Flex Periods, often called Intervention Blocks, Activity Periods, and WIN Time, among many other names, are becoming more common in middle and high schools across the United States. 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.
5 Ways to Use Flex Periods in Middle + High Schools
Among the most common activities that schools use Flex Periods for is to provide interventions to students. In fact, this is the impetus to create the time in the daily schedule for the vast majority of schools that have Flex Periods. If you’ve ever been a teacher, it’s likely no surprise. One of the most common complaints of teachers is that they don’t have enough time to get through to all their students. With most classes being around 30-60 minutes each day, it’s quite likely that you’ll have some students in each class not fully master the day’s objective in that time, no matter how well you differentiate. At the same time, it’s hard to justify using the next class to reteach an objective when the majority of the students were able to master the objective. But with Flex Periods built into the daily schedule, teachers can now pull students from each of their classes together, creating a critical mass of students that need more support on the same topic, instead of seeing them at different times throughout the day, mixed with students that don’t need that support. This also eliminates the need for students and teachers to find time after school for additional help, which often creates transportation challenges and prohibits many students from getting the support they need.
On the other end of the spectrum, schools that implement Flex Periods, even if prioritizing interventions, quickly realize that they can also provide additional opportunities for students to go deeper into topics of interest that there is rarely time for during traditional class time. Sometimes these are more formal lessons, extending on topics from class into areas that aren’t required in the course standards. Sometimes it looks like a teacher creating space for students to leverage their existing knowledge from the course in a self-directed way, researching and discussing topics in more depth than they’d be required to otherwise. It could even look like additional experiments or activities that allow students to engage in new ways with the material. However it looks, it gives students an opportunity to have fun with the material in new ways and extend their learning beyond what would otherwise be possible without the time created.
Schools often find club meetings an important part of Flex Periods, as it’s very hard to find the time for them otherwise. Without Flex Periods, club meetings are forced to happen during lunch or before and after school. This means that fewer students are able to participate, as lunch is often cut short, and those students that have to buy their lunch will often miss most of, if not all, of a meeting. When they happen before or after school, it requires students to have their own transportation. Both of these cause equity issues around all students having access to participate in clubs. When moving these to Flex Periods, it allows students to participate and find community in school that improves their overall educational experience.
Another common way to leverage Flex Periods is to have students make-up tests, or other assignments. When students are absent, especially on a testing day, it can often become a challenge to have them make-up the test. While other assignments can often be sent home for a student to do on their own time, that is rarely possible for tests. Usually, this means teachers try to get kids to come during lunch or before/after school, but that can often provide similar challenges, as mentioned above. When those were not possible, teachers would often try to have a student take it during class, but that causes them to miss another day’s lesson, which can also be problematic. This leaves Flex Periods as an ideal way for students to make-up tests, especially when they don’t have a more important reason to be somewhere else.
It is also common for schools to provide study halls for students. While this might have been a much more common trend in decades past, it’s never fully gone out of fashion across the board. Many schools choose to provide study hall for students so they have some time to learn time management and allocate their time to their most pressing academic needs on their own. It also helps to level the playing field for getting work completed when some students have after-school activities, like sports or jobs. In many ways, the more traditional study hall has evolved into Flex Periods now, as Flex Periods allow more intentional and structured time within the school day, often for reasons above, using study halls as options for students that don’t necessarily need or want to be anywhere else during this time on a particular day.
As you can see, schools use Flex Periods in a variety of ways, where it’s increasingly common that each school has a mix of the activities listed above happening on any given day. Each activity allows students to have different opportunities for the school to be responsive to their needs and interests, which is what Flex Periods are all about.
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.