Designing Effective SchedulesIn the opening vignette, Sophia is using a rigid production schedule where time is viewed as a limited resource that must be strictly controlled by the teacher. In this view of sched-uling, it is not the needs of the individual children but the clock that takes precedence, with both teachers and children rushing throughout the day (Wien, 1996, 2004). Many teachers believe that short periods for play cause children to be more occupied, thus creating less boredom. However, research indicates the opposite is true. Short play pe-riods result in less in-depth play and more onlooker and unoccupied play (Christie & Wardle, 1992; Tegano & Burdette, 1991). As stated by Doris Fromberg, a well-known early childhood professor and author, “Scholarship takes time” (Fromberg, 2002, p. 70). Only with adequate time will children be able to engage in cooperative play such as negotiating roles, acting out a plot, or building a complicated block structure. Play may be negatively affected by limiting the overall center time and also by rotating children through centers.Apply Your Knowledge In addition to limiting opportunities for in-depth play, how could assigning children to centers and rotating them every 15 minutes negatively affect their learning?Daily schedules are necessary to provide consistency and psychological stabil-ity, and to allow children to know what is expected. When children become familiar with the routines, they become less anxious, freeing their attention for higher order learning (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2001). They can predict what comes next, allowing them to feel more competent, to build self-control, and to learn emotional and behavioral regulation (Butterfield, 2002). This is most likely why research shows that children have lower cortisol levels when there are firm but flexible schedules (Sajaniemi et al., 2014). Effective daily schedules are also a proactive discipline technique. It is important to base schedules on early childhood philosophy. Early childhoodphilosophy dictates that children have extended blocks of time to engage in active ex-ploration (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009. Research indicates that when there are frequent scheduling changes, children’s internal motivation to complete tasks is decreased, their attention spans are reduced, and they show increased dependency on the teacher (Gareau & Kennedy, 1991). In contrast, large blocks of time allow children the time needed to plan and implement activities. Children increase their attention span as they are engaged in meaningful learning. They also learn to manage their own time rather than relying on the teacher. Additionally, large blocks of time reduce transitions, allowing more time for learning.By planning large blocks of time that are predictable from day to day, children and staff can have the security of knowing what comes next and what behavior is expected during this time. However, the schedule should be used as a guide rather than as a rigid time schedule so that children’s needs and interests can be honored.Outdoor time was just ending at Inquiring Minds Child Care when the chil-dren noticed a flock of birds had landed on a nearby tree. The children were very interested in these unique migrating birds. Instead of rushing inside, the teacher nd children observed the birds, discussing the colors, size, beak, tail feath-ers, and feet. One of the teachers went inside to collect the digital camera and the sketchbooks. Children made sketches of the birds and took digital pictures. When they went inside, the children and teachers were able to use their sketches, digital pictures, and the bird guidebook to determine the type of birds they had seen.Because this teacher believed in the teachable moment and using the schedule as a guide rather than as a rigid framework, the children had a unique learning opportunity. Teachable moments are spontaneous educational opportunities, usually based on an un-planned experience or question. To manage a classroom effectively, we must plan daily schedules that include large blocks of time for active engagement. We must then use this schedule as a guide, allowing for teachable moments. What other criteria must we con-sider in planning an effective schedule?Tips for Planning Effective SchedulesPlanning the optimum schedule is a time-consuming process that requires the teacher to consider multiple and sometimes conflicting needs and criteria. The teacher must consider early childhood philosophy, philosophy of the program, the needs of the children, the wishes of parents, and the criteria for effective schedul-ing, such as alternating quiet and active activities. We will examine each of these areas.Reflect Early Childhood Philosophy. Early childhood philosophy, informed by our current knowledge about child development, stresses that teachers need to allow chil-dren to learn through a play-based experiential process, to make choices among different activities, and to engage in integrated in-depth curriculum (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Teachers who understand the philosophies of early childhood education and theories of child development, and who are striving to put these understandings into practice, would usually be uncomfortable seeing separate times for each subject area (such as 30 minutes for science, followed by 30 minutes for social studies). Instead, in a developmentally appropriate setting, children will learn these subjects through using learning centers and participating in integrated projects.In Nauala’s kindergarten class, children were studying grasshoppers. Grasshop-pers had invaded nearby fields and were a topic of interest to the children. Children developed a list of questions about grasshoppers and sought answers through observa-tion, experimentation, reading, and visiting with experts. For example, they read fac-tual and fictional stories about grasshoppers, developed and tested hypotheses about what grasshoppers ate, measured how far grasshoppers jumped, and visited multiple sites to determine where grasshoppers preferred to live. They also talked to farmers and examined the effect of grasshoppers on the crops, wrote their own book about grasshoppers, made diagrams and models of grasshoppers, and created artistic rendi-tions of grasshoppers. Literacy, social studies, science, math, and creative art were all integrated into this project.Reflect Program and Individual Philosophy. Program philosophy also af-fects scheduling. For example, HighScope uses a method called “plan, do, and review” (Hohmann & Weikart, 2002). Each of these components will be evident in the sched-ule for a program that follows the HighScope model. For example, the schedule might show that children spend 10 to 15 minutes in small groups making plans for what they will do during center time. The children will then have 45 to 60 minutes to use the cen-ters and implement their plan (children might also engage in unplanned activities). Fol-lowing this, they will spend 10 to 15 minutes in small groups reviewing and reflecting upon their learning.Respect Children’s Needs (Attention Span, Varying Levels of Develop-ment, and Differing Interests). The younger the children are, the more individu-alized their schedules will be. For example, in an infant room children need to eat and sleep on their own schedule (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). As children get older, they will be able to eat and sleep at more predictable times. However, even for toddlers and preschoolers, it is important to individualize these routines when necessary. For exam-ple, you might have crackers to snack on if a child is very hungry or have a quiet place where a child can take a morning nap if she is tired.Many teachers are flexible in following the schedule, allowing children’s interests to determine when to move to the next phase of the day. For example, if the children are all highly engaged in using learning centers, they might extend this time.Include Scheduled Times. There are parts of the day over which the teacher has limited personal control, such as use of the gym or playground. This varies depending upon the program. In some programs, outdoor time is scheduled so that several class-rooms are not on the playground at once. In most programs, lunch is delivered at a specific time. It is essential to begin developing your schedule by listing these prede-termined scheduled times. However, it is also important that the program day not be so interspersed with rigid scheduled times that having large blocks of time is compromised. If children’s needs are being negatively affected by these set times, it is important to problem solve ways to meet the children’s needs in your classroom while still meeting the needs of the entire program.Provide a Balance of Child-Initiated and Adult-Initiated Activities. During child-initiated times, children make choices among many different activities. This allows children to choose activities that are at their appropriate developmental level and that are interesting and relevant to them. For example, it is center time at the Learning Garden Preschool. Two children are in the art center. One child is drawing a picture of the vase of flowers sitting on the art table. She has not only helped to grow the flowers, but has also just helped the teacher to pick them. Another child is creating a card for her sister who has just come home from the hospital. Although both children are drawing, they are more deeply engaged because the activities are personally mean-ingful to them. During this time, children can also choose to participate in activities alone or with others.The schedule will also need to provide time for adult-initiated activities. For ex-ample, scheduled small-and large-group times are typically initiated by the teacher. Adult-initiated activities might also occur during center time. For example, during center time at the Learning Garden, one of the teachers was sitting with a small group of five children and providing guided exploration with clay. The group of children were fol-lowing the teacher’s suggestion that they try to “pull legs” from their chunk of earth clay. This activity choice helped the children to learn an important clay skill (Topal, 1983). Adult-initiated activities are important for children who are preschoolers or older. In a study of 125 classrooms, children in programs with a more balanced approach to child-initiated and adult-initiated activities, referred to by the authors as structured-bal-anced classrooms had greater learning gains in literacy. However, even in these class-rooms children still spent one-third of their day in center time (Fuligni, Howes, Huang, Hong, & Lara-Cinisomo, 2012).
Provide a Balance of Individual, Small-Group, and Large-Group Activities. The younger the child, the more time they will spend in individual activities. As children be-come toddlers, the teacher might begin to pro-vide some group activities that children can voluntarily attend. Preschool schedules and elementary schedules typically include large-group time. For children to learn they must be engaged in the activity or experience, meaning that they must be paying attention. Research shows that children are less engaged in large-group activities than in center time activities or small-group activities (Booren, Downer, & Vitiello, 2012). The length of time children are in large groups also affects their attention with longer group times resulting in reduced attention (DiCarlo, Pierce, Baumgartner, Har-ris, & Ota, 2012). Regardless of age, childrenin the early childhood years should spend most of their time in individual and small-group activities.Alternate Quiet Activities with Active Activities. Quiet activities are those that have little physical movement (e.g., naptime, story time, or lunchtime). Active ac-tivities might include outdoor time or gym time. It is important that we alternate quiet and active activities, particularly when they are teacher-directed and when children are required to participate. For example, children who sit through a morning circle, then sit through a small-group literacy activity, and then sit during morning snack may become restless and inattentive. When participating in learning centers, teachers typically allow children to move freely and choose their own level of activity. In most classrooms, cen-ters include quiet as well as more active activities.
ow Adequate Time for Routines (Resting, Mealtime, Tooth Brushing, Clean-Up Time). Routine times can be learning experiences for young children if enough time is allowed for children to fully benefit from the activity. For example, con-trast the two approaches to lunchtime at ABC Child Care Center and Spirit at Play.At ABC Child Care, children go through a lunch line, where the adults prepare the chil-dren’s plates. The children then sit quietly and eat. Teachers feel that it is important for children to finish eating quickly so that they can move on to learning experiences. There-fore, they have implemented a “no talking” policy. Teachers spend most of the lunch period reminding children to “eat, not talk.” As the teachers rush through the routines, they not only hinder learning opportunities but also treat the children disrespectfully. At Spirit at Play, teachers realize that mealtime provides a perfect opportunity to engage in meaningful learning and in-depth conversations. On any given day, you might hear lively discussions about the food they are eating (“Can we grow lettuce in a pot in the window or does it have to be planted outside?”), the activities that they com-pleted in the morning (“How can we get the block tower to reach above our heads with-out crashing?”), anticipated events (“I wonder what we will see when we walk to the beach?”), and joys or concerns (“Where will daddy live if he doesn’t live with us?”). Children eat family style, getting their own food. This allows children to learn self-help skills, reflect upon what foods they like and dislike, determine proper proportions, and earn about sharing with others. Teachers eat with children, modeling social skills. The teachers also use the mealtime as an opportunity to increase knowledge and skills, for example, pointing out that the oranges are cut into fourths as a way of assisting chil-dren with math skills and vocabulary. The children and teachers at Spirit at Play are all familiar with the mealtime routine and expectations. The mealtime at Spirit at Play provides a rich learning experience that is positive for both the teachers and children. Further, the teachers have modeled a respectful way of interacting with others.Teaching children the classroom routines can be time-consuming, particularlywhen children first begin a program. However, research reveals that teachers who spend more time teaching routines at the beginning of the school year have children who are more engaged in learning activities and need less assistance later in the year (Bohn, Roehrig, & Pressley, 2004).Plan Transition Times. A study of classrooms in 11 states, found that children spend 22% of their program time in transitions, making it vitally important that these times are learning experiences (Early et al., 2005, 2013). This is more likely to occur when the schedule allows unrushed time for transitions. Detailed information about how to plan effective transition times is included later in this chapter. In addition, you will want to minimize the number of transition times wheneverpossible. One way to do this is to incorporate small-group time and special activities into center time. For example, some programs have chil-dren individually prepare and eat their snack during cen-ter time, eliminating the need for large-group transitions to and from snack.nclude a Daily Time to Be Outdoors. Outdoor time is linked to improvements in academic skills and performance, concentration, attitudes and behavior, social skills and relationships, and physical skills (Gill, 2014). During outdoor time, children have the opportunity to par-ticipate in activities often not present in the indoor environ-ment. Outdoor time allows for boisterous play, loud voices, and large motor engagement. In addition to exercise, the outdoors provides other health benefits including less concentrated infectious disease organisms and exposure to sunlight, which allows children to produce Vitamin D (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, & National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, 2011). Outdoor play also allows children to be involved firsthand with na-ture and to experience the many aspects of weather. Many programs further enhance children’s learning by develop-ing their outside environment into an outdoor classroom containing a variety of learning centers. Children need to be outdoors every day, unless it would be a health risk to do so (American Academy of Pediatrics et al., 2011). In de-termining if it is safe to play outside, pay attention to Na-tional Weather Reports and the air quality index (AQI). It is important to have alternate plans when children cannot go outside. See Chapter 16 for a variety of indoor large motor ideas.Classroom jobs are a routine that assist children to learn responsibility, experience a sense of accomplishment, and feel ownership for the classroom. Notice the interesting sounding jobs on this chart.Include Extended Center Time for Engaging in In-Depth Learning. Learn-ing center time should be a minimum of one hour to allow for deep involvement in play (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p. 153). This time period, alternately called work-time, self-selection, project time, free choice, or activity time in different programs, is an op-portunity for children to participate in individual and small-group learning. During this time, children choose between the many available learning centers. These centers will vary depending upon the age group of the child, but often include dramatic play, blocks and construction, art, music, sensory, literacy, math, science, and manipulative centers. In addition, special small-group activities are often included during this time period, such as cooking projects, special art activities, and activities that support ongoing project work.Children in a rural program were completing a project on tractors. After an in-depth study that included a field trip to an implement dealer, the children decided to create their own tractor. Each day during center time, several children worked on con-structing a tractor from a large refrigerator box. Often they revisited a video they had taken of the tractors on their field trip, reviewed sketches they had made of tractors, consulted books and posters, and had lively discussions as they gained a more in-depth understanding of tractors.Large blocks for center time allow children to make a variety of decisions, learn to plan and manage their time, and work at their own pace. During this time, children can choose whether to work individually or in small groups, and whether to engage in quiet or more active activities. They can also control the tempo of their work, determine how long to spend on an activity, and decide whom to interact with. In many programs, these large blocks of time also allow for some spontaneity. For example, a teacher and a small group of children might take a trip to a nearby library when children need additional in-formation for a project.h their peers during center time than when they are in more teacher directed ac-tivities (Vitiello et al., 2012). Research shows that this finding is true for special popula-tions as well. For example, English Language Learners interacted more and used English more frequently during center time, allowing more opportunities to build language skills (Markova-Lama, 2013). Children who have autism showed similar results (Reszka, Odom, & Hume, 2012).Include a Developmentally Appropriate Whole-Group Time (Preschool and Early Elementary). The younger the children are, the shorter the group time should be and the more choice children should have in whether or not they participate in the group. Group times can include participating in music and drama activities, storytell-ing, puppetry, or interactive story reading. Group times are also used to introduce new centers, discuss the day’s events, share learning, review teacher’s and children’s joys and concerns, and discuss classroom situations and brainstorm solutions. Since group times are short, there is typically only time to focus on one or two of these activities. In planning group times, the first thing that the teacher needs to do is to considerthe goals for the activity. Next, she needs to determine whether these goals can be best met using a large-group activity. As might be expected, children are more off-task in large groups than in small groups (Rimm-Kaufman, La Paro, Downer, & Pianta, 2005; McWilliam, Scarborough, & Kim, 2003). See Figure 3.1 to learn about effective whole-group times.Katie, a teacher at Northern Head Start, read a book to the children each day dur-ing large-group time. She wanted to introduce the children to different literature and o teach pre-reading skills such as prediction and phonological awareness. However, when Katie reflected upon her group time she realized that she spent much of her time managing the group, interrupting the book to ask children to sit quietly. When she asked questions some of the children answered quickly and others rarely seemed to respond. Children also complained about not being able to see the book. Katie decided to reex-amine this time and try a variety of strategies. First, she divided the class into small groups so that each child would be able to have more opportunities to see and interact with the book by asking and responding to questions. She also carefully chose books to read aloud, making sure that they were age-appropriate quality books with pictures that were large enough to be seen by the children. She tried to make her stories more interesting by using a dramatic voice, bringing story props, and occasionally telling the story with puppets. Katie also strived to more actively involve the children in the stories by reading stories the children could dramatize, encouraging children to repeat phrases as she read predictable books, and asking children relevant questions as she read the book (What do you think will happen next? Why do you think he did that? What else could he have done?). These changes resulted in children being much more attentive during story time.Determine Needs for a Small-Group, Teacher-Directed Time. While small-group activities are often incorporated into center time, many programs also in-clude a separate time for small groups. During this time, teachers set up many different types of learning experiences. These include project planning and implementation, math and science activities, small-group reading activities, or writing in journals. In some pro-grams, small groups may also be child-led. For example, in the Helena Public School Montessori 1st–3rd grade classroom, a child-led circle focusing on joys and concerns is held each day. If someone introduces a concern, the child leads the group in problem-solving solutions.Meet the Needs of Families. When developing schedules, it is important to con-sider the needs of the families in your program. For example, do most of the children eat breakfast before they arrive? If many of the children typically eat breakfast before they arrive, you might want to consider a breakfast bar. Children who have not had breakfast can help themselves to a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit rather than having everyone sit down for breakfast. If parents and children need to spend extended time in the carcommuting after child care, you might want to plan your schedule so that the child has had an opportunity to participate in active activities before leaving.Make the Schedule Visible. Schedules are typically posted so that children, teachers, families, and volunteers can anticipate the next event. For younger children, the schedule is often displayed in picture form. See the picture at the beginning of the chap-ter for an example of a picture schedule.Regularly Analyze the Schedule. Teachers need to regularly assess the schedule to ensure that it is meeting the needs of children, families, and teachers. The schedule is not an end in itself, but instead is designed to meet children’s needs and to allow pro-gram goals to occur.Establishing an effective schedule provides a framework that allows a communityof learners to engage in rich learning opportunities. Each teacher is a decision maker in developing a schedule based upon the needs and unique characteristics of the children, staff, and families, and the philosophy of the program. However, in developing sched-ules it is sometimes helpful to examine what others have done. Following are sample daily schedules.Sample Daily Schedules Each of the following sample schedules is designed for a different age group. In addition, each of the schedules varies based upon the detail they provide and the terms they use for common activities during the day (center time, selective choice).Sample Infant Schedule. In designing the infant schedule, it is important to under-stand parental everyday routines so that you can provide continuity and meet the cultural needs of the children. Shonkoff and Phillips, in From Neurons to Neighborhoods (2000), discuss behavioral inheritances, stating that they are “embodied in the ‘scripts’ that char-acterize everyday routines for such common activities as sleeping, feeding, and playing” (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000, p. 867). For example, are infants rocked to sleep or do they fall asleep on their own? How independent are infants expected to be? It is important that parents and teachers work closely to meet infants’ and toddlers’ needs (Butterfield, 2002).In planning for infants, individual schedules are followed where children engage in self-initiated activities. However, during the day each child needs to have the opportu-nity to: ● Have undivided adult attention and interaction during routine times such as feed-ing and diapering. This time provides a prime opportunity to engage in individu-alized and meaningful communication.● Be read to. ● Listen to music. ● Engage in floor time. ● Have one-on-one interaction with a teacher around individualized learning goals.● Explore materials in the classroom. ● Engage in gross motor activities both indoors and outdoors.During arrival and departure time, teachers and parents share news about the child and written communication sheets regarding the child’s sleep, eating, and diaper changes. Special instructions and daily anecdotes are also discussed and often written on com-munication sheets.ample Toddler Schedule. Toddlers have developed more self-regulation in com-parison with infants and can therefore have a more group-oriented rather than individu-alized schedule. Since children at this age are seeking greater independence, more time needs to be planned for individualized transitions. For example, toddlers may take a long time putting on a coat or shoes. The schedule also needs to allow ample time to explore and discover.7:45 Arrival—Special table time activities and books. Individualized handwashing. 8:30 Breakfast—Children who are hungry eat breakfast family style. As children finish eating, they wash their hands and go to centers. 9:00 Center time—Choice of dramatic play, art, music, manipulative, blocks and construction, sensory, gross motor, and book nook. Teacher-planned special activi-ties (art, literacy, music, project). Diaper checks and changes. 10:00 Clean up and transition outdoors. 10:20 Outdoors—Gross motor activities and interaction with the natural environment. 11:10 Transition indoors—Wash hands for lunch, sing songs. 11:30 Lunch—Children and a teacher sit in small groups sharing food and conver-sation. As children finish lunch they wash hands, brush teeth, and have their diaper changed. 12:15 Naps—Children look at books or listen to teachers telling stories until they fall asleep. 2:15 As children wake, they have their diaper changed, eat a snack, and engage in quiet center time activities (books, manipulatives, media, art). 3:10 Clean up and transition outdoors. 3:30 Outdoor—Gross motor activities and interaction with the natural environment. 4:00 Transition indoors.
Two children each day share journals. Children and teachers make plans for activities and projects. 9:30 Transition to outdoors—Children are individually released from the circle us-ing self-concept boosting activities (description of the child, photo of child engaged in an activity or with a special person, happygram describing something the child did the day before, etc.). Time is allowed for toileting, gathering materials for out-door play, and putting on coats. 9:50 Outdoors—Choice of outdoor centers (climbing, balancing, swinging, art, music, woodworking, Zen garden, sand and water, gardening, dramatic play) or par-ticipating in teacher-planned special activities. In bad weather, gross motor activi-ties are set up indoors. 10:30 Gross motor transition—Children use gross motor skills to enter the building (hop, skip, crawl through tunnel). Children put coats away, wash hands, use toilet, and so on. 10:40 Center time—Children choose from literacy, math, manipulative, sensory, science, dramatic play, block and construction, woodworking, music, and creative art centers or teacher-directed individual and small-group activities. Snacks are available for children who are hungry. 11:40 Clean up—As children complete clean up they go to small-group story areas and look at books. 11:50 Small-group story—Teachers read books to small groups of children. 12:10 Concept transition—Children are released individually to wash hands using a concept-based transition (addresses, full names, colors, patterns, etc.). 12:15 Lunch—Children and teachers eat family style with an emphasis on conver-sation, social skills, and self-help skills. 12:45 As children complete lunch they brush their teeth, wash their hands and face, and get out their mats. 1:00 Quiet time/naptime—Children lie down on cots and listen to stories told by the teacher or look at books. Non-nappers go to a separate area and have quiet alone time for half an hour during which time they look at books, draw, or write in jour-nals or complete other quiet activities. 2:00 Indoor and outdoor learning centers—As children awake or finish quiet time they can participate in indoor or outdoor learning centers. During this time, chil-dren also prepare their own individual snack by following simple picture recipe cards. 4:30 Clean up and movement—Children put away materials in indoor and outdoor centers and assist in cleaning the center for the day. Each child is assigned a chore (e.g., watering plants, cleaning paint containers, emptying the water table, putting balls away, etc.). As children finish cleaning, they join a circle where one teacher is leading the group in movement activities. 5:00 Closing circle—Children and teachers meet in small groups to share joys and concerns. Children dictate daily news. The teacher writes the news on chart paper and displays it for parents to see. 5:15 Departure.Sample Kindergarten Schedule. The teacher in this program has posted the state standards that children are meeting as they engage in each of the learning centers. Since the school district emphasizes literacy and math, these are infused within each learning center. Additionally, there are teacher-directed times that focus on these subjects.
8:45 Opening circle—Self-concept activity and daily announcements (new centers, activities planned for the day, news from home). 9:05 Work stations—Children participate in literacy and mathematically infused learning centers—literacy, math, cognitive manipulative, science, dramatic play, block and construction, woodworking, music, and creative art, plus teacher-directed individual and small-group activities. 10:15 Transition—Clean up and wash hands to prepare for snack. 10:30 Snack—Children and teacher eat in small groups; informal conversation is encouraged. 10:45 Physical skills—Large motor and movement activities (indoor or outdoor movement centers, teacher-led activities). 11:10 Circle time—Introduction and synthesis of learning center activities (e.g., review of the characteristics of items that sank or floated in the science center). 11:30 Small-group activities—Children engage in small-group, teacher-directed learning activities focused on math, science, and social studies. 11:55 Transition to lunch. 12:00 Lunch and outdoor time—As soon as children finish lunch they go to the playground where they use gross motor equipment or participate in dramatic play or teacher-organized or child-initiated games. 1:05 Transition indoors. 1:15 Literacy activities—Children read books, write in journals, participate in au-thor’s circles, and engage in teacher-led literacy activities. 1:45 Work stations—Children participate in literacy and mathematically infused learning centers—literacy, math, cognitive manipulative, science, dramatic play, block and construction, woodworking, music, creative art, plus teacher-directed, in-dividual and small-group activities. 2:30 Clean up—As soon as children finish cleaning up, they go to the circle area and complete a quick daily evaluation (mark on a sheet of paper the favorite thing they did that day, fill in a circle indicating how well they got along with friends, and indicate what activities they completed at centers). 2:45 Closing circle—Summarize and evaluate the day. 3:00 Departure.Sample First-Through Third-Grade Schedule. This classroom emphasizes the project approach to learning. During the afternoon, students conduct research on their project using the many centers and integrating the different subject areas. For example, this group is currently studying our bodies. They have many questions about the skeletal system and body organs. In the art center, they are using different materials to construct a body; in the science center, they are examining X-rays and identifying different bones using research books; in the manipulative center, children are dissecting an owl pellet, finding bones that they hope to reconstruct; and several children are writing a research book on what they are learning about their bodies.
8:15–8:45 Morning meeting (morning messages, group sharing, community-build-ing activity, daily announcements, and planning). 8:45–9:45 Literacy workshops and centers.Reading—Mini lessons, reading conferences, independent and partner read-ing, author’s chair.Writing—Mini lesson, author’s chair, writing conference, prompted writing. Centers—Games (spelling and word games), listening center, writing center, book center, computer center.9:45–10:00 Clean up centers—prepare to go outside or to the gym. 10:00–10:30 Outdoor time or gym. 10:30–11:15 Math skill groups. 11:15–11:40 Read aloud—chapter book. 11:45–12:30 Lunch and recess. 12:30–1:00 Individual or buddy reading. 1:00–3:00 Projects, centers, special guests.Centers—literacy, manipulative, math, dramatic play, construction, science, art, music, puppetry, special project center.Check YourUnderstanding 3.1 Click here to gauge your understanding of section concepts.3:10 Closing meeting—self-reflection on day, joys, and concerns. 3:25 Dismissal. You will note that in some of the previous samples, the teacher has noted her transi-tion times and transition activities on the schedule. Well-planned transitions help bring closure to an activity and move children smoothly to the next part of the day. As the preschool example illustrates, these can also be learning times if well-designed. The next section will discuss how to plan for effective transitions.
Designing Effective TransitionsNicole carefully planned her morning activities with the group of three-year-old children that she was teaching. Although she normally planned carefully, today she had planned with extra deliberation because she was being observed by her early childhood college professor. Her morning had gone perfectly. Nicole and the children were completing a project on caterpillars, and during free time the children were involved in many ac-tivities relating to the project that Nicole had planned. During circle time, the children all listened attentively when she read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The children even helped to tell the story as she read. Then everything fell apart. After circle when she told the children it was time to wash up for lunch, they all jumped up and be-gan a stampede for the sink to wash their hands. Before she knew it, three children had been pushed on the way to the sink (one of the children was on the floor and two other children were crying). There were several children all trying to wash their hands at once who were shouting at each other. The college professor had to stop observing to help restore order.Transition times, the process of changing from one activity to another, can provide op-portunities for learning. They can be meaningful ways to organize one’s day. However, research shows that children are less engaged, have more conflict, and are less self-reliant during transitions than in other parts of the day (Booren, Downer, & Vitiello, 2012, Viti-ello, Booren, Downer, & Williford, 2012). Children are expected to listen to the teacher’s instructions, end one activity, follow multiple-step directions, and begin another activity all while filtering out distractions from peers. If not well-planned, transition times may involve children congregating in one spot and waiting with nothing to do. These times can be difficult for all children. But, for children with disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), characterized by difficulties with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, the reduced structure and multiple demands during transition times can make coping extremely difficult (Buck, 1999). This is all complicated further by the that during transition times, teachers are often multitasking, trying to assist children to move through the various stages of the transition while also facilitating the next activ-ity. Like Nicole, many early childhood practitioners fail to plan for transitions, making the transition process even more difficult (Sainato, 1990). Effective transition times are particularly important when one considers that a typi-cal program in early childhood can include 12 to 15 transition times (Rogers, 1988). Research from pre-K programs in 11 states show that transitions account for 22% of the child’s day. Meal and snack time account for another 11% of the day. While transition and routine times can be educational, 88% of the time they were not in these 652 pro-grams (Early et al., 2013).Well-planned transition times not only decrease frustration and behavior problems, but can also turn wasted time into educational opportunities, allowing both adults and children to feel competent. How do we plan effective transition times?Tips for Effective Transition TimesFollowing are several techniques that can help make transition times effective and educational.Determine if It Is Necessary to Have a Transition Time. Could you reduce the number of times that children need to make transitions by rearranging your schedule? In many cases, activities can be incorporated into center time. For example, instead of children all engaging in a group art activity, the special art project could be available throughout center time. This creates fewer transition times and smaller group sizes, and allows the child to choose when to participate.Visualize How the Transition Would Look if It Was Successful. What would the children be doing? What would the teacher be doing? After you have done this, develop a concrete plan to achieve what you visualize (Buck, 1999). For example, Nicole, the teacher in the previous scenario, must plan a transition time for children to wash their hands. She must also think about what the children will do after they wash their hands. Will they go directly to the lunch table? Will they sit wherever they wish or will they sit in designated spots? If they go directly to the table, can they begin to eat im-mediately or must they wait until everyone is seated?Predetermine the Roles and Responsibilities of Each Adult During Tran-sition Times. For example, Nicole could ask her assistant to be by the sink. She could then release the children individually or in small groups to wash their hands.Reduce the Waiting Time That Often Accompanies Transition Times. In addition to wasting valuable time and increasing the likelihood of behavior problems, re-quiring children to wait with nothing to do is disrespectful. As stated by Davidson (1982), “Adults who often make children wait for them or the group, or who otherwise waste chil-dren’s time convey a basic lack of respect for children which may well have a detrimental effect on the way that children view themselves” (Davidson 1982, p. 16). Additionally, teachers may inadvertently punish children who conform to their expectations by making them wait until all the children are finished before beginning an activity. Avoid waiting time by having everything ready for an activity before the children begin. Move children in small groups rather than large groups. For example, as soon as some of the children are ready, they go outside with a teacher rather than waiting for the large group to be ready.Use Any Wait Time During Transition Times Wisely and Effectively. If children must wait, it is important to provide transition activities. For example, you might sing songs, play language games, tell a story, complete finger plays, clap patterns, write or draw in journals, exercise, or perform creative movement activities. Jeareal, a preschool teacher, plays a game called “what it is, and what it isn’t” when there is wait-ing time. Using any object, children list what it is and then what it is not. For example, a pencil might be pointed, round, red. It is not a pen, stick, or elephant. Some beginning teachers make a list of ideas to use while waiting that they post on the wall or keep in their pocket so they are always prepared.Make Transitions Predictable. Some teachers have a specific song they play for cleaning up, or they might say the same chant every time they transition inside from the playground. These routines provide stability and add an opportunity for rituals that are enjoyable for the teacher and children (Greenman, 2006).Give a Warning Before the Start of a Transition Time. For example, “In five minutes, we will be cleaning up so that we can go outside.” As adults, we would be insulted and likely resistant if a friend were to say, “You need to stop what you are doing and put everything away because we are going outside now.” Giving a warning demon-strates that we have respect for children and their work. The time between the warning and the transition allows children to bring closure to the task they are engaged in and to begin planning for the next event. This often results in children being more cooperative. Whenever possible, it is helpful to allow children to complete the task they are involved in before they transition to the next activity.
State or Review Expectations Before the Transition Time Begins. In ad-dition to giving children verbal instructions, some teachers have directions in pictures showing the children performing each of the tasks during the transition. This technique has been used effectively with children who are hard of hearing or who have autism. It is important that the expectations are necessary and developmentally appropriate. For ex-ample, some teachers require children to sit quietly before they are released from circle. Although this may be the traditional way that circle releases have occurred in the pro-gram, teachers need to ask themselves if there is a reason this is important. For many children, sitting quietly is very difficult and not developmentally appropriate.Engage in Active Supervision During Transition Time. Researchers have found that those teachers who engage in the active supervision skills of scanning, mov-ing, and interacting increase appropriate behavior (Colvin, Sugai, Good, & Lee, 1997). Scanning involves looking frequently around the room and noticing children’s behaviors. Moving involves walking in unpredictable patterns, using proximity to control and re-inforce behavior. Interacting includes modeling, conversing with children, reinforcing behavior, and reminding children of expectations when needed (McIntosh, Herman, San-ford, McGraw, & Florence, 2004). Since transition times can be difficult for children, it is important for every teacher in the room to be actively engaged in assisting and super-vising children. It is best if materials needed for the next activity are set up before the transition time begins.