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Classroom Management for Schedule Changes

Janelle Cox

Teachers thrive on their daily schedule, because staying in a classroom management routine means less disobedience and happier students. However, there are times during the school year when the schedule changes, whether it’s for assemblies, field trips, or shorter school days. When these times happen, instead of getting flustered, you can have a plan already in motion. Many teachers like to take this opportunity to try something new, or get to know their students better. Here are a few classroom management ideas on how you can make the most of the time that you have so you don’t feel like your day is too disrupted.

Classroom Management for When You Only Have a Few Minutes

With only a few minutes to spare, many teachers’ go-to plan is to just let their students read or catch up on their homework. However, while these are both great options, you can get a lot more accomplished than you think in a few minutes. For example, you can play a get-to-know-you game to help students cement their bonds with their peers, or help students sharpen their critical thinking skills by having them solve a quick mystery.

Another creative classroom management idea when you have a few minutes to spare is to read a headline from the newspaper or a news website. Ask students what they think the story will be about. Then if you have time, read the article or have a student read it aloud. This is a quick and easy way to bring current events into your classroom without having to spend time on an actual full lesson plan.

You can also use unexpected down time to teach students sign language, or a few words from another language. Not only will you be using your time wisely, but the takeaway for your students is a new skill set or learning a new language. Think about all of the new words or signs your students will know by the end of the school year.

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When You Have a Shortened Schedule

On those days when you have a shortened schedule and you don’t want cut your lessons short, you can plan for an alternative learning session. Many teachers like to utilize technology during these times, because it’s easier to plan for and students are still learning. Teachers like to use Kahoot, Quizlet, Prodigy, and IXL Learning, which are all great options for students. Teachers also like to get their students up and moving, especially if they know they will be sitting for a long period of time, like during a school assembly or through classroom presentations.

You can also take your students on a gallery walk. A gallery walk is where students explore multiple texts or images that are placed randomly around the classroom. It’s a fun way to expose students to different texts, as well as a way for students to share their work with their peers. It’s also a great way to get students up and moving while learning about a specific subject or theme.

Another idea for when you have a shortened schedule is to have a classroom debate. All you have to do is pose a question that really gets the students thinking. Then, allow time for students to formulate an opinion, either for or against the question. Once they have made their opinion, they go to a specific side of the classroom where they stand with their team and discuss what they think. Then both sides of the classroom take turns debating the issue that was presented.

When You Have a Half Day

As much as students love a half day of school, many teachers do not have the same feeling. A half day of school means trying to cram all of your lessons into only a few hours. What if you didn’t have to do that, and decided to take the day to do something fun? Well, you can. Many teachers have decided to throw away the idea of having students partake in their regular daily routine and instead try something new. Spending the half day working on a passion project, watching class presentations, or participating in STEM challenges are all great options.

A 21st-century skill that teachers are trying to incorporate into their curriculum is having students partake in STEM challenges. This is not only a fun way for students to spend their time learning, but it also helps to get their energy out. Present challenges like making an apple holder out of pipe cleaners to lift an apple out of a pot can be challenging and rewarding for students. Or participating in the challenge called “String lifter,” where every student in class must figure out how to lift a tennis ball (or another object) in the center of a circle all together by only holding a string. The ideas are endless, and you can find an abundant amount of them online. Also, the great thing about these challenges is that they can be condensed to suit the time that you have.

Learning to code is another skill that students love, and it can be compressed to meet the needs of the time that you have. Sites like Codesters and Tynker are great for teaching and practicing coding. Coding has become the way of the future, and using your half day to teach and/or practice this skill will be well worth the time.

Instead of getting flustered when schedule changes happen, take the time to create memorable experiences that your students will not forget. Not only will your students benefit from these experiences, but you will too.

What are your go-to classroom management ideas when your daily schedule gets changed? Do you have a favorite activity? Please share with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.