Tools for Teaching in the Block


Roberta L. Sejnost

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    This book is dedicated to my husband, Arthur, who supported every page with patience and understanding when dinner was late, the house was a mess, and the laundry piled up while I wrote, revised, and wrote some more. Thanks, Art!


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    The movement toward the use of “block schedules,” with the main goal of increasing the traditional class period of 45–50 minutes to an extended period of up to 90 minutes, has caused apprehension among many middle and high school teachers. Although good reasons are provided for going to a block schedule, some teachers, already concerned about being able to “reach” an increasingly diverse student population, feel unprepared to teach in longer time periods. Teachers wonder: “Students have a hard enough time sitting for 50 minutes; how can I expect them to sit for 90 minutes?” or “I am not sure I can be creative enough for 90 minutes.”

    Many teachers, committed to reaching all students in their classroom, are searching for ways to best use these new extended periods of time. Rather than merely extending what they had been doing for 50 minutes or simply adding busy work to fill up the time allotments that have been created, teachers want to ensure that they use additional time to actually increase student learning. This book presents research-based best practices and offers a lesson plan format, as well as content area strategies, that enable teachers to increase learning by more effectively integrating reading, writing, and critical thinking into a 90-minute block of instructional time. These strategies are grounded in the theory of multiple intelligences and brain-based research, which can be applied in every classroom, no matter what the subject or grade level. Examples and blackline masters for implementing the strategies are included in this book to assure immediate transfer to all content area classrooms.

    Chapter 1 (Preparing to Teach the Adolescent Learner) paints a picture of adolescent learners and their instructional needs. The chapter details methods to best facilitate adolescent learning, including extending the teaching time in the classroom from the usual 45–50 minutes to an extended period of 90 minutes. In order to assure that effective instruction takes place during this extended period of time, the concept of comprehensive curriculum mapping and organized lesson planning is discussed and examples of curriculum maps and 90-minute lesson plans are provided.

    Chapter 2 (Tools for Teaching in the Block) presents specific techniques that will most effectively and efficiently help teachers deliver the curriculum and lessons they will teach. Specifically, this chapter provides a discussion and examples of (1) cooperative learning strategies, (2) brain-compatible learning strategies, (3) effective questioning techniques and strategies, and (4) the use of graphic organizers.

    Chapter 3 (Entice the Learner) discusses the first phase of the block schedule lesson plan format and provides teachers with strategies to prepare students for learning by fostering recall of their prior knowledge, helping them to set a purpose for reading and learning, teaching them the vocabulary necessary for understanding, and arousing their interest in and motivation for learning.

    Chapter 4 (Enlighten the Learner) presents the second phase of the block schedule lesson plan format. In essence, this chapter suggests strategies teachers may use to help students find the information necessary to allow them to proceed to phase three. Specific strategies presented in this chapter are considered in two categories, teacher-centered strategies and teacher-student interactive strategies.

    Chapter 5 (Engage the Learner) presents the elements of the third phase of the block schedule lesson plan format. In this chapter, teachers are presented strategies and instructional frameworks—such as study guides, note-taking formats, and graphic organizers—that encourage students to actively interact with and process what they have learned by making predictions, keeping their purpose for reading in mind, self-monitoring their understanding, and making connections between what they are learning (new knowledge) and what they already know (old knowledge). These strategies are presented in two categories: strategies for monitoring learning and strategies for guiding learning.

    Chapter 6 (Extend the Learner) presents the final phase of the block schedule time format. During this phase students clarify, reinforce, and extend what they have learned by organizing the information they have gathered and using their critical thinking skills to synthesize, analyze, and evaluate it. In addition, in this phase students have an opportunity to reflect on their learning in order to clarify their understanding, setting them upon the road to lifelong learning. Strategies to accomplish this are the highlight of this chapter.

    Chapter 7 (Enact the Learning) provides readers with a summary of the four-phase lesson plan format as well as a listing of the strategies and activities that are appropriate for use in each phase. In addition, a series of lesson ideas for a range of content area disciplines is presented.


    I wish to thank my colleagues at the Kane County, Illinois, Regional Office of Education and the teachers who teach in Kane County, Illinois, who called my attention to the need to write a book to help teachers effectively teach in a block schedule.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Michael A. Baker
    • Eighth Grade Science Teacher/TAG Coordinator, Memorial Middle School, Albany, OR
    • Jeremy Jones
    • Assistant Professor of Education, Athens State University College of Education, Athens, AL
    • Eve Lindsay
    • Seventh Grade Teacher, Monroe Middle School, San Jose, CA
    • Paul Mack
    • Associate Professor of Education, Maryville University, St. Louis, MO
    • Barbara Meyer
    • Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Illinois State University, Normal, IL

    About the Author

    Roberta L. Sejnost received her master of education from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University, Chicago. She has been a university professor and is currently literacy consultant to the Regional Office of Education, Kane County, Illinois. She has taught social studies, reading, and English at the secondary school level and courses in literacy, authentic assessment, brain-based learning, multiple intelligences, and cooperative learning at the college level. Sejnost is currently the International Reading Association's state coordinator for Illinois and has been a member of the board of directors for the International Reading Association's Secondary Reading Special Interest Group as well as a member of the executive board of the Illinois Reading Council, and she has served as an officer in several of the Illinois Reading Council's special interest groups.

    A nationally recognized staff developer, Roberta is a certified trainer in authentic assessment, brain-based learning, portfolio assessment, multiple intelligences, and reading and writing across content areas. She has presented at more than 200 educational conferences across the country. In addition to authoring this text and coauthoring Reading and Writing Across Content Areas (Corwin, 2007), Dr. Sejnost was featured in the videotapes to accompany Drake University's online course EDDL219—Reading Across the Curriculum. In 1986, she was named Teacher of the Year in her district; in 1993, she was awarded the International Reading Association's Contribution to Literacy Award for the State of Illinois; in 1996, she was recognized in Who's Who of American Educators; in 2003, she was given the Reading Educator of the Year award for 2003 by the Illinois Reading Council; and in 2007, she was awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the Illinois Reading Council for her contributions to literacy in Illinois.

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