Focusing on Focus Period – Joshua Sanchez

Students and teachers seem to disagree on focus period at Kerman High School. Focus Period is generally seen as not a good or bad thing to teachers at school. It’s sort of in the middle, neutral. It’s seen as a task to get done and over with. Students however view focus period as boring (no surprise there).  No one, or at least the majority of students, takes focus period seriously. In my opinion, focus period is a roadblock to getting on with the school day and for the past eight years, focus period has been in the way. But now, for the first time, focus period has taken a different direction.

Literacy Coach & Focus Period

There is a staff member at our school who has been aware of the issues students have with focus period and she is Ms. Maxwell, the new literacy coach. Ms. Maxwell has put a lot of effort and initiative into making focus period something students can enjoy, participate, and learn from academically.

“A literacy coach’s job is to help teachers teach students how to read and write and use literacy in the classroom” states Maxwell. While Mrs. Scott was the literacy coach for most of the past decade the position has recently been handed to Ms. Maxwell.  “I am very excited to help kids and teachers to improve literacy in all classes,” Maxwell said.

One of Ms. Maxwell’s first tasks as literacy coach was to improve focus period in a way that made this extra space of time more beneficial and interesting to students. This is due to the fact that in the past, several teachers have described focus period becoming too routine and boring to students. Up until last year, focus period consisted of students working on workbooks, known as academic vocabulary, by copying down vocabulary definitions from the projector screen. But often students began to blindly copy information without much effort to learn the content.

This year Ms. Maxwell has replaced academic vocabulary with several different tasks involving vocabulary instruction, including: the reading of an article or text, responding to text, critical thinking and watching and responding to short internet clips.  

Focus Period Origin

Bussing Schedule

At one point eight years ago, focus period did not exist. Therefore, Wednesday Block Day schedules released students at 1:35 PM.  On Wednesdays the schedule released high school students significantly earlier than elementary school students, thus creating a time conflict with KUSD bus transportation. Wednesday Block Day schedules needed to be extended until 2 PM so that  bus schedules matched with Kerman High and elementary schools.

WASC  

Another reason other than the bus schedule as to why we have focus period is WASC. WASC (Western Association of Schools & Colleges) is a federally recognized organization which reviews our school via a WASC Report. This lets the government know that we are a school that meets the education standards of the government. If the school is reviewed badly, then the government stops funding our school.

So, nine years ago, Wasc required Kerman High to include a literacy curriculum for all students, i.e., focus period.

These two circumstances coincided and Focus Period was created.

Focus Period Issues

There are a few issues students currently have with focus period. Some students have trouble understanding the article’s lesson or what it’s trying to communicate. Another issue is that the articles come in packets which creates confusion as to what questions pertain to which article, hence the flipping back and forth repeatedly, plus a lot of paper going to waste.  In some classes there are not enough packets for everyone, so students find it easier to copy each other’s answers. Also, some classrooms have trouble watching the internet clips assigned to focus period which makes focus periods impractical.

Mr. Fleming (10th grade World History teacher) sums up focus period overall this past semester. “It has growing pains, but because it’s a new idea it feels disorganized.”  I think teachers can also agree with this statement. Every organization or system such as focus period will have growing pains. So in order to ease them, staff members and students can help out focus period for the better by letting Ms. Maxwell know of any ideas you have to better focus period in this upcoming semester.

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