10 Examples of Middle and High School Schedules
Time is arguably the most important resource a school has - for many, it’s even more important than funding. And thus, middle and high schools structure their instructional time in a variety of ways, usually with the goal of providing students as much time as possible to focus on their core curriculum while also providing opportunities for valuable elective and extracurricular options. This usually takes shape in the form of the bell schedule (sometimes referred to as a daily schedule), which dictates how many teachers a single student will see, when they’ll see them, and who they’ll see them with.
Getting it right is not only important to be sure a student learns, but also has massive consequences for ensuring students have the chance to earn the credits they need for a variety of requirements and are on track to graduate. It also impacts the experience students have on a daily basis. For this reason, schools are often finding ways to build more choices in students' days and give them more opportunities to get the support they need with flex periods, regardless of how they schedule the rest of their day. Every year, many schools are looking for options to best plan their time, so we’ve provided 10 sample bell schedules below to help you think through your school’s instructional schedule.
1. Standard Periods
In a standard bell schedule, typically between 5 to 8 class periods are divided evenly across the day, ranging from 40 to 60 minutes. Each class period is generally equal in length, and students attend each of their classes every day. This is the traditional bell schedule for many schools and has the advantage of providing a predictable schedule for students each day because it’s the same each day. In the below example from a Texas-based school, the day is divided into 8 class periods of generally equal length with a 25-minute Flex Period included each day between 2nd and 3rd periods.
2. Rotating Standard Periods
A rotating standard bell schedule is similar to a standard bell schedule in that students attend each of their classes each day and each class is generally the same length each day, but instead of each class period meeting at a fixed time each day, each class meets during a different period each day. For example, if Jorge attends Language Arts during the first period on Monday, he would attend Language Arts during the second period on Tuesday, and the class periods would continue to rotate each day throughout the week. In this California-based example below, students attend 6 periods each day, but those 6 periods shift each day. Students also attend a Flex Period each day at the end of the day. This period is also used as an Advisory Period once a week on Mondays (and as needed otherwise). The advantage of a rotating standard schedule is that students often enjoy the variation in their schedule each day breaking up the monotony of a standard bell schedule, and it has the potential to reduce behavioral issues such as after lunch. Additionally, for students that have to be frequently absent for extracurricular activities, a rotating standard schedule reduces the impact on any one class due to these absences.
3. 4x4 Block
In a 4x4 block schedule, students take four courses per semester with each course covering a full year’s curriculum. Then, at semester, students rotate to a new set of 4 courses with students taking up to four courses per year. Each block typically lasts between 80-100 minutes, giving teachers more time to cover more material during a single class period. Teachers usually teach 3 blocks with a 4th block dedicated to planning. The advantages of a 4x4 schedule are that teachers see fewer students per day, students have the opportunity to take more elective classes during a school year, and teachers have time to vary the activities they plan for each class period. In the example below, the blocks are divided into two morning blocks and two afternoon blocks with a break from their regular blocks in the middle of the day for a flex period and lunch.
4. A/B Block
An A/B block schedule is similar to a 4x4 block schedule, except students alternate between two block schedules every day. For example, students might attend blocks 1, 2, 3, and 4 on A days and attend blocks 5, 6, 7, and 8 on B days. Courses would last the full year, giving students and teachers more time during a class period to work on various activities to reinforce learning. Like 4x4, each block typically lasts between 80-100 minutes. Because there are only 5 days in a school week, an A/B schedule often runs on a two-week rotation with week one being A, B, A, B, A, and week two being B, A, B, A, B. The advantages of a 4x4 schedule are that teachers see fewer students per day, students have a day between each class to complete homework, and students have the opportunity to take more classes during the year. In the example below, the blocks are divided into two morning blocks and two afternoon blocks with a flex period and lunch period between them with A days consisting of blocks 1, 2, 3, and 4 and B days consisting of blocks 5, 6, 7, and 8. Including a flex period in an A/B block schedule also helps give teachers and students access to each other on the days they aren’t scheduled to see each other so that students needing help have that day to get support and catch up before the next scheduled block with that teacher.
5. Rotating Block
In a rotating block schedule, students take 4 courses per semester with each course covering a full year’s curriculum. Then, at semester, students rotate to a new set of 4 courses with students taking up to eight courses per year. Each block typically lasts between 80-100 minutes, and students attend each class every day, but each class meets at a different time every day. For example, if Amelia’s Block 1 meets at 7:30 on Monday, it will meet at 9:05 on Tuesday, 11:50 on Wednesday, and so on throughout the week. Extended class periods give teachers more time to cover more material during a single class period. The advantage of a rotating block schedule is that students sometimes perform better in a class at different times of the day, and this schedule provides that opportunity. In the example below, the blocks are divided into two morning blocks and two afternoon blocks with a flex period and lunch between them, and each block rotates to a different time each day.
6. Modified Standard Periods
In a modified standard bell schedule, students alternate A/B block schedules two days a week while the other three days are standard periods of equal length. The advantage of this type of schedule is that it is a hybrid of the advantages of both standard and block schedules. For example, every teacher has an extended time once per week that more easily accommodates projects, labs, and other activities that become logistically challenging in shorter periods. In the example below, students attend four 92-minute blocks each with a 31-minute flex period on A and B day, Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, and then they attend eight 45-minute class periods with a 30-minute flex period on Monday, Thursday, and Friday.
7. Modified Block
In a modified block schedule, students attend a hybrid A/B block schedule four days a week on Monday through Thursday and a standard shorter class period day on Fridays. The advantages of a modified block are having longer class periods twice a week for teachers to go more in depth into the instructional material while also enjoying the advantages of a predictable standard schedule one day a week. In the example below, students attend Blocks 1-4 on Mondays and Wednesdays and Blocks 5-8 on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a flex period between morning and afternoon blocks and a standard 8-period day on Fridays.
8. Intensive Block
In an intensive block schedule, students take one to three classes at a time for shorter intensive blocks of time of several weeks to 2-3 months. With multiple intensive blocks throughout the year instead of the traditional two semesters, students can take more classes throughout the year while also having more time to focus on each class with longer class periods each day during the intensive. This can also help give students the chance to retake a course without having to wait an entire semester or year to retake that course. This is especially helpful when students do not pass a class required for graduation the first time around without getting significantly behind or having to take summer school. In the example below, students take three 75-minute classes each day with two 10-minute breaks and a 25 flex period.
Intersessions are breaks of a few weeks between semesters or quarters in which students take short intensive classes either for remediation or acceleration. The advantage of this type of scheduling option, in addition to providing remediation or acceleration opportunities, is to provide options for students who have scheduling conflicts with one or more classes during the regular school year. In that case, they can take the course during an intersession. During these, students usually only take one class at a time, though in cases of longer intercessions, they might take two, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. While the regular schedule could be any of the versions described above, the intercession schedule often looks similar to an intensive block schedule, like the one below with only one class per day for the few week periods.
10. Flex Mod
With a flex mod schedule, the day is broken up into small intervals or modules of 15-20 minutes. Students engage in a variety of different classes and activities during these modules. Often, multiple modules will combine for longer time blocks, students and teachers don’t necessarily have the same schedule each day and often have some flex time built-in for independent learning, work time, or office hours with teachers. The advantage of a flex mod schedule is that students can pick modules that meet their particular learning needs, giving them ownership of their education and often better preparing them for managing a varying schedule that comes in college and the workforce. The main challenge here comes with scheduling the mod offerings to minimize conflicts and ensuring each student has access to the courses they need in a way that does not conflict each week.
As you can see, there are many ways to schedule daily and weekly instructional time for both middle and high schools to take advantage of, whether shorter or longer class periods, using blocks, including flex periods, and more. Your schedule will obviously depend on your context, resources, and what is best for your teachers and students. We hope these examples will serve to inspire you to shape a schedule for your school that will lead to as much student success as possible in your context.
If you’re interested in learning more about how a flex period works or the benefits of it, no matter what kind of schedule you have, check out our Ultimate Guide to Flex Periods. And if you need additional help regarding middle or high school bell schedules, we’re always here to help. Just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.