Years ago I had a new volunteer named Hein. He was a young, married man without kids. He had never taught preschoolers, but he was willing to learn. His first week he was scheduled with a veteran teacher. But, that morning I got a call from the teacher. She had a sick kid and wasn’t coming. I grabbed an extra helper from a different age group and gave Hein a 2 minute orientation – here’s the lesson, here’s the schedule, that kid can’t have snacks – then I threw him into the deep end. Honestly, I was convinced that he would be scared away and would never want to teach again. Half an hour later, I peeked in the class window and it was the most organized two year old class I had ever seen. I was in shock.
At the end of the class, I complimented him on his classroom management skills and asked his secret. I’ll never forget his response. He followed the schedule. I was thankful that we had a schedule in the room and was reminded that a schedule can be the difference between chaos and actual teaching. Another huge plus for having a schedule is that kids know what to expect next. This is especially helpful in classes with rotating teachers. If you teach in a class with rotating teachers, you might want to work with the other teachers as you plan out your class schedule.
So, what goes in a schedule? How do you start to develop a schedule?
Here are some questions to ask yourself and things to think through to help you get you started.
- Start by making a list of all the things that you would like to have in the schedule. For the sake of brainstorming, let’s imagine a 2 year old class. Some of the things you might want in your schedule are: Bible story, singing time, memory verse, play time, play dough, craft, snack, potty break/ diapering, clean-up, etc.
- A general rule of thumb for 2 year olds is to think in 5-10 minute time slots. Some activities might hold their attention for 10+ minutes and some will be a lot less.
- Thirdly, think about the order you want to do things. What would interest the kids when they first arrive? What will help them separate from their moms and adjust more quickly to the class? What do you want to wait on until all the kids have arrived? What would you like the kids to be doing when their parents arrive?
- Think about what causes chaos and what calms down the kids in your class, and mix up those activities.
- Remember that clean up time can be your best friend. When I think about a class schedule, I tend to include at least 3 times to clean up as a transition into other activities. This clears the physical clutter and allows you and the kids to focus on the next activity. Back when I taught 2 year olds in a weekday program, my fellow teachers used to call me ‘the clean-up queen’ because they would often hear the cue to clean up coming from my room.
- Finally, pray while writing your schedule. Pray for the kids in your class. Pray for your fellow teachers. Pray that this schedule will help you to glorify God and boldly proclaim the gospel.
Once you’ve thought about what should be in your schedule, it’s time to actually put pen to paper. Start by making a timeline of 5 minute increments of the time you have with kids and then fill it in. Here is a sample schedule for a 1 1/2 hour time block to help you get started.
10:15 – Early Arriver Activity – a few puzzles or paper and crayons on a table
10:30 – Center Play – set out a few blocks in one section of the room, some dolls, remote control cars and food in another, etc. If possible, have an activity you want the kids to do with those toys during this time and have a volunteer moving between groups to keep them on task.
10:40 – Clean Up Toys
10:45 – Something Active – a group game, dancing to music, blowing bubbles, etc.
10:50 – Bible Story & Group Activity Time – there should be no toys out during this time –
Hint: Start with your story time and then do activities included in your lesson (send kids one at a time to collect pictures of Bible hidden in the room, pass a Bible to music stopping the music to review a Bible truth, act out the story, water play, etc.)
11:05 – Craft Time or Play Dough
11:15 – Play with Toys / Check Diapers – get a few toys out again and allow kids to play while one teacher checks/ changes diapers and helps kids in the toilet
11:25 – Clean Up Toys
11:30 – Memory Verse/Singing Time – TIP: use motions to help teach memory verses & songs and repeat songs several times until the kids are able to join in with you.
11:40 – Snack Time
11:50 – Coloring Time – having all of the kids seated and coloring when parents arrive is a great way to cut down on the end of session chaos
12:00 – Parents come