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Using a visual timetable to support personal organisation in the classroom

Activity symbols on visual calendar

Figure 1 Activity symbols on visual calendar

Molly’s visual timetable

In the classroom, Molly, aged 6, is using a visual timetable as a visual prompt. Each activity has its own symbol and they are placed on a velcro strip so Molly can see what is coming next.

As each activity has its own special equipment, Molly has been gaining skills in finding what she needs, organising the resources around her in a useful way and then putting them away once the task is complete.

Linda Ojala (BLENNZ Resource Teacher Vision) describes how she has worked in partnership with Molly’s family and the education team to support Molly’s management of her own resources for learning.

How is the Visual Timetable working for Molly?

Molly's visual timetable and calendar

Figure 2 Molly’s visual timetable and calendar

The visual timetable (figure 2) keeps Molly on track with her class room activities and tasks. It also promotes independence. Molly can go and take a look at the chart and see what is happening now and what is coming up next. It is one strategy that Molly can use to manage her own learning.

Molly is able to use the finished box independently. She is able to take down the activities which have been completed and put them in the box. This action reinforces which tasks have been completed and allows Molly to see what is left to do.

On the timetable there are also time slots where Molly is invited to choose what she would like to do. These activities are usually sensory like playdough or playing with  objects in the wheat box and provide an opportunity for Molly to self-direct her time.

Most effective ways to support Molly’s independence

  • Consider the visual timetable a self management tool and take time to ensure Molly goes back to her timetable at the end of each activity to build in familiarity
  • Give clear instructions and direct Molly’s attention with a verbal cue – “Molly what do you need to do now?” “Go and check your picture board”.
  • Actively show and reinforce when each activity is finished by encouraging Molly to take the card off the board and put it in the finish box.

The next step for Molly

velcro strips for number lines on back of box

Figure 3 Box activity for Maths

  1. Molly’s parents are now going to start a similar system to this at home around a sequence of events before school.
  2. Introducing more independent activities, such as box activities for Maths (figure 3) and “First Keys” using the touch screen.
  3. Increasing the use of visual prompts and reducing verbal prompts.

Teaching and learning strategies

Clear goals

Desk top containers to organise the stationary

Figure 4 Using containers to organise the desk space

From observing Molly in the classroom and chatting with Molly’s parents, the team identified specific goals to work towards, with a focus on managing self and developing independence. These were documented in Molly’s IEP.

  • Being responsible for own equipment (figure 4)
  • Getting the tools needed to start work
  • Following picture sequences to increase independence at a task
  • Making choices – Using a Visual Timetable
  • Persevering and completing a task (reward sticker chart for positive feedback)
  • Putting socks/stockings away in the correct place
  • Do what is asked when given an instruction.

Thinking ahead

Activity picture board

Figure 5 “I can choose” board

As Molly is engaged by sensory activities, and “Molly’s choice” is one of the activities, the team identified a selection of Molly’s favourite activities to have ready and at hand (figure 5).

These included: sand, wheat, bubbles, chalk, listening post, computer games and stories, painting, playdough, books and blocks.

Transferring skills

The team have used the same teaching strategy, providing a selection of picture cues on an “I can choose” board. This has given Molly the chance to transfer her skills from one activity to another.

Wait time – Hands off

As a team alongside Molly, we are aware that it is often by our own doing that we actually hold Molly back. By being too hands on and in an effort to get things done on time we do them for her. So our focus is, “OK Molly what do you need to start……..” passing the responsibility back to Molly and encouraging the “thinking” component.


Visual reminders

The visual reminders support Molly to take responsibility for her actions.

  • A Post-it note on the next page in her writing book as a cue to where to start her writing. This has worked really well and now Molly is beginning to gather her own tools for writing and get started independently.
  • Post-it note on writing book

    Figure 6 Post-it note on writing book

    A sequence of picture cues as a prompt for putting on her shoes or getting herself set up for writing (figure 7).

  • Containers labelled with pictures for common tools, so that everything has a home to go to at the end of an activity.

Teaching and learning resources and equipment

Visual reminder of how to set up for writing

Figure 6 Visual reminder of how to set up for writing

  • Velcro board
  • Finished Box
  • Photos of activities
  • Slopeboard
  • Visual Timetable
  • Post-it notes

Useful links

More information

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