K-8 schools are established for various reasons and must address the developmental needs of the full spectrum of students from elementary through the middle level. As a result, a unique hybrid schedule emerges. The following guide provides scheduling teams with key points to create a hybrid master schedule.
Step 1: Make sure that the mission/vision statement is geared to the unique and varied needs of K-8 students
- Review statement; update if necessary.
- Use as a standard when making specific decisions.
Step 2: Provide for three tiers of RtI or MTSS
- Tier I is the responsibility of every classroom teacher and is enhanced when the schedule features opportunities for extended time.
- Tiers II and III may occur in the Flex/Advisory/Intervention period.
- In some cases, Tier III or intensive support occurs during the exploratory or specials portion of the schedule.
- Some students experience a pullout or resource period to address specific IEP goals. In every case, Special Education and ELL students must receive the least restrictive setting.
Step 3: Create a modular grid to craft details of the master schedule
- Horizontally, column headings are grade, section number, and modules 1-10. Typically, the school day is divided into 8-10 modules of time; modules range from 40-45 minutes each. Specific entries for each module are made later in the process.
- Vertically, each core teacher is listed by grade level. The number of rows reflects the core FTE allocated.
- In Step 7, horizontal and vertical rows will be added for specials/exploratory, Special Education, ELL and intervention teachers.
Step 4: Review or create a curriculum chart for K-4 or K-5
- For each grade, enter the number of minutes daily for reading, language arts, social studies, mathematics, science, intervention, specials and lunch.
- The number of modules should not exceed the total number of minutes in the school day.
Step 5: Determine the program of studies (core and exploratory) for grades 5-8 or 6-8
- Typically, the core portion (5 or 6 of the modules) includes reading/language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science.
- Exploratory courses are usually physical education, art and music. At times, world languages, STEM, and Family/Consumer Science are included. Exploratory courses rarely exceed two modules.
- Modules are reserved for lunch and the Flex/Advisory/Intervention program.
Step 6: Affirm the primary framework and inserts for grades 5 or 6-8
- Elementary grades operate on a modular basis.
- The schedule for grades 5 or 6-8 must be congruent with the elementary schedule to share specials/exploratory teachers.
- Within the core portion of the middle level schedule, teachers operate as an interdisciplinary, combination and/or single-subject team.
Step 7: Add to the grid the anticipated number of FTE for specials/exploratory, Special Education, ELL and other intervention positions
- Beneath the rows for core/classroom teachers, add the following positions as appropriate: physical education, art, music and elective(s); Special Education and ELL; mathematics and/or literacy coaches; and other interventionists.
- It is essential that the specials/exploratory teachers are in the building at the same time (either on a full or part time basis) to provide common planning time for cohorts of core/classroom teachers.
- At this point, the grid includes all FTE with direct responsibility for teaching/learning and the columns to provide specific details of the assignment.
Step 8: Place specials, lunch and intervention or FAI periods on the grid to begin developing the grid of teachers’ assignments or master schedule
- Assign specific modules for specials/exploratory(S), lunch(L), and intervention or FAI(I) for each elementary grade and middle level cohort.
- In doing so, developmental needs of students should be acknowledged.
- If possible, consecutive modules should be reserved for reading/language arts and mathematics instruction.
- At the bottom of the grid, record entries for specials/exploratory and intervention assignments.
- Spread the intervention or FAI period over all modules so all cohorts of students have an opportunity for support or enrichment.
- Ensure that all specials/exploratory teachers as well as those involved in intervention have a common planning period and lunch.
- Core/classroom teachers receive a common planning opportunity when all students of that cohort are in specials/exploratory classes.
Step 9: Determine team composition for grades 4 or 5-8
- In most cases, K-3 classes are taught by the same teacher. Occasionally, students are regrouped for reading and/or mathematics.
- In light of the focus on subject matter specialization, teams can be established at grades 4 and 5. One teacher may be responsible for reading/language arts plus social studies while the other teaches mathematics and science.
- With three teaching sections in grades 4 or 5, all teachers teach reading/language arts while one specializes in mathematics, one in social studies, and one in science. Another option for three sections has one teacher assigned to reading/language arts, one assigned to mathematics, and the third teacher is responsible for social studies and science.
- Depending upon the number of teaching sections in grades 6, 7, and 8, interdisciplinary teams are established. Teams may consist of 2, 3, 4 or 5 teachers. Subject-matter specialization is typical.
- To ensure common planning time, teams or cohorts cannot exceed the number of specials/exploratory teachers available to receive that number of students or sections on a team.
Step 10: Place reading/language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science in the open modules of the grid
- Utilize consecutive modules on the grid to place reading/language arts and mathematics for each grade level. For these courses, all sections of a grade level should be scheduled at the same time to enable regrouping possibilities.
- Social studies, science and FAI or intervention are placed in the open, non-consecutive modules.
- In completing this step, it may be necessary to alter earlier decisions regarding specials, intervention or lunch to enable consecutive modules for reading/language arts and mathematics.
- In grades 4-8, consider the team structure in decision-making.
- The first draft of the master schedule becomes evident with the completion of this step.
Step 11: Determine rotation of specials for K-4 or 5 (not teamed)
- Example #1 – grade 2 – 3 sections
|Section||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
- Example #2 – grade 4 – 4 sections (not teamed)
|Section||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|1||Physical Education I||Art||Physical Education I||Music|
|2||Music||Physical Education I||Art||Physical Education I|
|3||Physical Education II||Music||Physical Education II||Art|
|4||Art||Physical Education II||Music||Physical Education II|
Note: With four sections at a grade level, two physical education teachers are needed to offer physical education on alternate days.
Step 12: Compile course requests (grades 4 or 5 – 8) to determine exploratory portion of the master schedule
- Some exploratory courses may be required – physical education, art, music.
- Some schools offer a limited number of elective experiences.
- The first example illustrates a student’s schedule with one exploratory period per day.
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|Mod 7||Physical Education||Art||Physical Education||Music|
- The second example illustrates a student’s schedule with two exploratory periods per day.
|Mod||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|5||Physical Education||Band||Physical Education||Band|
|Quarter 1||Quarter 2||Quarter 3||Quarter 4|
Step 13: Confirm ELL and Special Education teacher assignments on grid for grades K-8
- Identify co-taught and self-contained classes by grade level including intervention assignments.
- Indicate planning period(s) and lunch.
- Review language levels (ELL) and IEPs to confirm that all student needs are met via the master schedule.
Step 14: Prepare for initial computer run of the school schedule
- For grades K-4 or 5, confirm that students are assigned to a specific classroom teacher and the rotation for specials (day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4).
- Assignments for FAI or intervention are the continuing responsibility of classroom teachers.
- For grades 4 or 5 to 8, confirm the course codes for each specific course, including electives where appropriate.
- Encode all teacher assignments.
Step 15: Monitor computer run(s)
- Confirm that all students are assigned each module.
- Observe that class size is within limits for grades 4 or 5 to 8.
Step 16: Orchestrate professional development for successful implementation of schedule
- Topics include developmental needs of students, curriculum integration, collaboration, flexibility, teaching in variable length time periods, and implementing/sustaining FAI or intervention.
- Professional development is reinforced throughout the school year.
- Include the commitment to the mission/vision statement and the overall picture of the teaching/learning process for all students.
Master schedules for K-8 schools are a hybrid of strategies for elementary and middle level schools. Unique opportunities exist to address the developmental needs of students with a focus on transition from grade to grade. Each step in building a master schedule is critical in achieving opportunities that exist to address the needs of a diverse student population.
For additional information, contact Ericka Uskali at the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform for a copy of Building a Middle-School Program Within the K-8 School: Promises and Challenges by Barbara A. Kalina and Gary Weilbacher. firstname.lastname@example.org.