Does the thought of using visual schedules with your students make you cringe? It’s not that we don’t know that visual schedules help and it’s not that we don’t want to use them, it’s just that visual schedules have so many pieces and can be so unwieldy to manage.
But what if it didn’t have to be? What is managing and using visual schedules could be easy for you and effective for your students? Check out the 10 tips below to make visual schedules your new favorite thing!
Visual Schedules: Tips and Tricks
Tip 1: Start Small
The tendency to dive right into complicated and all-inclusive schedules is real. Instead of overwhelming yourself and your students, start small. Create a visual schedule that shows a broad overview of the day and then dial it down into specific increments of time if needed. Help your students get used to simple before introducing complicated!
Tip 2: Go Digital
If tactile visual schedules are not practical for you or your students (perhaps you move around from classroom to classroom during the day), consider going digital. Using a digital visual schedule is a great way to free up your space while having the schedule handy wherever you are.
Tip 3: Laminate All the Things
Break out the laminator because one of the easiest ways to manage and use visual schedules is to make sure that things are laminated. If you’re using a schedule with small parts, laminate both the base and the pieces to make sure that everything is durable.
Tip 4: Make the Schedule with Check-Off Boxes
Instead of creating a visual schedule with moveable pieces, create a schedule that has the time and activity along the lefthand side and a blank box on the right. As the student moves through her day, she can check off the activity that she has completed. Be sure to laminate the schedule so that it can be used over and over again throughout the school year.
Tip 5: Model, Model, and Model Some More
Just like any routine, visual schedules require a lot of modeling and practice. You have to teach students how to use them properly (that means what to do with the pieces too!) before they can become experts at it. Start early and model often so that students will quickly learn how to use and manage their visual schedules!
Tip 6: Color Coding
Use different color blocks or images to navigate through the day. If it’s center time, make sure all of the center time pieces are on the same color paper. For example, if you have a reading center, a listening center, and a partner work center for language arts, make sure that all of your language arts center schedule pieces are on yellow paper or cardstock. This way, your students will quickly learn to associate the different colors with the different subjects and activities.
Tip 7: Organize Small Pieces in a Tackle Box
Organizing the small pieces needed for hands-on visual centers can be difficult! Label and store the pieces in a tackle box organizer that has plenty of small compartments that are perfect for holding visual schedule pieces. An alternative to the tackle box is in a hanging jewelry pocket organizer!
Tip 8: Use a Magnetic Tray
Print out the visual schedule and have a separate blank box on either the right or left side depending on what works best for your students. Place the schedule on a magnetic tray and have them use a magnet to track where they are throughout the day. Caution: Always use discretion when using magnets with students. If they tend to put things in their mouths, magnets are not a good option!
Tip 9: Move From Side to Side
With the help of your favorite hook and loop fasteners, create a visual schedule with pieces that students can move from one side of a page to the other. The fasteners help the pieces stay in place and make the schedule more durable. Don’t forget to laminate before adhering the fasteners though!
Tip 10: Use the Board
Your magnetic whiteboard is a place of wonder and can be used for your visual schedule. Print out and laminate the schedule subjects. Then place magnets on the back of each. Hang a clock on the board and under the clock, place the schedule pieces for that day below it. Write the times along the lefthand side. By not combining the picture with the time on the card, you can adjust the times as needed when you write them on the board. This works especially well for shortened school days!
BONUS Tip 11: Use a Flip Schedule
One of my favorite ways to create a visual schedule for students is with the flip schedule model! You can download a FREE copy of the Flip Schedule base (along with directions for how to use it) from the Resource Library. Grab your copy here!
No matter how you feel about visual schedules, remember that they are a real benefit for some students. Give them another try! You may find yourself becoming a fan of visual schedules after using the tips above!