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Block-ed opportunities

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We’re all getting used to the block schedule and how it affects us, teachers included. There are so many different ways that teachers have been using this extended period to help students and, although some work well many others… not so much.

In my classes alone, I’ve seen multiple different ways in which the block is being used. While they all work and get information to the students, I believe a few techniques work a bit better than others. Some teachers are using the 90 minute period as it was two days and proceed with whatever lessons were planned in succession. While this does save time, I think it’s necessary to incorporate something like a 5 minute “Brain Break”. According to “Chemical Education”, a study from 2010, psychologists estimate that the average attention span for students is somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on things like mood,motivation, and other similar factors. Now, classes on a normal school day have been extended to 50 minutes, over double this time frame, and I think that the majority of us are barely able to – more or less – pay attention for that long. These blocks however, are over four times as long as a average students attention span! I believe that if students are going to retain any of the information being presented to them in these extended periods, there needs to be short intervals of time in which they can just relax their brains and refocus on the task ahead of them.

Other teachers use this period to really capitalize on their lessons, using the first part as a teaching time and then follow with a group activity or stations time. This method, to me, is a great way to utilize the block since it incorporates the “Brain Break” into the transition time while  switching between stations. This also gives the teacher a chance to catch up with the different groups and check on individual progress, making sure that each student is where they should be, which is important seeing as falling behind on one unit can affect a whole semester’s worth of work and be detrimental to your grade. This works well because each station or activity rarely lasts longer than 10 minutes, ensuring that students can focus for a short period and then get a small break and another session in which attention is given while also providing them extra practice to work on what they just learned with the teacher around to help.

One more way I’ve seen the block used for, is 90 minutes of the teacher going into detail on a specific topic, usually in a lecture-esque format. While this may work for certain topics, it’s not usually the best teaching tactic for most students. If a regular 50 minute period of lecturing is capping out the time a student can really focus and listen, 90 minutes is really pushing the envelope. It’s already hard to retain the loads of information that’s tossed out on a regular school day, so it’s just not reasonable to expect a student to remember everything when it is being constantly thrown at them without there being an opportunity to recover and prepare for the next period in which our attention is going to be held for.

I really do think the block works and some teachers are able to really capitalize on the extended period. However, not all the teachers have been able to fully utilize the period to get the most done for their students. Even though it seems like a lot was completed in class, if it was rushed, or our brains didn’t get a chance to recenter and prepare, there is no way to tell whether or not our brains retained the full lesson.

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