Having a study hall or other flexible period in which students can complete make-up work for a course can greatly improve student success. This can best be achieved by creating a clear structure for the operation of study halls and by ensuring that the established structure is present in all classrooms. Below, we’ll example 12 effective study hall structures and practices, to make your school’s study hall even better.
1. Collaboration & Noise
Two elements of a well-structured study hall are the establishment of basic rules, and the creation of a good classroom layout. While it can be good for students to talk in class, one common rule for an effective study hall is that the room should be generally quiet. This ensures that students who are working independently can do so in a peaceful environment. It also ensures that there is limited noise when the study hall teacher is working with a student.
If possible, it is best to have some distance between the teacher’s station, and other students. The teacher may be working with a student, so this could help limit how much noise reaches those working independently. Students who need to work together can do so in a separate area so as not to disturb the quiet ones.
If the collaboration is brief, this can be done just outside of the classroom. If the collaboration is extended, teachers could send students to the school library.
2. Student Seating
Another decision the teacher will need to make is whether or not to assign students to required, default, seats. The benefit of assigning students to seats at the onset of the study hall is that they will not have grouped themselves together with students they are friendly with. This could limit the likelihood of students casually chatting with one another when in the quiet area of the classroom.
While this is a common practice, it does come with some drawbacks. For one, students tend to appreciate being able to choose their own seats. It allows them to select an area of the room that suits them (on the end of a row with easy access to an exit, for example).
Students also tend to feel respected when they can choose their own seat, which supports the development of strong teacher-student relationships. If a student needs to move for some reason, they can do so without the teacher devoting time to adjusting the pre-established seating chart. Every bit of time that can be saved can be reallocated to working with students academically. Allowing students to choose their own seat may prove to be the most effective with smaller classes that contain older students.
3. Seating Charts
Whether a teacher uses a pre-established seating chart or allows students to choose their own seats, it would be helpful to create a seating chart for attendance taking. If students choose their own seats, the study hall teacher can simply create the chart based on their choices. The study hall teacher will also want to make sure that the chart is printed and available at the teacher’s station. This will ensure that any teacher or administrator that steps in for the study hall teacher will be able to identify students and take accurate attendance.
4. Lesson Plans
It also makes sense to include a standard lesson plan. The plan should be general enough that it does not need to be frequently updated and re-printed. But it should also be specific enough that a substitute teacher can manage the classroom just as the assigned study hall teacher does. Such a plan could include a description of the rules and expectations.
5. Setting Expectations
Once basic rules and structures of the classroom are established, the foundation for an effective study hall is laid. The teacher can then build appropriate practices on top of that foundation. This is an ideal moment in the process to establish general expectations for the study hall.
A logical, general, expectation is that students in the study hall should be consistently working towards their goals. This will reduce the number of students who engage in other activities, such as playing games on their devices, and will then reduce the time needed to redirect students towards their schoolwork.
6. Engaging with Students During Study Hall
Once general expectations are set, the study hall teacher can then focus on assisting students with their schoolwork.
Generally, students who need to go to a different location in the school will request permission to do so at the beginning of the period. Therefore, it makes sense to remain at the teacher’s station (or whichever area makes sense) at the beginning of the period to approve student movement to those locations. Once that has been handled, the teacher can oversee the study hall work with minimal interruption.
Another option would be to use a flex time scheduling tool like Enriching Students. This was students can request or self-schedule to see certain teachers ahead of time. That will make it easier to track where students are going, what they plan to do, and add a way for teachers to take attendance for that time period.
At this point, strategies vary. Study hall teachers could choose to simply announce to students that they are available at the teacher’s station to assist them. Other teachers may have a number of options for engaging with students. One strategy is to travel around the room to each student and check in with them. The teacher can ask them how they are doing, in general, and ask them if they need help with any specific assignments.
7. Active Monitoring & Proof of Work
When not assisting students with work, study hall teachers can actively monitor the room. This often means observing students as they work. Students who are clearly working on school assignments can be left to work as they see fit. Those who are clearly not working on school assignments can be redirected to do so.
Redirecting students can include sub-strategies. One is to ask students what work they need to complete. If they identify an assignment, locate it, and begin working on it, the teacher can resume active monitoring of the room. If a student says that they do not have any work to complete, the study hall teacher can ask to see evidence that the work is complete. Examples include seeing a student’s current course grades and submissions waiting to be graded.
8. Expert Consults
The hope is that the study hall teacher is able to assist students with most, if not all, assignments. However, this may not always be possible. At the high school level, teachers generally focus on a particular content area.
If a student needs support in an area the study hall teacher doesn’t have sufficient expertise in, the study hall teacher can refer the student to the appropriate subject teacher. This may mean sending the student to visit with that teacher. It may also mean communicating the student’s need to the subject teacher, so that the teacher can address the issue with the student when possible.
9. Aligning Study Hall Procedures
Thus far, we’ve looked at the structure and practices of an individual study hall, which can be adjusted as the teacher sees fit.
But schools may want to adopt general rules, procedures, and structures, to be used by all study halls. This would ensure that no matter which study hall a student is placed in, that student will be able to easily integrate into that study hall.
Schedule changes are a common occurrence for students, which can result in a changed study hall. By adopting wide-spread rules, procedures, and structures, students will be able to quickly and easily integrate into any study hall that matches their schedule.
10. Syncing Study Hall Times
Another measure that schools can take to improve the use of study halls is to schedule a standard time in which all study halls take place. This allows for far more collaboration between students and teachers.
As mentioned earlier, if a study hall teacher is not able to assist a student, the student can be sent to a teacher adept with that subject. This can generally only happen if the study halls are hosted at the same time.
11. Study Halls for All Students
An additional measure that schools can take to improve the use of study halls is to ensure that all students have one. It is common to assign students to a study hall if they have a free place in their schedules (and have no need for an additional course credit at that time).
But this can result in inequities between students. If one student has a study hall and another does not, then the student who does not have a study hall does not have the same opportunities for gaining assistance with assignments and making use of collaboration time. By ensuring all students receive a study hall consistently, schools are also ensuring that their educational environment is an equitable one.
12. Coordinate Using a System
A final measure schools can take to ensure study halls are used appropriately is to use a system in which teachers carefully monitor and report on their students’ academic progress.
With such a system, study hall teachers would be able see regularly updated information on a student’s progress with assignments and overarching goals.
Study hall teachers in schools without such a system are limited in how well they can assist their students. Without a system like this, teachers primarily have only what they see in their study hall to rely on. With a system, all study hall teachers can remain current on student progress and work as part of a larger team of teachers to aid students with making progress on their educational goals.