With more and more districts heading back to school, life skills teachers are left with the daunting task of planning out their students' schedules for the school year. After well over a decade of mapping out schedules, I am not gonna lie.....it never really gets easier. The constant changing of schedules is an inevitable part of our job and one that many teachers dread figuring out. Hopefully, with this blog post you can plan smarter and streamline the process to be as efficient as possible.
START WITH A BLANK TEMPLATE
After years of being a paper and pencil type of girl (I used to use post it notes to shuffle students' schedules around), I quickly realized that it wasn't a long term solution for me. I would either lose some of the post it notes, they'd end up getting moved around into the wrong locations, or I simply realized I didn't have access to the information when I needed it on the go. This is why I decided to create a DIGITAL scheduling document that could keep all my important information in ONE PLACE so I could access it wherever I was.
This template is coded so you can add your own intervals of time on the left hand column and easily replicate that pattern throughout the day's schedule. This saves you a ton of time having to retype individual schedules over and over again.
Whether you have 30 minute blocks or 10 minutes blocks you need to work with, start with the smallest block and go from there for a master schedule template.
FILL IN THE THINGS THAT ARE SET IN STONE
Start filling out the master schedule with things that are already set in stone. Schedule blocks for things like lunch, breaks, specials/electives, speech/OT/PT services, etc
FUNCTIONAL CLASS TOPICS
Now it's time to work on the puzzle. Think about using your instructional time teaching real world topics. You can create sections for functional math, functional english, social skills, life skills, vocational skills, leisure skills, and so much more.
INDEPENDENT WORK STATIONS
There will be times where students might need to be working independently while staff are supporting other students. This is a great opportunity to integrate no prep worksheets, task boxes, and other activities like online websites (ex: news, online scavenger hunts) that students can navigate on their own.
Here is a sample schedule of how things might look after you have set the foundational things in:
I love to color code my schedules to make them visually easier to scan and see students who might have shared groupings. It also ensures that all students have each important topic in their day (ex: math, english, IEP goal work, task card centers, etc.).
In this schedule, I did 15 minute intervals to accommodate different learning needs and schedules for all students in the class. Remember to start with the smallest interval you need for your classroom in a master template so it can span across all schedules on your caseload.
You may notice that there are some empty spots still left in this schedule. You can use this time to work on other things like class jobs, leisure skills, and work based opportunities within your school system. Maybe students can practice grabbing and delivering copies for a fellow neighbor teacher? Or help the cafeteria staff setup for lunch. Those are just some ideas you can integrate into your daily classroom schedule.
USING SUPPORT STAFF TO HELP WITH SCHEDULES
Consider grouping your classroom so differentiated instruction can take place with various staff members at any given time.
REMEMBER TO BREATHE ♥
We wouldn't be special education teachers if we didn't end up needing to change the schedule fifty million times because.....well.....you know. Hopefully the topics I have given provide you with a solid framework you can build off of in the future. If you would like to purchase the schedule template I have shown above (it comes with step by step video tutorials showing you how to use it!), you can grab it below!