Our school has the same problem with being over scheduled. We went to a "6 day" schedule to help. This means we rotate our schedule days 1-6 instead of days 1-5. This gave us more time while keeping the same number of times per week that we had an enrichment. We also went to a flex schedule in library.
Art 1X (50-70 min)
Drama 1X (35 min)
Music 2X (35 min)
Computer 1X (45 min)
Spanish 4X (20 min in the homeroom classroom)
PE daily (35 or 45 min)
Too little time in the classroom, with so many specials, is a challenge. We have a 6 days cycle, too. We cluster art, music, and languages on two days of the cycle, giving more uninterrupted teaching time during the other 4 days of the cycle. These two days, with the cluster of specials, allow the teachers on a grade level to have plenty of planning time.
Our students have
PE - 6x/per cycle 30 min.
Art - 2x/ 45 min.
Computer - 2X/ 45 min.
Languages - 2x/ 45 min. (2nd grade and up)
Music - 2x/ 50 min.
Library - 1x 50 min.
How do the elementary aged children handle being on a six-day schedule instead of on a Mon-Fri schedule...especially the children to whom you are teaching the days of the week. This is what my teachers will ask.
We had a six-day schedule at my previous school and I'm leading the charge at my current school to make the switch from a Monday--Friday schedule to a six-day schedule.
In all the years I worked with the six-day schedule, my third graders never had a problem with it. Teachers displayed the schedule every day and there wasn't much the students had to remember related to the schedule. For example, in the Pre-K--3 division, students didn't have to wear gym clothes. The code of attire was pretty casual -- a polo shirt with pants or skirt/skort -- and students could wear sneakers to school. So, they didn't have to remember, for example, that gym was on day 4 and day 6. Also, we ran a concurrent five-day schedule for some subjects, like dance and foreign language. Pre-K also followed a five-day schedule. I never asked why. Dance was scheduled for half an hour on the same day every week -- I believe because it was added later after the six-day schedule was created and no one wanted to mess with how the other subjects were scheduled.
Middle and upper school students functioned just fine with the six-day schedule too. I think everyone can stay organized and on top of things if they're scaffolded properly, i.e., the little ones reminded to bring gym clothes on their homework sheets or asked to bring them in on Monday and to take them home on Friday like we do here. By the time kids are old enough to be getting homework in special area subjects, like foreign language or art, they're probably at the point where they have those classes every day. Occasionally the foreign language teachers at my old school gave homework -- little flashcard assignments -- but they would just ask the students to bring it in "on Friday." So, the trick to working with a six-day schedule is to remember the age you're working with and avoid setting the kids up for failure. Instead, set them up for success by not asking them to have to remember too much and remind teachers to keep them aware of the weekly pattern of classes so they can begin to project what's coming up later in the week.
As far as teaching the days of the week, as far as I could tell it didn't interfere with this understanding at all. It's not as confusing to kids as it can be to some adults. Remember, the kids just follow along and go where you take them. They pretty much live day to day. As long as you go over the schedule in the morning they're satisfied. The calendar is a separate thing with its own patterns. Most little kids aren't keeping an appointment book and trying to coordinate a five-day calendar with a six-day at the same time that they're just learning the days of the week and how many days are in a month. You and your colleagues may find the six-day schedule to be an adjustment, but kids in the primary grades probably won't have as much of a problem. And as far as the adults are concerned, it's easier when the school scheduler takes a blank calendar and puts the day of the cycle on each date. That way teachers can always find out what day of the cycle it is on those days when they come in bleary-eyed and can't seem to remember. It also deals with school closures in advance so, for example, when everyone comes back the Tuesday after Memorial day weekend, they know what day of the cycle it is.
The benefits of a six-day cycle are great. It allows you to stretch out time and allow more time in the homeroom between specials. And, just getting away from the Monday--Friday pattern prevents classes scheduled on Mondays from being missed whenever there's a three-day weekend. I definitely recommend making the switch. Just identify all the minor problems the switch might cause in advance and set up routines or systems to prevent or mitigate those problems. And tell your colleagues to give each other a break during the first year while everyone's making the adjustment!
Wow, that's a lot of PE! It's so interesting to see how other schools balance their schedules. I would have liked those long blocks of time for planning and often wondered why we didn't do that in my old school. However, now that I'm an administrator and I can see more clearly that younger students need to meet everyday for some subjects that depend on momentum, such as language arts and math. Ideally, music classes, especially when students are rehearsing for a concert, would meet everyday also.
Back to PE, at my previous school it was twice (in a six-day cycle) for 45-minutes for grades PreK--3. Art, 1X/45 min, Music, 1X/45 min. plus 30.min a cycle with all grade level sections together for "rehearsals."
Computers and library were one course -- library and media -- 1X/45 min.
Science was a special in grades 1--3 and, depending on the grade level, was either 1x/1hr or 2X/1hr.
At my current school, we've been on a five day schedule but keep expanding course offerings. I'm just putting the finishing touches on a proposal to move to a six-day cycle.
Lower School children, all grades, have PE three times a week for 45 minutes, foreign language has been 2X a week for 45 minutes but then Chinese was added as a half hour commitment each week. Music and art were each once a week for 45 min., technology was 45. min but then it was taken out of the fourth and fifth grade schedules so those students could have an art elective instead. Library was only half an hour a week with two grade level sections together.
With the six-day schedule I've been able to solve a lot of problems -- in some cases make some classes more frequent, and if it benefits the students, shorter. For example, although we've kept fourth and fifth grade foreign language to 2X a cycle at 45 minutes, I've increased second and third grade sessions to 3X but shortened the sessions to 30 minutes. They have shorter attention spans and less developed memories than the older children, so this works for that age group.
Anyway, at my last school language arts programming drove the schedule, so a language arts block had to be reserved in each grade level section -- an hour and a half to two hours each morning.
What has previously driven the schedule at my current school was accommodating/sharing faculty who taught at all three divisions. But, in the new six-day schedule, I've set language arts and math as the drivers of the LS schedule and have been able to create long blocks for these subjects every day of the cycle.
I've read so much research on this and have also found from experimenting myself that added downtime does not compromise the program. Just keep telling yourself that teaching and learning are two separate, although related, actions. Just because you teach five hours worth of skills and information a day doesn't mean kids are learning five hours-worth of skills and information. If you don't give scheduled mental and physical breaks throughout the day, kids will take breaks whenever it suits them. When I taught, I found my kids were more focused and productive when I added little breaks into the daily routine. In addition to the fifteen-minute snack time (which was unstructured time) and the 30-minute recess that were traditional at my grade level (grade 3) I added in a bathroom break at 9 a.m. (an hour after school began) and another at 1:30 (half an hour after recess/lunch) which was a time everyone seemed to be ready "to go." We all went together as a group and I had all the kids stand in line in the hallway as three boys, three girls went at once. This sounds a little hyper controlling, but I also timed them (the whole process, not individual kids!) so they wouldn't dawdle. This was to make sure we stayed on time so I could afford to take these breaks. Being timed really worked to keep them from hanging out and chatting. From 8--8:15 in the morning, just before Morning Meeting, I would let the kids socialize and play. I cut out the morning "busy work" that's commonly used to keep kids occupied and tied to their desks first thing in the morning as stragglers wander in. I found that by letting them check in with friends and share any news they might have, the kids weren't distracted by this need all the way through until snack time, which would previously have been the first time they could talk to their friends unless they got to school really early. Also, by letting them move about the classroom and play in the morning (blocks, computers, Legos, math games, whatever!) I was able to observe social dynamics and address some issues. For example, I could see who was able to approach a group and just join in and who would just shyly hover and wait to be invited. I never had chronically late kids. (By the way, I didn't allow running or throwing, so the room wasn't chaotic.)
Twice a week I also took Morning Meeting (a la Responsive Classroom) outside for some kind of physically active team building activity like Capture the Flag or Soccer. We debriefed afterward in the classroom and over time developed rules and strategies for playing these games successfully.
Although I gave my kids more down time than the other teachers at my grade level, they were at least as productive. I can't honestly say that they were more productive because I didn't do a formal comparison, but I felt they were, at least compared to previous groups I had taught. I saw the results in the learning progress I documented across the year and in the rate at which they were able to finish projects. They didn't "rush" to get things done without care -- but they definitely did not lose stamina or focus and drag their feet with tasks. They always seemed ready to learn once we came back from our little breaks and faced the next lesson, activity or independent work with enthusiasm and ownership. I didn't have problems with kids daydreaming or tuning out in other ways and the other teachers they had, special area teachers, often complimented their work ethic and creativity. This didn't mean I had perfect classes -- of course I had students with their own special gifts and challenges just like everyone else -- and my management strategies certainly didn't satisfy or cure everything. The down time alone probably wasn't the whole reason for my kids' increased focus, I also kept my kids involved in big projects and this also helped keep them on task and deadline-oriented. I tried, throughout my years in the classroom, to find ways to keep my kids engaged and once I hit on a good strategy I would stick with it. Part of my motivation was that as I gained teaching experience I was given more and more challenging students, (the new teachers would get the "easier" classes) so I had to become very intentional with my classroom management. Generally, I have found kids stay more focused when they feel autonomous but have specific goals they've been asked to meet or basic rules to follow. Projects, where they have specific responsibilities and know what's expected from them, and unstructured time in safe environments are two things that give them this sense of autonomy. Reading and writing workshop allow for autonomy also. Kids can be very productive when familiar routines and expectations take away the guess work so they can get right down to business each day.
Anyway, enough out of me. Here's a document that you might find helpful. I'm not an early childhood expert so this really helped me as I was setting up some guidelines for how Kindergarten should be scheduled at my current school. I'm trying to make changes to the Lower School (and hopefully MS and US schedule as well, since we need to cooperate to a certain degree).