During the summer, when most teachers are still thinking about and enjoying their summer vacation administrators are fine tuning their ideas and changes for the upcoming school year, especially in relation to the school timetables. There are a few details to work out, but for the most part minutes in relation to subject areas are already set and will only need some minor changes when teachers return in, well roughly one week.
All ideas and suggestions for time tables are great however in regards to a special education classroom, there are only a few elements that I keep in accordance with the rest of the school. When it comes to organizing and maintaining my classroom to a similar schedule as the rest of the school there elements that I keep the same are:
and if required the time slot for Physical Education.
Aside from this the time table in my classroom is flexible. Don’t get me wrong I am still required to and do ensure that my students meet the required amounts of study as required by government standards. But if a specific lesson in, lets say science has my students engaged and motivated, why would I stop the assignment and move to another subject area. I generally allow the students to continue, but will slowly move the students to the other subject area by quickly finding and emphasizing items that related to the other subject. A term commonly referred to as cross-curricular teaching and applications.
Another key aspect of the timetable in my classroom is consistency. I can just hear the thoughts going through your head at this very moment. Flexibility and consistency? No wonder no one understands special education teachers and their students. The consistency in my classroom is in the core structure. Every morning the kids arrive and I greet everyone of them at the door, asking them about their morning and reminding them to complete a small exercise that I have prepared every morning.
After this initial activity we have morning reading, sometimes it is independent, sometimes it is story time, sometimes it is group reading. Either way we read for at least twenty minutes. After this we proceed to Language Arts/English. This is comprised of phonics, spelling, word building, more reading, comprehension, writing skills, grammar, etc. Although each day is carefully planned, like I said if one activity is progressing very well and the kids are engaged and motivated, I continue the activity and will remove something else. No matter what happens by the end of the day I will have met the required amount of teaching time per subject area.
The time table is also filled with natural breaks, these breaks allow that students to not become overwhelmed and frustrated. One of the most regular breaks that occur are snack time, although the kids may be engaged the students still have snack time, and during this time students can talk about what they are learning and what they are doing, but they must put down their pencils. This time allows me to do some no formal assessment through questioning.
A key element to keep in mind after you have read this is that I currently teach elementary and I have my students all day and for every subject area. In relation to Jr high or Sr. High this will also only work if there is one teacher within the classroom at all times and students are not required to transition to other classrooms. While writing this post I have come to a realization, although many teachers may think that special education is more difficult to teach than mainstream, its not, it is the same, special education teachers are just given more Flexibility to be Structured.