Monday, March 01, 2010

Snow Bird Period

Since we have had so many snow days this year (we've been out for seven days, only have three built into the schedule, so we have to make up four), the district came up with a plan to add 30 minutes to the school day to help make up the time, before we have to take the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests this spring. After all, there really isn't much point in adding days at the end of the year when the kids have checked out mentally and there's nothing really at stake. The District, along with a parent focus group, also didn't want to take away spring break (although we did lose Good Friday) because so many people make plans and purchase plane tickets, and that would have caused more problems than it solved.

One thing that The District did was gave each school the leeway to decide what to do with these extra thirty minutes. We had a team leader meeting a few weeks ago and the fur flew as we tossed around ideas. There was one camp that wanted to add in the extra 30 minutes as a class period so we could actually teach a lesson, do an activity, and actually cover some content we haven't had a chance to get to yet. The other camp worried that the kids would get confused, wouldn't know where to go, would have problems in the hallway and just wanted to add the time onto the end of each period.

The seventh grade teachers were firmly in the extra period camp. The sixth grade teachers were firmly in the extra minutes camp. The eighth grade teachers didn't care anymore. (I know the feeling. I had those same kids last year). The Administration took what we gave them and came up with the extra period plan (with much whining and complaining from people that didn't like the idea of coming up with another lesson for their 30 minute block). Truth be told, yeah, it would be easier to just tack on the extra time, but if the goal is to actually teach these kids, the extra period is the way to go.

So today was the first day of the Snowbird Schedule. The idea is that the first day the kids will spend the 30 minute Snowbird Period with their 1st period teacher, the next day it would be their 2nd period teacher, the third day, their 3rd period teacher, and so forth. The best thing about the whole schedule was the fact that The Principal didn't want us just twiddling our thumbs during the 30 minute block when we didn't have a class (for example, seventh grade plans during 1st and 2nd periods, so today we didn't have kids coming to us - they were going to their elective classes). We were asked to pull kids - with the full support of the elective teachers - for remediation, extra help, and what not.

This worked out great! I pulled six kids who owed me a required writing assignment, plus a lot of missing work, and was able to work with them in small groups, help them get their writing done (and turned in), and generally spend some time going over what we're working on. It was wonderful! The kids worked, they didn't complain, they got work done. Those 30 minutes flew by.

The rest of the day was pretty busy and it didn't seem to be that much longer than our regular schedule. The one complaint the kids had was that our lunch is a bit later and they're used to eating at a specific time. They were getting pretty hungry by the time lunch came by - then again, I have kids that are ready to chew on the furniture by second period anyway.

The really amazing thing? My sixth period (my very tiny class of 13) was talking about the snowbird period and mentioned how they kind of liked it. This isn't a very high class academically so most of these kids had been pulled and had spent their snowbird period with one of their core teachers doing the small group instruction thing. They all pretty much commented that they really liked the fact that they got this extra help. In fact, one of them asked if he could come to my class for extra help tomorrow. I gladly added him to the list.

So far, so good...


Miss Eyre said...

We have this "extra" period 4 days a week in NYC year-round; it's 37.5 and only certain kids (who are either mandated by the school or can elect to come in with parent's permission) stay for it, kids who need extra help in a specific area. I don't mind it either. I do a lot of specific remediation during that period. But if we've had a long, rough day, kids can start their homework or do independent reading, which is hardly wasted time. It's nice to have some unstructured, quiet, low-key time to work with kids on a one-on-one or small group basis that's flexible.

The Bus Driver said...

our middle schools down here usually have a home room period (usually 35 mins long where they do announcements, lunch menu, and whatnot) before they go off to their first real "class" of the day. Usually after christmas break, they take that 35 mins and cut it down to 5 for the announcements/attendance and use the remaining 30 mins or so for group specific remediation. There is usually a "core" of about 10 kids out of 20-25 that remain behind in each homeroom who dont need the remediation, so they use that time to catch up on any missing homework while their peers get course specific help.

Margaret English said...

We have had six snow days since this time last year but, fortunately, we will not be required to make any of them up.

Theresa Milstein said...

Having the extra thirty-minutes as a period makes the most sense. And I love the idea that students can get pulled for extra help. Of all the idea that float around about closing the gap, longer days are probably the way to go.