Schedules are an important way of life. They keep us in our daily routines and get us to the places we need to be. In a preschool classroom, a daily schedule is the backbone to our day. At the beginning of the school year, I create our classroom schedule (using the 5 step method) and have it hanging up in the room. But, of course the young children in our classroom can’t read it! I found that many of my students were asking ‘what do we do next?’, ‘when can we go outside?’ and ‘when is my mom coming?’. So, I knew it was time to create some visual supports for my little non-readers!
Creating a Picture Schedule for Little Learners
Visual schedules are a powerful tool for our classrooms and they also quite easy to put together. All you need is a long, skinny pocket chart and picture cards depicting what the daily activities are on your own schedule. I like to use individual picture cards so that I (or a students) can turn them around backwards once the activity is done. This makes it super easy for students to see which is the next activity in our school day.
The Benefits of Displaying Visual Schedule Cards
I’ve found that many teachers don’t take the time to create visual schedules for their preschoolers. But, I truly believe that using picture schedules is one super powerful tool that belongs in your classroom management tool box. The benefits out-weigh the small amount of time it takes to put the visual schedule together!
1. Students that have a hard time being away from home can take comfort knowing what comes next. We take a card out after finishing each event. Sometimes I will have my students that struggle with separation to help me with this. You would be very surprised how comforting it is for a nervous student to have the knowledge of the events of the day.
2. Helps children who do not like transitioning. I give a warning for when center time is ending. Letting students know that the bell is going to be ringing and we will be cleaning up to have circle time. The next activity is on the visual schedule. I can point to the schedule to explain why we are moving on to another activity. It gives them clear expectations of how the day will run.
3. Children learn the class routine more quickly when displayed in a way that they can understand it (with pictures) – which is best for many of our visual learners!
4. When the regular routine changes, a visual schedule is great to reference. As children might feel out of sync when the routine is different, a visual schedule helps them know what is next.
5. Visual Schedules are a great way to help children learn the sequence of events in the classroom, especially when using the words ‘first’, ‘next’ and ‘last’.
6. Predictability helps children feel safe. We all like to know what the plan is throughout the day and children are no different! Visual schedules can help you prevent negative behavior due to feeling out of control.
7. Save yourself from repeating verbal instructions and answers over and over again. The faster your class learns the schedule, the less you will have to prompt them to the next activity. Plus, you’ll save your voice and sanity by not having to answer the ‘what do we do next?’ question over and over!
Using Visual Classroom Schedules
It is important to keep in mind that with all the benefits of visual schedules being great – you must use it! If you create a visual schedule for your preschoolers, but don’t teach them how to use it – that schedule will just become noise on the wall.
Make going over the schedule part of your morning routine. This might be done at circle time or morning meeting. But, just quickly run through the schedule so children can start to associate the picture with an event. Also, take some tiny amounts of time to announce aloud the activities that have been done and flip the cards over, if you haven’t already. For example, while my children are eating snack, I will say aloud – “Let’s check the schedule”. Then, I go over to the pocket chart and flip over any activities that we have already done. I talk aloud as I do this – giving the children a clear picture of how to use the schedule.
One idea might be to have a classroom job or helper that is in charge of flipping the cards on the schedule. This makes flipping the schedule a job that is sure to be done – because children don’t let you forget to let them do their job!
The last idea for using a visual schedule comes for those that might have more individual needs. If you are finding that a student is struggling with transitions an individual schedule might be just the ticket. Print visual schedule cards at 25% and create a small board for that child. This works great for children with special needs or who may need to have the schedule flipping job everyday.
Free Printable Visual Schedules Cards
To make implementing visual schedules into your classroom even easier I am sharing with you my visual schedule cards! With 21 different free visual schedule cards – you’ll be able to easily create your own.
Along with these visual schedule cards – a ‘Creating the Perfect Preschool Schedule’ workbook is included as well. This will help you be intentional when creating your classroom schedule!