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SPED Classroom Foundations: Schedules

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

I touched on scheduling a little bit in a previous SPED Classroom Foundation Post (SPED Classroom Foundation: Organization), but I'll elaborate more here.

I saw a funny meme on Instagram recently that said, "I've got 99 problems, and SPED scheduling is every single one." and let me tell you, there's so much truth to that statement! Regardless of what dynamic you support SPED students, you know that scheduling is no joke. Once you get a decent schedule in place, changes!

Every student with an IEP has a unique schedule of services intentionally designed to meet that individual student's needs. So when you have 10+ students with IEPs, you have 10+ unique schedules to account for. Essentially, you have a ton of little schedules that you need to collide into one big master SPED classroom schedule. I wish I could give you a clear-cut formula for building a SPED classroom schedule, but that formula doesn't exist. There are many variables to consider among classrooms, campuses, districts, and states that make SPED classroom scheduling such a feat. There's an art to establishing meaningful schedules and routines, but it's not an impossible feat with intentional consideration of a few things.

Determine the non-negotiables

When scheduling for your students, it's best to start with the non-negotiables. These are things like lunch, rotations, out-classes, staff availability,& all of the other things you don't have control over within the master schedule. Blocking these chunks of items will help pave the way for "open" times you have to mess with within a schedule. If you start building a schedule without keeping these things in mind, you'll be spinning your wheels and pulling out your hair!


Identify all non-negotiable for your classroom and write them down in chronological order to find out what "free" space you have to schedule within.

Plan for disruptions

Here's a super-duper top-secret piece of information: Students don't get dismissed from special education at as high of a rate as they qualify for special education services. Meaning? It's inevitable: more students will be added to your class or caseload throughout the year. When looking at your schedule, think about what might happen if 2 more students were added to your class. What about 4 more? How will student additions impact the whole class schedule?


Build your schedule in a way that allows new students to slide into an already established routine without you having to reinvent the entire schedule from scratch with each new student addition.

Consider instructional grouping

Where and how your students learn within your classroom is another important consideration in scheduling. Whether you provide support via co-teach or another model of in-class support, resource, or self-contained setting, there's an ebb and flow that happens throughout the day. Different student groupings change the dynamics of your classroom, so having an idea of what instructional grouping(s) you'll employ is beneficial when scheduling.


Read through your student's IEPs, and based on need, write down all student grouping options.

Think about transitions & routines

This is easy to overlook when building a SPED classroom schedule. The coming and going of students on paper can look much different than what REALLY happens when they're in your room, waiting to transition within your room, and waiting to transition from your room.


Make a list of transition times and classroom routines and assign a time limit to each of those. Add those times to your schedule.

SPED scheduling is a complex art, and it's not to be taken lightly. There is no formula or clear-cut solution to the ever-changing schedule of your classroom. Still, these tips will help minimize the disruption of schedule changes throughout the year!

I've created a FREEBIE checklist related to SPED classroom scheduling! You can find this resource in my TPT store by clicking on the direct link in the top right corner of this page :)

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