Friday, January 9, 2015

Block Scheduling and World Languages

The school where I teach German is on a block schedule.  Students have four 85 minute classes on one day and four different 85 minute classes the next day.  Those two days, which are called maroon and gold (the school colors), alternate.  The schools where I student taught (German and physics) and where I taught (math and physics) my first two years of teaching were on a traditional schedule, which meant that each class met for about an hour every school day.  So when I started teaching at Bloomington North in 2013, one of the big things I had to get used to was block scheduling.

It took me at least half a year to stop saying that homework was due "tomorrow" and learn to say "next class."  It's also taken me a while to figure out how best to use the 85 minute block, and I guess I would say it's still a work in progress.  If I could choose, I wouldn't pick block scheduling for foreign language teaching and learning.  I think students do better when they have a shorter class more often rather than a longer class less frequently.  

But, since I don't get to choose the schedule, I've thought a lot about how best to teach German on a block schedule.  When planning classes, I usually think of four 20 minute "chunks" of time for different activities.  I try to mix it up with some whole class, group, and individual activities each day because without some variety, 85 minutes can feel very long.

Over winter break, I made some signs for activities that we do regularly so that I wouldn't have to write them over and over.  

Here's what we did in German 3 on Wednesday:
First up was Notizen:  I introduced the past perfect tense, and we took some notes and did some examples as a whole class.  

Next, Lesen: we read a text about bicycle riding in Germany.  I read it out loud to the class first, and then they read it out loud with their table groups.  After that, they answered some comprehension questions with their table groups.  

Finally, Vokabeln: students did some independent vocabulary practice on iPads using Quizlet.  

That left about 15 minutes for them to start on their assignment, a worksheet practicing the past perfect tense.  The timing worked out petty well today, though some days things take a lot longer or a lot less time than I expect.  That's the work in progress part.

If you'd like a copy of the labels I made, click here.

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