Some of you may be back to school already and some may still be preparing! You might be wondering why I am talking about smooth transitions so much earlier in the prepping phase, but I have a reason! While you may not know your students yet, there are some definite best practices for ALL kiddos when thinking about the functionality of your classroom setup. It can be super easy to get caught up in the Pinterest phase when thinking about your room. I loved everything to be organized and coordinated in my room back in the day too, but I encourage you to make sure it’s functional first! The following pictures are from a colleague’s current classroom and some are from when I was in the classroom!
Anytime I start with a brand-new set up (or a reset) even without knowing my kids yet, I think about the basics and the flow. The basics are a great place to start, and the flow will help in the actual facilitation of transitioning smoothly throughout your classroom. My basics for functional visuals are an individual and group schedule, structured visuals within smaller areas for support (i.e.: maybe some play supports or mini curriculum schedules) and behavior visuals (i.e.: relays expectations to students). The flow is going to depend on the actual structure of your classroom. For example, when my students first walked into the classroom it made sense that their cubbies were right there to drop off belongings and then their schedules were next. Sometimes you cannot help where the actual walls and non-movable furniture is in your room so the flow may not always work out perfectly but that’s ok! I encourage you to start at the door of your room and walk in a student. What makes sense where? You wouldn’t want students (especially very young, new learners) to have to walk all the way across your room to find their first picture schedule card. Again, if that’s not something you can avoid that’s ok! You might just need to do some extra modeling!
Spoiler alert! Simply putting up schedules and visuals around your classroom does not automatically make students transition smoothly or know how to use them. I have heard a lot of comments over the years that make me cringe a bit because there are so many benefits to having visuals. Comments such as, “that’s a lot of extra work, I can just tell them where to go”, “they don’t need all of that”, “I have run a classroom without schedules and visuals before just fine” and the list goes on. I get it. We are all busy and overwhelmed. But remember, it’s not about YOU it is about what students need. We are using visuals to support language comprehension and promote independence just to name two. Start small with teaching the schedules in your room (which may look different for students) on the very first day. You may not get to every picture perfectly that day, but I encourage you to show kids what to do starting that day. Guide them towards the schedule wall, show them how to find their picture/name, label the picture you see, and how to take it off and find where it goes next. Think of these pictures as little transition tickets that get your kids to the correct destination. You will be shocked how quickly some kiddos pick up the routine and can then help others. Talk about building a classroom community!
I have seen so many different storage ideas for small schedule picture pieces from baseball card holder albums, to hanging jewelry holders to these neat storage boxes! In the storage boxes, this teacher put all the schedule cards in the left box side and all the work system and behavior visuals on the right! I used to have my students help collect the picture cards from around the room at the end of the day and they helped match them to the correct spots in my organizer! Bonus: they were working on matching skills by doing this! Whatever visuals you decide are important in your room, get the basics in first and add/take away ones as you get to know your students better. Happy visualizing!