5 MORE Ways to Use a Flex Period in Middle & High Schools
Flex Periods, which go by many names, including Intervention Blocks, Activity Periods, and WIN Time, are becoming commonplace in middle and high schools across the United States. Schools frequently use them for a variety of purposes in their buildings once they realize how useful they can be for a variety of activities. While most schools start their Flex Period with interventions in mind, which was the first on our first list of five common ways schools use Flex Periods, schools regularly use them in other ways that help limit the amount of regularly scheduled class time that is taken for different priorities. In this post, we’ll discuss 5 more ways middle and high schools often use Flex Periods, with an emphasis on activities that rarely have a place in the daily schedule otherwise.
In the wake of COVID-19, schools are responding with a variety of scheduling choices, including a mix of in-person, virtual, and hybrid options. In this climate, though, where schools are rethinking schedules and considering online learning, Flex Periods are arguably more important than ever in strategically tackling the learning loss that occurred last spring. In fact, now could be the perfect time to consider starting one in your building if you haven’t already. In this post, we’ll discuss five common ways to use a Flex Period in middle and high schools to provide more opportunities for your students.
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5 MORE Ways to Use Flex Periods in Middle + High Schools
In addition to the more traditional interventions and small groups that schools frequently use Flex Periods for, conferences are another great way to leverage this time. In many cases, teachers will schedule individual sessions with students that they need to talk to, whether because of an academic need, like failing a class or experiencing a declining performance, or a social-emotional need, like something has seemed “off” or they’ve been disengaged lately. It’s also common for teachers to have conferences with students who recently failed a big assignment, regardless of their prior performance. This is especially common for English teachers that want to give more feedback on an essay, as providing feedback only in writing on an essay can be challenging. Additionally, it’s not just teachers that use this time for conferences. Counselors frequently use this time so they do not have to pull students out from their regular classes, causing them to miss direct instruction. Even principals and other administrators try to use this time for conferences when at all possible, regardless of the reason.
Assemblies, Guest Speakers, & Pep Rallies
Another really common way schools start using their Flex Periods is to use them for all the different large gatherings, like assemblies, guest speakers, and pep rallies, that would otherwise have to take up a regularly scheduled period. Whether it is a mandatory grade-level meeting to share some pertinent information with a large group, like preparing seniors for graduation, or an optional activity open to specific groups, like a college representative coming to share information, or anything in between, Flex Periods provide the perfect place for these in a schedule because it does not require one class to miss a lesson and subsequently be one day behind the rest in the long-term plan.
Field Trip Preparation
Another way to use Flex Periods is to prepare students for an upcoming field trip when there might not be time in your regularly scheduled classes. If all your classes are going on the field trip, you could call each one in on a different day’s Flex Period (since they likely can’t all fit in your room at once) or schedule a larger space, like the auditorium, to get them all in a large room together to go over logistics, expectations, and any additional content they should know beforehand. If, however, the field trip is only for a select group of students across your classes, or even includes students you don’t currently have on your daily schedule, flex time is especially helpful in getting them all in the same room without missing class or forcing it to happen outside of school. This could be especially helpful when you’re preparing for a much larger field trip, like when I took a group of students to Washington DC when I was teaching in Arkansas. Students from the entire 8th grade applied to go, and only some of them were in my class currently, so instead of meeting after school each month (and weekly leading up to the departure), we could’ve used flex time to meet, making logistics much easier on us all.
Another common way schools use their Flex Period is to create mini-courses on topics that do not warrant a grade, give students a chance to explore their interests, or aren’t part of the official state standards. Usually, students are scheduled into these mini-courses for a few weeks up to a quarter at a time. Assignments are usually primarily student-driven to give students more choice in their day, as the goal is often giving students something they can look forward to daily. Topics for these mini-courses vary widely between schools, and even sometimes within a school itself, ranging from things like the history of hip hop to mindfulness practice, and leadership education to cookie decorating.
Lastly, another increasingly common way to leverage Flex Periods shifts the focus from the student to the teacher, using the time to provide space for teachers to meet with their professional learning communities (PLCs). As PLCs have become increasingly common across schools as a way for teachers to collaborate and help each other sharpen their crafts, it’s important for them to have time to meet. Given the scheduling demands, it’s often hard to give every member of a PLC the same planning period, which means in usual circumstances the group would be forced to meet before/after school, during lunch (assuming they even have the same lunch period), or during class time for some of its members. When using Flex Periods for this, most schools assign each PLC a day of the week that they are to meet during flex time instead of having a season for students, dispersing the students to other teachers and/or larger common spaces throughout the building.
As you can see, Flex Periods are a versatile scheduling strategy that allows schools to flexibly provide a variety of opportunities for their students and teachers that are otherwise challenging in a more traditional school schedule. It’s no wonder why we’re starting to see them in the majority of middle and high schools across the US, with the majority of schools having them in some regions already.
If you currently have a Flex Period or are thinking about starting one, we’d love to help make it easy for you. Click here to learn more about how we help schools simplify the scheduling process and ensure you know where each student is at all times.