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Why Visual Timetables Are So Important In Early Childhood Education

By Guest Author On March 5, 2011 Under Personal Development

When you are responsible for educating young children, you will most likely be faced with a considerable spread of capabilities and varying degrees of understanding among the various children. If you are faced with any of a variety of specific learning difficulties then you will be faced with an even greater range of issues in your attempts to ensure that the children are all up to speed with the schedule for the school week. If your class should be taken on any give day by a supply teacher then they will need to rapidly understand your plans for the working week so that the class can continue on theme and and on topic for the time period involved. To help children and staff alike understand what they are meant to 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 busy environment.

Visual timetables help pupils to understand what they are doing and when over a period such as the scholastic day. They give structure to the day and often help to reduce anxiety. Symbols or graphics are used to represent the tasks, activities or lessons and the significancy of their graphical representations are explained to the pupil. The visual timetable is then displayed to give a visible reference for what is happening throughout the period of time in question .

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 just for morning or afternoon activities. For an older pupil it could be a graphical schedule for the week. Visual timetables are changed and used according to the particular requirements of the children in question .

A visual timetable is straightforward to make using symbols or photos and is a convenient tool in the school room, helping to give pupils structure to their day. There are plenty of benefits to using visual timetables as an aid to classroom management. They recommend independence, reduce agitation, increase confidence and build on a pupil’s strength as a visible learner. They also build on a pupil’s need for routine, predictability and organisation. It will also help to instil a feeling of permanency.

Many children on the autistic spectrum can struggle with the complexities of the school day. They often like to have fixed routines as the world can appear quite unpredictable to them. It is tough for them to take change in their stride so it is best to give an advanced warning to stop agitation or a feeling of loss of control. Visual timetables can often be used to break an activity down into steps giving children a feeling 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’ll need to get their work done and what the social organisation of the class will be. This can reduce tension with the final result that children often exhibit less anti-social, unattractive behavior.

Visual timetables may be employed for the whole class or reserved for individual children. If they are going to be used for the entire class they have to be displayed in a place where they can be seen clearly by everybody. If a visual timetable is employed for an individual child then a smaller version can be created. The teacher and any classroom aides will have to refer to it during the school day until the children are completely 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 specific symbols or representations to be used. The child will take greater ownership of the timetable and it will mean more to them as an organisational tool. Some children may need individualised visual timetables because they could be partaking in different activities to the remainder of the class. A personal timetable specific to particular children may include individual speech therapy, physiotherapy or medical needs that may not be important for the remainder of the class.

Visual timetables can be useful to help moderate behaviour patterns. The timetable will indicate when a break happens so this is going to be helpful for a child on a behavior intervention plan. He or she will know when a break is due and how much longer they have to be moderating their behavior before a reward or break will be permitted.

Visual timetables can be a very useful classroom management and organisational tool for the teacher in that if a supply or stand in teacher has to take over the class, they can right away see the composition of the school day. Teachers employing a visual timetable will find that their children become less dependent on teaching staff and verbal instructions and the class will generally benefit from a reduction in difficult behaviour and repetitive questions. A visual timetable can consequently be of great benefit for any classroom.

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