In AmE is "period" used to refer to different classes during a day in the school? Or is it classes?

Science is my third period.


Science is my third class.

What is actually used? And if we have like our third and fourth classes of Science, what should be used :

We had two consecutive" periods/classes of Science.


We had 2 science classes/periods back to back.


We had 2 science classes/periods in a row.

So what should be used here:"consecutive/back to back/in a row"?

So is it "classes/periods" and "consecutive/back to back/in a row"?

  • Back in my schooldays (UK, 50 years ago) It was quite natural to say things like We've got double maths this afternoon (dozens of hits for that version in Google Books, but just 3 for the American equivalent ...got double math...). If I had to say exactly what we had two (consecutive) instances of in that context, I'd say it was "periods", not "classes" or "lessons". May 8, 2019 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


Strictly speaking, in school a "period" is defined as a specific time in the day when you have some scheduled school activity. A "class" is defined as a period during which you receive instruction.

Some schools have a short "homeroom" period in which the teacher takes attendance (documents which students are present and which are absent). "Recess" is a short mid-morning break between two classes, that counts as a "period". "Lunch" is a longer, early afternoon period during which the students eat, play, socialize, etc.

In practice, however, "period" and "class" often mean the same thing -- a time during the school day when you receive instruction. Some schools will count the periods differently from others, so your fifth class might be your sixth or seventh period.

Additionally, some schools have students take the same series of classes every day of the week. Other schools have students take different classes on different days, meaning that, on certain days, some students might have a "free period" between classes.

There are no standards. Use the conventions of your school.

As for the second part of your question: "consecutive" and "back-to-back" mean the same thing -- two activities that occur one after the other. "In a row" also means the same thing when talking about activities. However, the word order may be different:

I had two consecutive science classes.

I had two science classes back-to-back.

I had two science classes in a row.

  • 1
    Re UK English, my London secondary school used "periods" and "lessons"; a "class" was normally referring to the group of children. We would say things like "The science lesson is a double period. Why is that class so noisy?"
    – jonathanjo
    May 8, 2019 at 15:01
  • @jonathanjo I can't speak for every school in the US (as there are tens of thousands, public and private) but in the secondary schools students will take the same series of classes each school day, each about an hour long, and each class with a different teacher. It wasn't until I read "Harry Potter", with its "double Potions", that I realized the UK did things differently. :)
    – Andrew
    May 8, 2019 at 15:09
  • indeed as you say "There are no standards. Use the conventions of your school.".
    – jonathanjo
    May 8, 2019 at 15:13
  • And @Andrew, can it be "We had two consecutive periods of English". Is "class" more common or "period"? May 8, 2019 at 15:25
  • @It'saboutEnglish I don't really know which is "more common", nor does it matter. You should use whichever you think will make more sense to the reader.
    – Andrew
    May 8, 2019 at 15:30

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