, and they LOVE it.

Many teachers waste a lot of time on block schedule.  I am highly procedural, so my classes get used to the work load - but I do tons of movement during lessons that they don't get bored.  I never straight "lecture" as English class never seems conducive to massive amts. of notes.

Another thing that greatly helps me is posting the day's schedule on the board WITH TIME BREAKDOWNS.  I make my students hold us accountable to the schedule, and they like knowing what we're doing every day.

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted May 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM (Answer #7)

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I am not an English teacher but have observed in many blocked English classes. To me the key to planning successfully for blocked classes is as others have said, break your time into at least thirds and keep the lessons moving.

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted May 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM (Answer #8)

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I don't see time as a factor. I see what the requirements are and what the learning demands are. When I moved from an hour to an hour and a half, I didn'tt change anything that I was doing before. I basically and the same amount of time and it didn't even interfere with homework or assignments that I gave outside of class.

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted May 10, 2010 at 4:22 PM (Answer #9)

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I have taught blocked classes before and I agree with the other posts that said breaking the class up into smaller sections is key. I think this is very important for many reasons. First of all, teaching the same thing for a blocked class is very monotonous, not only for the students but for the teacher too. The classes I have taught in have always had some sort of warm up activity. There have also always been several times for the class to have open discussion whether it be related to new material or material learned the day before.

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 10, 2010 at 5:14 PM (Answer #10)

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I teach on a 90-minute block after teaching on a traditional schedule for years. This has been my first year. There are two major lessons I have learned.

1. The skills and content we teach are of higher priority than getting through the novel. It is easy (especially in a day and age when public instruction is supposed to be free and budget cuts are prolific) to read all period or for a big chunk because you are limited to the 90 minutes every other day in the classroom. IT IS OKAY TO SELECT PARTS OF THE BOOK, rather than the whole book. Save finishing whole books for their choice readings and the absolutely necessary works.

2. Learn about Socratic Seminar and use it. I have found no greater use of my time and students' opportunity to demonstrate and exercise their skills.

We are in a new generation of education. It is being made too easy for the kid. We have to use our time more efficiently than ever.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 11, 2010 at 9:42 AM (Answer #11)

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My classes are blocked and arranged by A and B days.  Some weeks have 3 "A" days and 2 "B" days, and vice versa.

I do a bell ringer every day (an activity the students are expected to do as soon as they get to class and completed before or soon after the tardy bells rings)--it is a sentence or two from a story that runs all year long, and the students correct the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, parallelism, misplaced modifiers, etc.  We also review prefixes, suffixes, and root words for vocabulary practice.  It takes about 5 minutes daily after the first couple of weeks (the first few days takes 10-15 minutes as they are getting used to the drill).

I review what we did the day before daily (since we've had at least one day in between, more if there's a weekend involved) and then go into whatever is on the docket for the day...literature or grammar or writing.

I try to break up the day into 3 sections daily--some lecture, some hands-on, some groupwork, impromptu speaking, socratic seminar, oral reading, whatever we're working on at the time.

It goes by much more quickly than you'd think, and I do love block schedule since we can get so much more done in a class period than 50-minute classes. This is especially true for research projects.  It's also a plus that we can watch more excerpts of a film or the entire thing in 1-2 class periods instead of taking an entire week to get through it.

Awesome!  Thank you so much!  Out of curiosity, what grade(s) do you teach?

  I teach sophomores and seniors.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted May 11, 2010 at 9:46 AM (Answer #12)

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I teach on a 90-minute block after teaching on a traditional schedule for years. This has been my first year. There are two major lessons I have learned.

1. The skills and content we teach are of higher priority than getting through the novel. It is easy (especially in a day and age when public instruction is supposed to be free and budget cuts are prolific) to read all period or for a big chunk because you are limited to the 90 minutes every other day in the classroom. IT IS OKAY TO SELECT PARTS OF THE BOOK, rather than the whole book. Save finishing whole books for their choice readings and the absolutely necessary works.

2. Learn about Socratic Seminar and use it. I have found no greater use of my time and students' opportunity to demonstrate and exercise their skills.

We are in a new generation of education. It is being made too easy for the kid. We have to use our time more efficiently than ever.

I agree completely about the use of Socratic seminars. They are a wonderful tool for teaching and learning that have improved my students' reading, thinking, discussion, and ultimately their writing as well. Sometimes we don't give our student credit for the depth and quality of thought they are capable of. This is one strategy that can bring that element to the surface.

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 11, 2010 at 12:36 PM (Answer #13)

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I teach juniors and seniors on a 90-minute block schedule.  We are currently on 4x4 block rather than  A/B, but I have taught on A/B and traditional.  My classes are AP English and traditional College Prep, but with both groups, I have found that you must mix up your activities within the 90-minute period.  My students really like to have structure; so I try to use the thirds strategy for most days, but sometimes I use 1/2 and 1/2 in order to complete timed writings, research, etc. 

Some activities other than Socratic seminar (as others have written, that works wonderfully) that my students enjoy and benefit from are peer editing activities, crossfire debates (regarding new skills, literary topics, current events, etc.), and competitive review or practice. 

If you can include at least one opportunity during each block for students to discuss, write, present, or actively engage in some other way, that truly helps you as the teacher and the students.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:23 AM (Answer #14)

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I normally only teach in a double 90 minute class time, so I can relate to your issue, but to be honest, I find that having the extra time helps us to go deeper and achieve more in the time. A MUST however is to move the students into different groups at least 2 times in the period. I do very little teaching "from the front" and rather give out group work that students do together then we go through. Having a good variety of games or quizzes is also important - the more movement and variety the better! If you can, weather permitting, taking them outside to play a game is such a good energiser.

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