You might describe our fifth grade schedule as loose-tight scheduling. It's tight in that we have a typical pattern allowing us to fit in all the expected learning, but it's loose because we deviate from that schedule when we need something different, better, or more to meet students' needs.
For example, last Friday the entire fifth grade suspended the schedule as usual so we could maximize the help of the eighth graders who were visiting our school as part of a service project. Rather than following the typical routine, we all engaged in a science exploration that was engaging, meaningful, and standards-based, an exploration that profited from the extra hands available via the eighth graders help.
We also deviate from the schedule as usual for field studies, STEAM days, some needed assessments, and portfolio work. Generally if the study demands extra time and depth, we'll make space for it. Other times that we deviate from the routine included times when the children are particularly out of sorts or when there's a lot of illness in the school. Essentially this loose-tight schedule helps us to put the students' needs first as we aim to meet expectations and foster a student-friendly learning environment.
Our shared teaching model where each teacher on the team takes the lead in particular subject areas, projects, and topics is an ideal way to foster loose-tight student-friendly scheduling. Fortunately we have substantial meeting time throughout the week including shared planning time once a day and a once-a-week PLC and student service meeting with the broader grade-level team including teaching assistants, special educators, therapists, the counselor, and at times, administrators.
This scheduling and shared teaching promotes greater teamwork by educators and the students. This is also a very positive aspect of the program we are promoting. When scheduling is made to meet the standards and or educators' needs alone, that is not advantageous, but when schedules are loose-tight with a focus on what students' need, then we have a positive, productive schedule for optimal learning.