Amanda Quesenberry, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at Illinois State University in the School of Teaching and Learning. Her research interests include young children’s social and emotional development, educators’ professional development, and early childhood policy.
Lately, while traveling around to visit teacher candidates placed in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms, I have noticed that very few classrooms have posted schedules. At first I thought I must be looking in the wrong place or that they were posted on every child’s desk. However, after speaking with the teacher candidates and some of the cooperating teachers, I made a shocking discovery. Many teachers are choosing not to post schedules in their early childhood classrooms. I was even more dismayed when I asked students to comment on the schedules and routines they see when they are in their clinical classrooms via an online discussion board. A few spoke of consistent routines and posted schedules, but the vast majority said that there were no consistent routines and that there was no posted schedule in the classroom.
Believe me, I know that there are many demands placed on teachers, however, I also understand the critical role that schedules and routines play in early childhood settings. Every good early childhood teacher is thoughtful about the schedule that is planned within his or her classroom. The schedule should include a balance of teacher and child-directed activities; active and quiet activities; large and small group and independent activities. The schedule should be arranged by sequence and may include the times for each activity. In preschool and kindergarten classrooms the schedule should be posted and include pictures for children who cannot yet read. In primary grades the schedule may include the times and sequence of events and also should be posted in a prominent place that is easily visible to everyone in the classroom. Having such a schedule helps children and families know what is coming next and creates a sense of security and comfort for children, especially those who struggle with transitions between activities. Routines are activities that happen regularly and that involve a steps or responses. Sample routines would be going to the bathroom (e.g., line up, walk down hall, wait, go to the bathroom, flush toilet, wash hands with soap, dry hands, etc.) or getting ready to go home (e.g., put folders in book bag, put on jacket, line up, walk to bus, etc.).
Although schedules and routines should be consistent to promote independence and security, the daily schedule should also allow for flexibility. A good early childhood teacher understands how to read his or her students’ cues and adjust accordingly. For example, if a teacher is conducting a morning meeting and after about 5 or 10 minutes the children begin to get restless, she may decide to do a movement activity to help children get some energy out so that they are then able to refocus and continue learning.
At times there are some changes to the schedule that are out of the teacher’s control. For example, there may be a school assembly scheduled during math time. When changes are necessary, it is important for teachers to prepare the children ahead of time. So, if a teacher knows that there will be a school assembly during math, the teacher should discuss this with her students, preparing them for this change and discussing expectations during school assemblies. This will prevent challenging behavior that may occur when children do not understand why the schedule has changed.
As noted, there are numerous benefits to providing clear and consistent schedules and routines in early childhood classroom. Some of these benefits to children, families, and teachers are listed below:
- Builds trust among adults and children
- Increases feelings of security
- Helps children feel in control
- Helps children self-regulate
- Helps children cope in unfamiliar situations
- Builds relationships between teachers and family members
- Helps family members know what is happening at school
- Helps family members communicate with their children about their day
- Helps in coordination with home schedules