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Chapter 1: Block Scheduling

What Is It? Why Do It? How Do We Harness Its Potential To Improve Teaching and Learning?”
(Jen and Mike)
Book’s Purpose: help teachers design lessons to maximize potential of the “block” and provide students with engaging learning activities

Why the “Block?”

  • Instruction is fragmented having single period schedules
  • An impersonal environment with single periods (teachers need fewer students and vice versa)
  • Discipline heightened by single periods (more hall movement)
  • Instruction limited with short periods
  • “Traditional” scheduling does not provide varying learning time (some need more time)

Block Models

  • 4/4 Semester Plan
  • Trimester Plan
  • Reconfiguring the 180-Day
  • Alternate Day *(SHS selected model)

BLUE (Days 1, 3, 5) WHITE (Days 2, 4, 6)
  • Block 1: 7:35 - 8:55 (80 minutes)
  • Block 2: 8:59 - 10:19 (80 minutes)
  • FALCON PERIOD: 10:23 - 11:03 (40 minutes) ~ advisory, remediation, enrichment, GP, SH, S&O...All LCTI dismissed at the end of this period
  • Lunch: 11:07 - 1:01 (30 minutes) AND Block 3 (80 minutes) Combination
    • There will be three (3) lunches/combinations:
      • 1. Lunch (30 minutes) and Block 3 (80 minutes)
      • 2. ½ Block 3 (40 minutes), Lunch (30 minutes), and ½ Block 3 (40 minutes)
      • Block 3 (80 min) and Lunch (30)
      • Block 4: 1:05 - 2:25 (80 minutes)
      • Announcements: 2:25 - 2:30 (5 minutes) Announcements the last five minutes of Block 4; students are dismissed from Block 4 at 2:30


  1. benefit from increased instructional time
  2. teachers can plan lessons for extended time
  3. class changes reduced
  4. day lapse - time for conflict “cool down”
  5. fewer classes, tests, quizzes, and homework in one day
  6. change in instructional strategies
  7. increase in problem/project-based learning
  8. more opportunity to utilize technology
  9. activities varied 10. time “chunked” -10 min homework review; 20 min direct instruction/demonstration/inquiry; 30 min activity; 10 min guided practice; 10 min reteaching/lesson closure


  1. maintain student attention
  2. provide balanced teacher planning time
  3. providing daily balanced schedules for students
  4. providing predictable calendar for planning (snow days)
  5. needing additional review time with alternate meeting days

Curriculum Reorganization
  • wise to create a curriculum-pacing guide
  • map out tentative completion dates for concepts
  • helps prevent “I have plenty of time”

Instructional Design - Divide lessons into 3 parts:
  1. Explanation
  2. Application
  3. Synthesis

FYI - simply altering the school schedule will not ensure increased learning - teachers must harness the potential and improve instruction - This is the challenge!

Chapter 2: Socratic Seminars

(Patti and Marie)

Socratic Questioning

  • Socratic seminars provoke student thought, dialogue, and ownership for learning.
  • They return ownership for learning to students as they explore a reading, backup their opinions with textual evidence, challenge each other’s views, and articulate and develop their voices.
    • Didactic instruction (coaching/exercises) -->gain specific content (facts) and skill building (practice) but a class seminar = third goal of exploring understanding/ideas/issues surrounding content = the enlarged understanding.

Preparing for a Socratic Seminar

  • Room arrangement – seated in a circle so students have eye contact with each other
  • Can use inner (participants) and outer circles (observers) for seating arrangements in small classrooms

Teacher Preparation – 4 Responsibilities

  1. Selection of seminar reading
    1. Choose a reading that is filled with issues worthy of discussion
    2. Will the text sustain discussion and allow for exploration of concepts?
    3. Does the text include complexities, ambiguities, contradictions, mysteries which offer several interpretations of the issues?
  2. Define the purpose, objectives, and outcomes
    1. What should students learn and apply from the text?
    2. The teacher trusts students to learn from each other through reading, exploration, and analysis of the text through understanding, discovery, and application
  3. Design of preseminar (preparation) and postseminar (assess/extend student learning) tasks
    1. Must be driven by a rubric
  4. Writing of seminar questions: 3 types + clarification (see Figure 2.1 p. 35)
    1. opening – directs students into the reading for an answer - broad
    2. core – are content–specific, examine central points; "how/why"; narrow discussion to specific lines, themes, issues w/in text
    3. closing – establishes relevance, connects to real world, encourages students to relate what they have learned to their own lives
    4. follow up - assesses the success/failure of the Socratic discussion

Student Preparation

  • reading for total understanding of facts & concepts
  • marking the text or note taking
    • underline, highlight, margin notes, sticky notes
    • ?, !, *, +, :), :(
    • graphic organizers
  • reflective thinking – author’s purpose, main idea, relevance
  • completing preseminar tasks – graphic organizers, to pull thoughts together

Steps and Rules for Seminar

What do Socratic Seminars look like?

  • students sitting in a circle prepared to respond to opening question
  • teacher on same level as students
  • students respond to question citing evidence from text
  • teacher takes notes for evaluation purposes
  • after opening question is answered core questions are examined
  • students are center of discussion; teacher asks minimal questions only to clarify
  • when text has been thoroughly explored teacher asks closing question this question locks
  • some ideas from the text to the students’ long-term memories

What are the rules for the seminar?

For students

  • all must feel free to express their ideas without reprisal
  • no personal insults
  • disagree with someone’s ideas, not with the person
  • safe environment
  • appropriate behavior: general courtesy and self-control
  • 97% student talk, they know teacher will not comment
  • student ownership of conversation

For teachers

  • listener, facilitator (questions), enabler, clarifier (text explored?), manager (enforce rules), judge (student responses)
  • teacher comments and questioning is to clarify students conversations requesting justification of statement
  • enforces the rules
  • listen actively
  • take good notes
  • judge responses of speakers
  • NEVER engage in dialogue or express an opinion
  • NEVER agree or disagree – “poker face”

Troubleshooting What Ifs

  • no response --> break down question; alternative opening
  • overzealous speaker --> outer circle notetaker w/last 5 minutes as summarizer
  • reticent student --> make up at night in writing; round robin
  • faulty/inaccurate reasoning --> follow-up question for textual evidence

Seminar Assessments
  • pre-/postseminar assessment rubrics pp.55-63

Chapter 3: The Collaborative Classroom


Lesson planning with a cooperative mindset helps the teacher construct an interactive cooperative classroom with different modes of learning.

Cooperative Learning: The Process

  1. Class Building: bonding critical for cohesive group
    1. establish trust
    2. community-building activities in the classroom
    3. strive for attainable level of excellence
  2. Team Formation: 3 ways
    1. teacher selected: 3-5 students, heterogenous in abilities, skills, gender, racial/ethnic background, socioeconomic status + variety of student characteristics
    2. student selected: tends to be more homogeneous; excellent for porjects requiring substantial effort outside school
    3. random selected: lineups, numbering off
  3. Team Building and Team Identity: get-to-know-you-activities emphasizing commonalities and positive student interaction; team names, signs, handshakes, pictures (Falcon Apps, Wikis +...)
  4. Cooperative Learning Structures: activities that may be utilized/adapted to any grade/subject matter; must meet 4 criteria:
    1. group goal: task created to produce group product/evaluation
    2. face-to-face-interaction: to meet group goal
    3. positive interdependence: pull weight individually; we sind or swin together
    4. individual accountability: “We work together, we learn together, but we are hel individually accountable for our own learning.”
  5. Celebration and Reward: celebrate successes.

Applying the Cooperative Process to the Classroom

Each teacher must find his or her own path.

  1. Class Building: students must develop respect for themselves and appreciation for classmates as additional resources
  2. Forming Initial Teams: multiple ways
    1. classroom furniture arrangements
    2. playing cards: random formation
      1. different color and different value
      2. same color and different value
      3. same value card
  3. Team Building: find common ground in class activities
    1. “We will accomplish more together than we could have apart.”
    2. Things in Common Sheet/Activity (pp. 72-73)

Two Cooperative Learning Structures
  1. Roundtable: roundtable sums for 64
  2. Think/Pair/Share: from Wiggins and McTighe, about enduring understandings fostered by deeper thinking, greater student response because of risk reduction (3 modes: think, pair, share)

Team Formation Revisited: Moving to More Permanent Teams

Teams reformulate based on tasks and competitions assigned by teacher for learning opportunities, learning activities, and evaluation of learning.
  1. Raw Score Competition:
    1. each student receives a numerical grade book score
    2. individual grades of team members averaged
    3. may take pair quizzes or team quizzes if integrity of individual accountability is maintained
  2. Improvement Points:
    1. measure/record the improvement of each team member
    2. initial grade and improvement score noted
    3. create a “30 point” club (improvement club w/points awarded)
  3. Carolina Teams: (I need help on this one for the math)
  4. 1-2-4 Activity Plan: Cooperative Worksheets: students complete worksheets cooperatively
    1. each student completes worksheet individually
    2. pair with team member to discuss independent work and achieve consensus
    3. teams for discussion leader to decide final team decisions
    4. class sharing conducted
    5. final defense of answers
  5. Personal Pair Shares: “...people have many more commonalities than differences”
    1. T chart --> likes/dislikes activity; may be content driven
    2. read and share lists, ask questions with possible team rotations of 3, 4, 5
  6. Alphabetic Activity:
    1. follows A - Z for 26 brainstorms for a warmup activity on _?
    2. set rules for in-/exclusion of content
  7. Instruction with Teams: from projects, research, and performance activities to lecture, discussion, and review with student teams
    1. informal shifts from groups of 4 to think/pair/share as needed
    2. formal teams on review and activity days
  8. Team Discussion and Circle of Knowledge: in-depth analysis by students
    1. text read; question given
    2. students work individually without interruption
    3. team leader appointed and group discussion conducted
    4. team decision made and consensus achieved
    5. “hear” teams via circle of knowledge: each team leader gives team conclusion and defense
    6. each team is heard until the circle is complete
  9. Celebration and Reward: how can we celebrate the excellence of a pair or team?
    1. praise, pats, handshakes; tangibles (photos, food...) but tangible rewards seem to decrease as team accomplishments increase
  10. Pairs Not Teams?
    1. temporary and random first pairs
    2. pairing by sharing TIC information (Things In Common)
    3. Carolina Pairs
    4. Pairs of the Week
  11. Peer Coaching:
    1. Partner A begins working on task
    2. Partner B observes/records
    3. Coach: directs player to successful task completion with encouragement, praise, and guidance; Coach evaluates the player’s performance on a critique sheet
    4. Roles switch
  12. Contracts for Carolina Teams and Pairs: instruments of accountability and reminders of obligations
  13. Student Discipline: each team has an “enforcer” or “captain” who bring quiet focus to teams when needed
  14. Valuing One Another: “Being unique and valuable is not an entitlement, but a responsibility.”
    1. students need to develop sensitivity, empathy, a willingness to accept and give help, and perceive classmates as valuable resources
    2. teachers must serve as modles and leaders
    3. saying goodbyes as teams reformulate is important, allows students to grow closer, and creates good memories
  15. Reaching the Goal: most successful cooperative classrooms achieve:
    1. team interaction
    2. positive interdependence
    3. group goals
    4. social skill training
    5. individual accountability