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How I Built My Elementary School’s Master Schedule
My philosophy is that how you spend your time and resources reveals what your priorities are. This is my third year of creating a master timetable for Bladen Lakes Primary School. My efforts each year follow the process outlined in the book Elementary School Scheduling: Enhancing Instruction for Student Achievement by Robert Lynn Canady and Michael D. Rettig. This year, I’m explicitly writing out the steps I took to make the schedule. My faculty and I at the school participate in joint leadership. The foundation of the schedule is laid out through multiple ongoing conversations with teachers, parents and students.
I want my teachers to be able to retrace my steps and maybe provide alternative schedules or make adjustments I hadn’t considered. All alternatives to the master’s schedule should be presented to the grade level committee using the same methodology and should be based on a deliberate strategy. “I don’t want to teach after lunch” is an example of a schedule request that is not well thought out. An example of a schedule request that is well thought out might be, “If teacher A and teacher B trade media times on Tuesdays, the second class could have additional joint planning time.”
It should also be noted that my school follows a time allocation chart in which each subject is assigned a specific number of minutes per week by grade level. Lunch, recess, special classes, computer lab time, math, reading, social studies, science, physical education, writing and recess time are all mapped out to the minute.
My school has about 350 students, until the spring of each year when we receive another 50 students who are the children of migrant workers in the local blueberry fields. I consider the school medium sized. One of the complications we face each year is that we share our music, physical education and art teachers with three other primary schools. Different teachers are at school on different days. This makes a cookie-cutter daily schedule simply impossible.
I have listed below the steps I followed to create the master schedule:
1. I figured out what teachers are on campus at what times. I created 30 minute time slots (our lowest unit of time) for the entire school week.
2. I assigned lunch to special teachers.
3. I have allocated open media/Accelerated Reader (AR) time each day, based on ongoing discussion with my media coordinator Ms. Brigman about our AR upgrade.
4. I planned grade level planning and shared time. Each grade level will have at least one common planning time on Wednesdays for one hour.
5. I scheduled all special classes except computer lab and media time. I made every attempt to ensure that possible
- a. Specials for each grade level were at the same time each day
- b. Homerooms didn’t have two specials on the same day
- c. The morning block of instruction was protected, with 3rd and 4th grades as priority
- d. Kindergarten didn’t have 8-9 blocks of specials because of breakfast
6. I scheduled library time depending on when each homeroom didn’t already have a special class.
7. I planned lunches. I have kept grade levels together when possible.
8. I scheduled computer lab time and recess time. Classes have a break every day except the days they meet with the physical education (PE) teacher.
9. I created a new schedule grid for each day for each grade level. I pencil in the specials, lunches, and lab times I’ve already planned.
10. Referring to the time allocation table, the academic subjects were planned for each teacher. I always give the individual teacher the opportunity to make changes to how the time is split up, as long as the overall weekly assignment remains the same.
This year, I will present the schedule and these steps to the grade level chairs at summer meeting. I will talk to them about alternatives and tell how I came to this schedule. Grade level chairs will then have the opportunity to ask questions and then take the schedule home with them for careful consideration. I will then present the master’s schedule to the faculty via email. There are still several weeks left before school starts, so everyone will have the opportunity to give input.
I have several expectations regarding the schedule during the school year. First, the homeroom schedule should be posted in the classroom. Some teachers like to create a different format than the grade level grid I use. This is fine as long as I have a current copy of the grade level schedule in grid format. Second, the schedule must be followed with almost 100% accuracy. Permanent adjustments must be approved and I must always have an accurate and up-to-date copy of the schedule in the grade-level grid format. Short-term changes must also be approved. An example is to exchange the niche and math blocks because of the possibility of rain in the afternoon. The teacher can tell me this in passing or – even better – send me an email before the exchange.
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