Creating a class schedule for a special needs classroom is daunting. Let’s be honest… for a lot of us, it’s our least favorite thing to do all year long.
But I have some tricks of the trade to share with you to make it as painless as possible at the beginning of the school year.
If you’d like to watch a video version instead of read, here’s the video replay.
1. Before you start planning, you need to know how many students will be in your room and how many adults.
2. Your next step needs to be knowing service times for each individual student, their accommodations and/or modifications, as well as when you have which adults in your classroom.
The first part is something you can access easily because it’s all in a child’s IEP. For your paras, this is a conversation you’ll need to have with your administrator, in terms of duties, lunch, and all of that fun stuff.
3. The next step I always take is creating a very rough draft of the general classroom schedule. I do this next for many reasons:
• I need to know when my paras are going to lunch and when they have duty before I can even schedule inclusion time.
• I also need to know when I am going to lunch and when my planning period is. I always schedule this last, but if I don’t write it in with time frames, then I forget to give myself lunch and planning.
• Class lunch and recess play a big part in scheduling service times… so I need to know when my class’s lunch is, when our class recess time is, and when inclusion recess times are.
4. The final step before even beginning individual student schedules is discussing with your administrator, who your inclusion teachers are going to be at each grade level. This information could change each year, or it could stay the same. It all depends on your school and/or district.
Since I teach Grades 1-4, I need 4 inclusion teachers. Once I have their names, I personally go talk to each of them to get their classroom schedule. When do they go to specials? When do they have Reading or Math? I need to know this information for my students who are slated for inclusion service time. You need to know this information too. If you’re not sure what is or isn’t inclusion on your students IEP, this may help you better understand!
5. Now that you’ve created a basic classroom schedule that includes adult lunch and duty times, and you have regular ed’s schedules, you’re ready to create individual student schedules.
My two suggestions:
• Create the schedule in Excel. I dislike Excel for everything except creating a schedule because it’s easy to manipulate and edit your schedule when you can schedule in time increments (as shown in the picture).
• Start with one grade level and one grade level only. So if you have 6 students in first grade and 2 students in second, you’re going to finish all of first grade before even looking at second grade. Make sense?
5a. Start with specials (P.E., music, art…) service times. Block this time out and determine if a student is in need of a para at this time. If any of these specials times overlap with para duties or a lunch, don’t get frustrated. Talk to your administrator and let them know your para needs a different duty. Lunch is important, but it can be “squeezed in” at any point during the day.
5b. Now it’s time to work on academic service times. Since these times vary greatly student to student (I mean, that’s the whole point of an IEP right? …individualized), I save this for last.
It may or may not be the hardest section of student learning to fit in to the schedule, but again… if something is not fitting, talk to your administrator. Most times, an outsider’s eyes on something you’ve been staring at for 45 minutes is the best thing, because it probably is the simplest of fixes.
6. Once you’ve finished individual student schedules, you can go back and tweak your general classroom schedule. If you only have 1 student in the classroom during your “scheduled ELA block” … you might want to reconsider having ELA at that time until you have a majority of students in your room. These little tweaks are easy to manage and simple to fix.
Don’t forget to give yourself a planning period and a lunch. Don’t be me… because your principal will come yell at you when you don’t take a planning period the entire first week of school 🙂
7. Go take a break and enjoy a snack! Because you just rocked out that schedule!
• Your schedule is never set in stone. I promise you that it will probably change throughout the school year.
• Incorporating structured “play time”, or as we call it “Motor Lab”, is a great addition to any schedule. It easily fits in those 10-15 minute time slots where you can’t really teach a full lesson.
• Work bins / Work tasks are a great resource to utilize when paras are in charge of the class (like when you are on planning or go to lunch… because you have to do both. Yes, every day.) You can view my Work Bins and Tasks Pinterest board for ideas here.
• Don’t forget about a classroom computer lab time.
• Once you’ve finished your classroom schedule and individual student schedules, you can get to work on all of your visual schedules.
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