The other day in my grade 4/5 class I decided to try a flexible schedule day where students would have the list of subjects available to them on the board with specific tasks under each subject. This is how the day unfolded.
Students entered the room after French and were confused by the fact that the schedule board was blank. Some of them right away started reading the black board and noticed the various subject headings. Under each heading it said grade four and grade five. The subject choices (which are the subjects that I teach on my one day LTO) were: social studies, music, math and library. In library, they are writing their own books right now so that was a writing choice.
I explained to my students that from 9:30 until 3:10, they would have the choice to pick whatever task they wanted and that they could move on when they wanted. If they completed a task, they could come hand it in to me or hand it in on google classroom. On the board I specified which tasks were to be done on google classroom. The only task on the board that required direct instruction was the grade five math task. When students were selecting that task, I asked them to come see me so I could explain it. This happened every so often throughout the day if students chose math.
I also put a “self regulation/independent work” challenge into the day where I told the class if I noticed them working hard and not getting off task, I would give them a green happy face in my app (which I have previously explained) called iDoceo. Before each break, they could come check in with me to ask how many happy faces they had.
At the end of the day, students were able to reflect on the entire experience. Here are the comments directly from the students.
Students comments about their flexible schedule/task day:
- I liked the various choices of subjects
- I liked how the option to switch when I wanted was there
- This allowed us to get things done in our own timing
- If you finished early with one task, you could move onto the other without asking what to do next
- I liked the flow of free choice
- There was no “have to” involved, I loved the flow of free choice
- More time to finish things
- “You are basically treating us like high school students”
Of my 25 students, all 25 raised their hand when I asked “How many of you prefer this type of schedule to the schedule we usually have?” The schedule we usually have is 60 minutes math, 80 minutes social studies, 40 minutes music..etc.
These were the students comments about the competition where they were asked to stay on task and work responsibly and they would be rewarded with a green smiley face in my app if they were working well:
- The smiley faces made us work harder, they were good motivation
- I loved the competition aspect of the day
- Something to try for rather than just working
- I liked finding out how many I had before each break
- It reminded me of a race because you would still get smiley faces even if you didn’t win at the end of the day but you still had finished the race
- Some people like competition so you can think about it like that or you could just work like usual
- Makes you try different things
I really encourage all educators to try this flexible schedule thing! It was just a way of me looking for students that could handle the independent work challenge. The flexible schedule thing came to me while I was looking for a way to challenge students to stay on task and to work independently. I will definitely try this again next week as the kids LOVED it and as you can read, they loved the pressure free environment it allowed them to work in.