Scheduling Preferences…To Block or Not to Block!

Block scheduling allows my students the time for a variety of activities. Can the same results be achieved on a traditional schedule?

Whether you are a new teacher or a seasoned veteran, you have likely already participated in or at least overheard a discussion about scheduling.  During my tenure as a middle school teacher, I taught on a traditional schedule and also a block schedule.  I must admit that block scheduling is my preference, but I had a very unique situation.  Most recently I was teaching 8th grade U.S. History on a 4-block day.  Social studies is tested here in the 8th grade, so we dedicated the entire time available to that and the other tested areas.  I had the opportunity to teach the same students 5 days a week, 90 minutes a day, for the entire year!   Yes, that was a dream schedule for me.  I had plenty of time to cover all the required material without being rushed.  All parts of the lesson cycle could be included and debriefs could last as long as needed following experiential exercises- in the same class period!  Why then do I hear complaints about block scheduling from fellow social studies educators?  Some argue that planning a block requires too much effort as you have to break it into chunks to keep students engaged and on task (which our curriculum does).  Others have expressed that they see more discipline problems in a block format.  I found that students performed well on assessments because I had the time available for reteaching when needed. 

Can block scheduling be successful at the middle school level or is it best reserved for high school courses?  Please share your scheduling success stories!

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