Sophomore Megan Cornell writes in her planner. For this quarter, she only has four scheduled classes. (Michael Paulison)
Sophomore Megan Cornell writes in her planner. For this quarter, she only has four scheduled classes.

Michael Paulison

The battle over blocks

Two Knight Errant staff writers go head-to-head over the possible benefits of having block classes.

October 15, 2020

Blocks benefit students’ education

During an interesting year, BSM decided to schedule students to have four classes per day that are 80 minutes long, as opposed to eight per day that were 40 minutes long. This change was implemented in an effort to keep students as distant as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak. This decision is both beneficial and detrimental in some aspects, but the benefits clearly outweigh the detrimental effects.

The only detrimental effects of block scheduling is that it is difficult for students to pay attention for 80 minutes straight. Many students, including myself, often find it difficult, especially over zoom, to keep their attention on the content rather than dozing off at some time within the period.

One of the best benefits is that teachers can get much more information out to their students in one period. They are able to expand their varieties of teaching and have much more time to do whatever they might have planned. Teachers are also able to have a better understanding of how their students are doing, as they have less classes to teach, therefore less students to focus on. This is highly beneficial because students can possibly get twice as much information in one period, as well as twice as much time to reflect and consider the content of the class.

Students have more time for reflection and less information to process over the course of a school day.

— The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

The other benefit is that we currently have four classes per quarter, rather than eight. This gives students an opportunity to give their full attention and effort in understanding the content provided for them, as we have less to juggle. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards believes this is a considerable benefit: “Students have more time for reflection and less information to process over the course of a school day.”

Another benefit is work time. With four long classes, students don’t have to worry as much about previous periods and what assignments there might be, as most of the time teachers give work time during class. Plus only four classes means more time outside of school for completing any homework.

The last benefit I noticed is that block days in two cohorts is a much safer alternative in the world of COVID. Students and teachers only come in contact with four classes throughout each day, and with cohorts, we are able to keep safe distance.

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Longer classes lower engagement

Students at BSM are now taking four 80-minute classes a day as opposed to the eight 40-minute classes they had last year. Having only four classes, called block periods, each day leaves students with a lot less homework, but the classes feel a lot longer. Teachers will occasionally give students a break to get up and stretch, but it still gets hard when students are learning about just one subject for 80 minutes. 

What do the students think?
Infographic created from a Knight Errant survey of 193 students.

I find myself getting distracted a lot. Classes are so long that a little more than halfway through the class I find myself getting sidetracked. I don’t pay attention as well as I probably should. After lunch is when I really start to crash, the school day at that point just feels a lot longer than it did last year. Block periods just make it really easy to get distracted and not be as motivated to learn. 

We still have eight classes per semester; they are just split into four classes a quarter. That leaves us with fewer days to learn the material. There are fewer assignments in the grade book, making each assignment weighted more, which is more stressful. The really small assignments that didn’t seem to matter that much before, I see them having an impact on my grade. 

It seems teachers also struggle to fit in a whole semester in one quarter. I’ve noticed that units are being taught at a much faster pace than before. Units aren’t being taught in as much depth as they were before which makes it harder for me personally to understand what we are talking about. I catch myself working at a much faster pace rather than taking a longer time to truly understand the material.

I also liked having eight classes a day because I could talk to more people. I had different people in all eight of my classes, so I was able to socialize with different people throughout the day. Now, because I only have four classes a day, I find myself talking to a lot fewer people. But that also could be partly because we are no longer allowed to stop in the hallway to chat with friends. If we had eight classes I would be able to see more people. 

Overall, I don’t prefer to have block periods every day; it just gets to be a long day, you don’t get to see as many people, and classes are harder. I do understand though that it’s the best option right now in these times. Hopefully, soon we will be able to go back to our regular schedule.

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