One team in this year’s Ninth Grade Community is testing a new concept in how their day is structured. Instead of having 7 distinct periods throughout the school day, students have a two-period “block” of time where they learn math, social studies, and language arts. Teachers support students in a variety of ways: short presentations, as in traditional classrooms; videos posted for use during class or at home; team teaching between subjects; and one-on-one/small group support where students may work at their own pace. Classes change every day, based on what teachers need to communicate and where students are in their learning. The new approach provides students with a great deal of flexibility and freedom, allowing them to control their learning and manage their own time.
A second unique feature of the concept is the room set-up. All rooms are painted fun colors (chosen by last year’s 8th graders) and blended seating allows students to choose from a variety of work surfaces and seating options – stools, couches, stand-up desks, swivel chairs, booths, group tables, and traditional desks (see photos below). This allows students and teachers to easily create work groups, use a type of furniture that is most comfortable to them, and move as necessary. A student may choose to sit in a seating group one day, use a stand-up desk the next, and sit in a traditional chair, at a traditional table, the third. The rooms feel fun and inviting, and students are responding well to the more inviting atmosphere.
As with any system, there are challenges as well, one of the largest being young students’ ability to manage their time within a system that allows a significant amount of freedom. As the concept evolves, tweaks will be made to enhance the positives and address the opportunities. Plans are to offer two sections of this approach for next year’s freshman class.