Child reads a visual schedule

Use visual schedules

teaching practice

For student year

Preschool – Year 12

Helps students to

  • transition smoothly
  • understand expectations
  • learn new concepts
  • Helps teachers to

  • visually organise activities
  • ease transitions
  • use fewer verbal prompts
  • Summary

    Visual schedules are words, pictures or visual representations - such as a timetable - of the sequence of activities or events that will happen over a certain time. Visual schedules can be varied to suit the needs of your students, from all-day timetables on the whiteboard, to personalised short session timetables.

    Visual schedules help students to understand what they will be doing and reassures them about what will be coming next. They can help teachers to visually organise their day and communicate this non-verbally.

    This practice looks at different types of visual schedules and how to apply them in the classroom.

    How the practice works

    Watch this video to learn more about visual schedules.

    Duration 3:47

    Australian Professional Standards for Teachers related to this practice

    4.1 - support student participation

    4.2 - manage classroom activities

    For further information, see Australian Professional Standards for Teachers AITSL page

    Preparing to teach

    What is a visual schedule?

    A visual schedule, such as a timetable, is a visual representation of what activities will occur and in what sequence.

    Visual schedules can support:

    • receptive language difficulties by keeping a table of activities to complete
    • retention and recall of information, as remembering verbal instructions can be stressful and difficult for some students
    • development of planning and organisational skills.

    Visual schedules support every student in understanding the daily schedule and sequence of activities.

    Why do visual schedules work?

    Some students, especially those on the autism spectrum or those with anxiety, can have difficulties transitioning between activities.

    Knowing what is coming next and when, as well as having it visually available at all times, can ease anxieties and support students to transition smoothly between activities or subjects.

    Visual schedule on a whiteboard

    Visual schedules can be used across all year levels.  Showing the sequence  of activities that will occur in a lesson helps students to know what is coming next, the time allocated for activities and the type of activities they will engage in.


    Visual schedule for a secondary class

    It works better if:

    • you refer to it frequently or at the same time each day (e.g., after morning roll call)
    • you use a mix of visuals and words
    • the activity sequence does not change without prior warning

    It doesn’t work if:

    • the use of the visual schedule is inconsistent
    • there is too much visual clutter around the visual schedule
    • it is not at the reading/comprehension level of your students

    In the classroom

    Visual schedules - a student's perspective

    In this video a students talks about visual perspectives and why they are helpful.

    Duration: 2:04

    How to create visual schedules

    When creating a visual schedule, consider: 

    • whether to use words and/or pictures, depending on your students’ comprehension and reading ability. 
    • the appropriate number of activities to include depending on your students’ processing abilities.
      • This may mean you have morning/middle/afternoon session timetables
      • or separate morning/middle/afternoon session timetables and a full-day timetable.
    • providing all students with a visual schedule; whether it is individualised on their desk or in view of the whole class
    • using a consistent format, e.g., left to right, top to bottom, or in a grid.
    • incorporating students’ personal interests for individualised schedules.

    Using prompts

    Verbal prompts for the whole class: 'Check your schedule'

    Prompt all students in the class to transition from one session by saying, ‘Check your schedule’, or a similar simple instruction that suits your style – try to keep it consistent.

    Individualised prompts

    If a student has a personalised timetable on their desk, they may need an individualised prompt as well. An example of a nonverbal prompt would be to stand close to their desk and draw attention to their schedule as you give the instruction to the class.

    Some students may need a cueing system (such as a traffic light system or a visual countdown) to help them anticipate the transition.


    Consider the age and skills of your students when you design your visual schedule.

    • Early years classrooms may benefit from short session schedules, with the activities divided into morning, middle and afternoon and only shown at the appropriate time.
    • Senior years students may benefit from more individualised support in how to use their weekly timetable in their diary, such as using colour-coding for different subjects.
    • Visual images can be beneficial across all year levels if the students learn visually.


    Secondary examples of visual schedules

    Secondary timetable Assignment planner

    The videos below show a visual schedule from a Year 1 classroom and how a Year 6 teacher uses a visual timetable with her class

    Individual visual schedules

    In this video a Year 1 teacher demonstrates how they use an individualised visual schedule to support the student engage with and transition between activities.


    Whole class visual schedules

    In this video a Year 6 teacher discusses how they use a visual schedule for the whole class.  Note how the teacher uses colour to highlight and identify activities.

    Duration 1:39

    Transition support strategies


    Some students will need to see how long they have left until the current activity ends – using a timer for this can work. Other students may respond well to a visual countdown, especially if the student becomes focused on how many minutes of the session remain. 

    Traffic lights

    Traffic lights indicate to students where they are up to when completing and transitioning between activities. Pointing the arrow at different lights indicates different things. For example, point the arrow at:

    • the green light when the student is working on the current activity
    • the yellow light to indicate that the current activity is going to end shortly 
    • the red light to indicate that the student should stop the current activity.

    Practice toolkit

    Practice implementation planner template

    We know that it is not always easy to keep track of what is working and what is not. So, we have created this template for you to record and reflect on what you are doing to help you create a more inclusive classroom. The implementation planner contains:

    • Guidance around goal setting
    • Reflection section (What worked, didn’t work and what to change and next steps.)
    • Prompting questions

    Implementation planner template

    Implementation planner with examples

    Set your professional learning goal for:

    Use visual schedules
    You can set and save your goal for inclusive practices using inclusionED. Saved goals will appear in your profile. Here you can access, refine and review your goal easily.

    Benefits of goal setting

    Setting, working towards, and reflecting on goals helps you grow professionally and improve your practice. You can access AITSL learning resources for teachers to learn more about:
    How to set goals
    The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership recommends using the SMART matrix to frame your goal setting.

    SMART goals refers to goals that are:
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Time-phased
    Read more about Improving teaching practices.


    Using visual schedules - Practice Brief

    Visual schedules - weekly timetable

    Weekly timetable

    Weekly timetable

    Visual schedule: Morning, middle, and afternoon sessions (three activities per session)

    3 part scheduleThis template contains three columns showing morning, middle, and afternoon sessions with three blocks in each column. It is ideal for students who transition between up to three activities in a single session across the day.

    6-part schedule.docx

    6 part schedule

    This template contains three columns showing morning, middle, and afternoon sessions with six blocks in each column. It is ideal for students who transition between up to six activities in a single session across the day.

    Visual Schedules - First-then (move between 2 activities)

    This template supports students who are transitioning between two activities.

    First then whole page


    Visual schedule: 'First, then' – columns (move between four activities)

    First then columns

    This template supports students who are able to transition from a 'first' activity to a second ‘then' activity. Columns under ‘first’ and ‘then’ allow for up to four activities.

    Traffic lights transition cue

    traffic lights

    This template contains a traffic light visual to cue students for impending transition.

    Related Practices

    This practice is from the core research project