Showing posts with label Scheduling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scheduling. Show all posts

Friday, 4 December 2015

Visioning the Ideal Grade 7 & 8 Program

What would an ideal Grade 7 & 8 program look like if there weren’t any logistical restrictions?

Greenwood New Building
Greenwood's expanded and
renovated building will allow
increased scheduling flexibility.
It is challenging to clear your mind of the day-to-day reality, and allow yourself the mental freedom to re-design a learning community from the ground up. However, with the opening of our new building next fall, we are presented with the amazing potential to do just that.

During the Greenwood Summer Institute, the Grade 7 & 8 Focus Group took on this task, challenging ourselves to design a Grade 7 & 8 program that is suited specifically to learners at this stage.

Rethinking Scheduling

Currently, our Grade 7 & 8 program operates on a high-school schedule with some modifications. The modifications allot more time for core subjects (English and math) as well as longer, simultaneous periods for the arts to allow for cross-curricular art experiences.

There are many advantages to this model - some being that it:

  • Exposes Grade 7 & 8 students to the time management and personal organization expectations of high school
  • Allows Grade 9-12 teachers with subject expertise to work with the Grade 7 & 8 students.

In many ways, it is a win-win situation. However, young teenagers are neither the children they once were nor the adults they will eventually become. Some of their needs are different than those of the older students. It was these needs we tried to address when beginning our investigation.

Unique Needs

We began by researching and brainstorming about the unique needs of our Grade 7 & 8 students. What program characteristics would we want to include if we were designing a schedule solely for them?

  1. Increased daily break time at more regular intervals, with opportunity for physical activity every day.
  2. Reduced student movement between classes and subjects.
  3. Increased contact time with a smaller number of subject teachers.
  4. A more flexible schedule, allowing for longer blocks of time to work on some projects, and daily, shorter time blocks for others.
  5. A schedule that facilitated subject integration, such as math/science blocks coordinated by a team of teachers.
  6. Reduced class time dedicated to final assessments, with more emphasis placed on integrated culminating projects.

After several iterations, we developed two proposed schedules that would meet these unique needs of our Grade 7 & 8 students, while still operating within the current timetable model at Greenwood.

Next Steps

It may take time before a unique Grade 7 & 8 program is put into place. We will need to settle into our new building and get used to the new spaces and what they have to offer. However, it was an amazing mental exercise and a very exciting process. It is exhilarating to feel that there is a very real potential to affect positive, systemic change that will better serve all of our students.

Samantha Moser
Science & Mathematics Teacher

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Planning for an Enriching and Flexible Senior English Program

Our focus during Greenwood’s Summer Institute was to give students in the Grade 12 University Preparation English course (ENG4U) the opportunity to participate in aspects of the Advanced Placement (AP or ENG4UO) program, and potentially write the AP Literature exam. Combining the programs also broadens the range of perspectives, which is critical in the study of English.

ENG4U Class Photo
Students in both classes discuss The Great 
Gatsby together, broadening the points 
of view in the conversation.
We began the planning of this program by looking at the skills and texts of each course to see where they fit together. Both courses follow the Ontario curriculum; however, elements of the AP exam require students to study a larger scope of historic literature. 

We then aligned the two courses by focusing on the study of two texts that are read at the same time in both courses: The Great Gatsby and Hamlet.

We also looked at ways to use different texts but teach the same skills. For example, while the ENG4U students analyzed short stories, the AP students focused on novels, but all students participated in seminar-style discussion groups. 

In organizing instruction, we designed a daily agenda where students can see their learning plan and choices for each class. Ideally, ENG4U students will see opportunities for challenge and will attempt AP content. Already, many students in the combined class elected to listen to the lecture on writing a personal essay, an approach usually reserved for students in AP English. 

Here are some examples of the class’s daily schedule:

Caley Blyth
Subject Team Leader, English

Stephanie Martino
English Teacher

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Teachers Work Together To Meet Student Needs

There are many ways to meet the needs of individual students or groups of students within our own classrooms. If we schedule more than one section of a course at the same time, then multiple teachers are available to work together to meet the needs of the students in their classes.
multiple teachers are available to work together to meet the needs of the students in their classes

Teachers can then work together on the initiative of meeting students’ needs rather than working alone.

At Greenwood, we have scheduled two Grade 7 mathematics classes into the same block for the past few years. The teachers stay at roughly the same pace and are able to use assessment to periodically create mixed groups from the two classes. Sometimes, but not always, the mixing is based on readiness:
use assessment to periodically create mixed groups from the two classes. Sometimes, but not always, the mixing is based on readiness

one group gets concept reinforcement and the other group gets some extension work. This is not streaming. The students still have a mixed-level classroom and an assigned teacher who they are with most often, but the students also have the opportunity to work with groups of students whose needs are similar. On the days when groups are created between the classrooms, the teachers can focus in on what the students in their group need rather than having to do multiple tasks all within their own classroom.

We have created a timetable for the 2013-2014 school year in which a few courses have more than one section running at the same time. The teachers of these courses will modify the groups in their classrooms for various reasons. Sometimes they will use assessment results to regroup for content readiness, similar to the Grade 7 mathematics class. Other times, they will shuffle students between classrooms based on interest. In English, students could choose different novels to study and then meet with their novel group for discussions. Students in this novel group could be a combination of students from 2-3 different classes within the same course.
Students in this novel group could be a combination of students from 2-3 different classes within the same course

Alternatively, teachers may give students the choice of how to work through material in a series of lessons: one group may use technology-rich resources, another group would have a teacher-directed lesson and a third group may work through a series of activities. Scheduling 2-3 classes of a course at the same time means that these three paths could run in different rooms, each with a different teacher. Students could also be grouped by their learning style for some lessons.

Students in these courses will have a core teacher to whom they are assigned. They will also have the opportunity to interact with other teachers of this course and other students beyond their usual classmates. Students will get multiple perspectives. Teachers using this approach will work together to plan their classes, assessments and common evaluations. They will get to know the needs and interests of all of the students in the course, not just those in their own room. Teachers and students will be part of a bigger community that extends beyond their own classroom.

Heather Thomas
Director of Personalized Learning

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Flexible Scheduling Supports Personalized Learning

"Flexible scheduling and mixed ability or heterogeneous grouping can help personalize the learning environment and enhance all students’ ability to excel.” (High School Flexibility Enhancement: A Literature Review (2009). Cushman, 1989; Smith, 2008; Clark, 2006; Garrity et al, 2007)

Almost 20 years ago, the authors of Prisoners of Time (Report of the National Commission on Time and Learning, 1994) concluded that the century-long reliance on the Carnegie unit as the organizing principle for high school schedules was a detriment to achieving the kind of educational transformation that educational experts have long espoused. More recently, others have observed that flexible scheduling—length of school day, school year, daily classes—is a key element to truly personalizing the student experience.

Unfortunately, progress in this area continues to be slow. However, it was encouraging to come across two examples of schools that have adopted a progressive stance to the use of time in high schools. In 2011, the Alberta government launched the High School Flexibility Enhancement Project. This project involves 16 high schools from throughout the province. Essentially, the schools are working together “to develop an approach to school organization that does not necessarily equate time with credit. “ The group expects to release its findings later this year.

One other example comes from Hawken School in Ohio. Among the novel approaches adopted by Hawken is allowing students to take one course for a three-week period at two points in the year. By focusing solely on one course (which the school refers to as “intensives”), students can engage in deeper inquiry and incorporate a higher degree of out-of-class learning without disrupting other classes, which is what currently happens in a traditional high school schedule.

Needless to say, here at Greenwood we are looking closely at these practical examples of innovative approaches to the use of time, as well as the underlying research related to flexible scheduling, so that we can better understand how we might modify our current approach to best serve our students and our ongoing commitment to student centered learning.

Allan Hardy

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Flexible Timetable Leads to a Personalized Approach

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the belief I share with people such as Salman Khan that schools of the future will utilize blended learning as a tool to personalize the student experience. To truly personalize, however, we need to do more than use technology to enhance learning. We need to change our timetables to create greater flexibility.

At Greenwood College School, we have spent time this year discussing how the timetable will need to change in the eventual future in order to continue meeting the needs of our school’s mission, as well as accommodate a more personalized approach to learning.

The ideal timetable would have large blocks of time dedicated to various learning tasks. There would be some flexible time in which students could choose the subject or activity they would work on during that time. Other time would be more structured with a common lecture, tutorial or rehearsal for many students enrolled in a course.

Our current timetable has equal blocks of time for every subject. This is not ideal for many students. Some students need to spend more time on their writing and research-related courses, others need to spend more time on math or on a language. A flexible timetable can accommodate the needs of each individual student as they can choose to spend more time on their area of need or interest.

We feel that this combination of the flexible with the traditional will allow for more space within a day or week for students to extend their learning with excursions or cross-curricular projects, while maintaining teacher guidance.

A flexible timetable would enable students to enrich and personalize their school experience through excursions. For example, French students could go on a week-long trip to France or science students could do a few days of field study. If these students’ day-to-day schedule is flexible and their courses were being offered in a blended learning manner, then these excursions would not interfere with their learning in other courses.

The online materials and teacher support of a blended learning program would afford students who have a flexible timetable the time to work ahead - or catch up on the work not done - in their other courses while they were out of school.

These trips could become part of a personalized program for a student if they cover the expectations from a unit or multiple units within a course. If, for example, the student has covered a unit of their science course through a field study, they would not need to cover this material in the classroom.

The student would have completed these course requirements, but in a different way than their classmates. This would then free up time for the student to complete cross-curricular projects or to work on subjects that require more of their time.

Eventually adding more flexibility into the timetable will lead to a more personalized approach to many students’ school program.

Heather Rigby
Director of Personalized Learning