Monday, September 22, 2014

Rethinking Calendar Time

I recently read an article about calendar time for young children. It was first published in the May 2008 issue of Young Child (an NAEYC publication). You can read the article in its entirety here.

The article made me think of my own calendar experiences and how maybe it was time to rethink some of the calendar routines that I had used for so many years. 

Calendar time/math circle time on the carpet can be a very important part of your day or it can be a dreary and difficult time to manage. It all depends on what you do and how you do it. 

Keep it short and keep children moving. Calendar routines and math circle combined should take no longer than 15-20 minutes. Offer plenty of opportunities for action and involvement- songs, fingerplays, and hands-on opportunities are just a few ways to keep children moving. 

According to Friedman (2000), when looking at the development of young children there is little evidence that calendar activities which mark extended periods of time (for example: a month or a week) are meaningful for children below first grade. Friedman (2000) also noted that the ability to judge time from a past event or until a future event in terms of the calendar year is not in place until sometime between the age of 7 and 10. I know from personal experience that many of my kindergartners had trouble conceptualizing yesterday, today, and tomorrow and what day of the week or month of the year it was. 

What Should we Teach Using the Calendar? If Anything at all?
So then... with this information in mind what concepts should we teach using the calendar. Numeracy, vocabulary, patterning, or sequencing?? 

Math Concepts
Young children need opportunities to explore and and experiment individually with math concepts, using concrete materials and with a teacher who can respond to their questions and guide their learning. For example, a teacher can help children notice patterns in the environment and on the calendar, while also modeling and thinking out loud while making patterns with children in small groups. 

Other Knowledge and Skills
Oftentimes, teachers use calendar time to teach unrelated skills to math, such as colors, letters, emergent writing, and social skills. While each of these skills is important for young children to learn, the calendar may not be the best place to teach these. Teaching these skills at calendar make the time on the carpet lengthy and whole group time does not allow for individualized instruction. 

Alternative Concepts to Teach at the Calendar 
Picture Schedules
Although young children have difficulty judging the length of time between events, they can understand sequence of events. A pocket chart or poster illustrating the day's schedule in sequence can be helpful and meaningful to young children. 

Here is an example from a classroom in my district. This teacher used real photographs. 

The example came from Rainbows Within Reach. You can use real photographs you take of the students during the daily activities. 

Here is an example of daily picture cards using clip art. I found these from Pocketful of Centers on Teachers Pay Teachers

Documentation Displays and Classroom Journals
Post or display photographs of classroom events, projects, field trips, etc. Display them in a designated place to clearly reflect the sequence of events. As you add new pictures of events with the students, you can revisit and discuss past events with them. You can encourage students to tell their peers and other adults the story of the events, this will strengthen their understanding of how events unfold and build up their oral language skills. This same idea can be used with classroom journals. Students can draw pictures and dictate sentences about class events. Then they can tell others about what happened during the activity.  

Here is an example from Science Notebooking. 

This example is from Paper Zip.

Linear Representations
Linear representations can help young children begin to understand and conceptualize that a day is a unit of time and talk about it with increasing clarity. A good example is counting the number of days you have been in school by adding a link to a paper chain each day, a number pattern of colored post-it notes placed in a line across the wall, or adding a unifix cube to a stack of cubes (I did this in sticks of 10).

This picture came from Rainbows Within Reach. Check out the great post Debbie made about different ways to count the days in school here.

Young children can observe, record, and predict daily weather changes. The teacher can lead discussions on the weather and changes in the weather such as what to wear when the weather changes.

In my classroom, I used this weather pig from Poco and Pop.

We charted the weather various ways over the years. Here are a few examples of things I have used. 

I used weather graphs similar to this one. I found this example from Andrea Mason on TPT. You can check it out here

Meeting the Needs of All of Your Learners
Some younger or less mature preschoolers are not ready for whole-group activities. If you insist that they join the class on the carpet, they are likely to disrupt the activities you have planned and diminish the quality of calendar/math circle time for the whole group. Providing an alternative to circle time for those children may be in everyone's best interest. You may choose to let the child look at a book or work with play-doh in another part of the room. By making calendar/math circle time active, engaging, and enjoyable for the other children, not-yet-ready children will eventually want and be ready to join in. 


sarahpuffer said...

SOOO many great ideas here! I remember that article in Young Children as well, and try to keep calendar time brief and active! Our focus with the big dry erase calendar we have is to record upcoming events, etc. so that it is relevant and makes sense to the kids. Love you blog!

Wonderful Kindergarten

traci527 said...


I just wanted to thank you for your calendar post! I had a big lightbulb moment over the yesterday today and tomorrow stuff. No wonder! Anyway I like the weather pig component and I was wondering how did you store all the extra pieces so the kids an choose? I am really thinking about adding it. I think my kids would love it.


April Larremore said...


I stored the pieces in a large zip-loc bag and I stored the zip-loc bag in a basket by the calendar. The bag was big enough for my students to easily get their hands in and out of and because the bag was clear they could easily see the pieces they were looking for. Also, the weather pig from Poco and Pop comes laminated in a hard plastic that makes it extremely durable.

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