Back to School: Setting Up Classrooms for Students with Autism #2 Set the Schedule-Part 2

Middle school with 2 teachers in one room can be tough for a special education classroom....this schedule shows how we did it.

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Today’s focus is on a middle school special education schedule for a classroom that was a combination of 2 teachers’ classes in a very large classroom.  There were students with physical disabilities as well as students with intellectual disabilities and autism.  It was a self-contained classroom and generally did not have students going into general education for significant amounts of time during the day.

Making a Mixed Class Work

Because the group had limited ability to sit in groups for long times and to wait for lots of other students to take their turn, we divided the group in half.  This meant that we had half the number of students in full group activities, so there was less waiting time and more engagement.  It also allowed us to plan activities that would meet the different needs of the students more effectively.  We set up the morning meeting to alternate with a cooking or gardening activity.  Clearly to do this we had to have enough space to have 2 large tables or group areas, which we did in this class.

Middle school with 2 teachers in one room can be tough for a special education classroom....this schedule shows how we did it.


The students rotated through centers that included vocational (working on job-related tasks), direct instruction (DI) where they worked on explicit instruction of curriculum and IEP goals, typically using ABA, and structured work system (Independent work-IW) where they worked independently on mastered skills.  In the time after lunch we divided them into 2 groups. Half the class did classroom jobs like cleaning the tables, delivering mail in the building.

Leisure Skills

The other half of the group had choice time where they had to choose among age-appropriate leisure activities and engage with those activities.  Leisure skills are something many students struggle with, so it’s something we try to actively teach.  Having these activities be 2 groups doing something more enjoyable than “work,” while still keeping students actively engaged meant that we could free staff up to take lunches during this time as well.  Finally, they rotated through a set of leisure activities of games, books and art to work on communication, social skills and expanding leisure activities.

They then had a snack where they came together and then dismissal.  There were a few kinks to work out when we ran the schedule the first few times, as there always are. However, overall this created a classroom focused on their goals throughout the day and helped the students stay engaged and maintain behavior during the day.

For more posts in this series, click here.

Have you run centers in your classrooms?  What centers do you usually use?

For more examples of schedules, check out our book on Setting up Classroom Spaces…
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Until next time,

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