When you are involved in the education of young children, you will in all likelihood encounter a considerable spread of capabilities and differing degrees of comprehension among the various children. If you are faced with any particular specific learning difficulties then you will be faced with an even greater selection of issues in your attempts to ensure that the children all understand the schedule for the school week. If your class should be taken on any give day by a stand-in teacher then they will need to rapidly understand your planned schedule so that the class can continue following the correct program of work for the amount of time involved. To help staff and children alike understand what they should be doing and at what time, the visual timetable is a valuable tool among early years resources in helping to bring order to an already hectic environment.
Visual timetables help pupils to appreciate precisely what it is that they are expected to be doing over a period of time such as the school day. They give structure to the day and regularly help in reducing stress. Symbols or photographs are used to represent the jobs, activities or lessons and the import of their graphical representations are explained to the pupil. The visual timetable is then displayed to give a visible reference for what is planned across the time period in question.
Very often a visual timetable will show the word of the activity alongside a pictorial illustration of the activity. For a younger child it may be used simply for afternoon or morning activities. For an older pupil it may be a graphical timetable for the week. Visual timetables are changed and used according to the particular needs of the children in question.
A visual timetable is simple to make using symbols or photos and is a convenient tool in the school room, helping to give pupils some structure to their day. There are many benefits to using visual timetables as an aid to classroom management. They promote independence, reduce agitation, increase confidence and build upon a pupil’s strength as a visual learner. They also build upon a pupil’s need for routine, predictability and organisation. It will also help to instil a feeling of permanency.
Quite a number of children regarded as being on the autistic spectrum can struggle with the complexities of the school day and their early years resources should be chosen accordingly. They often prefer to have fixed routines as the world can appear quite unpredictable to them. It is hard for them to take change in their stride so it is best to give them warning well in advance to avoid nervousness or a feeling of loss of control. Visual timetables may be used to break an activity down into steps giving children a sense of structure to their day and making them feel safe. Visual timetables provide prompts to help children know what area of the curriculum they will be studying, what they are going to need to get their work done and what the social organisation of the class will be. This will reduce tension with the final result that children sometimes exhibit less anti-social, unattractive behaviour.
Visual timetables can be employed for the whole class or reserved for individual children. If they are to be used for the whole class they have to be displayed in a spot where they can be seen easily by everybody. If a visual timetable is employed for an individual child then a smaller version can be created. The teacher and any school room assistants will have to make reference to it in the school day until the children are totally familiar with it. The timetable should be designed either from left to right or from top to bottom.
Some children will benefit by being consulted regarding the particular symbols or graphical representations to be used. The child will feel better disposed towards the timetable and it will mean more to them as an organisational tool. Some children may require individualised visual timetables because they may be taking part in different activities to the rest of the class. A private timetable specific to particular children may include individual speech therapy, physiotherapy or medical needs that may not be relevant for the majority of the class.
Visual timetables can be useful to help control conduct patterns. The timetable will indicate when a break occurs so this should be helpful for a child on a behaviour intervention plan. She or he will know when to expect a break and how much longer they need to be moderating their conduct before a reward or break will be allowed.
Visual timetables can be a very useful classroom management and organisational tool for the classteacher in that if a supply or stand in teacher has to take over the class, they can right away see the structure of the school day. Teachers employing a visual timetable will find that their children become less reliant on teaching staff and verbal instructions and the class will generally benefit from a decrease in troublesome conduct and repetitive questions. A visual timetable can consequently be of significant advantage for any class room.
It will by the very nature of the beast be a challenge to fit the teaching resources employed on a day-to-day basis with every child’s personal needs. This challenge is one that each and every teacher faces and will continue to face, year-on-year, as new children join the school to learn their early years skills. The enlightened teacher will have at their disposal a wide collection of primary teaching resources which will be chosen with the goal of fitting the requirements of the greatest selection of individual needs so that the young children of every year can go forward to the next stage of their education, enlightened and better capable to face the challenges ahead.