The Visual Schedule

Sometime around the beginning of October I begin to get a little worn out with the questions, “When is it recess?” “Do we have art or gym today?” “Is it choice time yet?” etc….  Just when I want to groan with the next question, I know it is time to pull out the visual schedule.

I know that using visual schedules is common practice for students with special needs.  It helps them to plan their day, anticipate transitions, and feel comforted that they know what is to come. Well, it does the same thing for every child in the class.

I like to use a schedule that pairs images and words – it works in kindergarten.  One side of my schedule is for what happens before lunch, and the other for after lunch.  I don’t include everything – that would be overwhelming.  But I do include the major chunks of the day.

Now, I delightedly watch as my students read the schedule and anticipate for themselves what will come next!

A few other bonuses have come from the visual schedule.  This helps my students understand the structure of reading and writing workshops.  Because it is defined in the schedule (shared reading, independent reading, partner reading, share time) they begin to internalize the structure.

The schedule has also helped me to make changes.  For example, we just started getting our writing tools ready before coming to the carpet for minilesson.  I was worried my kids would struggle to remember this, so we added a card to the schedule as a visual reminder, and it has worked like a charm!

You may wonder why I don’t start with the schedule right away.  Well, the beginning of the year is unpredictable.  I don’t know my students yet, so it is tough to predict what we will accomplish in a day.  I tend to overplan just in case, but I am often left with things unfinished.  I don’t want to overwhelm my students with a jammed schedule.  It also takes us a while to get into our routines properly.  By October, things are ticking along at a nice pace.  Many kids have internalized the schedule anyway, and the rest just need a little visual prompt.  So the timing is perfect!

Do you use a whole class visual schedule in your classroom!  Please share any tips or frustrations you may have!

2 Responses to The Visual Schedule

  1. Venus Brown October 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    We used a visual schedule when I worked in an autism class. We had laminated cards with clip art and words for general parts of the schedule; arrival, unpack, breakfast, wash hands, brush teeth, morning calendar, work time, lunch, small groups, free choice, recess, PE, art, music, media, computer, pack up, stack chairs, car-loop, buses, and any other major activities. Each card had a magnet on it, in the evening one assistant would place the needed parts of the next day’s schedule in a row on the whiteboard from arrival to lunch time. During major events on the schedule one student would remove each item that was finished, one at a time, saying the name on the card, then placing the card in a basket on the whiteboard and moving all remaining cards over. After lunch time the teacher would go over each part of the rest of the day, adding new cards for the afternoon. It was a much bigger part of the day then in regular classes, but this class was for children with severe autism. The predictable schedule and routine, visual ques, physical movement and touch, along with reciting parts of the schedule was very important to them.

    • Teaching Ace October 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      Thanks for the comment – I agree, the predictably is so important! I find in gen ed that I struggle to put everything on, (each time we would line up, wash hands, etc), but with special needs students we sometimes had small binders of individual schedules, such as you mentioned. They would have everything that was on my main schedule, PLUS the more detailed things. Kids, and everyone, just love to know what to expect, right?