By: Pam Schaffner

The Program Quality Assessment team in PA is often asked if they have any tips to make meeting quality standards easier. Since they have experience visiting many programs in their professional careers, they have seen many programs employ strategies to make things easier, more efficient, and more effective. Implementing quality can be stressful and time consuming, but it is always worth it. So, this Q-T Corner moment aims at helping you along the way.

Installment #3
What should a preschool schedule look like?

First, a preschool schedule should be posted in a very visible place. Whether you use a picture schedule or a schedule on paper, it should be easily seen. Why? Because when someone comes into your room to take your place (if you are sick, on vacation, etc.), your schedule should be used as a guide for what they should be doing with your children throughout the day.

Once it is posted, there are some things to consider in making it the best schedule possible. To show you what a great schedule looks like, perhaps it is best to show you two that need a little work.

Pretend you are the substitute teacher in a room you have never been asked to cover before. The posted schedule was quickly located. As you read through, you should be able to think of some questions to ask about the schedule because you are unsure what something really means. Think you can do it? Jot the questions down as you think of them. Do this for both schedules below.

Our Day
6:00 Arrival
7:00-8:30 Breakfast
8:30-9:00 Circle time or special
9:00-12:00 Outside/free play
12:00 Lunch
12:30 Nap
3:00 Snack
3:30-6:00 Table/quiet activities

Questions you should have asked yourself:

  • What are the children doing between 6:00 and 7:00 am, once they have arrived?
  • Are the children sitting at the breakfast table from 7 to 8:30 am or is that just when breakfast is offered? What do children do after they finish eating?
  • What is a special? How do you decide if a special is happening or circle time?
  • From 9:00-12:00 am is 3 hours in length. Are all 3 hours spent outside OR indoors doing free play?  Or, is part of the time outside play and part of the time free play indoors? What do you do during this time if you can’t go outside?
  • What do you consider a table or quiet activity for the 3:30 until 6:00 pm time table? Which shelves of toys may be brought to the table? Can the quiet activity be done somewhere other than the table?

Our Day

Questions you should have asked yourself:

  • How long should each of these activities take?
  • What time do each of these activities start?
  • What time do children arrive and leave for the day?
  • What do they do at table time? Is it play or does the teacher do an activity with them?
  • Where does small group take place and how is it different from table time?


A substitute teacher will ask him or herself these questions. A Program Quality Assessor coming to assess for Keystone STARS will ask YOU these questions. You may look at your own schedule and ask yourself these and similar questions. So here are some tips for writing a posted schedule:

  1. A schedule should be posted and easily found.
  2. A schedule should reflect start and end times for activities.
  3. The times should reflect open to close hours so the whole day (not just the teacher’s working hours) is reflected.
  4. Avoid using large blocks of time to show multiple activities happening. Thus, avoid using the “/” symbol. For example, avoid free play/snack/outside time and instead show the start and end times to each of these separately.
  5. If there is an option in your schedule, use the word “or” instead of “/”. For example, outside or gym instead of outside/gym. Another example; outside or indoor play in centers instead of outside/free play.
  6. Avoid using terms such as table activities or quiet activities without some sort of answer key or further posting of what can and cannot be considered a table or quiet activity.
  7. State what the children are doing at that time of the day. For example, 3-6pm “Departure” does not help a substitute keep them busy waiting to be picked up without further clarification.

***Remember that children learn best through play and the bulk of the schedule should include lots of time for free play and less time for structured teacher-directed lessons. For a high-quality preschool program, 1/3 of the total program’s hours and 1 hour of every 3 hours in care should be spent playing.***

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