With everything teachers need to get ready for their classrooms, adding extra classroom visual supports might not be high on the priority list. In this post, I want to share with you five reasons why classroom visual supports are worth the effort in supporting your kindergarten students. In fact, you’re going to see how the use of visual supports in the classroom will benefit you as well!
What Are Classroom Visual Supports?
When I’m talking about classroom visual supports, I’m referring to any picture cue that can be used to enhance and support communication with students. These are things such as:
- Picture Schedule
- Classroom Labels
- Direction Cards
- Centers Instruction Cards
While many students need and use individualized visual supports, this post is mostly referring to visual aids that are used at the whole-class level. However, many of the resources and ideas mentioned in this post can be modified for individual use.
5 Benefits of Using Classroom Visual Supports
1 – Support All Learners
We teach in diverse classrooms! We have students with disabilities, students who aren’t yet reading, students who are learning English as a second language, and students who might be fluent readers, but are having difficulty processing multi-step directions. These students can be at a disadvantage in a classroom that uses only verbal or written instructions.
Visual supports can level the playing field for all of these students! These supports can help them process both verbal and written instructions since pictures are universal.
One way that I love to use picture direction cards to support all learners is to hold up the corresponding card as I give the verbal directions. This supports learners who are still learning English, students with attention difficulties, and learners who otherwise have difficulty with auditory processing. Then, I display these cards in a pocket chart or on the white board so that students can continue to reference them. This leads me to the next benefit of using visual supports in the kindergarten classroom: Independence.
2 – Encourage Independence
Visual supports such as picture directions can help students be more independent during work time. They don’t have to rely on a teacher to remind them of the next step after finishing one part of a multi-step activity. Instead, students will have the list of visual instructions to reference throughout independent work time.
You can also use picture cards to identify fast finisher activities by adding one final card to the list, such as drawing on the back of the paper. This way, students can transition independently to a quiet activity when they finish the assignment, without disrupting the class.
3 – Improve Classroom Management
Speaking of classroom disruptions, another benefit of using visual supports in the kindergarten classroom is that they help with classroom management. For example, managing literacy and math centers can be a challenge in a classroom full of five and six year olds. This is a time when we are usually working with a small group while students circulate through independent learning activities. This can be a recipe for chaos without the right supports in place!
In order to make sure that students understand each activity and stay on task, I love to use centers direction cards. These picture cards have instructions for each center and help students independently navigate the learning activity from start to finish. This will help your small group instruction time run more smoothly. Plus, these cards can reduce interruptions from students who aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do.
4 – Reduce Interruptions
Center cards aren’t the only way to reduce interruptions in the classroom! How many times in a day do you have to answer questions like “When’s lunch?” or “What do I do now?” By having a visual schedule on display in the classroom, students can refer to these supports before interrupting you with these types of questions.
We are familiar with individual picture schedules that are commonly used by students who need that level of support. However, it has been my experience that all young students can benefit from a whole-class visual schedule. These visual schedules definitely reduce common interruptions from curious or anxious students who frequently ask about what is coming up next in the school day.
5 – Save Time
At first glance, it might feel like adding labels throughout the classroom, mapping out the daily schedule, and setting up instructions for each activity might take a lot of extra time. However, the opposite is true!
As mentioned before, there are fewer interruptions from students when the visual schedule is on display. That is a huge time saver right there! Plus, visual schedules really don’t take that much time or effort. All you have to do is laminate these schedule cards once and then move them around before the day starts. You might even decide to wait to put the cards in your pocket chart until the morning meeting. That way, you can describe the schedule to the students while building the schedule at the same time.
You can use a similar technique to save time with the instruction cards. After laminating them, keep them right next to your pocket chart or white board so that you can pull them out as you give the verbal instructions. By doing this, you are greatly reducing the number of times that you will need to repeat yourself during a learning activity. Instead of using your limited time on repeating instructions, you can monitor how students are doing on the assignment and provide any necessary support.
Classroom Visual Supports Examples
Would you like to see some examples of how I use these visual supports in the classroom? Check out this video where I walk you through some of my favorites.
Printable Classroom Visuals
Are you ready to add some visual supports to your kindergarten classroom? I have created a Classroom Visual Supports and Tools Bundle so that you can quickly download everything you need! This resource includes visual schedule cards for both whole-class and individual students, directions visual picture cards, morning routine supports, and even visual supports for digital learning. You can find this resource in the Teaching Exceptional Kinders shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Save These Classroom Visual Supports
If you’re short on time, be sure to save this post to your favorite teaching board on Pinterest. You’ll be able to quickly find these tips and resources when you’re ready to download and print.