A "Stundenplan" is a school schedule that every student in a gymnasium (highschool) receives. To further explain what a Stundenplan looks like, I thought it would be helpful to have a picture of my Studenplan so that you can fully comprehend what is I am talking about.
Written across the top are the days of the week from Monday through Friday. On the lefthand side is numbered zero through nine the word "Stunde", which means hour. That tells the student when classes are [see class times]. Inside each box on the left upperhand corner is the abreviation of the subject. Directly across from that is the exact course you are taking. For example, Montag 1. Stunde is spanish course level one since I have never taken spanish before. Underneath the subject are the first two letters of the teacher's last name. Directly across I have written the room numbers for each subject.
Students are required to take a minimum of 33 classes school a week with a maximum of ten in a day. This counts towards their credits so that they can take the test and pass their Abitur to graduate. In my gymnasium (highschool), Klasse 10 (grade 10) is allowed to select the subjects they want to take. Here is the kicker for American students coming to Germany, students are required to have a MINIMUM of ten subjects with a maximum of twelve. My subjects are as follows: Spanish (S), Chemistry (CH), Art (KU), Gym (SP), Geography (EK), History Bilingual (GE), German (D), Biology (BI), Mathematics (M), Politics (SW), Philosophy (PL), and Enlgish (E). As you can see, I have twelve subjects which gives me the option to drop an elective after the first semester.
#2- Class Times and Breaks
There can be up to ten classes per day starting with zero. If you look at my timetable, you can see on the left-hand side the word "Studen" which tells each student when their classes are. "Stunden" simply means hour, however this can be misleading as each class is actually 45 minutes long. Many students also have what we call a "Dopplestunde", which is two of the same class back to back meaning that there are times where you have class for 90 minutes. [on Montag (Monday) I have a Dopplestunde spanish class during the 1. and 2. Stunden] However, there are five to ten minutes in between each class, so in a Dopplestunde the teacher usually allows for students to stretch their legs or talk to classmates before continuing with the lesson. There are also two big breaks known as "Grossepausen" which come after the second and fourth Stunden. These pauses are fifteen minutes long and usually consist of students playing card games, snacking on foods, or doing last minute homework assignments in the common areas on the level floor or outside. For lunch, my gymnasium has an open campus lunch break (Mittagessen pause) after the sixth Stunde where students can go into the city for roughly an hour to enjoy a meal.
There is no time where students are supposed, or not supposed, to eat in drink. While I have yet to see someone eat a sandwich during a lesson, it is common for students to pull out a bag of chips in the classroom during the break of a Dopplestunde class. There are about four tables on which you can enjoy a meal, but being able to find an open spot is a rare occassion, and most students use the tables to complete homework rather than eat. When you walk through the main doors of my gymnasium, you will see what looks like a concession stand selling fresh bread, sandwiches, candy bars, and drinks to eat throughout the day. This stand is open for students and faculty members until the beginning of seventh Stunde. There is no student ID card so if you want to buy something, you must have cash to pay for it. However, the prices can be expensive if you were to buy a three euro sandwich everyday, and the small selection rarely varies so buying food from the stand is mostly for the days you have forgotten a snack. Most students only bring half of a sandwich, an apple, and a drink to each throughout the day since they go home after their school day to eat with their families.
#4- End of School Day
There is no set beginning and ending to the school day. This applies to both students and teachers as they must only teach or attend the classes they are assigned. It is the student's responsibility to know when their classes are and show up on time since every student has a different schedule. The beginnings and ends of school days depend on which school days that individual takes. Trains and buses are available every hour to take to and from school, which makes it easy get to or from school with an odd school schedule. Looking at my plan, you can see that I have zero Stunde free on Montag (Monday) which means I am able to ride a later train to school that day, but must stay there until 4:00 in the afternoon. However on Dienstag (Tuesday), I must take the earliest train, but am able to leave at approximately 12:30. Pretty cool right?!
#5- Regular and Unregular Weeks
This is probably the trickiest part of the German school system. To explain this you must know that Germans count each week of the year beginning with January first to the seventh counting as the first week. The even weeks are known as regular or "gerade Woche". This means that on an even week I will ignore the seventh Stunde class and have a Dopplestunde of the eigth. An odd week is known as unregular "ungerade" meaning I will ignore the eighth Stunde class and have a Dopplestunde of the seventh. I know, I know so many words so little understanding, but bear with me! Refering to my timetable and the list of subjects under #1, you can see that I have a seventh and eigth Stunde on Montag and Mittwoch. [remember that there is a lunch break right after the sixth Stunde.] Let's pretend it's Montag of week 38. The subject for Monday listed in the seventh Stunde is gym (SP) and the eigth Stunde is geography (EK). The number 38 is even so after the Mittagessen pause, I will pretend like gym isn't there and go directly to geography where I will be in that class for 90 minutes (a Dopplestunde). It's simple in concept, but difficult to explain so I will go through one more scenario. Okay so it's next week (39) and Monday. I go through all my classes, have lunch, and then go to gym for 90 minutes instead of geography.