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A Day in My High School Special Education Classroom

Putting together a schedule for a special education classroom can be a daunting task! In this blog post, I will share what a day looked like in my high school special education classroom. As you read, please keep in mind that when you put together your schedule, you should prioritize your students’ needs. They could be similar to those of the students in my classroom, but they could also be incredibly different! My schedule changes every year in some way. Do what works for you and your students!

8:30 AM - 9:00 AM: Arrival & Morning Routines

During this time, students go to their lockers, put their take home binders in their mailboxes, complete their morning check-in, use the bathroom, eat breakfast, and take it easy before we really get our day started. I find that it’s important to allot time for all of us to ease into our day. Give your students an opportunity to fulfill their basic needs. The morning check-in prompts gives insight to how their day was after they left school and how their morning was prior to arrival. This is also a great time to work on relationship building. I had a student who always completed his morning routine quickly and would often ask me to come over and chat with him. We would talk about what we each ate for dinner and/or breakfast and anything significant that happened during our time apart. This is also a great time for students to complete classroom jobs (i.e., calendar, attendance, etc).

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM: Morning Centers (Morning Meeting, Problem of the Day, Breaking News)

  1. Morning Meeting: If you’d like to know more about what I included in morning meeting, you can read another one of my blog posts HERE.

  2. Problem of the Day: Each day, my students would be presented with a problem. They would review different sizes of the problem (i.e., small, medium, big), identify what kind of problem the POD was, and reflect upon how they could react to it. I would often incorporate challenges that my students would encounter throughout their school day. We found that my students really began to incorporate this language both at home and school, even reassuring staff when a “small” problem happened. It supported their use of coping strategies and increased their problem solving skills. I loved this center!

  3. Breaking News: I believe it’s important for all students to be educated about current events, which is what this center was all about. I liked using the “Breaking News” articles from News-2-You (Unique Learning Systems), but I have also used CNN10 in the past. Some of the news articles were about serious events in the news, while others were about new movies coming out or new doughnut flavors at Krispy Kreme. Regardless, it was an easy to prep center in which students could have discussions about current events and make connections to their own lives!

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM: Literacy Centers (Reading/Literacy Meeting, Phonemic Awareness, Break Time)

  1. Reading/Literacy Meeting: This is where I delivered literacy instruction using our curriculum. I used the Readtopia curriculum in my HS classroom, but in the past I have focused on a core word of the week or used Unique Learning Systems, depending on the instructional level of students.

  2. Phonemic Awareness: This center is where students participated in phonemic awareness activities. I had magnetic letters and/or file folders with laminated letter tiles that students could use to make words and explore letter sounds.

  3. Break Time: While students could always have a break when needed throughout the day, this time was an opportunity for students to eat a snack, relax, read, put their head down, go for a walk, go the sensory room, or engage in other leisure activities. While our students need that academic instruction, it’s important for them to also be able to engage in leisure independently. This time was an opportunity for them to practice that skill, as well as to take a break from rigorous instruction.

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM: Math Centers (Math Instruction & Independent Work)

  1. Math Instruction: Pretty straightforward! This center was when I delivered math instruction using our curriculum (my school used Math Equals).

  2. Independent Work: Students would complete task cards that were below instructional level independently.

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM: Lunch

12:30 PM - 1:00 PM: Adaptive Physical Education/Teacher Planning

1:00 PM - 1:15 PM: Leisure/Break

As my students return from APE, I like to use this time to give students a structured break time. I put on a video or movie for them to watch, while also giving them the option to engage in other break choices. This break gives them time to cool down after lunch and gym before placing any kind of academic demand.

1:15 PM - 2:15 PM: Transition Centers (Career Exploration, Skill of the Week, Workshop)

  1. Career Exploration: Each week, we focus on a “job of the week.” Students learn about one specific job, the skills needed, where you might work if you have this job, as well as other important information about the job. At the end of each lesson, students reflect upon the information they learned and identify whether or not they would want to try it.

  2. Skill of the Week: This is where we practice skills that may be needed for the job of the week. For example, if the job of the week is cashier, students may work on counting change or other money skills.

  3. Workshop: During this center, students would independently work on three individual task boxes. These tax boxes presented a range of skills to target, from fine motor tasks (i.e., putting caps on Pedialyte bottles) to life skills tasks (i.e., folding towels). Each task box was labeled with a letter. I would pre-assign tasks and have their letter written next to each students name. Students would check to see which tasks they were assigned to, find the task box, and bring to their work area to complete. You can check out my Instagram HERE if you're looking for some ideas around what to include in your workshop or independent task stations!

3:00 PM: Break/Check Out/Dismissal

During this last part of the day, students can take whatever time we have left to decompress and relax! With about 15 minutes before dismissal, students would begin to complete check out with a staff member, reviewing their points for the day and talking through their individual reinforcement systems (as needed). After check out, students go to their lockers, pack up, and get read

** Additional things that I have incorporated in my classroom schedule in the past and/or things that are not specifically outlined in this schedule breakdown: microbusiness work time, hygiene, yoga, classroom/in-school jobs, daily journals, social skills groups, leisure groups, speech groups, sensory regulation groups, community based instruction, literacy meetings, cooking, art, etc. My previous school also had a PAES lab, where some of my students would go daily to work on vocational skills. My school had an integrated related service model, so therapists were frequently in the classroom collaborating and facilitating groups/activities.

** Keep in mind: the times above are what I have allotted for each schedule item, but we are FLEXIBLE. Prioritize your students’ needs and what works best for YOUR classroom. Give them breaks when needed. There were times when we started later or ended earlier than my schedule said and THAT’S OKAY! Don't get caught up in the minute by minute details or you will drive yourself crazy!

I want to re-iterate that building a classroom schedule for any classroom, specifically a special education classroom should be a process that takes the unique needs of each learner into consideration. Prioritize your students' needs and what will make them most successful!

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