Today I thought I would write about a little change that made a big difference in my teaching: visual schedules. When I was in school for my ESL endorsement, I heard over and over again how important visuals are for ELL students. But some of our readings also mentioned the benefits of using visuals to show the students their schedule. I had seen previously how helpful a visual schedule can be for students on the autism spectrum, and now I was reading that it was helpful for my ELL students. Okay. I can take a hint. I should try this.
CREATING THE SCHEDULE CARDS
So I came up with cards for all of the possible activities we do in my classroom, printed them on cardstock, laminated them, and put magnet strips on the back. I bought a basket from the Dollar Tree, put the cards in it, and placed it on my piano. Since my whiteboard is magnetic, I was able to put these agenda cards on the whiteboard, near our objectives. This worked out perfectly for me, because I’m required to present and display the objectives at the beginning of class. Now I can present the objectives, and show how our agenda for the day will help us reach these goals.
OTHER IDEAS FOR SCHEDULE CARDS
- If you have an interactive whiteboard, you could project a visual schedule using SMART Notebook or ActivInspire software.
- You can print small versions of your agenda cards, put velcro on a laminated piece of cardstock, and move agenda cards around on the velcro for individual students. This is an especially helpful accommodation for students on the autism spectrum, who benefit from schedules and routines.
- Instead of magnets, hole punch the four corners of your cards, and use binder rings to attach them.
Now, aside from looking pretty and making my administrators happy, posting a visual schedule has helped my students. Not only do my ELL and special needs students have an idea of what will happen next, but also I’ve basically eliminated the question, “Are we playing a game today?” in my classroom. Every student should know what we are and aren’t doing. If they ask, I gesture to the schedule that we already discussed at the beginning of class. This has cut down on confusion and interruptions during lessons, and I love it! I’ve made duplicates of some frequently used cards, so that I can display the same activity twice in a lesson (i.e. two “Board Work” cards for two separate times at the board). I’ve been using the cards for over three years now, and they’ve held up very nicely. Every now and then, I wipe them down to get any stray dry erase marker off of them, but they’re still in great shape. I’m still amazed that one small change has had such an effect on my classroom! If you’d like, you can find the Visual Music Schedule Cards I use here.