Creating Teaching and Student Schedules: What to Consider

life skills special education teachers teacher experience transition Jul 01, 2022
  • Create schedule

It’s the thing that lingers on your to-do list and weighs on you all summer because it is NEVER just a one-and-done sort of thing. The first student schedule draft will take you a few hours and you’ll hesitate to even remove the task from your to-do list because you just know. You will probably make 10-30+ draft schedules over the course of a school year. The shear mental capacity it takes to even develop draft schedule #1 is complex and all subsequent drafts will cause you stress with a side of annoyance.
As someone who has drafted more schedules than I care to admit, I’ve developed an approach that I hope will help you as your brain begins to navigate the many intricacies of creating student and teaching schedules.


Daily Schedule vs Weekly Schedule

In my program, we create weekly schedules. So, every Monday looks the same, but Tuesdays look different. This is ideal for transition programs, because you can dedicate longer spans of time to a single activity, as long as you aren’t confined to a bell schedule.

IF you are still held to a bell schedule, don’t stop reading. Many of the tips and considerations below will still apply. Just know that you may not have the same time flexibility when creating your schedule. *I realize how loaded that previous sentence is.  


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What to Consider


I could share the schedules of my past 9 years in transition, but you wouldn’t be able to hit ‘copy + paste’ because you would have 1 variable that would create a domino effect of changes (unfortunately). So, I’ve listed below what I’ve considered when creating schedules because we ALL know that if you make 1 wrong assumption, everything will change!

1. IEP Goals

Compile all the IEP goals you need to address and collect data on for your students and determine where and when that skill can be meaningfully addressed and when data will be collected. This should be 1 of the first things you cross check when creating a schedule- Are all the student’s IEP goals being addressed?
*Don’t forget to review BIP’s as well, especially as it relates to working towards rewards and reinforcements. Would those be easily accessible for specific students in your draft schedule?

2. Transportation Availability

If accessing the community is a daily or weekly part of your program, then you will need to know when and or how long you get transportation. Is this school bus transportation? Are there enough seats or wheelchair accessible spots on the school bus transportation? Do you have to access public transportation? What is the schedule and access limitations of the public transportation?

3. Support Staff

How many support are slotted for your group or class (according to the IEP and state law) and where do you HAVE to have them and where would they BEST be placed to support your students.

4. Related Service Access

Confirm whether related service providers will be in the building on certain days and will need students present to conduct groups or 1:1 sessions. Therefore, does your whole class need to stay back or would just 1-2 students need to be around? Also, would this impact the student’s ability to access other parts of the schedule where IEP goals may be addressed?

5. Health/Medical and Equipment Needs

If your students have health or medical needs that would required them to be around nursing staff at certain times, like a feeding tube during lunch, find out when they need to be where and for how long. Or, do you have students who need to access a stander or mat table or alternate seating for a specific length of time and decide when and where you can fill that need. Consider staggering time slots if students will be sharing the same equipment.

What Classes to Include in Your Schedule and Estimated Times

If you have the luxury of a no-bell schedule, then you may be happily stressed about how long to schedule for different classes. Here is an estimate of how long I schedule for each class and the approximate drive times, for those that included community-based instruction.
Held in Building
  • Morning check-in

  • 5 days a week

  • 30-45 minutes

  • Independent Living

  • 1 day per week

  • 30-60 minutes

  • Social Communication
  • 1 day per week

  • 30-45 minutes


  • Vocational Skills
  • 1 day per week

  • 30-45 minutes

  • Lunch
  • 5 days a week
  • 30-60 minutes


  • Cooking
  • 1 day per week

  • 2 hours (review recipe, cook, eat, and clean up)


  • Other: Recreational therapies, Technology, Student Small Business


Community Based
  • Community Based Vocational Learning

  • 2-3 times per week

  • 2.5 hours

  • 15 min drive, work 2 hours, 15 min drive back

  • Fitness Center w/ locker room and shower
  • 2-3 times per week

  • 2 hours

  • 15 min drive 1 way

  • Bank and Grocery Shop

  • 1 time per week

  • 2 hours

  • 10 min drive to bank, 10 min drive to grocery store, 10 min drive back to building, remaining time for pre-outing lesson, practice at the bank, and shopping and check out in the store, putting away food and items after shopping

  • *I’ve had grocery shopping the day(s) before cooking class, the same day as cooking class, and day(s) after cooking class where we prepped for the following week. You do what works!

  • Community Based Experience

  • 1 day per week

  • 3-4 hours

  • Varies based on outing activity, time for lunch at a restaurant)



I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the schedules I create for my group of young adult students will never look the same as yours. We have too many differences in our programs for things ever to look the same, and that’s in large part to the ‘I’ in IEP. So while this may feel like an overwhelming task that will last the entire school year (because it will), just know that it’s a meaningful task and YOU get the chance to create unique opportunities for your students.


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