How an Effective Classroom Schedule Can Help Your Classroom Run like Clockwork

by Nicole Palombo, BCBA

A common question we often hear is “Why do I need a schedule posted on the wall when I know where everyone is supposed to be?”

In order for effective instruction to take place, classrooms must be well organized to maximize efficiency. One very important aspect of classroom organization is the master Classroom Schedule. A well-designed classroom schedule posted so that it is visible to all staff is your classroom’s “Grand Central Station”. Imagine for a moment you are taking a trip either by train or flight. When you arrive at the train station or airport, how do you know where to go? There are large visible signs all over train stations and airports telling you exactly where to go to get to certain areas of the terminals. In addition, there are large arrival/departure schedules for incoming and outgoing transit that you can quickly glance up at and see where you need to be and at what time. These arrival/departure schedules are visible, easy for most people to see from a distance, and are well organized. Additionally, they can easily be changed when there are last minute changes to the schedule such as cancellations and delays.

Now, imagine for a moment that you arrived at a train station or airport and there were no signs to indicate the location of the check in counters, security, terminals and departure gates, or even where the restrooms are. Additionally, imagine that there are no posted arrival/departure schedules in the stations and all passengers were responsible for printing their own information and bringing it with them, as well as making sure they have printed out maps of the stations so they can find where everything is. Even if all passengers in their last minute hurried packing remembered to bring all of that extra train station or airport information, imagine how chaotic and disorganized it would be. Not only would things be highly disorganized, it would be difficult to navigate around to various locations and it would take exponentially longer and have a lot of wasted time from the moment you enter the train station or airport until you finally are seated at the gate waiting for departure. There would be a lot more room for error as well as it would be a huge burden on the passenger to remember so much extra information. We as humans are prone to forgetting things often, and to have to remember so much information at once which leaves a lot of room for error.

Similar to the signs and schedules posted at the airports or train stations, a well-developed classroom wall schedule keeps the classroom organized and running like a well-oiled machine. The master schedule allows you to ensure adequate instructional time is allotted for each student. The schedule tells all classroom staff at a glance who they are working with, what they are working on and where instruction will take place. A well-developed master schedule reduces the time it takes to transition to the next instructional session Active student engagement is one of the factors directly correlated with student achievement and reduction in problem behavior; therefore you want to make sure your schedule incorporates the most engagement/instructional time as possible. Busy kids who are actively engaged in instruction have less problem behavior!

Some quick tips for developing Schedules:
• Should be visible to all staff in a central location. This allows everyone to see it easily at a glance.
• The schedule should be customizable and flexible so that you can make last minute changes (magnets, Velcro, dry erase or other things that allow quick changes can be helpful).
• Since the schedule is a schedule to guide staff behavior, the schedule should indicate staff names across the top so classroom staff can find their column and follow it at a quick glance.
• The time intervals in general not exceeding 30 minutes for sessions. (exceptions to this are determined by team)
• All students should be accounted for on the schedule at all times.
• The schedule should indicate WHO is working with or monitoring each student, WHAT they are working on and WHERE they will be working.
• Be specific when labeling what is being worked on during instruction. At minimum, instruction should occur for 75% of intervals that are correlated with data systems and instructional materials. Be sure you are allotting appropriate time for programming priorities. For most learners, this will likely mean mand training and intensive teaching sessions, as well as any additional instruction if appropriate the student such as group instruction, Direct Instruction, Social Skills instruction etc.
• Include other regular daily activities such as lunch, recess (when applicable), specials, and inclusion when appropriate.
• Related services a student may receive such as Speech or OT can be addressed by having a column designated for the related staff.
• Numbering or otherwise labeling areas of the room and posting the number/label in the location can also be helpful so everyone knows exactly where to go at a glance.

To view a classroom schedule in a well-organized classroom, feel free to check out this video link on classroom organization.

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