What is the Essential Eight?
At Novella Prep, we have found that the Essential Eight, a term we coined in 2022 to describe the second eight hours of a students day, is the single most significant opportunity in American education to improve student outcomes, such as academic achievement and social emotional learning enrichment. We focus on the Essential Eight to help students, parents, and schools understand that the first eight hours of the school day are relatively fixed. Any improvements to the first eight are going to be based on the school district and state policies, and to a certain extent, federal government policy around curriculum and teaching and learning. However, by focusing on the Essential Eight, regardless of where a student lives, the student has an opportunity to improve their routine from the time they get home until the time they go to bed. Students have the opportunity to optimize learning, not simply in terms of doing what is assigned to them, but understanding how to better leverage this time to master content.
How Can the Essential Eight be Optimized?
In a time of standardization and high expectations, the Essential Eight is an opportunity for students to explore enrichment, unstructured free play, creative and innovative activities, and other opportunities outside of their homework. It is a time to study to better understand themselves and the world in which we live and to establish routines that will lead to achieving their goals. We see routines as:
- Liberating a student from a lack of structure that leads to inefficiency and an overindulgence of digital devices.
- Providing a tool kit and task order that will help a student complete what is asked of them in a way that will lead to positive outcomes.
- Increasing efficiency, so as to increase the amount of free time they have to do what they want, but simply at a more opportune time.
Right now, a significant focus is being placed on student health and well-being, which we at Novella Prep support and greatly value. We have found that lacking study skills and appropriate executive functioning skills among high-performing students, leads to an increase in stress and a propensity toward seeking distraction, or struggling with impulse control regarding digital devices, social media, and video games. Through a sense of structure and order of tasks, students can find themselves building toward a more opportune utilization of time, thereby freeing up more time to do what they want. Creativity and a sense of personal agency requires a rested and healthy mind, one that typically originates from not being distracted by school-based stress factors.
Novella Prep and the Essential Eight
Novella Prep provides students with templates, tools, and instruction, at the individual and family level, as well as at the school district level. The Essential Eight becomes an opportunity to tackle a window of time that most see as unrelated to the school day or the responsibility of individual schools. However, we have found in our work with school districts that teachers feel a sense of relief and gratitude, when they are given a Novella Prep tool kit that demonstrates to their students (at all grade levels) how to extend their knowledge transfer into the afternoons and evenings. For younger students, understanding the importance of having a healthy afternoon snack and unpacking their backpack can be almost as powerful as the busy 11th grade student who has four or five hours of homework, figuring out the sequence of work, while balancing some kind of movement/mobility or exercise and getting adequate rest.
No matter the scale or scope of student work, building healthy routines is likely to lead toward better academic performance, a better sense of self, the ability to manifest a future that the student desires, and creating enough unstructured time to allow for maximum creativity and spontaneity. These best practices can start at any age, and the sooner a student engages in these practices, the sooner they are liberated from inefficiency, and can make the most of their quarter, their week, and their day. The Essential Eight remains the single most important part of a student’s life outside of the school day and sleep, and at Novella Prep, we seek to provide support for students to make the most of this time in their lives.