The English Teacher

Planning Breaks for Longer Classes

The following advice works for longer classes when the teacher can decide when the breaks are taken, such as with evening or block classes. The teacher may wish to plan several breaks if the class is really long.

For some time I taught an evening class, 3 hours, once per week. When I started, I wondered how I could teach that long, how I could "last" that long. Several quarters later, with an entirely new class, I was "teaching strong" when I noticed that my students were "fading," that is, were visibly getting tired. All of a sudden I realized that I was used to the longer classes, but they weren't. Then I started planning for their break needs as well as mine.

In planning for a break, teach the class long enough for the students to appreciate the break when they get it, so that they feel that you are sensitive to their needs. Don't wait so long that they think, "At Last, a Break!"

After a break it is very difficult to start up with the same content and mood the class had when they took the break. One option is to end at a "natural" stopping place. Then after the break, when the class begins again, begin a new article, a new poem, etc.

When a break is given too near the end of the class, the class may come back "in body" but not back "in spirit."

A teacher may occasionally end the class early, but if students come to expect an early ending, teaching a full length class later will become difficult.

Also realize that with two classes on the same subject, one discussion might go well, and the other might not go quite as well, because one class can discuss, and the other is happy with shorter answers. In discussions don't ask "yes or no" questions very often. Ask, lots of "Why" questions.

If the lesson times turn out to be not quite what is needed, a teacher might have a short article to hand out for the class to be read quickly and discussed, or a longer article to be read for a while and then discussed. When longer articles are to be read in class, a teacher should be aware of students' different reading speeds.

Of course, these are suggestions, not rules never to be broken. Eventually a teacher will begin to "feel" the way the class is progressing and adapt techniques accordingly.

Return to: Strategies for Teaching