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New schedule for OMS this fall

June 27, 2012 - Beginning in the fall, the Oxford Middle School will change to a modified block bell schedule. Middle school students will find their schedule reduced from seven to four classes per day.

The block schedule changes multiple class periods, reducing three 45-50 minute classes into a single 90-minute class. As OCMS Principal Ken Weaver explained, "We are taking Monday and Tuesday's classes and putting them together. On Monday, the students will have hours 1, 2, 4, and 6. On Tuesday they'll have hours 1, 3, 5, and 7. . . . What you end up with are longer class periods."

According to Weaver, "the reasons we wanted to go to a block (schedule) were so that teachers could use differentiated instruction, (and) have more uninterrupted time." He anticipates conditions in which holistic learning and project-based learning can more easily occur. Other rationales are that a broader range of learning styles can be accommodated, and that the relationships between learners and educators will be strengthened.

Weaver said the previous system fostered a "race-horse" atmosphere at the school, but the new schedule will alleviate some of the hectic overload found in the hallways between classes. This will in turn provide a reprieve from bullying and other undesirable activities that can occur in unsupervised school moments.

Weaver's primary aim is to enhance student learning with the change to block schedule. "When you teach on a 45 minute class period, it is so short," Weaver explained. "With 30-32 kids in a classroom, to get them in and get them working on a warm-up activity . . . (then) teach a lesson or concept, have them do an activity, and then try to get them to practice (the concept), —all within a 45 minute time period— and then get around to all the different kids to see how they're doing on the lesson—it is extremely difficult," the Principal stated.

Teaching in a more holistic manner means that teachers "are able to complete the lesson in a day—they are able to teach a concept, have the kids do an activity and . . . practice it all within the same time frame," he clarified. One benefit of holistic teaching allowed by block scheduling is that "now you're able to see how they did right away and you're able to check for understanding right there in the classroom," the Principal said.

Another added advantage is that by "teaching holistically . . . you are able to incorporate more teaching strategies that take more concentrated time, and (thus) go into depth more so that you're able to branch out. Because of the efficiency . . . created (by block scheduling) we are able to reach out into other classrooms (and) incorporate cross-curricular activities," Weaver concluded.

OMS 8th grade Language Arts instructor Stacey Boaskowski agreed with Weaver. She has taught on a block schedule before and noted how the extra time allowed her to "model her teaching around the needs" of her students. So even though she'll see the same number of students weekly, "seeing a smaller number on a daily basis can slow the (pace of the) classroom down and (let her) reach those kids," Boaskowski said.

Though the new schedule does not add more hours to the day, Weaver said "over the year you end up getting more time, both by just actual length of class time, having less passing time—less time with kids just being in the hallway—and then also because you get more academic time because (teachers) have less housekeeping" to do at the beginning and ending of classes.

Advantages of the block schedule are easy to spot. Boaskowski pointed out a generally applicable benefit from block scheduling that she thinks shouldn't be overlooked.

"The chances of (students) going home and (successfully completing homework) are not very high if a student is a 'reluctant learner.' (However,) with the 90-minute (block) classes they will have more time to get going . . . to get help from the teacher and their peers as well. If (kids) have something concrete started when they go home, the chances of them going back to that are much higher than if they have absolutely nothing—it becomes the 'why bother' attitude and those are the kids that get zeros. My hopes are that (with the block schedule) we can move those kids along and send them to the high school with an appreciation for learning," Boaskowski stressed.

For more information about the new block schedule to begin this fall at OMS, contact Weaver at (248) 969-1800.

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