I have worked inside many kindergarten and primary classrooms over the years. It was during my years as a special education teacher that I learned about visual schedules. Now that I am back in kindergarten, I truly experience the benefits of actively using a visual schedule every single day! Originally, only the teachers touched the schedule. I had it in a vertical pocket chart. Now it runs along the chalkboard on magnets, at eye level for most of my students. The entire class can easily see the cards and manipulate them.
The origin of visual schedules
In special education, we had been putting picture symbols in place for our students with autism for years, as they provide
- an overview of the student’s day, in parts or as a whole, so the student has an idea of what to expect (this helps prevent anxiety)
- a means of communication for students who struggle with oral language and / or auditory processing (they can point at the pictures to help get their message across, follow the pictures to understand what they might have missed verbally)
- structure and increased independence, allowing students to manage transitions with less support
- the flexibility of making changes to only the necessary parts of the schedule without having to change the entire day.
- a sense of understanding how their day works, and counts down as blocks of time wrap up, helps kids feel a sense of accomplishment, more safe and in control of their emotions
The shift to whole class schedules
Our consultants began recommending visual schedules for more groups of students as time went on – students struggling with anxiety, managing behavior, transitions. I began to notice that a few classroom teachers had just stop using the individual student schedules (too cumbersome with multiple students with schedules in the class) and gone to a classroom one instead – and the effect was amazing.
Students checked in on that schedule all day. As time passed, a card was moved or taken down. If plans changed, the teacher simply switched out the card, and the kids understood and accepted it. The morning schedule was discussed at the carpet in the morning, and the process repeated in the afternoon.
Why it’s becoming the new normal
How many times have you heard this lately?
Kindergarten is a social communication program.
Do you agree? My very first class was a kindergarten class, in 1996, and the catch phrase at that time was ‘We’re teaching them how to play the game of school’.
There are so many children in our classes now that struggle with social-communication, anxiety, self-regulation, learning disabilities, being in an overcrowded classroom, among other things. And teachers have more to manage than ever before.
- students regularly referring to the schedule throughout the day are prepared for transitions and managing themselves with greater independence
- the visual schedule takes on the role of a ‘first-then’ board, as students are able to see things they are looking forward to coming up (for example, homesick students can see blocks of time disappearing as it gets closer to home time; students who dislike pencil / paper tasks can look forward to recess etc.)
- students take pride in showing a visitor to the class that he or she can read, and knows what’s happening next
- it is easy for a substitute teacher to step in with an already established structure in place (and it can be left prepared for the next day without having to write an explanation!)
- With my Reading Recovery background, I can’t help but love the fact that this is just another way to drive home ‘reading the pictures’ for meaning first!
- it can be used as a tool for teaching ‘time’ (some teachers add clocks beside each item) and sequencing events in order
- if displayed horizontally, left to right sequencing is also reinforced
- The visual schedule makes a nice link to learning centres / centres and a word wall
Do you use a visual schedule in your classroom? How has it been going for you?
Best wishes with your littles,
If you are looking for a visual schedule and center / centre cards set, please check out mine below. I’ve included months, days and Troll-themed editable name cards as well. Click the image to take you to my store to see the preview!
Are there cards you would like to see added to the schedule? If so, please leave a comment here, click the ‘ask a question’ tab in my TpT store, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest it for an update!