Walk into a typical high school, and you see students hustling from class to class. With a traditional high school schedule, students may have seven classes at a time. That’s sort of like having seven different bosses.

High school is hard enough without the constant ringing of bells, causing the entire student body to get up, pack up, and move on. Not to mention conforming to the standards of all of these different ‘bosses’ within a course of a day.

With so much rushing around, there may be little time for students to receive extra help, work on a passion project, or make a connection with a teacher. In this article we’re going to look at some flexible high school schedule examples. We’ll discuss each schedule type, briefly address the pros and cons of each schedule, and look at how they can be more flexible. You could use these as a template when planning out your own school’s schedule.

Why Examine High School Schedule Examples?

Students and teachers alike need a break in the day, to take a minute out of the hustle and bustle to focus on what is really important.

For some students, that may be getting extra help in math class (geometry is no joke at this level!).

For other students, they may need time with the counseling department to work on their mental health.

Still others would like to join a group of students in Creative Writing or learn a new skill.

One element that all these ideas have in common is time. High schools need a way to step back a bit from the traditional fast-paced bell schedule and give students some Flex time during the day. This time would help build relationships, enrich learning and more, without anyone having to stay after school.

Period Schedule

A period schedule typically consists of 8 or 9 periods throughout the school day, usually about 45 minutes in length.

Students go from class to class, and most students have seven classes in their schedules.

This means that they have seven different teachers with seven different teaching styles, so there is a lot of variety in the day. It also means that students are making a lot of transitions, and just when they get into a project, it is time to move on to the next class.

An example of a 7 period High School schedule

Pros:

There are several positives about this schedule. First of all it is predictable, and is the most common schedule used for high school students. This means that teachers, students, and parents all understand it, and there is no learning curve.

The variety of teachers is good for students who crave diversity, and for those who have trouble concentrating for long periods of time.

Cons:

Along with the positive effects of the period schedule come several negatives. First, the constant bell ringing and moving tends to the Pavlovian.

The day may feel rushed and when the bell rings students jump up to head to their next class. There is little time in this schedule for extended thinking or projects, and so students cannot dive into the material very deeply.

Make it Flexible:

By taking just 5 minutes from each period, you can create a 35-minute daily flex period. In the example below, no minutes were taken from lunch, but this can definitely be done, especially if you want to create a longer flex period.

It may be difficult to adjust to the idea that students will be “losing” class time. But really, these lost minutes are made up for with a flex period. How so? Because a flex period allows students to get what they need, when they need it. And instead of an extra 5 minutes, they could potentially have 30 minutes or so of focused support, or enrichment.

4X4 Block Schedule

A four by four block schedule is just what it sounds like. Each semester, students take 4 longer classes that are usually double the traditional length of class. This means that in a full school year, students have time to take 8 different classes.

With longer time in the class, students can delve into material more and focus on a few classes at a time.

Pros:

The positives of a 4 x 4 block schedule are that it offers time for a deep dive into subject matter. This can help develop a deeper understanding of the material. Students can settle into a few subjects at a time and learn them well.

Cons:

The longer chunks of time could be overwhelming, especially if the teachers do not vary their teaching methods.

A 4×4 block schedule can limit choices for students, as they only have four classes at a time. Finally, because there can be a whole semester between difficult classes, there can be learning loss.

Make it Flexible:

Make a 4×4 block schedule more flexible, and give students opportunities to work on projects, and get extra help. A 4×4 block schedule is great because it really allows students to absorb what they are learning, and they have less daily classes to manage. However, a flex period can add some variety, allowing for students to engage in enrichment projects, a genius hour, have scheduled time spent with school counselors, or get targeted support to minimize learning loss.

In the flexible 4×4 block schedule example below, 8 minutes were taken from each block to create a 32 minute flex period. If 8 minutes were also taken from lunch, this could create a 40 minute flex period. As explained with the previous example, this actually gives teachers and students to opportunity to have more time together.

Hybrid Schedule

The hybrid schedule was born out of necessity due to the pandemic, but for some schools it may to be here to stay. This model allows for students to learn at home several days of the week, and then to come to school several days of the week. This variety allows for a slower pace, and changes up the school week.

Pros:

There are several positives of the schedule. The days that students are at home, they learn to work more independently. When they get back to class there are fewer students and they can get more help from the teacher.

Students can learn in a more comfortable environment at home, and cut out the need for a commute.

Cons:

When students are at home, collaborative learning is much more difficult. Also, isolation is a problem, and students can hide in anonymity. And for some, the days at home may make it hard to focus. Students may have to deal with more home responsibilities, a lack of needed technology, or difficult home situations.

Make it Flexible:

You can make a hybrid high school schedule more flexible by turning one of the days into a flex day. Some schools have chosen to add Office Hours at the end of each school day, basically a flex period where students can sign up for teacher support.

A flex day, on the other hand, can open up even more opportunities. It may be a little overwhelming to think about at first, but it is possible to make it work. It gives students the chance to really dig into a project, collaborate with peers, and learn how to manage their schedule. The flex day could occur while students are working remotely, using video conference tools to meet with teachers and peers. But students could also participate in person, whether for a full or partial day.

Look at the amount of time allotted in a given school day, and get creative with how it can be used. Check out the flexible hybrid schedule example below, and see how one day could be a flex day, combined with built in PLC meeting time for staff.

Rotating Schedule

In a rotating schedule, each period is the same length of time, and schools generally choose anywhere between 45-60 minutes. Students attend each class each day, but the classes occur at different times.

For instance, if math class is in the second period today, it is the third period tomorrow, and the day after that it is the fourth period. Students have all their classes, generally in the same order, but they meet each subject and teacher at a different time of the day.

Pros:

Having each class at a different time each day offers students variety, and this may helps them to stay more focused throughout the day.

If a student is habitually exhausted in the morning, it is not only one class that suffers for an entire year. Or if a student is out a lot in the afternoons for appointments, they are not always missing the same class.

Cons:

Especially at the beginning of this schedule, there will be a learning curve and students could need help keeping track of classes. It may take time for students and staff to adjust.

Make it Flexible:

To make a Rotating Schedule flexible, you could take a few minutes from each period or block to create a flex period, as in other examples. Or, you could assign one of the periods as the flex period. In the schedule example below, the flex period occurs at the same time after lunch every day, while the other classes continue their rotation. This would result in each class meeting for a total of 3 times per week, with a double flex period on the 5th rotation day (it would be: 5th period, 6th period, 7th period, 8th period, lunch, flex (2 periods, 120 minutes).

There are other ways to split up the periods if you want classes to meet more frequently during the week. Some staff members may be concerned that a schedule like this wouldn’t give them enough time to spend with their students. However, consider this: by adding a 60 minute daily flex period, students can get help and enrichment where they need it most. If a high school student is struggling in Algebra, but not Chemistry, meeting 3x a week for Chemistry wouldn’t be an issue. They could then use their flex period to meet up with their Algebra teacher to get the help they need. Flex periods can also be used to meet with school counselors, or engage in a passion project.

This type of schedule, with a generous flex period, can also specifically help high school students because it helps them learn how to manage their time, balance their priorities, and ask for help. In many ways, it can prepare them for skills they will need after high school.

A/B Block Schedule

Similar to a rotating schedule, classes meet at a different time each day. The classes themselves can be longer or shorter, which would dictate how many can occur each day. If students have 80 minute classes, they might have classes 1, 2, 3, and 4 on Monday, 5, 6, 7, 8 on Tuesday, and so on.

Wherever the classes end on Monday, they pick up with the next one Tuesday morning. Not all classes will meet every day.

Pros:

Students can take many classes in a semester, but won’t have them all in the same day. This is good for homework because they won’t have homework for seven classes each night. This kind of schedule for high schoolers gives them variety, and can help get them out of a rut.

Cons:

This schedule can be challenging at first, especially for those students already in the school, because it requires training and patience. Teachers need to be trained, as they will not have their classes on the same days, and the set up of the academic week may take some getting used to.

Make it Flexible:

To add some flex time to an A/B high school block schedule, take about 5 minutes from each block. In the schedule example below showing an ‘A’ day, you can see that 10 minutes was taken from lunch as well. This creates a 35 minute flex block.

In an A/B schedule, the flex block could occur at a consistent time every day. That way, whether it’s a A day or a B day, students and staff would always know when the flex block was occurring.

But, the great thing about an A/B block schedule is that it enables students to have a different schedule on each day. So, depending on the classes a student is taking on their ‘B’ day, the flex block could occur at a different time that would make sense for your school.

Flex Mod Schedule

A flex mod schedule is split into ‘mods’, with each mod lasting between 15-30 minutes. Each class in a student’s schedule can have a different number of mods, and students do not have to have the same classes each day.

Here is an example. A science lab could be three mods long, so students have time for an experiment, but a history class could be two mods long since they don’t need as much time.

The flexibility of class times and days a class meets is the hallmark of a flex mod schedule.

Pros:

A flex mod schedule allows students to fit what they need into their schedules. It may also teach them flexibility and time management. This schedule allows for more teacher collaboration, which is a necessity. With many moving parts, students learn how to make many little pieces work together.

Cons:

This school schedule can be difficult to physically schedule. Also, the fact that classes will change at different times means the school will need to deal with the noise and problems caused by that issue. It may be difficult for students to get used to the many changes throughout the day.

Make it Flexible:

You might be thinking — how can you possibly make a flex mod schedule more flexible? Obviously, this is already a very flexible schedule. But, students could still benefit from time to plan, especially because with this type of schedule it really works well when students make choices about where their time needs to be spent. They could also still use opportunities for relationship-building, enrichment, and more.

Using one of the full blocks for advisory, for example, can really tie everything together. Having advisory at the beginning of the day, on one or all days, can give students and teachers time to plan for the week and days ahead. But, and advisory or regular flex period could be put into the middle of the day as well, perhaps after lunch. This would give all staff and students a common time to work on things together, despite the fluid schedule.

The schedule below is based off of the flex mod schedule used at Academy High School in Plano, Texas. They have divided each of their blocks into 15 minute ‘mods’, requiring students to be scheduled to the same course for at least two consecutive mods. Otherwise, the school really allows students to make choices about their learning, and base their model on the idea that “learning is constant, time is flexible.” This could be a great schedule template for other schools to follow. Listen to Academy High’s story on Season 2, Episode 2 of our podcast Reimagining Time.

To give students the time they need, you also need a schedule that works.
Here are some resources we can share.