The 4 x 4 Block Schedule

Block Scheduling

This article published with the permission of the editor of the Indiana Musicator, a publication of the Indiana Music Educator’s Association, and appeared in their May 1996 issue.

The Survival Kit
(Jeffrey Doebler, Contributing Editor)

The 4 x 4 Block Schedule and the Angola High School Band
by John Milleman

Background

Angola High School is located in Steuben County. It is the farthest northeastern county in Indiana. Angola is the county seat of Steuben County, and its largest community. The high school has approximately 850 students. Student backgrounds range from low-income families to high-income families, and this diversity is reflected in the band program. Parents and community members view the school as responsible, and there is a high level of trust between the school and community. The band booster organization is strong and growing.

The band program at Angola offers concert band, jazz band, marching band, pep band, winter color guard, solo and ensemble participation, and a small number of private lessons. Enrollment in band requires participation in marching band, concert band, and pep band. Lessons, solo and ensemble, jazz band, and winter guard are optional.

Planning the 4 x 4 Schedule

Angola Principal, Dr. Rex Bolinger began the process of examining alternate schedules in 1992. Since then, the staff and students have gone through an extensive examination of possible alternate schedules that would help lower the daily number of students per teacher, lessen the stress on teacher and student, and enhance student learning. However, I wanted to stand firm to preserve our strength as a band program, as well as maintain our requirements for participation in concert and marching band. One key to the success in implementing the current schedule was the commitment from the administration and the scheduling committee to maintain the current level of success in our strong program. I was consulted through every step of the process. The philosophy in dealing with music was, "Let’s not try to fix something that is not broken."

Planning the schedule also included the use of research by Joseph Carroll and Robert Lynn Canady. Dr. Canady visited Angola in 1994 and opened the eyes of staff to the enormous possibilities of alternate schedules. One of the important points of his discussions was the need to tailor a schedule to the unique characteristics of your school. Use the research, learn from other schools, but ultimately do what is right for your situation. If that means you do nothing, you at least are stronger from a careful examination of your current schedule.

Our Old Schedule

Until this school year, we were on a seven-period day. Students in band took band plus six other classes or band plus five classes and a study period. Jazz Band met in the morning outside of the school day for no credit (see Figure 1).

Old Angola Schedule (Figure 1)

Band Class Class Class Class Class Class
or
Band class or class or class or class or class or class or
  S.H. S.H. S.H. S.H. S.H. S.H.

Our New Schedule

Our new band schedule utilizes the full 90-minute block of time for the first nine weeks as full band rehearsal. (see Figure 1). This is during the marching band season when there is typically a great deal more rehearsal time required of the students outside of the school day.

During marching band, we rehearse before school on Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning at 7:00 a.m. On the weeks of ISSMA Regional and State Finals, we rehearse on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings at 7:00 a.m. We dismiss the students from the morning rehearsal at 9:30 a.m. This gives us a 2-1/2 hour rehearsal on these mornings. Of course, we still see the students for 90 minutes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. (We net about 80 minutes on these days factoring transit time and equipment concerns.) We also rehearse on Thursday evening (one night per week) to allow our staff to rehearse with the entire band.

First Nine Weeks (Figure 2)

Band 90 minutes Class 90 minutes Class 90 minutes Class 90 minutes

Band students receive one full credit for the first nine weeks. This is because in the 4 x 4 schedule, a nine-week grading period is the same as a semester in the old schedule.

During the second, third, and fourth nine weeks, the band splits the first 90-minute block between concert band and jazz band. For the first 45 minutes of the block, the band meets in concert band. At the end of the 45 minutes, the students in jazz band move to another rehearsal space (the stage in our case) and rehearse for the second 45 minutes. Those students who are not in jazz band go to seminar (see Figure 3).

Second, Third, and Fourth Nine Weeks (Figure 3)

Band 45 minutes Class Class Class Seminar or Jazz 45 minutes


Typical Weekly Rehearsal Schedule

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
1st Full Concert Band Full Concert Band Full Concert Band Full Concert Band Full Concert Band
Full Jazz Band Rehearsal Jazz Band Saxes & Rhythm Full Jazz Band Rehearsal Jazz Band Saxes & Rhythm Full Jazz Band Rehearsal

2nd
45 minutes

Solo & Ensemble Students with Assistant Dir. Concert Band Brass with Assistant Dir. Solo & Ensemble Students with Assistant Dir. Concert Band Brass with Assistant Dir. Solo & Ensemble Students with Assistant Dir.

Seminar is much like a traditional study hall, only it has the feature of being supervised by a classroom teacher. There are classroom teachers supervising seminars during each block. For the student, this means that there is tutoring available in each subject from a classroom teacher. It may not be the teacher they have in a given subject, but a teacher in each subject is available.

We also allow the winter color guard members to stay during the second 45 minutes. They work on cleaning their equipment and go over parts of their show. These students are required to log their practice time and the captains must sign the practice log to verify that the work was completed.

Also, because we are in a team teaching situation in all bands, my assistant director uses the second 45 minutes to coach solo and ensemble students and work with various sections of the concert band on upcoming concert or contest music. We accomplish this by publishing a seminar schedule at least a week in advance. This gives the students the opportunity to plan ahead. They will know in advance the days that they are expected to stay for the full 90 minutes. During the week of concerts, we typically have the full band stay for the entire 90 minutes. During the week of concerts, we typically have the full band stay for the entire 90 minutes. Students must come to my office before band starts to sign out of seminar. We then take the list of students to the seminar supervisor so she will know whom to expect during the seminar.

One reason that this is attractive to band students is that they are able to have 45 minutes of study time daily. (Something that my students say is better than the long 90-minute study period.) Then the student is able to fill up the remaining three blocks with classes allowing them to take their requirements as well as electives.

I counsel my freshman to take physical education during the first nine weeks along with another low homework class. This greatly reduces the stress of dealing with the transition into high school along with the busy marching band schedule. Our guidance department counsels all students to balance the low homework classes with high homework classes.

Remember, since nine weeks is the same as a semester, the old traditional semester classes only meet for nine weeks. Therefore, students are able to take two classes during the same block of time within the same semester. I have freshmen in band that are enrolled in seven other classes (see Figure 4).

Sample Band Student Schedule (Figure 4)

First Semester Second Semester

First 9 weeks
Band 90 minutes

Physical Education
English
Computer Application
 

Second 9 weeks
Band 45 minutes
Seminar or Jazz 45 minutes

Physical Education
English
Basic Art

Band 45 minutes
Seminar or Jazz
45 minutes

Science
Math
Foreign Language

Students are given credit and a grade for band. They receive ½ credit each for the second, third, and fourth nine weeks unless they are in jazz band. In that case, they receive one credit for each nine weeks. Students in jazz band will receive four credits, and non-jazz band students receive two and ½ credits. The choir schedule is essentially the same, however, the choir meets in a different block of time. Choir could be scheduled during the same block for some schools to assist students who wish to do both. Because we share teachers with the middle school, this is very difficult.

Be involved in the changes from the beginning. Don’t let the changes happen to you. Make it happen with you.

Why it is Working

There are several reasons why I believe that this schedule is not harmful to the music program. Even more important, there are reasons why I believe that this schedule is helpful to our program.

  • The administration was aware of our success as a program and made a conscious effort to protect that success;
  • The scheduling committee of teachers communicated with the band director throughout the entire process;
  • Angola High School researched and studied schedules for three years before implementation. Many of our questions and concerns were addressed before implementation;
  • The administration agreed to preserve the current policy requiring a full year of participation in band;
  • We informed band parents about the new schedule in advance. We sent pamphlets to the home and we held special band parent meetings on the subject of scheduling;
  • We have an eighth grade information night each year before scheduling to inform;
  • Our parents organization is strong and they asked questions throughout the entire process;
  • We are able to offer jazz band for credit and meet every day;
  • The use of the second 45 minutes during concert band makes solo and ensemble coaching available during the school day, thus eliminating some of the after-school scheduling conflicts;
  • Private lessons can be taught during the second 45 minutes;
  • Instructional videos and special guests can be brought in for the entire 90-minute block.

DOs

  • Ask questions about the reasoning in each scheduling decision;
  • Keep your parents informed about the process;
  • Keep your students informed about he process; being honest will give you more credibility;
  • Make sure that you can live with the amount of rehearsal time that you will have in the new schedule.
     

DON’Ts

  • Assume anything that you want is understood;
  • Appear inflexible;
  • Let the situation happen to you;
  • Trust someone to convey your message or concerns; do it yourself;
  • Misinform your students throughout the process. If you don’t know all of the facts, don’t discuss the schedule in class;
  • Make enemies;
  • Take sides in the discussions; take the side of the band students.

Ask many questions about the schedule. A schedule that works at one school may not be the best for you. Identify the areas of strength and tailor the schedule to your unique characteristics.

At this point, we are very pleased with the flexibility of the schedule. We are able to require a full year of participation without disrupting the students’ diploma track or AP track schedule. Students have morning rehearsals which decreases the need for outside rehearsal time. (We actually gained about one and ½ hours more rehearsal time in marching band.)

At the time of this writing, however, we are in the first semester of this schedule. I do not anticipate any problems that we will not be able to address. I feel confident that the lines of communication are open between the band, the committee, and the administration.

We are happy to meet with other directors or fax information to schools regarding our 4 x 4 schedule. Remember: Be involved from the beginning! Schedules like the 4 x 4 are going to happen most places. Help make the change happen with you, not to you.

John Milleman has been director of the Angola High School band program since 1993. Previously he was director of bands at Central Noble Community Schools (Albion) from 1989-1993. He holds a bachelor of music education degree from Western Michigan University and is currently pursuing a masters degree in secondary administration from IPFW. [Angola High School, 755 South 100 East, Angola IN 46703 (Phone: 219-665-2186).]

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