During the 2018-2019 academic year, Brownell Talbot introduced a six-day rotating class schedule. Under the new schedule, classes meet four out of every six days and vary in duration and timing to give teachers equal access to each students' best learning times.
Helpful resources to plan for the school year
- Why does the schedule rotate?
- What is flex time?
- Do students have free periods and study halls? Where can students go to get work done?
- Do longer class periods give students more time for homework in class? What does the block schedule mean for study halls?
- How do students and parents know what day it is in the rotation?
- What privileges do seniors have?
- Are students still able to take two classes in one content area at the same time (also referred to as doubling up)?
- What is the purpose of the 15-minute break? What can be done in 15 minutes?
- What does an 80-minute period look like for students? How do students stay engaged for 80 minutes?
- How many AP courses can students take?
- How many core/academic classes can Upper School students take?
- How does the schedule impact homework load?
The rotating schedule allows for students and teachers to interact at different times of the instructional day. Students who learn better in the morning have the opportunity to learn from teachers of all content areas during their peak learning times. Some students are more tired in the morning, and having the same first hour class doesn’t allow the student to engage in the content the same way they would after lunch or later in the day. Additionally, many of our students participate in activities and athletics that require them to leave early for competitions. With a rotating schedule, students do not regularly miss the same classes and more easily maintain high academic standards while simultaneously engaging in the many activities BT has to offer.
Anytime a student in grades 5-9 is not in a scheduled class, that student is assigned to a supervised study hall. Students in grades 10-12 have a free period if they are not in a scheduled class. There are designated classrooms assigned for quiet work space for students during free periods and flex time.
Depending on the number of courses students register for, students have study halls. Some students who choose to fill every period will not have a study hall. In some instances, students may have time to work on homework in class, but that is determined by the teacher and the lesson plan for the day.
Days are determined before the start of the academic year. Students receive planners outlining the days of the rotation for the school year. Rotation days are displayed on exterior signage at both circle drives. In the event of an unexpected missed day of school, that day is skipped in the rotation.
Engagement during any length of time is dependent on effective teacher planning. Teachers use a variety of instructional activities to ensure students learn new skills and content and have opportunities to interact with it, collaborate together and critically engage with new materials. Teachers receive professional development on ways to best engage students, with concrete strategies, for an 80-minute period. Classes are not 80 minutes of teacher lecture.
The schedule provides the opportunity to enroll in eight courses. There are seven academic content areas (English, history, math, science, world language, art, and PE). Students are encouraged to maximize their academic opportunities by taking a minimum of four to five courses and a maximum of seven to eight courses each semester. The majority of courses are yearlong courses with the exception of some art, technology, and PE courses.
A primary reason for moving to a rotating schedule and moving away from having every class every day is to allow students to simulate a college experience by focusing more on the classes they are enrolled in each semester. Homework load decreases as the number of courses that students must focus on nightly reduces. In most cases, students have two days to complete homework for a given course.
- Giving Students Their School Day – Independent School Spring 2016
- Why Even ‘Good’ Schools Benefit From Trying Fresh Ideas | MindShift | KQED News
- Beyond ‘Doing School’: From ‘Stressed-Out’ to ‘Engaged in Learning’
- Time and Schedules: Ally or Constraint?
- Mistakes Were Made | Harvard Graduate School of Education
- Credits for Kindness | Harvard Graduate School of Education
- The Future of Education
- What Character Strengths Should Educators Focus On and How? | MindShift | KQED News
- When Success Leads to Failure – The Atlantic
- How Schools Can Prioritize for the Best Ways Kids Learn
- Deeper Learning In Practice – Edutopia
- The Teen Brain – Harvard Magazine
- On the Clock: Rethinking the Way Schools Use Time – Elena Silva
- Today’s Exhausted Superkids – New York Times
- Teen Stress Rivals that of Adults – Monitor on Psychology
- High Stress High School – The Atlantic
21st Century Skills/Jobs:
- 21st Century Competencies – Independent School Winter 2016
- College Prep? – Independent School Winter 2016
- Changing the Conversation About Homework – White Paper from Challenge Success
- Stanford Research Shows Pitfalls of Homework
- Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools – The Journal of Experimental Education
- The Importance of Low-Stakes Student Feedback | ASSESSMENT | MindShift | KQED News
- How to Raise an Adult – Julie Lythcott-Haims
- How Children Succeed- Paul Tough
- Grit – Angela Duckworth
- #EdJourney – Grant Lichtman
- Why Don’t Students Like School? – Daniel Willingham
- Doing School – Denise Pope
- 21st Century Skills – Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel
- Drive: The Surprising Truth Behind What Motivates Us – Daniel Pink
- Creative Schools – Sir Ken Robinson
- Overloaded and Underprepared – Denise Pope, Maureen Brown, and Sarah Miles
Dear BT Families,
Brownell Talbot as a school and a community is such a special place. Beyond the friendships that form and sustain between students, parents, faculty, and staff; beyond the many accolades our students earn in and out of the classroom; beyond the inspiring ideas brought forth and then put into action by our teachers; BT is special because we are rich in 154 years of excellence and tradition.
We have a responsibility to uphold these traditions while also thinking innovatively about BT's future. Our designation as an independent school provides us the freedom to delve into areas where we are good, in order to address needs, adapt, and become great as we pursue another 154 years of preparing students for college and life.
As BT nears the completion of the current five-year strategic plan, and we begin thinking about the next five years, I'd like to update you on our objective of being known as a leader in preschool through grade 12 education in Omaha. The objective in our strategic plan states:
Brownell Talbot will build upon effective teaching and learning through innovative, interdisciplinary, and differentiated pedagogical methods that integrate technology and promote excellence in academics, athletics/activities, and the arts.
A key strategy under this objective required our team to think creatively and comprehensively about schedule, time, and calendar to promote the most balanced teaching and learning experience possible.
How We Are Addressing This Strategy
Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, Brownell Talbot will adopt a rotating schedule with classes meeting four out of every six days. A rotating schedule allows every teacher equal access to each student's best learning times. For example, a student may have math first period on day one of the schedule. On day two, math could be period 2, and so on.
Steps Taken to Create the New Schedule
At the State of the School meeting in November, I shared with you that BT had partnered with Challenge Success, an organization that focuses on how schools can achieve student balance while maintaining high standards of academic excellence. Our Challenge Success team, which includes faculty, students, a trustee, and parents, challenged the BT faculty to critically review our practices and develop an actionable plan for improving BT's schedule, time, and calendar. After six months of analysis, research, and feedback, we have established a mission-centered plan that we are excited to introduce to the BT community.
Rotating Schedule benefits
Flex Time at the End of the Day
With our strategic plan and these benefits in mind, I’m excited to move this plan forward and begin to work with families to ensure a more flexible school day that maintains the high expectations and outcomes associated with Brownell Talbot.
In the coming weeks, we will provide additional information such as sample schedules and answers to frequently asked questions. We will also offer opportunities to have questions about the new schedule answered through the following events:
- On Friday, March 2 current grade 5-11 students will learn about the new schedule.
- On Friday, March 16 we will hold a Facebook Live event with our Challenge Success team.
- We will hold a State of the Schools spring meeting, at a date to be determined, to share more details and answer questions.
In the meantime, Mr. Smith, Mr. Harrell, and I are available should you wish to talk!
Kristi N. Gibbs, Ed.D.
Head of School
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