Preschool Classroom Schedule: Back to School & Setting up Classrooms for Students with Autism #2

Setting up Classrooms: Preschool Schedule

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Today, I am going to focus on a preschool classroom schedule.  I’ll follow this example through pictures of the physical space and zoning plans as well.

Creating the classroom schedule in a special education classroom is probably the hardest task of the year! I'm sharing a download and explanation of 5 different REAL classroom schedules as examples. The post talks about my process and includes schedules for all ages.

This was a preschool program that had some children that attended 1/2 days and some students attended all day.  On this preschool classroom schedule, the grayed out areas represent the times those students were not in the classroom.  There was a teacher and 2 aides in the class with 8 students in the morning and 6 in the afternoon.  The students could only handle 15-minute activities at at the most,  so we had a 15-minute circle which worked perfectly for this group.  

As you can see, there are 2 circles so we could cover everything we would typically cover in a 30-minute circle. We just broke it up to keep their attention.  For centers in the morning, the students rotated through direct instruction, independent work (structured work systems) and play time.  

In this preschool classroom schedule, direct instruction (DI) consisted of primarily discrete trials.  This teacher was a master at discrete trials and differentiating them among the students in a group.  The funny thing is that she didn’t know she was doing trials–she thought she was just teaching.  The students who attended full day were the ones who needed more explicit instruction in basic skills like following directions, imitation, and matching, while those in the afternoon needed more language acquisition and socialization practice.  So, the morning rotation included discrete trials, while the afternoon rotation included more small group activities.

In the afternoon they rotated through art and games.  They had a mandated nap time (because they are in preschool) but many of the kids didn’t really nap.  So we call this quiet time and those who don’t nap can engage in quiet activities while others nap.

A Closer Look at the Preschool Classroom Schedule

Two elements that I think are important to note about this preschool classroom schedule.  Table tasks is the name we give activities that involve manipulatives (e.g., puzzles, file folders).  They are activities that are designed to keep students engaged more independently (i.e., with less supervision). They can serve as a training ground for activities that can eventually go into structured work systems.  

We use this activity as a way to keep students engaged in meaningful activity while we have adults busy with things like getting other kids off the bus or taking students to the bathroom.  This allows us to have an activity that keeps the kids engaged while having less adult supervision.  It also gives us a good activity in the morning when we can’t predict when busses and cars will arrive.  

Keeping the students engaged during this time prevents a myriad of problem behavior that can develop from free, unstructured time while waiting.  Second, rather than having students all go to the bathroom and have to wait their turn with downtime (Downtime is not your friend!) while waiting, we engaged them with table tasks and had staff pull 2 students at a time to go to the bathroom.  This kept everyone engaged in an activity that didn’t mean missing something while they were in the bathroom (as would happen if we did the same with circle or story time).

So, you can see a larger version of the schedule below.  And if you go below that….you can grab a download of 5 different classroom schedules including this one from the Free Resource library.

This preschool schedule provides an example of a self-contained preschool classroom setup for special education.

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