The Schedule: How Do You Fit It All In?

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My favorite thing about the work I do is that I have the opportunity to visit scores of classrooms every year. In every classroom, I’m always on the look out for new ideas that I might share with other teachers. I’m constantly gathering ideas for everything: from how to set up the furniture, to anchor charts, down to where to actually keep kids’ snow-boots. (Don’t laugh! Snow-boot storage is a big deal in snowy/muddy Vermont!)

I’m particularly interested in schedules.

Interestingly, the vast majority of schools that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work in (and that is a long list) have managed to work the schedules so that every teacher has enough time to teach reading workshop and writing workshop every day, or at the very least four days a week. Plus time for a separate read-aloud, and time for phonics & word study. Plus math. Plus science and/or social studies. Plus at least one, sometimes two “specials” each day. And recess and lunch.

How do they do it?

Most schedules in strong balanced literacy schools are amazingly similar. Considering that I’ve worked from coast to coast, in rural, urban, suburban schools, rich and poor, private and public — there is a surprising level of consistency in what most schedules look like in schools that have embraced balanced literacy as a framework for teaching.

Here’s a typical outline of a six hour school day, organized by 45 minute (give or take) periods:

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Notice there aren’t exact times? Notice it’s called a “flow” rather than a schedule?

Of course your own schedule will look different. Chances are, your school day is longer than six hours. You may need that extra time for math, for example. Each item on this list can be moved around as needed. You can add in snacks and movement breaks where you want them.

Now, let’s just say your own school has two specials a day. What would that look like?

Maybe this is an option:

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What if you departmentalize, and you only have your kids for 60 minutes, total for reading, writing, read-aloud, and word study?

First, I recommend you take a peek at this post I wrote about a year ago regarding creative schedules in middle schools. 

Second, you may want to seriously consider alternating units. Teach a full-blown writing unit to start your year. Then after about five weeks, teach a full-blown reading unit. With 60 minutes a day, you’ll probably find that you can reasonably expect to read-aloud for about 10-15 minutes each day, then have your 45 minute reading or writing workshop, and that’s about it. Perhaps you’ll alternate read-aloud on some days, and word-study/phonics on other days, depending on the needs of your students.

Your schedule might look like this in a 60-minute-a-day situation:

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Notice how time is made for reading aloud, no matter what? Also, notice how a full unit is taught daily, rather than trying to alternate reading/writing/reading/writing each day. For kids, trying to remember back several days to the last time they read their books or wrote their stories makes the work much more difficult. Not to mention, if you are teaching 60 minute ELA blocks, it means you probably have multiple groups of kids. Trying to keep track of what each group needs is challenging enough without also alternating reading/writing workshop daily!

Want to see and read about more examples?

Read about my friend Kristi Mraz’s schedule here on her blog, Kinderconfidential.

Or read this lovely post from Learning at the Primary Pond.

What does your schedule look like? How do you fit it all in? What is your school doing that is supportive that other schools might learn from?  (And, if you’ve got some great snow-boot storage ideas, we wouldn’t mind hearing about those as well!)

Leave us a comment and keep the conversation going!