School Time Tables: Does The Bell Toll for Thee?

48 slots in a six-day cycle: 6 each for Science, Social Studies, French, and Exploratory/Band; 8 for Math, 13 for English Language Arts, and 4 for Phys Ed.

Thanks to Bianca Hewes (@BiancaH80) for sharing this hilarious critique on traditional education.

At least that's how it used to be. My school doesn't have a bell that signal the change of class. There is no bell to call students in from lunch, nor is there a bell to signal the beginning or end of the day.

And the building is still standing.

In a middle school following a home room model where each teacher is responsible for all subjects to a group of students trying to distribute these values across the time-table is an artificial process. Curricular integration with a generalist teacher allows for a deeper understanding of, and connection with students and families. We can pursue topics in-depth over extended periods in a day with the flexibility afforded in such a schedule. In essence, my timetable looks like this: 

While I did place subjects in specific time slots to keep me mindful of the curricular time allocations, it remains very open and flexible. The context for much of our learning is project-based in which one project will address several outcomes from each subject area. On my wall is are posters outlining curricular outcomes for each subject. They are visual reminders of our learning obligations for grade 8 and keep me mindful of the learning goals leaving us free to pursue our own path to that destination. Throughout the year, I will use an overhead marker placing a dot beside the outcomes we have addressed and then focus on the remaining items.

To illustrate: students read Greek myths (Social Studies) adapt them to puppet plays (Language Arts), create shadow puppets on an overhead to perform the play (Light & Optics) calculating using proportional reasoning the resulting size of the image at different distances from source to screen (Math). In this way, we can spend an entire day working through the different elements of the project without apology to the time-table knowing that we are engaging with curricular learning outcomes.

Our administrators are very good at creating time tables that accommodate teaching teams such that we have common prep periods and parallel schedules. This means we can build on one another's strengths, share planning, coordination, and assessment tasks.

Having taught in this environment for more than 10 years, I have a pretty good understanding of the benefits of this kind of arrangement. It seems authentic, practical, well-blended, and responsive to students' needs. Would love to hear some responses to this model. Do you teach in a similar situation? What are challenges you encountered? Are you teaching in a departmentalized situation? What advantages are there to that model? Does the Bell Toll for Thee?

1 Comment

  1. Generally I've always done this. Next year I am not sure how much I can. I have a D/HH student who will be attending afternoon half days with an interpreter, and I've been told that she will be taking math and social studies with me. I need to find out just how flexible that is, because I prefer math in the morning and afternoons for project-based work, which involves tons of ELA. Unfortunately I'm not scheduled to meet with MSD until the fall for planning. I am going to try to make contact before then.

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