Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Demystifying the Use of an Individual Schedule

When I first started teaching special education, individual schedules were a bit of a mystery to me.  I knew my students needed them but I couldn't wrap my head around how to use them in an individual way that was meaningful for each individual and not overwhelming to my staff!  Let's be honest my first year, everyone was on a wall schedule with a check schedule ticket system, including my student who was unable to walk! Looking back I realize how unproductive that was but at the time I didn't know a better way. 

Now I look at each individual student's needs and create a schedule that is meaningful to them.  For example, if I have a student who struggles with transitions, I don't create a wall schedule for them, because that automatically doubles the amount of transitions. Making them have to transition from one activity, to their wall schedule, to the next activity.  Instead I offer them a schedule that is more portable, something like a First-Then Clipboard Schedule, in which they transitions from one activity to the next, rather than going from one activity to their schedule, then to the next.

That being said, I would use a wall schedule for a student who needs opportunities for movement so that I am able to provide them opportunities to move in an organized fashion.  I would strategically place their wall schedule in a calm space in the classroom that they can call their own.  A place they can go to take a few deep breaths and re-group before join the next activity.  In turn staggering their transition just enough so that they misses the mass chaos of all the preschoolers in the room transitioning to their next activities. 

If this process is tricky for them at first, I could provide visuals on their check schedule tickets.  Depending on what makes the transition difficult for them, I might offer them a check schedule ticket that reminds them of the expectations when checking their schedule: QUIETLY WALK TO YOUR SCHEDULE or I might simply offer them a check schedule ticket that reminds them to take a deep breath. 

This is how it works. . .each time the student gets a check schedule ticket, they go to their wall schedule, put the ticket in the library pocket by the top of their schedule and take the next schedule icon off their schedule.  That icon is then matched up to a matching icon in the classroom of the space they have been asked to go to next. For example if the icon on their schedule was of social small group they would match it to the icon in social small group

This matching up technique is used whether a student is using a wall schedule or a clipboard schedule, it is truly the key to success.  By matching icon to icon, it is very clear what space we are asking the students to go to.  It takes the emotions out of it!  For example, I am no longer the 'bad guy' saying go to the art table, instead the schedule is telling the student to go to the art table. 

As you notice in the picture above there is a Velcro dot on top of the matching icon as well as the one on the backside.  This is so the match up spot can be used more than once.  I don't want the students to see a teacher take off the previous matched icon so they can match their icon because then the student starts to think, what is the point the teachers are just going to take my icons off.  It would be like your administrator deleting an entire IEP you had written before your very eyes... you would start to think what is the point!?!?  Matching up is hard work for kids and we really need to notice and celebrate their efforts, especially in the beginning when the system is new to them and transitioning is tough. 

Which is also why I usually choose to use a match to match Velcro system rather than a library pocket for my kiddos to put their icons in.  Putting an icon in a library pocket takes more hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, which are both skills we work on with our students but not skills I want them to get frustrated with when they are trying to match up and transition to the next activity.

It is all about thinking through the process.  One other tip I have found along the way, is the importance of being strategic about where we place the icon to be matched to.  For example if the dramatic play icon is on the outside of the dramatic play area, a student could potentially MATCH AND RUN!  If the icon to match to is in the back of the center, then the student has to actually walk into the center to match up, which will then help them see items in the center and more likely engage with the activities and peers in the space rather than matching and running!

It is all about asking ourselves what we want, take the art center for example, if I put the icon on the art shelf the students could potentially match to the art shelf and run off, if instead I put the icon to match to on the chair itself, I might have better results as that is what I want.  I want the student to match up and sit down to listen to the art lesson for the day.

Wow that was a lot and all I have time for today!  Like me on Facebook so you have access to my next post: 10 Tips for Teaching Students and Supporting Staff to Use Individual Schedules in a Meaningful Way!

See you soon, Lindy


  1. This is so so perfect! Thank you so much! As a first year teacher, I have been struggling with individual schedules, especially with those students who struggle with transitions. I feel like this article was written for me!

    1. So glad you found it helpful Kelly! Best wishes with the remainder of your first year😉

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  3. Its very informative and i am sure it will help many other people like the way it helps me. Thanks for the information.
    Alternative Education, Personalized Learning

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  6. I love the idea to put the icons in the back of the center- I hadn't thought of that! Thank you for this very important information! :)

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  9. The writer understand better the mind of people what they want to learn through their writing therefore this article is outstanding. Thanks!!!