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    Objectives
    • Teach staff members the components of an effective schedule.
    • Model strategies for providing structured, yet flexible, schedules during interactions with adults.
    • Observe and provide feedback on schedules and routines.

    Learn

    Learn

    Teach

    Creating an effective schedule is like putting together a favorite recipe. There are certain ingredients, or elements, that go into an effective schedule. The order and style of those elements will be unique to each staff member. As with some recipes, there is room for flexibility. Ingredients can be changed or adapted based on individual needs. The key to an effective schedule is structure and flexibility (Chung, Gannett, La Perla, 2001).

    Across all age groups, a substantial portion of the programming day (i.e., at least one-third of the time the facility is open; Cryer, Harms, & Riley, 2003) should be dedicated to free-choice time. Especially in school-age programs, it is important to provide adequate time for children to engage in free-choice, unstructured activities. Most of their school day is highly structured, so this can be an important time to unwind and choose enjoyable activities on their own or with friends.

    In most programs, some form of adult-guided large-group time occurs. In child development programs, this can be a chance to read stories to the group, discuss the daily schedule, and build classroom community. Although important events can take place at large group, it should be kept short. Young children learn best if group times are 15 to 20 minutes or less (Hemmeter, Ostrosky, Artman, & Kinder, 2008). For infants and toddlers, mandatory adult-directed activities are not developmentally appropriate. However, staff members can still offer “a group time” as a way to strengthen their classroom community, asking the children to come together to share songs or ideas (e.g., copying the motions of infants and toddlers; Lang et al., 2010). Infants and toddlers should be able to be active participants during group time, which should be short, perhaps five to 10 minutes. It is appropriate to offer infants and toddlers the choice to engage in this time and to offer stories, songs, or group activities with an adult and small group of peers at different points throughout the day. In school-age programs, adult-directed activities may be optional and may take a variety of forms: an opportunity to learn how to build model airplanes, a science experiment, or a structured outing. School-age programs may also offer a variety of optional group activities, like acting out a play, doing community service work, or playing sports.

    Care-givers show the page of a book to children during story-time

    Model

    You are an instructional leader in your program, giving you the ability to model effective scheduling during staff meetings. Think about how staff meetings are organized and managed; you might work with your program’s manager to make sure staff meetings reflect your program’s commitment to structured, yet flexible, schedules. Make sure staff members receive an agenda before the meetings and that meetings always begin and end on time. Make sure mechanisms are in place for staff members to share their needs and opinions related to staff meetings (e.g., have staff members write ideas or questions on sticky notes to be read at the end of the meeting or use an anonymous feedback box). Use the concepts from this lesson when or if you provide group professional development events: Provide a mix of activities, let participants know what the schedule will be (and when restroom breaks and meals are), and be responsive to the feedback participants give you verbally and through body language. If adults look bored, it’s time to make a change.

    Provide new staff members with sample schedules they can use as models for creating their own learning experiences for children. Make arrangements for them to visit other classrooms or programs for ideas. Make sure staff members know that they need to communicate their schedules with children and with adults. That is, they will always need to create two schedules: a simple one appropriate for the children in their care and a more detailed schedule for other staff members or families.

    An example of a visual schedule

    Observe

    It is important to help staff members think about ways to use their time efficiently to maximize learning. Let’s watch a cooking activity with toddlers. How would you help the staff member brainstorm ways to refine this activity?

    Case Study: Schedules and Routines

    How would you support the staff member during this activity?

    Case Example Step 1: Make a Plan

    Upon reflection, the trainer or coach and teacher identified several changes that could make this learning experience more meaningful for the children. They developed a plan.

    Goal: To reduce wait time while children transition from one activity to another by providing engaging experiences during all transitions.

    Steps to reach the goal:

    1. Identify all the necessary transitions on our activity plans each day. Person responsible: Classroom lead and trainer or coach. Timeline: Planning time this week.
    2. Brainstorm a list of age-appropriate ways to engage children in the transitions (songs, dances, etc.). Person responsible: Classroom team and trainer or coach. Timeline: Planning time next week.
    3. Write all the materials necessary for each structured activity on the activity plan and make sure all materials are prepared before children arrive at the activity. Person responsible: staff member leading each activity. Timeline: During lesson planning weekly and immediately before each structured activity.

    Case Example Step 2: Provide Feedback

    The trainer or coach noticed several things during the observation. It’s important to notice and provide feedback on the teachers’ strengths. In this case:

    • The teacher provided a picture recipe so children could follow along. This promotes pre-literacy skills and helps children know what to expect.
    • The activity took place in small groups, so children could participate fully.

    The trainer or coach might also be prepared to ask the teachers several questions to help refine their practice. For example:

    • It seemed like the children waited a long time at the table this morning. How could we minimize wait time with future groups?
    • How could you use visuals to help the children know when it’s their turn at the table?
    • How could we use transitions as times to practice fun skills?
    • Are there any unnecessary transitions or times when children can transition in small groups? For example, was it necessary to have all of the children on the carpet before the activity today?

    Case Example Step 3: Provide Resources

    The trainer or coach might provide the classroom team with the materials identified in the action plan and feedback. For example, it could be helpful to create a visual that lets children know when it’s their turn at the table. The trainer or coach might also be available during planning time to provide curriculum resources and support with activity planning.

    Additional Examples of Learning Environments

    For infants and toddlers, it's important to offer short, child-initiated learning experiences. Let's watch a video on how effective schedules and routines promote cognitive development for very young children.

    Infants & Toddlers: Promoting Cognitive Development

    Watch how staff members use effective schedule to promote development

     

     

     

    See

    You Saw:

    • Toddlers in chairs for group reading time.
    • Teacher uses engaging voice and body language.
    • Teacher sitting at children's eye level.
    • Children distracted by other events in the classroom.

    Say

    What you might say:

    • "Tell me about your favorite story times. What do they look like for you and the children?"
    • "How long do stories typically last? When do you decide to finish?"
    • "It seemed like the children were very interested in what was going on behind them. How could you capitalize on their interests?"

    Do

    What you might do:

    • Provide opportunities to observe in other classrooms and discuss what the staff member sees related to choice, scheduling, and movement of toddlers.
    • Brainstorm with the team during planning times.

    See

    You Saw:

    • Children chose (or requested) a story with the teacher.
    • Story is high-interest.
    • Teacher is engaging and acts out parts of story.
    • Children respond and talk about the story.

    Say

    What you might say:

    • "It looked like the kids were very interested in the story you were reading. How did you make choices this morning about what to do and when?"
    • "It looks like children have a lot of choice in how they spend their time. Tell me about what you offer and why."

    Do

    What you might do:

    • Brainstorm books together that might continue to interest the children.
    • Add new and interesting books to the materials order.
    • Talk with the team about how they organize themselves for supervision and promoting engagement and encourage them to share ideas with others.

    See

    You Saw:

    • Infant and teacher rocking together prior to nap.
    • Story is part of a nurturing routine.

    Say

    What you might say:

    • "How did that feel today when you were rocking the baby and reading a story?"
    • "I could tell you and the baby had such a strong connection. She's really attached to you."
    • "I could tell you were following the baby's lead and letting her set the schedule for the day."

    Do

    What you might do:

    • Assist with scheduling to maintain primary caregiving relationships.

    A Range of Preschool Schedules and Routines

    Watch how staff members help children understand routines

     

     

    See

    You Saw:

    • Teacher and children at group time on the carpet.
    • Teacher showed children the picture schedule for the day.
    • The teacher and children read the pictures and reviewed what would happen.
    • Children contributed ideas and comments on the schedule.

    Say

    What you might say:

    • "It's clear the children really know the routine. They read the schedule right along with you."
    • "You've worked really hard to build a consistent routine. The children feel so secure."
    • "What kinds of schedules have you tried? What works best for you?"

    Do

    What you might do:

    • Make sure the teacher has access to printers and other materials necessary to continue updating the schedule.
    • Provide opportunities for her to share her ideas and brainstorm with others.

    See

    You Saw:

    • Children are engaged in free play in the interest areas.
    • The lead teacher gives a 5-minute warning that it is almost time to clean up.
    • The teacher checks in with an individual child to make sure he understands.

    Say

    What you might say:

    • "You followed up with individual children to make sure everyone knew the transition was coming. When transition time came, every child cleaned up right away."
    • "How did the transition go today when you gave a group announcement and an individual announcement? How was it different from other days?"

    Do

    What you might do:

    • Continue to observe and provide feedback on the effectiveness of transitions for the group and individual children.
    • Provide resources about additional transition ideas the team could try.

    See

    You Saw:

    • Children are engaged in free choice play time in the interest areas.
    • A child is wearing a construction hat and vest. He holds a sign that says "5 more minutes."
    • The teacher walk to each interest area to make sure each child hears the transition warning.

    Say

    What you might say:

    • "The clean-up foreman looked so proud of himself, and all of the children began cleaning up right away."
    • "How did you decide to use this strategy? What about it works well for your group?"
    • "Do you have tips for other teachers who would like to try this idea?"

    Do

    What you might do:

    • Ask the teacher to invite other staff members to observe the transition.
    • Ask the teacher to share her ideas at a staff meeting or professional development event.

    A Range of School-Age Schedules and Routines

    Watch how staff members make the most of their time

     

     

    See

    You Saw:

    • A staff member greets children, youth, and families as they arrive at the program.
    • Children/youth and parents sign-in electronically.
    • Then children and youth review the board with activity choices.
    • They move their names to indicate their choice.

    Say

    What you might say:

    • "I can tell you have built a strong relationship with kids and their families."
    • "Very little time is wasted at arrival…the kids all seemed to get started right away. Your system works well for that."
    • "What are your favorite things about your morning check-in system? What would you change?"
    • "Are there any children that seem to struggle with the system?"

    Do

    What you might do:

    • Observe and provide feedback on how long it takes children to check-in, how many children choose each area, which children struggle with the system.
    • Help the team find resources to update the schedule and choices regularly.

    See

    You Saw:

    • Staff member shows where children and youth can see what's available in program areas.

    Say

    What you might say:

    • "How do children use the system you've created?"
    • "Do children ask a lot of questions about what is available, or are they able to get involved right away?"
    • "What is working about your system? What is not working?"

    Do

    What you might do:

    • Provide examples of other options for displaying a schedule if staff members request it.
    • Observe and provide feedback on when and how children and youth use the schedules.

    Explore

    Explore

    In your work as a trainer or coach, you may come across staff who struggle with effective scheduling. Read the scenarios in the Scheduling Scenarios activity, and decide how you would respond. Then compare your answers to the suggested responses.

    Apply

    Apply

    Use the Jigsaw activity as a resource to use with staff members who are struggling with their schedules. Follow the directions on the activity to help staff members identify issues and brainstorm solutions. Use the Schedules and Routines Best Practices Checklist as a focused observation tool to support staff that have completed the Learning Environments course but may need additional support or follow up on appropriate schedules and routines. This checklist provides an easy way to follow up on goals set around this topic and provides specific feedback to staff members about what you observed. 

    Glossary

    TermDescription
    RoutinesEvents that happen every day and typically involve hygiene, eating, or self-care; examples include arrival, breakfast, snack, brushing teeth, and washing hands
    Structured outingA planned activity in which the whole class takes a trip to a place outside the program, such as to a local park, garden, or aquarium
    TransitionsTimes when children move between activities or areas of the room or building

    Demonstrate

    Demonstrate
    Assessment

    Q1

    True or false? Infants and toddlers can participate in “group times” that last 15 to 20 minutes.

    Q2

    Finish this statement: A large part of the programming day across all age groups should be…

    Q3

    You have a staff meeting next week. You would like to model to staff members how to implement structured, yet flexible schedules. Which of the following strategies will you use during the staff meeting?

    References & Resources

    Chung, A., Gannett, E., & La Perla, A. A. (2001). After-School Programs: From vision to reality. Retrieved from http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/afterschool/index.html

    Cryer, D., Harms, T., & Riley, C. (2003). All About the ECERS-R: A detailed guide in words and pictures to be used with the ECERS-R. Lewisville, NC: Kaplan Early Learning Co.

    Dodge, D. T., Colker, L. J., & Heroman, C. (2002). The Creative Curriculum for Preschool (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies, Inc.

    Feldman, J. (1995). Transition Time: Let’s do something different. Lewisville, NC: Gryphon House.

    Feldman, J. (2000). Transition Tips and Tricks for Teachers. Lewisville, NC: Gryphon House.

    Hemmeter, M. L., Ostrosky, M., Artman, K., & Kinder, K. (2008). Moving right along: Planning transitions to prevent challenging behavior. Young Children, 63, 18-25.

    Lang, S. N., Aledia, T., Casey, K., & Kirkbride, K. (2010, April). Infant/Toddler Group Time: A time for creating & sustaining classroom culture. Presentation at Ohio Early Care & Education Conference, Columbus, OH.

    Larson, N., Henthorne, M., & Plum, B. (2002). Transition Magician. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

    Lentini, R., Vaughn, B. J., & Fox, L. (2004). Routine-Based Support Guide for Young Children With Challenging Behavior. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, Early Intervention Positive Behavior Support. Retrieved from: https://www.ecmhc.org/TTYC/documents/Folder1TipsForms/File%20G%20Routine%20Based%20Support%20Guide/Routine%20Based%20Support%20Guide%20Rev1209.pdf

    Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. (2015). National Institute on Out-of-School Time. Retrieved from http://www.niost.org/