Over the years I have witnessed many different scheduling changes. Most did not seem worth the effort, but there have been four that continue to impress me over the years. I believe you will find these scheduling structures helpful regardless of whether you work in an elementary, middle or high school. Maybe you won’t implement any of the four ideas, but one or more of them could generate your own system as you bounce the ideas around in your head.
The first structure is for grades 3-5 or 4-6 in an elementary school. I call this Elementary School Departmentalization. Instead of students switching between teachers of the same grade level, the elementary team consists of one grade 3 teacher, one grade 4 teacher and one grade 5 teacher. Each of the three have a specialty – social studies, math or science. All three teachers are responsible for teaching language arts. The daily schedule for each teacher involves them teaching language arts and their specialty in the morning to their home room and in the afternoon teaching their specialty to the other two grade levels. For example, the grade 4 teacher could be the social studies teacher. He or she would teach language arts and social studies in the morning to grade 4 students and then social studies to both grades 3 and 5 in the afternoon. Each day this teacher would see last year’s students for a period and next year’s students for a period. This structure meets the needs of academic deep knowledge and at the same time strengthens relationships because each teacher works with each student over a three-year period of time.
The second structure is probably best suited for elementary also, but a variation could be utilized for secondary schools. The teaching day for most teachers remains the same, but for special education, art, music, PE, etc. the schedule changes by two hours. The teaching day for some teachers would be 10-5 instead of 8-3. This scheduling includes some full-time teachers in the after-school program. The one time I observed this, the music teacher had a dozen ensembles after school. In addition to the enhanced after-school program, many classroom teachers love having all of their students together for the first two hours of the day with no pull-out for special purposes.
The third structure I observed was in a middle school solving the issue of less learning for far too many students in the afternoon. The school offered 7 periods a day to students. The days were labeled A,B,C,D,E,F, G. On “A” day students met their classes in order 1-7. The second day, labeled “B,” they first met classes 2-7 and then 1. The third day, they met classes 3-7 and then 1 and 2 and so on. Further, they changed the minutes. The first three periods of the day were 60 minutes long and the period just before lunch was 30 minutes. The first two afternoon periods were 60 minutes and the last period of the day was 30 minutes. The students, teachers and administrators loved the scheduling. They solved the researched problem of less learning in afternoon classrooms for too many students.
The final structure was for 100 high school students who preferred to go to school in the evening. Four teachers were assigned to teach Monday to Thursday night with the same number of minutes of instruction as other students received in 5 days. What most amazed these teachers was that the students who were most disruptive during the day were cooperative in the evening.
It is my opinion that far too many of our structural changes do not bring about the improvement we desire. I am impressed with the willingness of these teachers, students and administrators to think outside of the box in order to enhance productivity and learning outcomes.