Teaching With Picture Directions
As teachers of young learners, I am sure we all know how important visual cues can be in the classroom. That is why we spend so much time before school starts prepping and hanging all of our alphabet posters, number lines, and even classroom rules. Other visuals can also help our students, like visual picture cards.
Visual picture cards are exactly what they sound like–cards that you can display in pocket charts, or other areas of the room, that illustrate pictures of different things you might expect students to do (or not do). You can show activities like writing your name on your paper, turning in your work, or even sharpening a pencil on visual picture cards. You can use these simple pictures to benefit young learners in a number of ways!
Serve as a Visual Reminder
One of the biggest benefits picture directions offer young learners is that they serve as a reminder. Especially at the beginning of the year, kindergarten students have very limited reading abilities. We can’t make a list of supplies they need or what they need to do in order to complete their work, simply because it wouldn’t have any meaning to them. This is where my Visual Picture Cards resource comes in!
On each of my visual cards, I include a both a picture and words that clearly communicates expectations. For example, on a card that reminds students to color their work with crayons before turning it in, I have a picture of a crayon. If a card says to write names on the top of your paper, I include a picture of a paper with the name already written and an arrow pointing to the name. With visual picture cards, even our young learners who can’t yet read will get reminders of what they are supposed to do.
Another huge benefit of picture directions is that they show students what you expect of them at different points in the day. For example, while working at their desk, I might allow them to go to the classroom restroom without asking, so I put a card with a student standing beside the toilet under the green check mark header in my pocket chart.
There may also be things I expect students NOT to do at certain points in the day. If at quiet working time, I don’t want students leaving their seats to sharpen pencils, I just put the picture of a student with a pencil and sharpener under the red “x” header.
You can easily move these printable cards, so you can change out which cards go on which side of the chart at different points in the day. If we go to the carpet for a whole group read aloud and it is no longer acceptable for students to go to the bathroom without asking, I can move that card to the “x” side.
These simple visual cues can take the guesswork out of expectations for students by reminding them what they can and can’t do at different points in the day.
Perhaps my favorite benefit of using picture directions for young learners is how much independence they foster within my classroom. In a typical kindergarten classroom, students ask a lot of questions about what they are supposed to be doing. However, with visual picture cards, they no longer need to ask questions like, “Can I color my work when I am finished writing?” Instead, students can look at the visual picture cards pocket chart and see for themselves what you expect them to do.
Similarly, students can look at the visual picture cards and see if it is an appropriate time to go to the restroom, talk to a friend, and more. When using these visuals, students can look to the chart for answers, rather than looking to us.
Overall, picture directions are a great tool to use with our young learners. They have many benefits because students can understand them, even if they aren’t yet reading. Through use of picture cards, students build independence in our classrooms. Picture cards remind them of what to do without losing the structure and expectations that we have put in place.