Block Scheduling: Strategies for Block scheduling
Here are the ideas people shared about using a block scheduling rehearsal-
I was surprised at the positive nature of the responses and feel very
encouraged! Thanks to everyone for their help.
Garden City HS
Garden City, KS 67846
There are resources on this topic on ChoralNet:
choralnet.org > Education > Education Issues > Block scheduling
Allen H Simon
VP for Website Development
Wow what an opportunity-Sightreading, extensive warm-ups a la Frauke
Hausmann, James Jordan, movement-Alexander technique, individual assesment
and listening to other choirs even a field trip might fit in that block. I
think it would be an awesome challenge and what we could all utilize
Grand Island Senior High School
How about taking some time to teach sightsinging. You also have some time to
teach your students some music theory or music history or even
composition. You could also have students form chamber groups for
contest. You can have section rehearsals (works if you have additional
Director of Choral Activites
John Carroll University
University Heights, OH
I absolutely love block scheduling. It's the best thing that could have
happened to our program. We spend lots of time working on sightreading and
music theory, so the 90 minutes aren't spent all in rehearsal. The kids'
all-state scores have gone through the roof. Come up with a schedule that
allows you to divide the time between rehearsal activities, sightreading,
and theory/history. You'll be able to go into much more depth than before.
We also go through repertoire much faster than before. (That's one thing
they forgot to budget for.) It's also allowed us the opportunity to add a
piano lab. Each student in the vocal program goes to the piano lab for 45
minutes each week. I highly recommend it.
I know there are those who don't care for block scheduling. The key to
making it successful is working well with the person in charge of
scheduling. Class conflicts don't have to be a problem. Our administration
has been extremely supportive. The fine arts classes are scheduled first,
then all the other classes are scheduled around them.
Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts
Pebblebrook High School
991 Old Alabama Road
Mableton, GA 30126
try incorporating some Dictation, Interval Identification into the rehearsal.
Hello! I have been teaching "on the block" for three years and am also
continuously looking for new ideas myself. I usually divide my rehearsals
into the following sections: physical warm-ups, vocal warm-ups,
sightsinging, rehearsal of repertoire, and business (if any) at the end. I
would also suggest giving the class a 10 minute break in the middle of class
if they are mature enough to handle it. Break time usually comes when they
get that "glazed over" look and are not being as productive as they were at
the beginning of the rehearsal. The good news is, you can get a lot done.
Be creative in your planning. Don't have them sit too much. Good luck! I
am eager to see the compilation.
I've been teaching the 90-minute block schedule for the past two years. My
only wish is that I could have my rehearsals be every day for that amount of
time! You won't have any trouble using the time constructively. In my
classroom, students have to be in their seats with their music folder when
the bell rings. A sightsinging assignment for the day is on the board and a
list of the music we'll be rehearsing for the day. While I handle any
business that has to be done those first few minutes, the students are
supposed to be looking over the sightsinging and getting their music in
order in their folders. Soon as I'm ready, we start in with warm-ups and go
right into the sightsinging and then into the rehearsal. Often we'll have
student-led sectional rehearsals sometime during the period for 10-15
minutes using the various practice rooms. Then we pull it all back together.
Other times we'll walk down to the cafeteria or an old gym and rehearse in
those different locations to get a different sound. With the longer
rehearsal times, I think I record more for the students to evaluate their
sound. Like I said, I just wish it was an every day thing instead of every
other day. They forget too much in between the rehearsals.
Mary Beth Wallig
Vocal Music Teacher
I taught for one year on a block schedule, and I sometimes used the extra
time for sectional rehearsals, which worked very well. The only aspect I
didn't like was that we met every other day, which was a problem when
important notices had to be distributed, or if a concert was coming up.
You could also use the time for small group projects or committee meetings
(if you have librarians, historians, etc). Hope this is helpful.
Hi! I too am a teacher of Block IV Scheduling. We have 85 min Blocks, four
blocks a day with same classes every day (Talk about beating them to
death.) I really don't know how much help I can possibly be, I am heading
into my second year of teaching, just graduated from college a year ago so
I definitely don't have the all the answers. I would really like the
information that you receive from other directors. I am correctly working
on contacting directors around Indiana with the same schedule to see how
they have run their programs. I can send that to you when and if I get any
All I can really say is in my first year of teaching, I just tried to keep
up and build something from nothing. I kept them busy with every 'how to
really sing' exercise I could. It was like one big voice lesson. I had them
sight read for maybe 10 min., (it varied.) I have them sight read on
neutral syllables, sol-fege, numbers, and note names. I had them do a
little theory, and actually I taught them about the human voice (i.e. the
way it looks if they could see it, size, how it works, muscles, how to take
care of it, what happens if you don't take care of it, etc...) I would have
them listen to other choirs so they know what else is happening outside the
city walls, write what they thought about it.... strengths and weaknesses
and how they can apply it to our class or to themselves.
What I believe helped the most was I kept them busy with singing new songs
as I scheduled numerous concerts. We were always working toward concerts
that were not far apart. I just scheduled more concerts than what they were
used to in the past. They choir used least amount of times went from 2
concerts per school year, to six per school year. I am always putting new
music in front of them to learn. I was worried that I would not be able to
fill the time, when I first started, and I was just starting as a teacher
as well so I really did not know how to deal with it. I had no exposure to
this type of scheduling. I knew it was out there, but I did not think I
would wind up in it. When the school year came about, I was surprised how
fast the hours went by... many times it seemed we did not have enough time,
and I know that sounds absurd! You may be surprised how fast it will
eventually go by, and how easy it is to fill an that time that is up
against you. Please send me ideas that you received if you have time. Thank
you very much and best of luck... I am sorry if I were not much help!
Director of Choirs
608 E. Walnut St.
To be honest, block scheduling has been a boon to my program. The
opportunity to rehearse for a longer period of time every other day
has made rehearsals more productive and myself more energized.
A typical rehearsal includes:
5-8 minutes of warmups and attendance.
30-45 minutes of rehearsal
5 minutes for announcements
10-15 minutes of sight-reading
the remaining time is used for rehearsal but usually not as intense
as the initial period.
We rarely take a break although the students may use the bathroom/get
a drink as needed.
Hope this helps.
I have been teaching high school choral for over 30 years, the last 7 have
been on the block schedule. We have four choirs a day that meet for 85
minutes. Each choir meets 85 minutes every day all year. Very nice. Yes,
but it does mean that you will have to double your curriculum offerings and
yes, you cannot beat them to death by singing all hour.
Here are some alternative things I have added to my classes.
1) Sight Reading. I teach sight singing using sol-feg. In fact, I have
written, published and sell my own sight reading manual. It has 10 levels
of difficulty - 80 exercises in each level - and the kids are reading
better than ever before. I do this religiously every day.
2) Music Theory: My kids can sing all the scales, major, minor,
chromatic, harmonic minor, and melodic minor. They can sing triads and
inversions and they can sing all the modes. Plus, they can write them
down. They know how to figure out key signatures and can answer almost any
question as to score vocabulary.
3) Listening Units: I put together 10 piece listening units that we do
every nine weeks. I find good classical music, give them a brief overview
of the music and the composer, and then have them listen and write about
the music. When it comes to the end of the term test, I let them use
their notes so whatever they write to better describe the music only helps
them in the long run.
4) I have also written a "Music Mastery" manual which contains 16 chapters
of information people in music should know. Everything from vocabulary to
rhythmic dictation. These units come with student worksheets and a test so
I spend a few days going through the material on the worksheet and then
give them a test. Nice way to hold them accountable. I even put together
a game called "So You Think You Know Music" patterened after "So You Want
to Be a Millionaire." I use the game as a good closing activity for
classes. We even determine a room champion and set us a challenge system
for some classes.
5) I also use the extra time to work on solos and ensembles. There are
two of us that team teach all the classes which makes it much easier to do
6) I have had a performance period - maybe once or twice a month - where I
encourage kids in the class to perform for their peers. They can sing,
play an instrument, or do whatever. I am often surprised to find a hidden
talent in the class of which I did not know.
Well,, there you have a few of the things I do. I hope this is of help to
Anoka High School
I sat down and engaged in the "P" word - planning. I wrote down all of the
objectives, large and small that I had in mind for the course(s). I looked
at my long and short-term goals associated with such and then tried to
devise a method by which I could achieve these various goals addressing
them in a variety of activities in the classroom. My research (just
kidding) in faculty meetings told me that adult professionals had an
attention span of about 25 minutes so that the kids could probably manage
35 with some direction. As a strategy then I divided the focus of the
class into three or four segements, each of which would involve, more or
less, attention to a different goal. In the choral classroom it could be
musicianship, breathing/posture, diction, intonation, etc. and sometimes
it would involve only one piece of music if it is a substantial work. Or
it could involve several pieces, working on similar goals in each. I guess
that planning is the key.
I hope this might provide you with some ideas. Ninety miniutes is tough,
for sure. What I see most is a good bit of wasted time as the kids
attention span dwindles to zip, or the teachers energy does the same. if I
remeber correctly, the latter is not problem for you.
Good luck. Let me know how you survive.
Richard Clark. U. of O. (retired)
The first thing we did was re-align our curriculum to emphasize teamwork and
leadership. What eventually happened was that the students now hold their
own sectionals on "off days" without a teacher present. They use this
"choir homework time" to organize, conduct and evaluate the process and the
results are really noticeable. Last semester, I taught two pieces without
teaching a single note; in one case, the interpretation was so good that I
never touched or conducted the piece again after I handed it out! You think
these guys will keep singing after they graduate? You bet!
Secondly, we incorporated a whole lot more music reading into the rehearsal;
the goal was to increase rehearsal efficiency and the added time was very
helpful. While some were exercises, many were actual classical pieces and
they occasionally found their way into the program. Look up Wihelm Ehmann's
"Choral Directing" from Augsburg Pub., 1968 for some great ideas about
unison singing as art.
Thirdly, we did a lot more review but kept most of it in sectionals.
I'm afraid you are going to have to lower your expectations for a little
while; it took us two years to recover from the change but the quality and
dedication are almost right back where we started. We experimented some
with non-singing activities but this proved disastrous (people join the
choir to sing!)... They're a little tired (I'm not the only one adding
homework) but the kids seem to need the electives and sports more than ever
given the anger, confusion, and political bloodshed caused by this simple
block schedule -- ah, but that's another story...
Please let me know how everything turns out.
For four years I was at a middle school with 2 hour blocks - killer. That
experience forced me to come up with some alternate activities.
Rhythmic Dictation: You clap a measure and they write down the
rhythms. Listening Dictation: You play intervals and they notate them and
label them. Music Appreciation: You play a piece and they write a descriptive
response. Theory Worksheets: Students are tested to determine their knowledge
of theory and then proceed in the worksheets at their own level.
You can then test each of these areas at the end of the quarter, or
Thankfully I am now at a high school with 90 minute periods and have found
these very helpful. I do warm-ups and business and then run a long rehearsal,
take a "break" to do one of the aforementioned alternatives and then close
with an easier, shorter time of rehearsal. Seems to work for me. Good luck.
I loved the 90 minute block--we are going back to 6
55-minute periods and my program has been decimated.
All of my students were required to keep a journal in
which they wrote about the music I had playing on the
sound system as they walked into the classroom. I
gave them guidelines and didn't let them write things
like "I hate this music" or "I love this music"
without justifying their opinion in musical terms.
After that, I usually began with physical warm-ups (I
always reminded the students to wear comfortable
clothing--sometimes we looked like an aerobics
class!), then moved on to vocal warm-ups. Sometimes
we would do music theory stuff (worksheets, etc.)
Music rehearsal was next, followed by a break where we
would have announcements, water, etc.
More rehearsal would follow the break and then
sometimes we would have performance practice (stuff
like standing still at the end of songs, walking onto
the risers, etc.)
I never had trouble filling up the period, and my
students were usually pretty attentive the whole time.
Their attention will wane if you don't keep things
fast-paced, with no time for talking when you have to
stop and rehearse something. They do need that
interaction with each other and that's where the break
in the middle of the period helps. I also let them
talk a little between pieces.
Hope this helps!
Well, I have decided to go with the flow and
accept the 2 period split choir classes, although I am
still worried about it. I have already lost about 10
of the 70 I had coming in (including my best singer
and leader), and fear more will follow. Some students
said they'd stay and stated that those who quit really
didn't want to be there anyway. I see their point but
it is still frustrating to lose the excitement of the
upcoming year b/c of this. The unity and blend is
what I also fear will be lost. I told the students
I'd like tomeet every other friday the 2nd half of
unch and they told me it wasn;t a good diea b/c they
use that time to do Homework...too bad I guess. :)
Ultimately I still like where I teach, love what I do,
and look forward to a good year...but this terrible
feeling I get is not fun. I never was taught to be
prepared for this sort of heartache in college. The
scheduling problems will probably lead me to leave my
school where I teach and possibly force me to leave
the profession b/c heartache and loss of faith in the
process isn;t what I signed up for. But I have faith
in music so I will stick with it as long as I can. :)
Thank you for all you advice and assistance in
Aaron J. Comstock
> I had similar problems for years as a choral music
teacher...I chose once a week as a whole choir and
then tried to get the kids together before/after and
an ocassional evening...my approach to the whole group
was quite focused and we worked like crazy not wasting
a second...the kids understood how precious the time
> Yes, eventually similar situations drove me out of
public school and into a private school situation
which was pro-arts...Administrators need to be
educated-they do not understand that a chorus is not a
math class which can be divided.......they do not
understand voicing, balance and blend,
> whole pie..that's an on going job...
I have to meet my choir - 165 members - in a
school that has 400 students. I actually offer high
school chorus 4 different periods....it is not ideal -
but I make this work for all of us. Like you, it is a
scheduling problem to get so many students into one
period, as we have a small school and faculty. This
is how it works for us. We have a once a month
in-school rehearsal and a once a month after school
rehearsal - each is supported by faculty and
administration as a part of the chorus class. The
> - we use the "falcon day" concept - where we create
a 50 minute block of time - by every class giving up
about 8-10 minutes of their block (80 min block
schedules) that way students to not have to "miss"
classes for the rehearsal. Other students go to
advisory during this time - and choral students come
together for a full ensemble rehearsal. The
after-school rehearsals are set with athletic director
and principal - to avoid conflicts - students are
excused from practice until it is over. We also always
have an extented dress rehearsal on the day of a
performance. Although this is not ideal - I have some
classes of 25 , 35, 55 etc. and I don't always have
the voicing I would like - but I really use this time
almost like small group lessons. It works - I would
say the lacking elements are "hearing" each other in
the full group situation as they don't have that many
opportunities, and "seeing" - where you go from 35 to
165! I am willing to give up some of these things to
ensure that students have the opportunity to
participate in the chorus. Music
> for the masses!! >
> Denice D. Parkhurst Choral Director Freeport High
School 30 Holbrook Street
> Freeport, ME 04032 207-865-4706
> I was in a district that went to block scheduling.
This was 5 years ago, and I left the district before
the schedule was implemented due to other problems.
But this is what I remember: School for everyone else
started at something like 8:15 with a "homeroom".
Choir members started at 7:00 and stayed thru homeroom
(choir became their homeroom). The music block met
every day, but Monday/Wednesday were choir days and
Tuesday/Thursday were band days. Friday alternated
between the two. On the off days, the remaining choir
members (there was a lot of cross over in the students
in both groups and only one music room) met in some
other room where they did music theory/appreciation or
maybe small group work or voice training. This school
was in VT. In Los Angeles, where I am now, many
schools meet their performing groups in a "Z" period,
before school starts for everyone else. Kids who take
the class either get to go home earlier or have a
study hall. - > Eloise Porter Encore Children's
Is your choir scheduled for an entire block? A
better situation would be to schedule your choir for a
"skinny" - perhaps opposite the concert band. Perhaps
this is already happening, but if not, it is a
workable idea. This only involves one block for the
school's performing ensembles. Administrators might
like that. In our school, all performing music (Band
and Choir) takes place during the 1st block of the
day. Additional music classes are offered during
either full or half blocks. Such additional classes
are theory, music history, etc. Choir lessons come
over lunch and / or as pull outs from other classes.
I have choir every day of the week during a skinny.
The skinny is only about 40 minutes long, but twice
that would be too long. I have to be very organized to
get things done, but we perform a vast array of
literature thanks to extreme organization. We also
have a second chorus which meets during the same time
as our main choir. It is directed by our Junior High
director and both choirs combine on occasion. Perhaps
such an idea would be possible for you?
> As far as schedule conflicts are concerned, we have
students who want to take so many serious classes that
our school sometimes opts to have them opt out of gym.
Check your state (not your school) requirements for
the amount of gym time which must be scheduled per
student. Some schools fill schedules with gym because
it is cost-effective. So is choral music! Other eager
students could take classes in individual sign-ups
with teachers. By taking a class as a personal study
course, they can free a particular class period to
take an additional class such as choir. Of course each
student would need approval from the principal and the
involved teacher -- so they should be academically
qualified for such an experience. Since choir probably
has no homework, they would not be adding to their
class load in that fashion.
> I wish you the best of luck in this whole situation.
Sometimes administrators don't stop to consider the
world they are creating when they apply a
"one-size-fits-all" approach to scheduling.
Wisconsin's educational association also has two
excellent video tapes about block scheduling versus
the music program. One would appeal to those who are
opposed to block and the other would be fine to show
administrators. Both give suggestions as to how to not
inhibit education through this "innovative" scheduling
idea. I'm sure you could contact them for some fine
I can't say that it might or might not work with
a block schedule, but our program has been under a
split choir situation for a number of years. I teach
at Van Buren Local School just north of Findlay with a
high school enrollment of approximately 300. My high
school choir has been staying consistent at 60-70
members since I took over the program in 2000. Before
I came, the choir was spilt several years before in
order to accommodate the number of students wanting to
be in the choir and the increasing demands on their
schedules. The choir meets during 3rd and 4th periods
separately every day. Up until this coming school
year, the students were put into the choir periods
purely on if they could get into one period or
another. Since then, I have requested and have a more
even distribution of students in each period for the
coming school year, although a great deal of it still
depends on scheduling. I have found that the spilt
choirs work well in that more individual attention can
be given to each student. Also, if a section of my
choir is less advanced, we can spend more time on
certain elements of singing that might be boring to my
more advanced students. To combine the choir, the
director who originated the split choir scheduling had
put in the general contract of the teachers (!) that
the choir would only split if they were guaranteed a
minimum of 5 combined rehearsals during the school
year. I usually have at least 6 or 7. Since they fall
during 3rd and 4th periods (back-to-back) missing
class is minimized. The disadvantages of it are
obvious - I have the inevitable 3rd vs. 4th period
battles that ensue, such as "Mr. Vaughn is nicer to
them than us," etc. One thing that I hope to do is
have some activities outside of school that gets the
two groups together. My first two years did not work
well with this set up, because I didn't consistently
rehearse both groups the same way. When I did that
last year, we ended up with a banner year, going to
large group adjudicated in Class B and getting
straight "I"s in district and an overall "I" at state.
(I can assure you that it wasn't just a fluke either -
I finally figured out what to do with this situation!)
I hope that, in the next couple of years, the program
will grow to where I can have a select choir during
one of the periods and a non-select (beginning) choir
the other. It will ultimately depend on scheduling.
If you have any more questions, you can certainly
email me. - > James Vaughn Vocal Music Director
Van Buren Local
I am entering my 7th year with the 8 block. We do
run the semester, every other day, and not the
intensive 4x4 thank heaven! I actually like it! We
have 6 choirs, grade level at entry (boys/girls)
auditioned after that. We thought it would ease
schedule conflicts, but it has increased them because
of all the AP and language singletons. The
administration HAS TO PROTECT your top group, after
that it becomes a fact of life...choices need to be
made. Some kids stay with choir, some go to AP senior
> Teach both classes the same material, hold a few
combined rehearsals before programs...not great, but I
have seen it work. Programs can be filled out with
solo or small ensemble literature. Do you have a
"seminar/consultation period?" Perhaps the principal
would allow you half of that period one day a week to
combine (mandatory attendence for the kids, with you
having leeway to excuse them or else it could be
trouble...) Make them into two separate groups.
Perhaps a large group and a small select group?
Madrigals, jazz, womens...Is it possible to have men
on one day, women the next? Or 2 sections each
day...S/T, A/B or whatever? Don't give up. I too have
been doing this over 30 years...was worried about the
block, but have survived. Hang in there!
Michael S. Wade Elkhart (In) Memorial High School
I have just begun my 29th year of teaching and
starting the 23rd in my current school. We have been
on block schedule for about 13 years. I do not meet
any one choir all together during the school day. Some
classes are large and some are small. I then will have
rehearsals after school before a performance to put
the choirs together. I have 5 choirs and 7 ensembles.
I know this sounds wild, but it has worked for me all
these years. We have been very successful. Many of my
colleagues in the state have tried this approach and
have not liked it but it's almost like I don't know
anything different. This is the way I had to schedule
the students when I first went to my school and I have
just worked to make it work. There are classes that
struggle by themselves but I try to have a combined
rehearsal early so that they know that the end results
will be good. A lot of mine has had to do with
advanced courses offered the same period of the group
the student should be in. I hope this will give you
some hope. It has worked for me and I hope that you
can make it work for you.
Donna McCommon Director of Choral Activities Pearl
High School Pearl, Mississippi
Please accept my empathy for your situation. Several
years ago I was a "regular" on the list who asked for
advice about the, what proved to be, insurmoutable
problems surrounding the choral program. May I
recommend that you KEEP all of your choral students
and work around the two periods. Perhaps, the
administration will agree to a deal you can make with
them for extra rehearsal time together (both periods.)
several times before the concert. This certainly is
not an ideal situation. But, I feel choral directors
have to be very flexible to keep their programs
viable. "No Child Left Behind" Act and other
initiatives have forced school administrators to
develop blinders/great insensitivity towards what it
takes to really achieve choral quality. Don't share
your frustration with the students. It won't help the
situation. Work with flexibility and creativity around
Dr. Elizabeth Angilette - Sixthmuse1(a)AOL.com - former
Director of Choral Arts, Elizabeth High
(largest hs in New Jersey) - adjunct professor of
music - Kean University
Aaron,Having dealt with a very similar situation, I
can offer my two cents. Splitting the class will not
discourage your singers. As long as youroutlook
remains positive in their presence, your singers will
stick with you. For years, our choral and instrumental
programs have been divided due both to scheduling and
our physical plant. Each of my chorus sections
presented challenges, especially with balance and
quality of readers in each. I found that new leaders
emerged who otherwise would not have done so if the
sections were together. Probably the biggest drawback
was maintaining a sense of community which i would try
to combat by scheduling "combined" rehearsals every
three or four weeks (with the stubborn blessing of the
academic teachers). Probably the best advice I can
give is to remain positive in front of your
constituents for if you appear discouraged and
defeated, they will pick up on that.Alan
Aaron J. Comstock
Crooksville JH/HS Choir Director
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