August 21, 2013

Back to School Week: Scheduling Tips & Tricks

Back to School Week continues with tips and tricks for scheduling

Back to School Week continues here on Schoolhouse Talk! In case you missed it, yesterday's post was all about 6 Helpful Documents for the First Week of School. Today, we'll be thinking about the dreaded task of scheduling! 

This post originally appeared on September 19, 2012, but has been slightly updated.

As a student, the beginning of each school year comes with lots of exciting things. Shopping for a new outfit to wear on the first day of school, checking off the supplies on the classroom supply list, etc. Picking out folders was my favorite - what other children of the 90s out there can remember Lisa Frank school supplies?! I secretly was excited at the end of each summer when the class lists were posted. Summer always seemed to last too long, and I was always excited for school to start again. I was a huge nerd.

As a school employee, the beginning of each school year has a bit of a different feel. Yes, all the newness and excitement radiating from the students is a bit contagious, but mostly we long for summer break to start all over again. And as a school-based speech-language pathologist, the beginning of school means scheduling. Bleh. I am so fortunate this year as my caseload is starting out relatively low. I am serving two elementary schools plus birth-3 home visits in two neighboring towns. But I know some SLPs whose caseloads are pushing 80 students or have 3-4 buildings to schedule in the same 5-day school week.

My first year working in the school setting, scheduling 53 students at 2 different buildings was such a big source of stress. I had at least two different excel spreadsheets, class lists, a list of how I was going to group the students together, and a school calendar all on my desk at once. I think it took me a whole work week just to get the schedule to fit. It was a nightmare!

I was determined to complete my schedule differently this year. Somewhere over the summer I read the idea of using Post-It notes for scheduling, and I thought it was genius! So here is how I completed my scheduling this year...

I gave each teacher this form that listed the students in their classroom who have speech services along with the minutes required each week for services, and asked them to attach a copy of their class schedule or list the times that will NOT work to pull students.

Click here to download your own copy of these forms. I had more of my personal information on the slips I gave to teachers, but modified the document for general use for the purposes of this upload.

Once most of the teacher slips had been returned, I was ready to get scheduling! First, I organized my Post-Its by grade: preschoolers off campus got orange, preschoolers on campus got blue, Kindergarten got green, and 1st grade got pink. Home visits got yellow. I wrote administrative/lunch/regular meetings on purple notes. Each student got a Post-It with their name/grade/teacher, how many minutes of therapy they were required each week, and the times the teacher had said were okay to pull the student. If a student was to be seen twice a week, they got two Post-Its with their name.

Then I made a giant 5-day schedule, divided into 20-minute increments (mostly for a guideline - it would be unrealistic to be able to fit my students perfectly into the designated time slots). A white board would work really well too.

From there, I went to town sticking Post-Its into time slots that worked based on the times teachers had given me. I didn't need to keep referring to an excel spreadsheet to see teacher times or look back at old emails - everything I needed was right on the Post It. If a time didn't work, or if I needed to move a student to a different time, I could just pull off the Post It and move it to a different spot.

Scheduling was still a bit tedious since these students are all new to me, but it only took me one day to finalize my schedule this year. Woohoo! Of course, I know it's not actually final, and that conflicts and additions are bound to arise. But I think this was a pretty great system to use this year and I will more than likely tackle the project the same way in the future.

Leave a Comment: What tips do you have for making scheduling easier?


UPDATE (2013): I've read some great tips on Crazy Speech World's instagram photo. I especially like basketball_mom_23's idea:

"I start with a document with all of the kids names down the left side and time slots across the top. I fill the squares in red for the Times that they are not able to be pulled (recess, specials, etc.). It makes it easier when I put groups together to find the common white areas to schedule those groups in. Also a quick reference for the rest of the year to check availability to do makeup therapy."


  1. I am with you on the scheduling! bleh is about right. I posted about my madness here:

    Mine is almost finished, but the excitement of plugging into timeslots happens in excel.

    1. Best of luck finishing up your schedule! It's never really "done" is it?! (P.S. That link connected to a school's job openings page, and I couldn't find your scheduling post on your blog.)