With the start of every school year, and returning after break, and basically every Monday, I look at my classroom and see what might need to change and what is working! Classroom and individual schedules are one of the main items on my running to do list to re-evaluate. Every student in my classroom is on an individual schedule (6 in the AM and 6 in the PM). They are all tailored to their needs and abilities as independent learners. I want them to be successful and independent when transitioning throughout the classroom and the school building using their own schedule. I also have a classroom schedule at the front of the room for everyone to see. So how do we know what type of schedule a student needs? Why can’t every child have the same schedule? Every child is different! They need their own schedule at their level in order for the adults to fade prompts and increase independence. This post will outline the types of schedules my students move through.
There are three different object schedules that we use.
- Object: When a student is starting with an object schedule, we start with presenting just the object to help teach the child to “take it”. These objects are kept in a clear bin that the adults carry around the classroom. When it is time to transition, an adult will give the child their next object and say the current activity is all done. For example, if circle time is all done, the adult will hand the child the playground object and say “circle is all done.” This will help teach the child to transition following natural endings within the environment.
- An object on a laminated card: When the object piece is taped to a laminated card, this helps teach the child to grab a laminated card, which is what we want when teaching them how to use a picture schedule. We label what area of the room each object corresponds with on the back of the card. When it is time to transition, an adult will present the lid of the bin which has a strip of Velcro holding the object and say “_____ is all done.” The child will reach for, grab, and take their schedule piece and start transitioning.
- An object with the corresponding picture on a laminated card: This type of schedule is great to use for the student who’s next schedule will be a picture schedule. Using the object and picture together will help teach the child what the next group of icons that correspond to the areas of the classroom. Just like the object schedule in #2, when it is time to transition, an adult will present the lid of the bin which has a strip of Velcro holding the object/picture card and say “_____ is all done.” The child will reach for, grab, and take their schedule piece and start transitioning.
The objects and object/picture cards are stored in a clear 6 quart bin. Each day, my paraprofessionals put a post it on the back of the lid with the child’s rotation schedule so each adult in the room knows where the child is going. Just like any other schedule, the object schedules require a place to match. I use small Tupperware or clear bins for the student to put their schedule pieces in. I have found that putting an object schedule piece in the container will help success of independence.
There are two main picture schedules that we use in my classroom. Each child is very different so after observing and taking some baseline data, my team and I decide whether the student will be successful with line drawing pictures such as Boardmaker, or real images taken from around the classroom.
- Clipboard picture schedule: When I start with a clipboard schedule, the beginning stage is presenting one icon at a time. When the child is ready, we then move to two pictures (in order), and then 3 pictures (in order). The icons are stored on the back of the clipboard with Velcro and are in order of the child’s schedule. Putting all of the icons in order helps all adults know what icon needs to presented at each transition. Taking data on the independence and accuracy of the child taking the correct icon lets us know when they are ready for a stationary schedule.
- Stationary picture schedule: The students transition to their stationary schedule when given their name-tag. The name-tag matches to their name at the top of the schedule and they take the next icon. The “all done” bin by their schedule is for storage of the icons as we clean up and put them away throughout the day.
All of my picture schedules have the written word along with them. This will help students learn to identify the written words for each area around the classroom. There are two written word schedules that we use.
- Stationary written word schedule: This schedule is just like the picture schedule, except it is just the word. The students using this schedule also transition using their name-tag. Occasionally they will check their schedule following the natural endings to the activities (when an adult says “___ is all done.”)
- Written traveling schedule: All of my students have PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) books or binders with their CVES (Core Vocabulary Exchange System) and core boards in them. This lends itself to the perfect place for a travel schedule! I like to clip lined notebook paper to the back of their book. Each day before school starts, my paraprofessionals write out the child’s schedule on the paper. Throughout the day, when the activity is done the student will cross out where they are and see where they need to go next.
There are a lot of digital schedules available in the app store or online! These may be extra beneficial if we need to go back to remote learning. The apps that I have found that are easiest to use for my students who may need an object or picture schedule are Visual Schedule- PCM, Kids ToDo List, and Choiceworks. These apps are easy to use and are very similar format as the picture schedules I use in the classroom. They are also super affordable. I also like to use the alarm clock app that is already downloaded on my iPhone and most iPads! I can create an alarm and edit the name to correspond with the parts of the day we need to transition to.
How do I know what schedule a student needs?
DATA! I use data to track the level of independence when moving throughout the different types of schedules. I also go in order to maximize the rate of success and probability of independence. No matter which schedule a student is using, we track independence in taking the object or icon, holding the object or icon, moving to the corresponding area of the classroom or building, matching it to the area, and then entering the area. When the child is using a stationary schedule, I also track the independence in taking the name-tag and matching it to their schedule. Each schedule piece requires an EXACT match of their icon or object at each area of the classroom. All schedules and schedule pieces are also color coded according to the student’s assigned color. If they are red, then the background of their schedule is red and the background on the icons are red. The goal is independence when checking a schedule! We are always sure not to say “check your schedule” because that is a prompt that is difficult to fade. Instead, we transition all students in ways that are independent. This means we are handing them an object, presenting and object on the lid of a bin, presenting a clipboard schedule, or handing them their name-tag and saying “_____ is all done”. Schedule success!