School timetables are factors in lesson structures!

I have a wondering whether a school timetable influences the way instruction is planned in classrooms?

Now I know the answer is obviously yes from a practical perspective but the deeper question I’m pondering is do those timetable influenced instructional decisions enhance or detract from learning.?

Primary school timetables are structured on the frequency and duration of specialist teacher lessons (e.g. PE, Music, Art, Mandarin subjects). These structures also provide the industrial working conditions of teachers.

At our school we try to offer a weekly 50 minute lesson in each specialist subject area once a week. Thus the school timetable is divided into 50 minute blocks. Secondly we recognise that teachers need time to plan collaborative for effective instruction so a double block of specialist lessons is allocated each week for each team (100  minute planning session). The net effect is that the school day is divided into three 100 minute blocks.

So now the question is do lessons in maths, reading or writing need to occur in similar 50 minute blocks and what instructional strategic decisions do teachers make for this to be useful?

The clip above reflects a view that learning can and perhaps should occur in smaller (less than 50 minute) and perhaps more frequent blocks ( I think frequency is an increasingly interesting factor here particularly when I heard psychologists like Andrew Fuller talk about the need for up to 26 repetitions for the brain to automise learning).

I have previously written about student attention or focus within a 50 minute period when studying mathematics.

I don’t have the answers but the questions are worth considering.

I have more recently been encouraging my teachers to end some lessons early and students have “fun” with some 5 minute fluency tasks or pay an exit ticket price with an answer – give me a sentence with a verb in, or a complex sentence, or read a word from a flash card or spot a base word in … or tell me an equation with the answer 7 or …. I think you get the point.

So start lesson with fluency task to tune in – end with some short games that promotes fluency – thus increase frequency. This may change some of the instructional strategies we choose to use. Interested in some teacher feedback here.