It's an "A" day, according to the announcement board in the second floor commons area of Moffat County High School. The school recently completed its first semester with a block schedule, in which each day is designated either "A" or "B," with four different classes for each.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

It's an "A" day, according to the announcement board in the second floor commons area of Moffat County High School. The school recently completed its first semester with a block schedule, in which each day is designated either "A" or "B," with four different classes for each.

Block schedule gets high marks from Moffat County High School

Moffat County High School second semester block schedule

Monday through Thursday

First period: 8 to 9:25 a.m.

Break: 9:25 to 9:35 a.m.

Second period: 9:35 to 11:00 a.m.

Lunch: 11:00 to 11:40 a.m.

Passing period: 11:40 to 11:50 a.m.

Third period: 11:50 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Break: 1:15 to 1:25 p.m.

Sustained silent reading: 1:25 to 1:55 p.m.

Passing period: 1:55 to 2:05 p.m.

Fourth period: 2:05 to 3:30 p.m.

Friday

First period: 8 to 9:10 a.m.

Break: 9:10 to 9:20 a.m.

Sustained silent reading: 9:20 to 9:50 a.m.

Passing period: 9:50 to 10:00 a.m.

Second period: 10:00 to 11:10 a.m.

Lunch: 11:10 to 11:45 a.m.

Passing period: 11:45 to 11:55 a.m.

Third period: 11:55 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Passing period: 1:00 to 1:10 p.m.

Fourth period: 1:10 to 2:15 p.m.

In recent months, Moffat County High School math teacher Cassia McDiffett and her colleagues have been able to rearrange their classroom curricula to reach students with new methods.

For instance, McDiffett’s geometry classes have spent more time perfecting the drawing of polygons that are part of the math branch.

But, there’s one shape in particular that helped make that possible: the rectangular entries in students’ daily schedules, which are larger than they were in previous years.

The first semester of MCHS’s 2013-14 year ended Dec. 20, marking the first full term under the new block schedule format. After returning from winter break on Monday, students, teachers and administrators were looking forward to getting back to the system to which they’ve grown accustomed these past four months.

Adjusting to schedule

Back in August, the concept of eight 85-minute classes during the course of two days was a foreign one to MCHS seniors Derek Maiolo and Kelly Knez and junior Tiffany Lingo, who were used to the routine of the same seven classes every day. They had to adjust to four classes on “A” days, followed by a different four on “B” days, but the upperclassmen were quick to appreciate the new daily flow.

The three agreed that for the majority of days, time seems to pass more quickly with the block schedule, though some classes work better in the format than others.

There’s also less stress involved with homework when it isn’t due the very next day.

“It doesn’t feel so heavy, and I like that if you have a question about something, you can talk to the teacher and have an extra night to work on it,” Knez said.

Lingo said she felt like the additional time each day allows for more thorough learning, especially with more advanced classes, such as college-level biology.

An extended time for physical education is also nice, Maiolo said. However, one thing that was difficult to adjust to was the amount of time between classes, which originally included two 10-minute breaks and four five-minute passing periods.

Starting this semester, the schedule now includes four 10-minute passing periods, two of which are simply referred to as breaks.

“It’s more consistent now,” Maiolo said.

The passing periods and a lunch that’s been shortened by five minutes have been the main tweaks so far as the second semester begins.

Seeing improvements

First-semester student absences have decreased during the block schedule, while discipline referrals are down 40 percent, Principal Thom Schnellinger said.

Schnellinger has seen the scheduling style working out primarily the way he had hoped at the beginning of the school year, though he admits it’s still “a work in progress.”

The half-hour Sustained Silent Reading period is one part of the new schedule that has affected the student body in different ways. Some students have eagerly jumped on board with the mandate that they must read some kind of book during this time, while others have been very resistant.

Schnellinger said a survey given to students by MCHS indicated 50 percent of them had little to no interest in reading for pleasure.

“We have work to do in terms of developing an atmosphere where they feel comfortable picking up a book, some text, and reading,” he said.

Schnellinger cited insufficient literacy skills as one of the big indicators of trouble in real-world situations later in life.

Time will tell whether those who willingly have been reading more as a result of SSR see an improvement in their test scores, such as the reading section of the TCAPs, which freshmen and sophomores will take in the spring.

“If we hold true to SSR, our students will be more fluid and more comfortable hanging in there, because one thing we’ve seen from TCAPs is they don’t hang in there when they’re confronted with the long text,” he said.

Although juniors and seniors no longer take these exams, Lingo said she felt her increased time reading will have a positive effect when she takes the ACT.

“A good portion of it is about comprehension, and since I’ve been reading regularly, it’ll help me with the normality of just sitting down and reading something so I won’t have to be stressed out to finish it,” she said.

Some kids see a different benefit from the SSR time. Students struggling with core subjects such as science, math and English are given time during SSR to work one-on-one with teachers.

“We can help them out with things we wouldn’t have had time to do otherwise,” McDiffett said.

The lengthier class periods of the block schedule also have had this result, she added.

“I feel like I have more time to work with them, to dig deeper and have more activities in the classroom,” she said. “I can ask more difficult questions for the kids that are getting it and help out the ones that aren’t.”

Before coming to MCHS, English teacher Amy Hansen worked at a school in Loveland that used the block schedule, so this year’s change was no shock for her.

“I see students for longer periods of time, which allows for richer conversations, and the other thing is that instead of seeing 150 students a day, I see 75, so it makes me more focused on the kids I have in front of me,” she said. “It makes for better, healthier relationships with my students.”

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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