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"Specials" (ie. P.E., music, art, library, etc.)

post #1 of 90
Thread Starter 

How often does your child have specials?  I'm disappointed with our current district's schedule for specials, and am just wondering if I'm expecting too much.


PE ~ 25 minutes 1x a week

music ~ 25 minutes 1x a week

art ~ none (no art teacher, parent volunteers teach a short lesson on a famous artist 1x a month)

library ~ 30 minutes 1x a week with parent volunteers (librarian funding cut 2 years ago)

computers ~ 25 minutes 1x a week


Aside from the lack of art and library instruction, I also find it strange that all specials occur on the same day.  For example, DS has specials on Tuesday so he has PE, music and computers all on the same day rather than spread throughout the week.

post #2 of 90

Wow, that is such a short-sighted view of education. Daily physical activity has been proven to increase scholastic achievement more than additional time spent on scholastics.


Our school allots 30 minutes a day to PE. Art is 3 x 35 min per week. Music is, I hate to say, capricious. There is little to no regular music activity beyond 2nd grade, as there are no music teachers on staff. From K-2 it's every day -- singing and folk dance especially, sometimes hand bells or what-have-you.


The library and the computer room are not scheduled as separate "blocks" as their use is integrated into the rest of the curriculum. For instance, a unit study might have the kids spend 5 or 6 hours one week in the library and computer lab doing research and organizing presentations, but then little the next week. Any kid who has finished reading a book might spend independent reading time in the library choosing a new one. So those aren't really "specials" at our school.



post #3 of 90

In fourth grade my DD has


Monday - library  40 minutes

Tuesday Art 40 minutes

Wednesday -Music 40 minutes

Thursday - Gym 40 minutes

Friday -Computers 40 minutes



I don't understand how parent volunteers can teach a library class.  I volunteer during my daughter's library special.  There are two parent volunteers checking the books in and out, shelving and cleaning books while the librarian is teaching her lessons, reading, administering tests etc.  I work in a field where I work with public libraries every day and I don't feel that I would be qualified to actually run the class.

post #4 of 90

DS is only in kindergarten so I'm not sure about the higher grades but his schedule:



10 minutes - MOVEMENT

40 minutes - PROJECT/ART



50 minutes - MOVEMENT

30 minutes - PE

20 minutes- PROJECT/ART



20 minutes - MOVEMENT

30 minutes - MUSIC

40 minutes - PROJECT/ART



45minutes - Library/Writing workshop

15minutes - MOVEMENT

40 minutes - PROJECT/ART



20 minutes - MOVEMENT

30minutes - PE

30 minutes - MUSIC


They have two 25minute recess each day and they also have a daily 50 minute sort of free time where they are free to choose whatever centers they'd like to work on. They also have a 15-minute down time each day.


But they also have an integrated curriculum where they choose a theme for a year and gear all instruction towards said theme. So I'm not sure if that is what makes it easier for them to allot a lot of time to these specials.



post #5 of 90

None of those things were considered "specials" in our area... they were just part of the curriculum. P.E. was at least 3 days a week and almost all the teachers at least did 15 or 20 minutes of walking/jogging on the non-PE days. Computers were in the classroom and used almost daily for one thing or another. Library was weekly. Art was tied into the curriculum. Most projects included a different sort of art project that was taught.


"Specials" were more like the dance program where every grade learned a special style taught by a professional in that field... 2nd graders learned mime, 3rd graders learned folk dancing, 4th graders learned modern dance, I know my youngest learned Flamenco in kindergarten lol. Music was another "special." In the early grades, it was more music and movement. In the older elementary grades they learned recorders, reading music, string/band instruments. These were once a week activities. Each grade did a class play every year and that might be once a week practice.

post #6 of 90

All 'specials' are 45 minutes


PE 2x every 6 days (mandated by the state or they'd cut it further)

Library 2x every 6 days for younger kids; Library 1x every 6 days and Technology 1x every 6 days for older kids

Music 1x every 6 days

Counselor 1x every 6 days


Art - parent led volunteer classes on a famous artist 1x every 3 months; teachers try to incorporate it into regular lessons. This year we got a grant for "Arts for Learning" which integrates Art into the curriculum. The older grades (3, 4, 5) get that included.


Last year we had money for an art teacher, so art was included in the rotation. This year that money is gone, and it's only going to get worse. I feel bad for the kids because the parent led lessons aren't nearly enough.


We had to fight REALLY hard to keep our librarians last year -- I agree, parents can't teach library. There's so many skills that the librarians (sorry, "media specialists") have that the parents don't. They're certified teachers with specialized training.

post #7 of 90

My second grader has specials every day for 30 minutes in the morning. She has PE Mon & Wed (addl 30 min recess every day), 45 min Art on Tues, Spanish on Mon, Wed, Thurs (30 min), 45 min Music on Fri. They use computers in the classroom and go to the library as needed, but not as a special. They do programs in the library on a regular basis, but it's not listed on the schedule and my 2nd grader couldn't tell me how often they go. I think it's part of their reading or writing blocks, or maybe if they need to do research in social studies. They also have "Learning Lab" every day.



post #8 of 90


Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

There's so many skills that the librarians (sorry, "media specialists") have that the parents don't. They're certified teachers with specialized training.

As someone who never had anyone "teach library" to her in school, and whose kids' school doesn't have a librarian on staff, what are we missing? The regular classroom teachers (and, in the case of homeschoolers, parents) teach library skills here and the kids seem to do okay. What is involved in library teaching that is specialized where you live?



post #9 of 90
In our district schools have music, pe, and library twice a week for 30 minutes. My DD is in a charter school and has pe, art, music, and French twice a week for 40 minutes. They are working on grants for a library and computer room.
post #10 of 90



What is involved in library teaching that is specialized where you live?



this is from near me - http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/44A85DA6-DA50-4EB0-9B41-EE981B43F149/15482/LibrarianResponsibilities.pdf



and no one would even look at you unless you held a masters 


all our school have librarians on staff, usually several



post #11 of 90

Where I live and teach it works like this...


The amount of prep time per teacher is determined through contract negotiations between the employer and the union. Currently, a full-time teacher gets 100 minutes of prep time per week. These 100 minutes become "specials" for the kids. Not every school has the same specials because it is dependant on what the teacher hired to cover preps can teach. Some schools may have library and music preps, others may have P.E., or drama, or art, or computers, etc. If a certain subject area isn't covered by preps, then the classroom teacher is responsible for it his/herself. A typical elementary school classroom might have the following (in 1 week):


Music: 40 minute prep

Library: 40 minute prep

Music: 20 minute prep

P.E.: 30 minutes with the classroom teacher

P.E.: 30 minutes with the classroom teacher

Computers: 40 minutes with the classroom teacher

Art: totally up to the classroom teacher to do as much as she wants to cover the curriculum




post #12 of 90

Mine are in elementary school and all their specials are 40 minutes. Music, Art, Library and Computer Lab are once a week while PE is three times a week.


Interesting conversation on the librarian issue - I'm a volunteer librarian at the school. Shelve and organize books, help kids find what they are looking for, evaluate books for reading levels. Nothing major and no library background or education.

post #13 of 90

But this is almost all about the administration of the collection, not the teaching of the students during "specials," which was what I was asking about. We have a small school (90 students) so obviously we don't have the numbers of a full-time librarian. We do have people doing the tasks on that list: a dedicated group of volunteers, a regional literacy co-ordinator, a teacher's aid who oversees acquisitions, scheduling and catalog entry, staff meetings where larger decisions are made collaboratively and so on. But when it comes to teaching the children, we have a bunch of regular classroom teachers who bring their students to the library often and assist them with learning to use the library effectively. 



post #14 of 90

I don't actually know how long the classes are or how often the kids go to computers, but I guess it's once a week and it's about 30 minutes or maybe a little longer.  I volunteer in the library, and the classes don't seem to be there longer than half an hour.  This year the teachers can send the kids to library without having to accompany them, so the librarian would have to be there.  Parent volunteers can't be alone with the kids, but we do have volunteers who help in the library, and very often the parents lead the art class without help from the teachers.  


The art program is pretty advanced and they usually have art at least once a week, but it really depends on the parent volunteers as to whether or not it's planned by the parent or the teacher.  My daughter's teacher was an Art History major, so wants to do all her own art projects and parents can help.  But in some classes, the parent volunteers are professional artists and completely teach the class while the teacher works on lesson planning.  We actually have an art coordinator now, and she holds monthly workshops for the parents to learn various things like print making and pottery and the like.  The art program is pretty well funded, but all by fundraising.


PE also has parent volunteers, but not as many as the art program.  So what ends up happening with that is that the kids run laps twice a week, usually a mile but more if they can do it.  Sometimes they get to do more fun things.  We used some of the money we raised last year to hire a part time PE coordinator that would come in and get each class once a week for about half an hour, but she ended up quitting soon after.  So now we are going to hire another person, but it's going to be a process.  The kids do have recess 3 times a day and access to play equipment and balls and such, but coordinated stuff isn't as frequent.


Music is once a week, probably for about 45 minutes or so.  They don't have parent volunteers, but I've been trying to volunteer for that for two years, and the new teacher took me up on my offer this year, so next week I get to go in and talk about string instruments.  I've been thinking I want to get my substitute teachers license so that I could do something like library or music if the teacher or librarian is out sick.  I've also considered getting a job as a library aide.  I feel like they are trying to pare down and phase out the library, but I don't see how parents can completely run it.  I mean even if you have enough skills for holding a library time for the kids, there is so much work to be done with ordering, processing and cataloguing the books.  The librarian barely has time to process the new stuff with all the other duties (and the librarian has to do playground duty also), and I honestly feel like if I spend anymore time working at the library, I should just try and get a real job.

post #15 of 90
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Viola View Post

), and I honestly feel like if I spend anymore time working at the library, I should just try and get a real job.

I've actually looked into getting my Masters in Library Science with Elementary Ed certification for this very reason!  I love volunteering in the library and it would be awesome to actually get paid for the hours I put in there.  But, schools seem to be cutting librarians more than hiring them, so I don't know if the expense associated with the degree would be worth it.  My children's school has over 700 students and a lot of things that "should" be done by the librarian are just not on the volunteers' radars.  We have a regional library coordinator for the district (6 elementary schools and 2 junior high schools) and she has an assistant.  They do no instruction at all, just database management and acquisitions.


Art by the parents would be okay if it was something more than glorified coloring eyesroll.gif.  Our PE instructor is great, I just wish the kids got more than 25 minutes a week.  They do get recess daily though, which is good.


Thanks for all the input on this.  I guess I may be comparing their experience with my own in the 70s, and school funding has changed a lot since then (certainly not for the best, IMO).  And I am grateful that my kids don't have to endure the awful PE teacher I had through my elementary grades (dodgeball, swat, kickball, picking teams ~ I'm eternally scarred!!!)


post #16 of 90

At our school, K through 3rd grade has gym twice a week, art twice, music once, library once. Older kids have gym once a week, art twice, music twice, library once.  Classes are 40 minutes.

And no parent volunteers - real teachers.

post #17 of 90

My daughter attends a Charter school, and they have "specials" every day. She currently has Chinese and yoga on Tuesday and Thursday, PE and art Monday, Wednesday and Friday. After Christmas, she will switch from art to music, though both are incorporated into her daily routine regardless of whether she actually goes to a class. Part of the reason why my daughter is in a Charter school is because of the specials; she has a DAILY 30 minutes of physical activity in addition to a DAILY 30 minutes of recess, whereas most of the public schools only have PE once or twice a week and more and more, it seems to be the teachers' choice as to whether they go to recess or stay in and have extra academic time. And I am not trying to slam teachers; they have to cram so much teaching into so little time, it's no wonder they feel like they need every available second they can get for academics. And while there are plenty of parents that are okay with their kids spending all day, every day, stuck in the classroom, there are plenty more of us who know that kids who get ample time to run around and stretch their legs and burn off excess energy learn better and behave better when they go back to class. 

post #18 of 90

dd goes to a top of the line public school.


PE/library/computer - all 3 once a week 45 mins long - i think the library was a paid position till this year. however i am not sure if they were trained librarians but just parents they hired. i think now its run by teachers and volunteers. 


art i think once or twice a month - 1 1/2 hours long paid by PTA. its a serious art program with excellent classes. its not go paint what you want but actually do some work. this last class they did perspectives.


45 mins of garden every two weeks. 


no music (that i know of) there was from 1 to 3 which was teacher turning on a cd and children singing along with it. 


once a month field trip about average. however dd has already been for 4 fieldtrips (3 we had to contribute - one completely free) and they are not having a field trip this month. they have way too many activities. 


mind you - this whole thing makes me feel very very fortunate. esp. in CA. things are pretty bad here and i feel lucky dd has these opportunities. i volunteer  with field trips for a museum and if i school requests i go to them too. i see 'rich' schools come in all the time - never the low income schools and i go volunteer at low income schools. in every. low. income. middle. school i have gone to - "I" was their first "field trip". there are days when i am down and i open my folder of gratitude cards and posters and letters kids have written me - and i feel sooo fortunate. 


PE didnt even start in K. it started in grade 1. for K the coach gave pointers to the teachers and the teachers followed them.

post #19 of 90

Phys Ed/Gym - twice a week

Story time

Music class

Art class



DS is in kindergarten.  These occur once per day and are on a rotating schedule.  I think each is 45 minutes.  They are also allowed to visit the library alone during indoor recesses and when they  finish their regular classroom assignments early.  The computers are in the classroom.

post #20 of 90


Originally Posted by Caneel View Post

Phys Ed/Gym - twice a week

Story time

Music class

Art class



DS is in kindergarten.  These occur once per day and are on a rotating schedule.  I think each is 45 minutes.  They are also allowed to visit the library alone during indoor recesses and when they  finish their regular classroom assignments early.  The computers are in the classroom.

caneel - is your son in full day or half day K. our half day K didnt have time to fit in music, art, story time during a half day K everyday, but they always got choice time every single day and 2 recesses.


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