Self-contained classroom schedules can be all over the place, so that is why you need to use a zoning plan. Our day in a self-contained classroom has a ton of moving parts with schedules for all of our kids. Between inclusion time, related services, lunch and recess periods, special area, and everything else in between it can feel impossible to ever have a working schedule. Using a zoning plan will help alleviate that headache. What is a zoning plan, Whitney? It is simply a map of your classroom schedule: activities, students, and staffing for each day!
Zoning Plan Layout
First, let’s dive into the layout of a zoning plan. I have used two types of formats. One with each staff member in the columns and time blocks in the rows (shown above). This was the first type of zoning plan I used. I like this template because it gives each staff member a column. It is easy to read and flip through quickly throughout the day as needed. In this model, I put my lesson plans into the teacher column where I type out what activities I had planned for Monday-Friday. You can get my FREE download to this zoning plan template here.
In the second layout, the days are in the columns and the times and staff members are in the rows. You can grab the FREE download to this zoning plan template here. I moved to this format when I wanted to improve the formatting for my lesson plans. This made more sense to me to have a column for each day of the week. It is totally up to your preference which style you like best. They function exactly the same.
In both templates, you will put your time block down the columns. For example, I have 8:30-9:00 Arrival, 9:00-10:00 Morning Meeting, etc. I always plug in my time blocks first so I know what activities I need to plan for. These are the times for activities in my classroom, then I can add the times for all outside activities (speech, OT, PT, inclusion, lunch, recess, specials, etc.) into my base zoning plan.
Planning for Non-Negotiables
Once I have my base template set up, I will begin plugging in my non-negotiables. What I mean by non-negotiables are all the things that have to happen in our schedule or things that are scheduled at a schoolwide level. Activities such as arrival/dismissal, specials, related services, inclusion minutes, staff lunch and breaks, lunch, recess, etc. I plug in all those scheduled times and minutes first so I know they are built into my own classroom schedule.
This also helps me see what staff I have available for each activity with the students. For example, if I am doing Morning Meeting with my class, but I have a student that has inclusion minutes at that time I need to ensure I have ample staff in my classroom to assist Morning Meeting and a staff member to attend inclusion time with the other student. If you plan the non-negotiables first, it will make it easier for you to plug in your own classroom activities.
Build Lesson Plans into Zoning Plan
The next piece to building your zoning plan is to build in your lesson plans. So, you have your template, you have your non-negotiables built into your schedule. Now what are you going to do with the rest of your day? I typically start with our routine activities, such as Morning Meeting, Number of the Week, Letter of the Week, etc. We do these group routine lessons every day in my classroom. My students love them and they are getting quality instruction in a whole group setting.
Once I have the routine lessons built in, then I will add our IEP goal work, ELA, Math, Social Skills, Social Studies, and Science blocks in where I have appropriate time for them. When I’m plugging these activities into my schedule, I always make sure I have the appropriate amount of staff members available. This is when I will also plug in our bathroom and changing times. It is easier for me to plug these in when I can see what activities we have going and what staff I have available.
In my zoning plans, I will go in each Friday afternoon to plug in the activities we are doing the next week. For example, I would plug in for ELA that we will be working on Edmark words #1-5, Simple ELA Unit 1: Nouns Worksheet pg. 1, Nouns Adapted Book, etc. You can find the Simple ELA Curriculum I use here. I go through each time block and plug in my lesson plans for each day. That helps me plan what I need to prep ahead of time and it helps me stay on track with what we need to cover for the year.
Assigning Students and Staff Members
The last piece of the puzzle of creating a zoning plan is to assign students to staff members during your groups.
This helps you do three things:
1. ensure all students are being supervised at all times
2. ensures all staff members know what they are supposed to be doing
3. map out the space in your classroom
My zoning plan is a big reason why I color code my tables in my classroom. For example, during our ELA block, I may have Billy, Sally, and Suzy at my pink teacher table, while my instructional assistant has Johnny, Joe, and Jill at her green teacher table, my other instructional assistant has Jake at the yellow independent work system table doing a 3-drawer task, and my last instructional assistant has Jimmy in class for inclusion time. Color coding my tables was the simplest solution for me and my staff members to understand our zoning plan and where we should all be with our groups. It also helps my students know where to go when their schedule piece has a pink work table on it.
For each time block on my schedule, I assign students to staff members for our various activities, such as ELA or math whole group to help assist in student participation, IEP goal work time to complete data sessions, centers rotations to lead groups, lunch and recess to supervise and assist in participation, and everything else in between.
There you have it, a complete zoning plan! I typically build my master template in the summer when I get all the schoolwide schedule pieces, then we tweak it until it works. You classroom schedule will probably never work on day one, but that is the beauty of a zoning plan. It maps everything out for you so it is easy to tweak as you go. I plug in my lesson plans each week as well as any tweaks that need to be made. I promise using a zoning plan will make your, your staff’s, and your students’ lives much easier in your self-contained classroom! If you want some more great ideas for Special Ed Scheduling check out Alyssa’s blog post here. Any questions? Chat with me below!