Lunch as Learning: A Commitment to Excellence

Guest post by Lesley Corner

Before the 2016–2017 school year, Camden High School provided after-school tutorials and after-school homework centers for English and math. These methods of academic assistance increased student achievement, but we couldn’t reach some of the students who needed the most help due to their after-school obligations or transportation issues. After extensive research and school visits, we remodeled our schedule to include academic assistance during the school day for all students. Our model includes two types of assistance: Individual Learning Time (ILT) and Structured Learning Time (SLT).

SchedulingTwo highschool girls sharing lunch. One is smiling smugly to the other.

This new schedule required modifications to our daily schedule, duty schedule, and cafeteria serving lines. Previously, our school’s schedule included two 30-minute lunch blocks for students. Although this model was successful in serving lunch to all students, we could not provide any academic assistance to students during this time. Beginning this school year, we have one 50-minute lunch block. During the first 20 minutes, teachers may eat unencumbered if they wish. For the remaining time, all teachers are available in their classrooms for academic assistance. We are excited about the possibilities that our new schedule brings to all of our students. In addition to academic assistance, we will add intramurals, fitness opportunities, guest speakers, job fairs, college workshops, and assemblies as the year progresses.

Since teachers mfullsizerenderust have time to eat and be available to students during their lunch, administration developed a new method of covering our required duty stations. Our four administrators and our school resource officer are assigned to one of five areas to roam to monitor student activity. Additionally, we use our athletic director, teaching assistants, and rotating physical education teachers, guidance counselors, and ROTC instructors to cover 12 duty posts throughout the building.

To serve 1,000 students within this time frame, we reconstructed the lunch experience. Students may eat at any point within the 50-minute timeframe. Instead of our previous three cafeteria serving lines, there are now multiple locations throughout our campus where students can receive lunch. Our additions include two mobile serving carts and a concession stand with different items at each location. Students can get a meal from any location, and they know in advance what is served at each location outside of the cafeteria.

Individual Learning Time (ILT)

ILT includes all students with a C or above in all courses and no missing assignments. Their lunch time is at their discretion. During ILT, these students can choose to receive academic assistance, complete class assignments, utilize the library, or see a guidance counselor. Students are strongly urged to use this time to complete homework and assignments. They may also choose to use this time to visit with friends, practice their instrument, or talk with a trusted adult. Additionally, we are adding intramural athletics, school spirit activities, and club meetings to the options. Using ILT for these options protects instructional time and equalizes access to these programs.

Structured Learning Time (SLT)

If a student’s overall grade in any course drops below a C, the teacher assigns SLT sessions. During this time, a student must report to the teacher to receive extra help. Failure to report to an assigned SLT results in a disciplinary infraction. SLT gives students with after-school obligations or transportation issues the opportunity to receive the extra help they need to achieve mastery. Students also use this time to retake tests (our school’s expectation for any major assessment under a 70) and research topics of interest.

Student Expectations

This change offers students an extra measure of freedom. With this freedom comes the responsibility to follow additional expectations such as keeping our campus clean, utilizing this time wisely, attending assigned SLT, and not disrupting this time. Students who do not accept this responsibility are dealt with seriously by administration. Due to the fluid nature of this time, we do not allow student sign-outs between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. each day. Students with previously scheduled appointments report to the Guidance office at 11:00 a.m.

Providing additional assistance at the secondary level requires creative solutions. What are some other methods for providing academic and other types of assistance to students during the school day?

Lesley Corner is currently an assistant principal at Camden High School in Camden, SC. She is the 2016 South Carolina Assistant Principal of the Year and an NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year Finalist. Follow her on Twitter @lesley_corner.

6 Comments

  • Clint Ross says:

    What an excellent concept, and well organized!
    Thanks for sharing Lesley!

  • Michael Thomas says:

    Love the idea of bringing food to the students with the mobile serving cart. Is the cafeteria less congested with more students eating in different areas of the school? Could be a great solution for school with overcrowded cafeterias.

    • Lesley Corner says:

      Yes. Previously, we had 2 lunches to serve our students in 30 minutes. Now, we can serve all students in this one lunch block with much shorter lines. The students love not being rushed, and the teachers love providing assistance during the school day, which cuts back on afterschool requirements,

  • Mike Duffy says:

    What a fine idea. We’ve also used “lunch buddies,” who are professors or scientists who tutor and mentor a couple times a week. We’ve also tried Audio books on sports bus trips and class trips.
    You might consider allowing flexible scheduling for some employees. If someone has first period prep, assign a later start time and finish time. Then have that person be a homework helper right after school.

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