Lesa Cain Writes… Elementary Scheduling Considerations

LYS Coach, Lesa Cain, recently shared the following with a group of elementary school instructional leaders.

The Elementary School Master Schedule: Overall Considerations

Scheduling is an important part of any school’s success.  There is no one right schedule; it is the implementation of the schedule, driven by the adults, that is critical.  

It is my understanding that in this district we will maintain the self-contained model in grades K-2, and adopt a partner pair model in grades 3-5. 

The next step is to use data to drive your decisions in terms of which students go in what classes.  Who should be together and who should not? What homeroom teacher or teachers have your special education students? How will you determine the resource, in-class support and co-teach times? Who has GT and what students will share class with the identified GT students? Be aware that classes can become “stacked” if you are not aware of reading/math levels – so we need to be in solid agreement of what criteria we use to tell if students are on level or below level.

We also must determine the specific number of minutes for each content area and include the number of minutes for RTI time as well. 

I challenge you to think about how you will monitor the implementation of the schedules.  After last year, you know that if you do not monitor the schedule and transitions, it will not be a focus for staff.  What we monitor is what is done.  Being on schedule is a perfect walk-through focus for the first 2 weeks of school (which we’ll talk about at our next meeting).

The Self-Contained Classroom Model

Why? 1.     Best for primary grades – students get to learn how school works and this model SHOULD support quicker transition times. 2.     Supports “My Kid” thinking – teachers are responsible for the student achievement, behavior, communication – all aspects of development for the students in their class.

How? 1.     Determine the groups for classes – heterogenous, homogenous, GT, ELL, Special Eduction, 504 etc. and create classes. 2.     Determine how many minutes to be spent on each subject and create a daily schedule – must do this for any type of pull-outs – so all students are served.

Challenges? 1.     Planning – what agreements will teachers make to ensure that planning is a collaborative effort? Dividing and conquering content is not an effective way to plan, so what will we agree to instead? 2.     Relationships – what is the expectation for developing relationships and what will we do if there are issues in this area.  In a self-contained situation, students and teachers get no relief from difficult situations unless we are willing to be flexible in extreme cases.

The Partner Pair Model

Why? 1.     Scheduling for teacher training (both at the district and campus level) becomes more efficient. 2.     Training on campus is also more effective and can be done throughout the school year with less need for substitute teachers on a given training day. 3.     Expectations for teacher expertise can increase because overall responsibilities are decreased. 4.     Teachers teach what they are best at teaching. 5.     Students have the opportunity to learn from more than one person – this supports relationship building, especially in difficult situations, for both the teacher and the student. 6.     Allows flexibility with class schedules for ESL, Special Education, Gifted and students with behavior issues.

How? 1.     Determine how many minutes per content area. 2.     Determine which teachers will teach what content. 3.     Build the schedule so that am/pm classes have equal minutes.  Usually 150 minutes for a total block.  That is 60 minutes for reading, 60 minutes for writing and 30 for social studies.  For the math/science block – we had 75 minutes for math and 75 for science. These times vary from district to district and grade to grade. 4.     Determine the needs for Special Education students – push-in for in-class support, or pull-out for resource, and from what classes will the pull-out services be scheduled? 5.     Determine what your interventions look like.  We used Title I support to “push-in” during the reading block so that students had the most support during the small group time.

Challenges? 1.     Teachers must communicate with each other on a daily basis – they plan with their content buddy and talk to their teaching partner. 2.     Partner teachers must be on the same page about classroom routines and procedures – especially in terms of transitions.  Transitions should NEVER take more than 2 minutes.

Reflect on what I have shared at we will discuss when we meet next week.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn… 

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
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