Having the right preschool schedule set up can make all the difference to your school year. Let’s take a look at what you have to factor into the day, as well as some example half-day schedules.
The beginning of the school year can feel both exciting and daunting, right? You’re looking forward to meeting your new students and get into all the play and learning. But you’re also thinking about ALL the tasks you have to accomplish, and you’re worried about managing every item on your professional to-do list.
So let’s focus in on something that can have a big impact on how your classroom runs day in and day out: your class schedule. I’m going to walk you through how to put a half-day preschool schedule together, and there are even a few examples of schedules, too!
Something I always so in regards to teaching is that you have to have a plan in place AND you have to leave a lot of room for flexibility. So make your class schedule, but understand that you’ll make adjustments to it throughout the year.
Are you ready to start getting into the nitty-gritty of it? Below we’ll take a look at the various factors you need to take into account when planning your half-day schedule. Some things you’ll be able to control, while others you’ll just have to work in as best you can.
After we talk about the variables, I share one of my preschool schedules with you. Keep in mind, I’ve made many (many!) adjustments every year . . . and many adjustments during each school year, too. But it will give you a good example of how you might want your own schedule to look.
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Considerations as You’re Planning
As I mentioned above, there are multiple things to think about when mapping out your day. Below is a thorough list, but it might still be missing some things specific to your school and circumstances.
First, you need to take a look at your school hours. I know that sounds obvious, but it really is the best place to start.
When you’re looking at your school hours, here are a few questions to keep in mind:
- What time will children be arriving? Many schools allow children to arrive a little before the official start time.
- What is the time frame for dismissal?
- Are the hours the same each day of the week, or is there an early dismissal at any point?
Specials in Your Schedule
Next up, take a look at any special times you’ll have in your week. Specials might include a visit with a music teacher, a class with a foreign language teacher, or other special weekly trips (to the park, for example).
Oftentimes, you won’t have much say in the timing of these specials. So you just need to fit the activities into your preschool schedule as best you can. Keep in mind, playground or outside time might be included here.
Keep these questions in mind as you’re planning out the specials:
- What days of the week will the special activities take place?
- How long will each of these activities last?
- Where are the specials located? How long will it take the kids to get there and back?
What Do You Want to Include in Your Day?
Now let’s take a look at the specifics of what you’d like to include in your preschool schedule.
Some possibilities include:
- Circle time or morning meeting
- Small groups
- Music and movement
- Nap or rest time
- Snacks and meals
Write out each additional aspect of your preschool day. I’d suggest putting every single item on paper, even if you don’t know if it will “fit”. A schedule wish list, if you will.
When you’re writing everything out, consider:
- How long will the activity last?
- Do the children have enough time to fully experience what’s planned?
- What part of the classroom will be in use?
- Is there a way to combine some of the activities to make better use of the time?
Write Your Preschool Schedule Out
At this point, you have all of the basics thought out. So now it’s a matter of putting it all together on paper (or computer, depending on your preference).
It might help to write each activity down, along with an approximate length of time, on individual pieces of paper. This way, you can move each part of the day around within your day until you find the right setup.
It might take you a few drafts before you settle on the right schedule for your classroom. That’s okay! This just means you’re really taking the time to make an appropriate daily schedule for your students.
Some things to keep in mind as you’re finalizing your daily schedule:
- Have transitions been kept to a minimum (as much as possible)?
- Are the times for each activity reasonable?
- If there’s not enough room for everything you want, is there a way to combine multiple activities?
- Have you considered transition times?
- Are basic necessities (hand washing, restroom breaks, etc.) included?
There’s No Such Thing as the Perfect Preschool Schedule
I feel that it’s VERY important to remind you of this! No schedule you create will be perfect.
Within the first few weeks of school, you’ll find areas of your routines that you need to tweak. Honestly, you might find a few that you need to scrap and completely re-do.
Again, that is okay! You are adapting to meet your students’ needs. And that’s more important than a “perfect” schedule.
My Half-Day Preschool Schedule
Now that I’ve shared with you how to plan your own schedule, let’s take a peek at a previous schedule of mine.
Keep in mind I made tweaks to this schedule every year depending on my students’ needs, input from my director and coworkers, etc.
I’m a big believer in planning and scheduling in the preschool classroom, but I’m also a big believer in flexibility when teaching kiddos. So this schedule wasn’t always strictly adhered to!
8:50 to 9:00 – Welcome
I greet the children as they come into the classroom. They hang up their backpacks, bring in their daily folders and water bottles, then add their name to the sign in sheets book.
Depending on the time of year, the children might move their names to “at school”, answer a daily question, or use our sign-in book.
Related: Morning Routine Chart for Preschool
9:00 to 10:30 – Developmental Learning Centers
I used to allocate about an hour for centers in preschool, but I eventually decided to add more time. I absolutely loved having that extra time for the kids to explore and learn.
This is the time when I observe the children, and it’s also a wonderful time for me to interact with the children as they play. I do also pull small groups at this time. Since this is a half day preschool schedule, it’s just the best use of everyone’s time.
Related: Free Choice Learning Centers in Preschool
10:30 to 11:00 – Snack
Around this time, I usually take the children down to the restroom as a group. All of the children wash their hands before snack.
Then it’s on to snack time together. If they’re done early, they’re allowed to choose from a few “quiet choices” (reading, writing, drawing, puzzles, etc.).
11:00 to 11:30 – Playground
The “big” pre-k kids get to use the playground for free play during this time. We do movement and gross motor play inside if we can’t go outside.
This is an example of a part of my preschool schedule that I didn’t have much say in. Our director determined all of the outside times for the teachers, ensuring that every class was outside without too much overlap.
11:30 to 11:50 – Circle Time
This is when we get together as a whole class. It’s the perfect time to check in with each other and talk about how the day’s been.
We do a quick calendar run through, add to our preschool weather chart, and say the Pledge. I usually read a book during this time.
We also do literacy games, math games, music and movement, and shared writing experiences during this time. (Not all at once, of course.)
Related: How to Create a Classroom Community
11:50 to 12:10 – Resource
This is the time allocated for the children’s specials. Sometimes it’s more outside time with a resource teacher, sometimes it’s music or Spanish. I usually grab a quick break at this point, if I can.
Resource time is another part of my preschool schedule that’s determined for me.
12:10 to 12:50 – Lunch
Everyone cleans their hands, and then we all sit down for lunch, chatting and eating together.
If the kids are done early, they can choose some quiet choices. They clean up after themselves and get their backpacks ready to go home after lunch.
12:50 to 1:00 – Story Time
We make sure everyone’s packed up and ready to go home. Then it’s time for one more read aloud before the end of the day.
Sometimes we play carpet games, sometimes we sing and dance, but most often we read. It depends on how everyone’s doing at this point in the day.
Related: Preschool Classroom Tour
Preschool Visual Schedule
I highly recommend incorporating a visual schedule into your classroom! It will help your students learn the daily routine at the beginning of the year. It will also serve as a reminder after long school breaks.
Children appreciate a sense of routine, so being able to quickly check what’s next on the agenda will be soothing for the kids.
You can make your own visual preschool schedule using the kids in your classroom. Simply take some pictures throughout the school day and create your own printable schedule!
Preschool Teacher 101 has an awesome done-for-you visual schedule cards pack! It comes with multiple editable cards you can print and put up around the classroom. Click on the image below to get your own:
You might also like the HUGE procedures and routines bundle:
More Preschool Schedule Resources
As promised, here are a few more ideas to inspire you as your craft your classroom schedule. Remember, you know your school and your students best. Take what works for you and discard the rest!
- PreKinders’ current schedule
- Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds’ toddler classroom schedule
- Teach Preschool’s daily schedule
- Pre-K Pages’ half day and full day
- Fantastic Fun and Learning’s collection of home schedule ideas
What does your daily preschool schedule look like? Feel free to share different ideas in the comments below!
Originally published August 2014
This is my first year teaching 3’s wondering if you have pins or links to your circle time math and lit. games.
Mary Catherine says
Congratulations, Andrea! Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds has a great post about Creating a Preschool Circle Time (with links to some activities). You can also check out my Math Pinterest board and my Literacy Pinterest board.
We are going through ECERS (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale) and I am struggling to get everything in my schedules to include centers, outdoor play, nap and on top of that circle time and small group… Do you have any resources to give examples of a schedule conducive to ECERS
Mary Catherine says
Michelle, that’s exactly what we were doing last year! It was a TON of information to take in, I know. This schedule is actually what I used based on what we needed for ECERS. I didn’t have nap time to contend with like you do, though. In terms of small group time, I have always used center time to work with small groups. If you want to email me at email@example.com I’m happy to talk more if you’d like.