WIN (What I Need) time is an effective tool for middle and high schools. But what is it, why does it matter, and how can WIN work in block schedules? Let’s dig in, and talk a little bit first about block scheduling.
Decades ago, before the internet and smartphones, high school schedules were rigid, and there was little to no flexibility in options or scheduling. However, as technology has evolved, so have educational technology and views on student learning. While traditional scheduling still exists in many areas across the United States, administrators, educators, and student support staff are examining their school culture and need to determine how scheduling can improve the student’s learning experience.
Many schools have switched to schedules that are more reflective of college schedules, helping students adjust to the transition to higher education. However, this switch to block scheduling has many other benefits, such as flexibility and opportunities for more class selection. As of 2019, approximately 30% of high schools across America are using block scheduling.
Variations of Block Scheduling
Before we look at a flexible block scheduling concept, let us review the two most popular types of block schedules used in high school, A/B Block Schedules and 4X4 Block Schedules. Over the entire school year, the A/B scheduling breaks up eight classes on alternating days (Day A and Day B). There are no semesters to break the schedule up, only alternating days. Therefore, students take four classes (approximately 80-90 minutes of class time) on Day A and four different classes on Day B.
While many schools use the A/B model, another popular model is the 4X4 block schedule. Like a college schedule, students take four classes (approximately 80-90 minutes of class time) the first semester and four classes the second semester. Regardless of the type of block scheduling, most schools offer some flexibility to the schedule for students who need year-long classes, such as orchestra.
What is WIN Block Scheduling?
As most administrators could share, creating a master schedule for a high school is challenging and stressful. Despite challenges, many principals and educators see the value in creating a student-driven schedule. Understanding the needs of students is essential to their success, and many students can take on more than the required workload. Recognizing the need for more flexibility in opportunities, a new concept in block scheduling has emerged, WIN Block Scheduling.
The administration of Mendon-Upton Regional School District in Massachusetts shared their ideas for this alternate block schedule. From a student’s perspective, WIN stands for “What I Need.” Students have different needs and different interests. Understanding the need for more flexibility to address students’ interests, counseling services, and advising, the WIN block was created as an additional block of time.
How is the WIN Block Scheduled?
The WIN schedule offers an additional block during the school day. The block could be 30 minutes long or longer, but each day students have options that they can elect to participate in. At Mendon-Upton Regional School District, administrators established one set day for advising and teacher conferences. The following is an example of what a student’s week may look like during their WIN block:
Monday: Meet with an academic advisor
Tuesday: Meet with math teacher for extra tutoring
Wednesday: Spanish club
Thursday: English III study group in the library
Friday: Study hall
What Can Students Do During the WIN Block?
Many schools may have one day for students to check in with a homeroom teacher or advisor. For example, on Monday, students may meet with their advisory groups. If they do not need a conference with their academic advisor, they can use the time as a study hall. During the rest of the week (Tuesday through Friday), the WIN block offers students a variety of activities and opportunities. Leadership opportunities may be of interest to some students, including activities such as student government, peer mediating, or peer mentoring. Students can also participate in clubs or elect to stay in their last class of the day and get extra help from that teacher.
Some schools use their WIN block to host a Genius Hour (Inquiry-based activities/projects) or STEM programs. Teachers may also arrange for a guest speaker to come in during the WIN block. In addition, students can join small counselor-led groups or schedule appointments with counselors. Finally, the WIN block offers students a chance to try new things or catch up on schoolwork.
What are the Benefits of Having a WIN Block?
Some of the benefits that students experience in a WIN block include flexibility and new opportunities. As part of a block schedule, students are more organized with their time, and having a WIN block can also support developing study skills and self-sufficiency. Many schools have utilized a flexible block in their master schedule without using the WIN label. Other schools have referred to this block as (a) flex time, (b) WIN time, (c) activity period, or (d) X block. While your school may choose a different name, there are many benefits to having this flexible time.
Academic support may include services such as intervention groups, test prep, homework help, or extra time to complete assignments. Other social and emotional support may include coping skills, remediation, grief counseling, relationship-building skills, or behavioral support. The main benefit is personalized learning. If a student needs additional academic support or is experiencing hardships and needs emotional support, having a WIN block supports students in accessing the support they need most.
With student needs in mind, administrators work hard to design a master schedule that offers students the education they need to graduate while also considering their personalized needs. By adding a flexible period of time to the schedule, students have access to additional support and opportunities. Many schools that have implemented a WIN block have demonstrated their efforts in meeting the diverse needs of their student population. Whether students need academic or emotional support, having a WIN block supports students in accessing the support they need most.
Enriching Students. (2022). Why create a flex block? Enriching Students. http://www.enrichingstudents.com/why-create-flex-block/
Kelly, M. (2019). The pros and cons of block scheduling. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/class-block-scheduling-pros-and-cons-6460
The Learning Accelerator. (2022). What I need (WIN) block. The Learning Accelerator. https://practices.learningaccelerator.org/strategies/what-i-need-win-block
Morris, R. (2020). Block scheduling and its gift of time: A comprehensive review. Educational Planning, 29(2), 61-77. https://isep.info/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/220725-Journal-29-2_web.pdf#page=59
Rettig, M. (2019). The effects of block scheduling. The School Superintendents Association. https://www.aasa.org/schooladministratorarticle.aspx?id=14852