How to Create a Schedule That Makes Sense When Your Time Looks Different Each Day
The Scheduling Nightmare
Got a crazy schedule? You’re NOT alone! I can count on one hand the years I have had a class schedule that was the same each day of the week.
If your crazy schedule is getting you down, don’t despair. It’s really possible to have a calm, well-run classroom when your schedule is constantly changing.
Decide on Your Non-Negotiables
A couple of years ago I was working with a teacher who was stressed out about her crazy schedule. In an effort to start each subject at the same time each day, she had managed to cut her subject blocks into multiple pieces two days a week. By the time her students got in the groove for Language Arts on those days, they had to pick up and go to to specials. Then, they came back and finished up. It was hard for her to get solid time to teach small groups and difficult to get students back into the flow. Talk about stressed out! Once we made a solid Language Arts block non-negotiable, life got a lot calmer.
Here’s the system we used to calm her schedule down:
Start with blank post-it notes and a blank schedule. Here’s a free one, if you need a copy. Make 5 sticky notes with each subject name/event (one for each day of the week) - 5 Language Arts, 5 Math, 5 Lunch, 5 Specials… Now make 30 minute time block cards for the whole school day - 8:00- 8:30, 8:30 - 9:00… Using a large table, bulletin board or the floor, lay out all the time blocks in one column to your left. Place cards across the top with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Now, plug in all of the events you have no control over in your week - specials, lunch.... As you work, transfer information to the blank schedule once you have decisions made for various pieces. Ok. You’re ready to begin the hard part.
Decide how much time you need to teach each subject on a daily basis. Start placing the stick notes into time slots. I do Language Arts first since it takes the largest block of time each day. So find the most consistent block of time you can for that. That might mean that MWF is one block of time and T, TH is a different block. That’s ok. Just figure out a way to make it make sense. You can see on my sample schedule below, Thursday is upside down day. Everything is flipped. The rest of the week is (mostly) consistent.
Next, put in your Math block. Then, you can fit in your Science and Social Studies block. Make adjustments where needed.
TIP: I teach Science and Social Studies in units and rotate back and forth between these subjects throughout the year. It makes planning and teaching so much easier and a lot less stressful. If you are not allowed to do this or prefer not to, alternate them each day during the same block of time. One day is Science and the next is Social Studies…
Making Split Time Blocks Work
If you really have to break up a subject into smaller teaching blocks one day, choose something that is easy to pick back up when you get back into the classroom later. Pay attention to where you break off the time block. Check for good stopping points. Maybe you’ll do your mini lesson for Math and then go to Specials. When you come back, do a quick review and send students off to get busy while you work with groups. Or perhaps you’ll do your mini lesson and small group rotation before you break the block off. Just remember to do LOTS of extra training with your students on your expectations for these kinds of transitions.
Once your schedule is set, finish filling in the paper schedule and collect the post-it notes. Grab a blank schedule here, if you need one.
You’ve got this!
P.S. Don’t be afraid make changes and adjustments if things aren’t working.