The best piece of teaching advice I have ever received is, “If you don’t make a plan, they will”.  I think it rings true not just to an ECE classroom, but to all grades and classrooms.  If we do not make a plan for every part of the day, our students will make their own plan (and then we’ll have to deal with it).

However, if we are proactive and make our plans students will have every minute of their day filled with things to do.  Beside having a full schedule- one with many transition activities; the other important part of having a plan are visual prompts and directions.

It has taken me many years but I am finally in a place where I am able to break down all big tasks into small tasks that lead to student success.  When you teach students how to do things in your classroom they are more successful and you spend less time redirecting behavior.

Think about it this way, the more students can do independently, the more successful they will become in your classroom.  The higher self confidence each student will have, and ultimately, the more academic chances they will take.


  1. A list of all activities that need specific directions.  Especially, those activities where your kiddos seem to be lost (e.g. need the most redirection).
  2. You can make your own visual prompts by using images from the web or taking pictures of your kiddos making the appropriate choices. Pictures of your students make better visuals in a pre-k or K classroom because it plays into their egocentrism.  I usually choose my little friend that needs the most help during that transition.  Every time you need to redirect behavior you can just point at their picture.

The most effective visual prompts are short and to the point.  Not too wordy and with an easy visual.  The visual should exactly match the directive.

You have to break down each activity into small, more manageable parts.  Remember, that because of their young age, in some cases, students have not had modeling into what specific tasks might look like.  What does quiet, turn, listen, etc. really mean to them?  Once you’ve explained what the task is, use a visual that matches the task.  And even if you have students who have had modeling of behavior at home or school, not all behavior is the same everywhere (or to all people).  Always make sure that you model what that expected behavior looks like in your classroom.

If your task requires more that one visual you might need to break that item into smaller tasks.

Visual prompts are all over my classroom and they should be all over your classroom too!  I use visual prompts all day, everyday.  They are part of transition activities, behavior expectations, and as schedule directions throughout the day.

Visual prompts work best when printed in color, have few words (and lots of pictures), and accessible by the students.  A good visual prompt will always remind students of the expected behavior, even if you don’t point to it or read it first.

Since you can see that I love visual prompts I am giving you my favorite prompt.  It helps establish expected behaviors during turn and shares in a whole group setting.  I printed it, laminated it, and have it in my circle area.  I always bring it down and read it (or have a student helper read it) to friends right before we engage in a turn and share.

It reminds students of the expectations and allows me to walk around or work with a group of students at a time.  Easy, breezy just click right here to download: turn-and-share-poster.

Much like the advice I received so many years ago, having a plan will help you keep your student’s focused on what you’re doing.  The easiest way to keep your students from creating a more fun plan for themselves are visual prompts.  They have been life savers for me in my classroom and I hope that they help you too.

If you have an idea for a visual prompt, or a tried and true prompt, let us know below!

Cinthya Quintana
Cinthya Quintana

Latest posts by Cinthya Quintana (see all)