Janesville31.5°

Teachers, students appreciate block schedule in Edgerton

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Stacy Vogel
January 20, 2008
— When Edgerton High School proposed switching its traditional schedule to a four-period “block” schedule in 1995, Mark Wanless was dead set against it.

“I just thought the only way you could teach was an eight-period day,” he said.


Today, the English teacher is leading the charge to save block scheduling in the face of looming budget cuts.


Wanless isn’t the only fan of the high school’s schedule. Edgerton teachers, students and administrators sing the praises of the block schedule, in which students attend four 88-minute classes a day instead of seven or eight shorter classes.


“I love the block schedule,” said Ellen Knutson, an algebra teacher. “You have so much more time to explain things.”


Students still receive one credit for each class under the system. They attend four classes a day for one semester, then switch to four different classes in the second semester.


Band and music classes, which have to meet throughout the year to prepare for performances, meet every other day, alternating with gym and health classes. Some Advanced Placement classes meet throughout the year as well.


Students said they enjoy switching classes halfway through the year and having four classes at a time.


“It’s a lot easier having only four classes to worry about instead of eight,” junior Allison DeWar said.


A Janesville Gazette reporter spoke to two classrooms full of students, and none said he or she didn’t like the block system.


“It gives you enough time to get your homework done (and) more help from the teachers,” senior Christa Lehman said.


“And more time to mess around, I guess,” she added after a pause.


Lehman’s only complaint was “sometimes class seems a little long.”


That’s true, teachers said, but it challenges them to vary their teaching methods.


For example, social studies teacher Peter Lien started a class this week by taking the students to the computer lab. There, they spent about half an hour researching Galileo Galilei. The class was planning to put the 17th-century scientist on trial at the end of the week.


When the students returned to the classroom, they discussed Galileo’s theories.


The block system allows debate and group discussion, Lien said. It also allows students to start working on assignments and homework and get individual help from teachers.


“None of the teachers here would lecture for 88 minutes,” he said.


Lien appreciates the block schedule because it allows teachers to introduce an assignment or project and complete it in one class period, he said.


That’s especially true in classes with laboratory work such as science and vocation classes, teachers said.


“You need time to get through labs,” said Joe Mink, a technology education teacher who teaches woodworking, automotive, welding and other skills. “I need that much time to make sure every level of student gets the concept.”


Mink is in his first year teaching at the high school, but he student-taught at a middle school with a traditional schedule.


“That was definitely frustrating,” he said. “Students are asking questions and wanting to know about the content, and suddenly the class is over and you didn’t get through what you planned.”


Mink said he couldn’t imagine returning to the traditional schedule.


“Could it be done? Of course,” he said. “We do with what we have.


“But it would be to the students’ advantage, the teachers’ advantage, the parents’ advantage to keep the block schedule.”


Read about how the school budget threatens block scheduling
IF YOU GO

What: Edgerton High School Principal Jim Halberg will make a presentation about block scheduling to the Edgerton School Board at its next meeting.


When: 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28.


Where: Edgerton School District Office, 200 Elm High Drive.



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