Friday, June 29, 2012

Half-day Kinder Schedule

Putting together my daily schedule for this coming school year has been a bit of a nightmare since I am going back to teaching half-day kindergarten after a year of teaching full-day. Three hours is just not long enough to squeeze everything in! I am waiting for the day my school district decides to do away with half-day for good! I know some of you other half-day teachers were interested in my schedule, so here is what I'm planning for this year:

Half-day Kindergarten Schedule (A.M. Class)

8:45 Arrival and Seatwork (handwriting practice or independent reading from book boxes)
9:00 Shared Reading (alphabet chart, poems & big books)
9:10 Writing Workshop (mini-lesson, independent writing, and then sharing)
9:40 Guided Reading Groups & Literacy Centers (three 15-minute rotations)
10:25 Recess
10:40 Specials (art/music/P.E./technology classes)
11:05 Math (10 minutes each for: calendar, math lesson in workbook, and 1 math station)
11:35 Theme work (quick science/social studies activity or read aloud)
11:45 Pack-up
11:50 Dismissal

I didn't post the schedule for my P.M. class because it looks pretty much exactly the same, I just do everything all over again with my afternoon class from 12:20-3:25 p.m. The most important thing for me as I made my schedule was that I carve out big chunks of time EVERY day for the kids to have guided reading and centers (45 minutes), writing workshop (30 minutes), and math (30 minutes). My half-day students will be going to first grade with kids that have been in full-day kindergartens so they need to spend lots of time on literacy and math each day so that they aren't behind.

You'll notice that lots of things on my schedule only get 10 minutes. A 10 minute mini-lesson is totally doable though! Especially in the afternoon class, because you'll have already taught that EXACT same lesson in the morning and you'll probably be better at teaching it the second time (at least that's what I remember from teaching half-day in prior years).

For my 10 minute shared reading lesson, we do the alphabet chart each day, and then usually just work on one poem or big book per week (although depending on the length of the big book and poem, sometimes you can do both). I have found that having some sort of weekly schedule for shared reading works best when you have so little time. For example:

Monday: introduce the new big book/poem
Tuesday: work on new vocabulary and comprehension skills with the book/poem
Wednesday: work on concepts of print (locating: first word/last word, specific letters, spaces, punctuation, counting letters and words, etc.)
Thursday: work on sight words in the book/poem
Friday: work on rhyming words/word families in the book

This way you make sure you cover lots of different skills throughout the week, even though you only have a tiny bit of time each day (in full-day kinder I had time to do many of these things everyday in shared reading).

I have set aside 30 minutes for writing workshop each day since I think it's really important for kindergarten kids to practice writing every day. I plan to spend about 10 minutes on my mini-lesson-this will usually be a modeled writing or interactive writing lesson. Then I will give students 15 minutes of independent writing at their seats. I will end with 5 minutes of sharing time (I let one table share per day). 15 minutes isn't much for independent writing, but my students will also visit the writing center each week during literacy center time, so they can also work on their writing then as well (and of course we practice writing skills during guided reading groups some days).

I think math is going to be my biggest challenge. In full-day I had so much time that I could teach my lesson in the workbook and then still have a full half hour for my students to do math work stations. This year I will only have 30 minutes for math each day and that will include my calendar time. My plan is to start the year splitting that 30 minutes into three 10-minute sections. So I would start with 10 minutes of calendar, then do 10 minutes of whole class math in the workbook, and then finish with 10 minutes for the kids to do 1 math station with a partner. By January, I plan to do calendar every other day since the kids will have many of the basic calendar concepts learned by then, so this way some days my kids will have an extra 10 minutes to do a second math work station. Actually, I have found that doing calendar every other day when you teach half-day kindergarten is ideal. One day you can do calendar with your morning class and then the next day you can do calendar with your afternoon class, and this way you can avoid having to re-set the calendar and everything else that goes with it on your lunch break so your second class can do it all over again.

Ok, but what about the fun stuff? Well, each class gets 25 minutes a day for specials. Then they also get 15 minutes each day for recess as well. I like to do indoor recess some days instead of going out to the playground so that they can have the chance to do some play centers (housekeeping, blocks, puppets, art, etc.) because my centers during our literacy center time will be more strictly academic (writing center, library center, alphabet center, work work center, pocket chart center, big book center, listening center, etc.). I also try to squeeze in some fun theme-based stuff at the end of each day-but I only give 10 minutes for this. If we have a longer project or craft to go with that week's science/social studies theme, then I will have to end math a little earlier to squeeze in some extra theme time. I also try to make sure the poems/big books I read with the class during shared reading go along with whatever theme we are studying that week.

Finally, my biggest tip is just to stay flexible. Teaching half-day kindergarten is tough-especially when you have colleagues teaching full-day and see all the awesome stuff they have time to do. I think it's okay to occasionally throw out the schedule for a day and do some of those fun activities-we still have 100 day, holiday parties, assemblies, and other days where we just cannot keep to our schedule and that's okay because most days the kids are getting lots of academic instruction even in half a day.

I also don't make myself stick to my schedule the first 6 weeks of school-you are so busy setting up the classroom community, having everyone get to know each other, and working on learning rules/routines/centers/etc. that it is impossible to get with the schedule right away in kindergarten. I also like to have the freedom to spend more time on alphabet activities the first 6 weeks since many of my students come in not knowing their letters and so I don't introduce writing workshop right away so that I can have more alphabet review time. The first month of school we do one letter per day-once that's through I start up writing workshop. Same with guided reading, first 6 weeks we learn and practice centers but I don't pull groups (although hopefully I can squeeze in time to do some initial assessments in between monitoring their attempts at centers).

I find that with half-day I also need to rely on the parents a lot. I send home flashcards and books for the kids to read each night, and I ask the parents to help kids practice things like the alphabet, sight words, and numbers at home since our school day is so short and we just won't have as much time as I want to practice those skills.

Have you decided on your schedule yet for next year? If so, please share! I'd love to see how my blogging friends will be spending their school days- and of course share any scheduling tips you have!


  1. Wow, Meredith. Reading this post tires me out!!! I am in awe of you. :)

    Next year, whenever I am thinking to myself, "I can't possibly fit everything in today!!" I will think of you and it will get me through, haha!

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  2. Thanks for posting your schedule Meredith! I will get mine up soon. I cannot believe that you can fit specials and a recess in!! That is amazing. I agree with you that math will be one of the biggest challenges. Last year I had a 90 minute math block...yikes! You don't have a lot of time between classes, is your only prep time during specials? My day is a little shorter than yours but we have our lunch and prep between classes so we get an hour and 15 minute break before the afternoon class comes.
    I sat down with my team yesterday and we went over the schedule and how we will fit in the reading series so I will post it soon. Thanks for sharing, it helps to see how someone else is fitting it all in!!
    What I Learned in Kindergarten

  3. Hi Meredith! Thanks so much for your sweet comment. Yes, check your Dollar Stores- mine were packaged individually for a dollar each. A friend of mine made them too and found them at Michaels (use a 40% off coupon with your 15% teacher discount). I love your blog! I taught half day for a year and feel your pain my friend... your schedule looks great. Good luck and talk to you soon!


  4. I posted my schedule over on my blog...I think I have worked out all the kinks:)
    What I Learned in Kindergarten

  5. Wow, Meredith! I can honestly say I understand how you feel. I went from teaching full-day pre-k to half-day. I'm going back to kindergarten this year, full-day, and I can hardly wait! It sounds like you have some really great, solid ideas. If you need any integrated materials, please stop by my blog. I try to offer free guided reading materials as well as math and science resources in my posts.

    Sharon Dudley, NBCT

    1. Thanks Sharon! Good luck with your move to kindergarten this year!

  6. Looks good! You can always add science and social studies ideas during reading/writing/math, too, with nonfiction and genre studies.

    The big question? How many students will you have in each class and do you have an assistant?! TTYS!!!!!

    1. That is the big question Chrissy! NO assistant-so sad! Somewhere between 20-25 kids per class. :(

  7. I just found your blog! I'm a new follower:) I hope you'll check out my blog sometime!

    1...2...3...Teach With Me

  8. I completely understand! I have my kinders from 9-1 four days a week. Basically I have from 9-12 to teach. Then it's recess or pe and lunch. I am always stressing about getting everything in. If you'd like I'll email you what I'm thinking for my schedule. I'd love to have someone to share ideas with....I'm the only k teacher at my school.

    1. Sure, I'd love to hear your schedule! I'm the only half-day kinder teacher at my school-the others teach full-day.

  9. I found math and writers workshop to be the biggest bummer of all!! Last year, I incorporated writing in my daily 5/literacy time, but this year I really want a separate time for it. I like your idea of calendar every other day after Christmas! So smart! One question, how do you do handwriting?

    1. We don't have a handwriting program. We do use handwriting worksheets for each letter and then usually practice a letter a day for our morning work. I also talk a lot about the proper way to form letters when we are doing interactive writing. They also practice handwriting by tracing the letters on dry erase boards in the writing center at the beginning of the year before they are really able to write much of a story.

  10. Wow. Thanks for sharing this! I struggled last year with scheduling.

    I've nominated you for The Versatile Blogger award!

    Check it out!

    Kinder Journey

  11. I feel your pain - I will be teaching half day Kindergarten this year too, but we only have them for 2 1/2 hours. Our AM class is 9 - 11:35 and the PM class is 1 - 3:35. The only special our K students have is Library, but we also try to take them to the computer lab for about 30 minutes once a week. I have been thinking a lot about my schedule and how to cram in everything that I need to. It really helps to see your schedule. I like your idea of switching to doing Calendar every other day later in the year - I had not thought of that! I also love your shared reading schedule - I think that having a schedule like that will really help me!

  12. It is nice to hear from other half day teachers! Sometimes I feel like I am the only one left teaching half day! I am the only one in my school, with 2 teachers that teach full day. I struggle to fit in the essentials and still have time for fun! And I love your color coding! I have been doing that for the last seven years and it helps so much! Thanks for sharing!

  13. WHEN DO YOU EAT LUNCH OR GO TO THE BATHROOM?!? Do you have a partner teacher?

  14. Hi Meredith,
    I have a question for you. I have just been hired as a long term sub for 2 half day kindergarten classes. One class comes Monday/Wednesday, am Friday and the other class comes Tuesday/Thursday, pm Friday. I was wondering how to handle guided reading? Would you have the students work on more than one leveled book per week? Or would you have the students bring home a few leveled books and bring them back the next week? Thanks in advance!