Visual timetables

Within many classrooms nowadays you will see, usually down the side of the interactive whiteboard, a visual timetable which shows the children what will be happening throughout the day. These can be very reassuring for the children but there are ways of setting these up so that everyone can benefit from them

There are many visual timetables available to download and print out. These can be very professional and are often in WORD, so that you can add your own images and/or text. However, one of the best ways to produce the visual timetable is to allow the children to create one themselves. This is a very good activity to complete within the first week of working with your new class.

  • Fit for purpose
    I’m a strong believer that everything needs to have a purpose. Before you start this activity with the children it is important to present them with the question or purpose of the task. This could be as simple as – “Can we create a class visual timetable” or more complicated such as “Can we create a visual timetable where the images show reflective symmetry”. Think carefully about this starting point – you need to ensure that the children are engaged with the activity and know when they have finished. You might even want to link this to an ICT session, so that an electronic version is creates as well as the original paper copy. This could be made available on the school’s VLE so that the children could have their own timetable at home.
  • Brain storm for ideas
    Initially, working as a class, they can decide which activities they want to have on their class timetable. This list will, of course, have to be added to by the teacher, although the creation of this list can proceed a lesson on what the children would like to learn at school or activities that would happen in their ‘perfect’ class. This can be a very interesting piece of creative writing. Recording the list on the IWB will allow the children to copy the spelling of the words correctly when they create the timetable, as well as being a list that the children can either sign up for the ones they would like to do, or as a list that you, as the class teacher, can assign children to.
  • What is the learning?
    Using this list as a basis, the activities can be delegated or chosen randomly by small groups or partners. The main teaching point here is to ensure that the children understand that the writing has to be clear and defined (no yellow felt tips being used here please!). In a similar way, the image has to be representative of the activity. For example – Games/Sports need to represent a range of sports that the school covers within the activity rather than just two children playing football. This will require the children to design the image before reproducing it onto the final piece of paper. Providing them with a piece of paper folded into quarters can allow them to experiment and produce four different designs and to start to comment on which they prefer and why. This could at this point be linked to mathematics, with the children voting on the different images and the data being collected and the final images being identified by the whole class.
  • Creation of the cards After all the decisions have be finalised the children can get going with the creation of the actual cards. Make sure that you discuss the problems that could occur here and identify, with the children, the strategies they could use to support the process. An example of this would be – use a pencil to plan out the image, so that it fills the whole square. Remember you want the children to be involved at this point, so avoid just standing at the front giving them a list of what they should or should not do. If they come up with their own solutions, they will remember these and be more engaged with the whole process. Using a template the children can draw and colour their own representation of the activity. You can even print the words out for them before the start of the activity, or they can write these on themselves, even using different styles of writing.
  • Using the cardsTo start of with, it will probably be the class teacher or the teaching assistant that places the cards in the correct order at the start of the day. When I was still teaching in the classroom, I actually use to do this the night before, so when I arrived in the morning, it was a visual reminder for myself. As the weeks go by, start to encourage the children to set out the timetable themselves. I don’t mean let them decide what is happening, but get them to ask an adult so that the children can practise their sequencing and memory, listening to the order of the activities in groups of three and then putting the cards in the correct order.
  • Other possibilities I have already mentioned about creating an electronic version of the timetable however there other other possibilities. Think about the children who may require a smaller, individual timetable on their desks – these can easily be created from the originals and, if a child goes out for intervention, the adult support worker can create a card for this activity in their first session with the child. How can you keep the parents informed of the timetable of events throughout the day? Consider placing a timetable on the door or window facing outwards, so that the parents can see what the children have been doing throughout the day – or have a special card entitled – “Remember for tomorrow”. This can be placed in the same place so that when parents come to collect their child/ren they see the reminder.
  • Once the children have started to take the responsibility for the putting the timetable up every day, the onus on you as the class teacher is removed. If you start with your timetable at the beginning of the year, it is important to continue with this throughout the year. I do remember one time that I forgot to change the timetable and the children got all the wrong books out for the day and I had a few children worried that they didn’t have their P.E. kit!

    Hopefully this has given you some ideas for creating and using your visual timetable – if you have any further ideas then add them to the comments below. Have fun!