Traditional Seven Period Schedule verses 4×4 Block Schedule

The debate over the traditional six or seven period day verses variations of the block schedule has been around for years. In order to determine the schedule that best suits your school, certain questions have to be answered.

When students are not successful or fail a course, which schedule provides more opportunities to catch up? If students are expected to earn 23 credits to graduate, both the seven period year long schedule and the 4X4 block schedule have built in opportunities for students to catch up if not successful in one or more courses. The seven period year long schedule a student has the opportunity to earn 28 credits. In the block schedule a student has the opportunity to earn 32 credits. Even though the block schedule has four more opportunities for students to take additional courses, the argument for the block schedule is not paramount if students are only required to earn 23 credits to graduate.

Does one schedule cost less for staffing purposes verses the other? Because of the economic times we are now living, many school districts are moving away from the block schedule and implementing a seven period day schedule. I am not sure of the statistical numbers of savings but have to wonder if this is the best way to save money.

The next question posed is the sheer work load of teachers in a seven period day verses the block schedule. Obviously the teachers have to work with twice the number of students in the traditional schedule. The teaching and learning process is much different for some courses due to the curriculum-one example is an ELA Teacher grading 180 essays in a 7 period schedule while in a block schedule the papers would drop to 90. Would the teacher have more time to provide specific feedback for learning?

Time is a major factor when looking at the effectiveness of a teacher. Teachers must have time to plan engaging lessons that meet the needs of all students with assessments providing a clear picture of what kids know or are able to do in reference to the curriculum on the road to mastery. Teacher much have time to collaborate with colleagues to discuss their work in detail.

Another point to consider is the student perspective. Are students able to leave a middle school and jump into a schedule with 7 courses taught by 7 teachers? Many have no problem with this notion but a high number of at-risk students are not able to handle or juggle this much work. I am afraid our at-risk students lose interest very quickly and soon become a statistic and drop out.

In order for teachers to be effective, what is a manageable work load or teacher/student ratio? For the sake of this discussion, I am referring to the total number of course preparations and total number of students teachers are responsible to teach.

What is the minimum time a class must be in session for teachers to use the framework of instruction with fidelity?

Through the years I have read numerous articles expressing opinions favoring both sides of this issue. Please share which you prefer and let everyone know why. It would be great to hear from both classroom teachers and students.

9 thoughts on “Traditional Seven Period Schedule verses 4×4 Block Schedule

  1. Dr. Chesser- Great Blog! As you may be aware, our district is going back to the traditional 7 period day. I am concerned for our CTAE programs for two reasons: 1. Time- 50 min. is stretching it for some of our more intensive labs (automotive, culinary, healthcare, construction, etc.). By the time the teacher takes care of their responsibilities (attendance, roll, announcements, etc.), gets materials out and the final clean up, there is minimal time for the students to actually “work” in the labs. This can also be applied to science lab classes as well. 2. Pathway Completion- This will also prove to become more difficult as it will take students 3 years to complete a pathway. Our current 4X4 schedule allows a student to complete a pathway within two years and provides opportunities for students to possibly complete more than one pathway or gain valuable work experience through our Youth Apprenticeship programs or Work-Based Learning programs.

  2. Block scheduling has pros and cons. I have taught under block before but felt unprepared when the school first implemented it.

  3. Thanks for bringing up the topic since many teachers remember fondly when we were on the block schedule. Pedagogically, I think that it was better for teachers in that they had a longer planning and were able to get things graded better since you had longer time as well as fewer students. As well, frankly it was nice to be done with one cohort of students in just a semester.
    However, one downside is that it takes a greater level of planning and preparation to fill ninety minutes with meaningful instructional experiences. This can be a challenge for even the best teachers and can be a nightmare for weaker ones. Personally, I prefer a 4×4 block, it gives more time to do group and lab type work. It opens time for more creative application and synthesis type assignments. Sometimes, 55 minutes it just not enough time to do creative things.

  4. I am torn between block and 7 periods a day, but I lean toward block scheduling. I truly believe that block gives me more time for each individual student. I think I have more time to do a better job with covering all areas of our framework. I often run out of time for summarizing and introducing the next days lesson, because we are cleaning up or I let the bell catch me. Block is better in my opinion for a lab class, because we have more time to really get into the skills and practice for performance testing.

  5. I have taught in a 6 period year-long schedule, a 4×4 block schedule, and a 7 period year-long schedule. I know that I was my personal best on 4×4 block scheduling. I had fewer students, fewer preps, and more time to apply the information in meaningful ways for the students. I was quicker to get things graded and returned to the students, my lessons were more fully developed, and I had time to get to know the students I taught. I know that the students I teach on 6 or 7 period schedules have more stress on them. They must comply to 7 different teachers’ demands and expectations, they have more academic classes at one time, with multiple tests given on the same day in different classes. With the block scheduling, students had 2 to 3 academics at a time, and they were able to take higher level courses, like AP classes (which I know will be part of the new grading system for schools), in their junior and senior years. Also, I believe that there are greater numbers of discipline issues on a traditional schedule, because of the multiple interruptions during the day (most discipline issues happen between classes or the beginning/end of a period).

    My favorite schedule is the traditional 4×4 block. But something like the one that follows would work, and I think it addresses the concerns some CTAE and elective courses have about needing to have their students year-round. Maybe FTE money would count the same as a traditional schedule, too (not sure):

    Modified A/B Block with Seminar (two weeks are shown to exemplify the rotation pattern)

    WEEK ONE WEEK TWO
    M – 1, 2, 3, 4 M – 5, 6, 7, Seminar
    T – 5, 6, 7, Seminar T – 1, 2, 3, 4
    W – 1, 2, 3, 4 W – 5, 6, 7, Seminar
    Th – 5, 6, 7, Seminar Th – 1, 2, 3, 4
    F – 1, 2, 3, 4 F – 5, 6, 7, Seminar

    Seminar – Takes the place of advisement, provides a time for intervention, clubs, tutoring, assemblies, mentoring program, etc.

  6. Being in a hands on teaching environment I like block a lot better than 7 periods. By the time we do all that we need to do , there just is not enough time in 7 periods. Going over your essential question and standard, checking for understanding from previous day getting out tools and materials and then you have to put very thing away and clean up lab for next class there just is not enough time. You can have more one on one in block because of extended class time. I also think that the students get bored in year long classes, block gives them the chance to start over with something new half way during the year,because if they are bored they are not listening or learning by that point.

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