I finally tried it. I had wanted to try it since I moved to fifth grade last year, but it just didn’t work with my schedule; I had too many short blocks of time that didn’t allow for much freedom of movement. I was a little nervous about how it would go, but after several days, I would say that it has been a success.
I gave my students the opportunity to pick their own schedule for the day.
I had a lot to accomplish with them one day last week, and I thought this might be a good way to fit it all in; let them be master of their own time management.
Well, I would say that it has been a huge success: students loved it, I loved it, everyone got everything done, and everyone was motivated and engaged all day. It was fun to see what each student chose to do first, second, etc. during the day.
We’ve done it a few more times since then, so I have a bit of a routine in place. We start the day with everyone setting up their schedule based on available time and the tasks they need to accomplish that day. We schedule whole group things first, then fill in the gaps. I don’t have them block out specific times, but I do include the amount of time in each block, as well as a suggested amount of time for each task. I don’t really want them to get hung up on what specific time they are supposed to be working on something, in case something takes longer than they thought. It’s more about the order of the tasks than when they accomplish them.
I started by blocking out whole class minilessons and read aloud times in the schedule, but I quickly moved to asking the class to come to a consensus on when to meet for those activities. It gives them more control over the whole schedule, not just what they are working on. It doesn’t really matter to me when these kinds of whole group activities get accomplished, just that they get accomplished. Plus, they can then find out when they prefer to do math, writing, reading, etc. without me telling them what I think is best for them. Then I can save my own input for really important things that can’t be moved, like assemblies and field trips.
I have already seen a few advantages to using this kind of system with my students. I am able to meet with everyone more often for guided reading because everyone is reading at different times. Students can practice their self-management skills in an authentic way by deciding when they want to accomplish each task. I can differentiate everyone’s schedule if they need to finish up something they were supposed to finish the day before. Not to mention how much more productive they are, how excited they are about each day, and how things take less time when we don’t spend a lot of it transitioning en masse from one activity to another.
In the future, I want to get to the point where students are are choosing their tasks as well as their schedule. I don’t think I can jump to that soon, but that is the end goal. I can tell them what they need to accomplish in a week, and they can decide how to split up the necessary tasks to achieve that goal. I could start by listing the recommended steps at first and then move to just the end goal. I guess we’ll see how this goes. So far, so good!