Classroom routine and rhythm is key in keeping up a smooth day --- I think most teachers will agree with me on this one. Sticking with a solid, straightforward routine to the day can save you from chaotic transitions, many uncompleted tasks, and a sense of uncertainty from the students.
Along with this, there is a high significance in keeping a daily visual schedule well known to your students - whether you are teaching kindergarten or Grade 8. When teaching Grade 2, I chose to keep this schedule visual on the chalkboard at all times. I used printed and magnetized pictures to symbolize each subject. Once the students got to know the pictures, they knew what was next on the agenda. If there was a day where I changed up the schedule from according to what I had placed on the board, students knew and called me out on it. Keeping such a schedule was important to them, and when they walked into the classroom in the morning it was one of the first things they took a look at, so that they knew what to expect for the day.
Personally, I feel more accomplished when I have a list of 'to-do's' to complete and go through them in order. I love time block lists because it keeps me focused and on track with my goals and purpose for the day. Students in the classroom are not much different. It is important that they have a full knowledge of how much time they will have to complete a certain activity and what they will be focusing on next.
The following are reasons why I believe it is key to have an updated daily visual schedule in your classroom at all times:
1. Smooth Transitions. When students know what is going to be happening next, and for those old enough to tell the time of this next activity, they will be more likely to move on with minimal complaints or confusion. One of my biggest issues in my classroom was that students wanted to finish 'JUST one more' sentence, picture, etc. before we moved on. By indicating to them the time and the next activity through my visual schedule they had less reason to complain and more initiative to obey the first time.
2. Good Anticipation. Younger students and older students alike are constantly wondering what is next, wanting to know when there will be a subject they really enjoy or a break time. The difference between the younger and the older is that the younger students will constantly be asking you. This can make you go batty! :) While older students will pick up on a schedule much quicker, some may forget, may not know what is coming next, or the schedule might be different for that day. It is unfair to not prepare your students for the full day ahead of them. A visual representation of this that is evident all day long, will give them reminders of what they can look forward to, how far along in the day they have come, and what they have accomplished so far.
3. More Focus. Younger students especially become fixated on what is happening next instead of staying focused on the work in front of them. By giving a visual schedule they will be more satisfied to work on their activity, already knowing what will be coming next, simply by taking a quick glance at the schedule.
4. Prepped Mindset. By displaying a visual schedule you are prepping the minds of your students for the different activities later in the day. Perhaps a student loves art class and anticipates this all day long. By looking at the schedule the student can be prepared right from the start of the day whether or not there will be time for art class that day. Or maybe a student is anxious about math class and it consumes their mind with worry. Knowing exactly when math class will occur can help that student to prepare themselves for the timing.
The key to keeping a visual schedule is to be consistant. There were days when I would forget to update my visual schedule or when the schedule would change from what I was expecting. When this happened my students became confused and sometimes frustrated. The peace and smoothness I was trying to create with my visual schedule was then lost.
As teachers, we all know that many unpredictable things can occur throughout the day in the school. However, it is important that as soon as we are aware of these changes we make a point of updating the visual schedule and allowing the students to be prepared as well. I believe that in the classroom, a teacher and the students are working together to learn, grow, and expand their thinking. To work together, your students need to be kept aware of the plans that are being made, especially since the plans affect them so strongly.