Teaching With Picture Directions
As teachers of young children, 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 young students who are visual learners, like with visual picture cards and picture books.
For example, 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). These visual supports can be a great way to show activities like writing your name on your paper, turning in your work, or even sharpening a pencil on visual picture cards. Using simple pictures in everyday environments can help move the learning process along in different ways. Let's take a closer look on how we can go about teaching children with picture directions.
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 both a picture and words that clearly communicate 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. They are all very manageable tasks. With visual picture cards, even our young learners who can’t yet read will get reminders of what they are supposed to do. This also has potential to expand new vocabulary for the whole class if the cards offer new information on a new word or two, if they have not learned yet. It also incorporates physical activities into their daily routines. Sometimes visual directions just work better for some children in the classroom community.
Another huge benefit of picture directions is that they show younger 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 a 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 to 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. It's a good place to start and they will likely get much better at it as the year goes on.
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 at the chart for answers, rather than looking at us.
Overall, picture directions are a great tool to use with our little learners in early childhood education. They have many benefits because students can understand them better, even if they aren’t yet reading, and can't always remember clear instructions from verbal directions the first time they hear them. Picture cards can grab a child's attention and remind them of what to do without losing the structure and expectations that we have put in place. A key factor here is that they students build independence in our classrooms which is a helpful basic life skill in and outside of the classroom in the future.
I hope you've found these tips to be helpful. As I'm sure you know, there are many different teaching methods and learning styles. What's your preferred learning style? I've love to hear more about your learning experiences and what you have found works great with your young kids! Let me know in the comments below!