60 Minute Math Block Planning

Recently I wrote a post about planning an 90-minute middle school block. Since then, I've been asked to think about ideas for teaching a 60-minute block in elementary school.

I came up with 5 ideas for ways to structure 60-minutes of time with 1st-5th grade students. Think of these as recipes. A starting point. Something you can try as is, and then, as you get more comfortable, move around and adapt to your needs and the needs of your students. I don't know if you like to cook, but it is one of my favorite hobbies.

I love trying new recipes. For me, I try the recipe as suggested for the first few times. Once I get comfortable, I might substitute in some herbs. Maybe I change out other ingredients or move things around. It's the same idea for these structures!

Option 1: This first idea is based on the 5 E's model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate. I love this model for encouraging exploration and being true to the constructivist philosophy that I love.

Option 2: This model allows for students to be on a differentiated program for 20 minutes. Many districts are using programs such as DreamBox or eSpark to give students time to work on skills they need. This model has half of the class working in the program while you meet with small groups and then switch.

Option 3: This option also allows for 20 minutes of students to be on a differentiated program. For this model, you would have the whole class on the program at the same time so that you can be conferencing with students or reviewing the teacher dashboard.

Option 4: This option is intended to encourage innovation. If you have technology available, think about ways to get kids creating. Stop action videos, using Explain Everything, or some other way that students can how their understanding through creation. You might use this model a few days per unit.

Option 5: This is the classic "station" model. You would create 4 stations of activities for students to rotate through. Perhaps one of the stations is the "teacher station" where you would be meeting with small groups and providing some type of differentiation of intervention.

None of these models are intended to be implemented 180 days of school. Start with your purpose. What are the verbs of your lesson? Explore? Practice? Justify? Explain? Use those verbs to help you choose the model that will best match your purpose.

I also created this video to walk you through my thinking in creating the structures. While a few of the ideas are specific to my district (use of eSpark and Pearson), it might help to hear my rationale in recommending these ideas. As always, I would love to hear your feedback!


  1. Thank you so much for inputing your ideas on how to go about teaching through a block schedule. I love that most of your options that you suggested involve group work in order to build that community within the classroom. I also agree that the block schedule is a very long time in which we need to keep the students attention and that explore stage you emphasize is important to allow the student to make their discoveries their own. Thank you.


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