students learning instruments during X-Block

Intervention and Enrichment Block at the Somerville Public Schools

Every classroom in grades 1-8 throughout the Somerville Public Schools has a daily 40-minute Intervention and Enrichment period, commonly referred to as "X-Block." During this period, students who require extra help in a particular area work in small groups with the classroom teacher and other support personnel. Those students who exhibit proficiency in language arts and math engage in enrichment and challenge activities to further enhance their skills. It is also a time students can participate in weekly band and strings instruction or work with a reading teacher without having to worry about missing core instruction. Grade 6, 7, and 8 students who are eligible are also able to participate in a daily Spanish language class during this X-Block period. 


X-Block Facts

Examples of X-Block in action

  • A first grade teacher is working with a small group of students on fluency skills, while a reading teacher teaches phonics skills to another group. Meanwhile, other groups are listening to a story on tape with a volunteer, completing a computer-based reading comprehension activity, and working on a mini-book report in pairs.
  • In a fifth grade classroom, several groups of students are running their own literature circles. The teacher occasionally checks in to make sure they are sticking to their roles and having productive conversations. Other students are reading nonfiction articles from a newspaper and answering reading comprehension questions. A volunteer and paraprofessional is helping these students. The teacher is leading a guided reading group with a small group of struggling readers, helping them to focus on summarizing and inferring skills.
  • In eighth grade, a large group of students has left for their daily Spanish class. The math teacher reviews yesterday's lesson on negative numbers with the remaining students, using concrete objects and number lines to make the concept more accessible. At the end of the period, the teacher previews the lesson for tomorrow so students can feel more confident in class.

Questions about X-Block

1.  Is X-Block only led by classroom teachers?

Running a successful X-Block requires a lot of coordination among adults. In some cases, it requires that a classroom teacher, special education teacher, reading teacher, occupational therapists, and tutor work together to create a common schedule and figure out which adults work with which students. In other cases, two classroom teachers, a paraprofessional, and a volunteer do this type of coordination. We find the most successful X-Block implementation is where staff members work together to share ownership of raising student achievement.

2.  How do teachers decide what each child should be doing during X-Block?

Assessment data is key to figuring out what children will be doing in X-Block. Teachers may use MCAS tests, STAR test results, end-of-unit tests, quizzes and observational data to determine what students need. For example, in one third-grade classroom the teacher had just given a math quiz on multiplication. Based on those results, some students were reviewing particular questions with the teacher, another group was playing a math game to improve their knowledge of math facts, and another was completing advanced multiplication word problems. 

3.  How can parents be invited to contribute our specialized skills?

Talk to your child's teacher or school's volunteer coordinator. They can help determine whether a classroom's X-Block needs are a good match. For example, a teacher might need a volunteer with strong writing skills to work with a group of struggling writers during X-Block. Or a teacher might be in need of a volunteer with some drama experience to help a group of students in building their fluency through Reader's Theater.