Calendar Time?

Over the summer, I joined up with a bunch of amazing Kindergarten and Early Childhood teachers from all over the world on twitter via the hashtag #kinderchat.

One topic on that is sure to get teachers fired up is that of Calendar Time. I remember first hearing the debate a year ago at my Creative Curriculum training. In fact, we were given this article on Calender Time by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (or NAEYC). At the time, I tucked it away, thinking, “I like Calendar Time, I think it’s useful, I’m not changing.” In a recent conversation with other educators on #Kinderchat, someone again forwarded the same article to me. This time, I read it. There are many things I agree with them about. I’ve worked with preschoolers long enough to know that even the smartest kids have a hard time understanding the difference between yesterday, last week, last year, and tomorrow. We often don’t know when an event they are telling us about really happened, because they don’t yet have a true understanding of time. The 5 year olds sometimes have a better understanding, but it’s still a difficult concept for many.

I think the true issue that NAEYC and the other teachers have with calendar time has more to do with the expectations of the teacher during that time, than the actual act of talking about the calendar. If I’m wrong about that, feel free to leave a respectful opinion in the comments section! I don’t like to start or instigate debates, but I do enjoy reading differing opinions. 🙂

In my preschool classroom, the expectation is not that children learn today, yesterday, tomorrow. I don’t spend 15 minutes on the calendar. We talk about the month, which often sparks the interest of those children who have a birthday coming up, or, if there’s an important (to them) holiday coming up. I don’t have the expectation that children are going to remember all the months, but some do. We do it because children love it. They see calendars at home and in other places. They enjoy talking about the days, the numbers, the patterns… mostly, I think they enjoy sitting in the “teacher chair” and playing calendar with their friends. My reasoning for continuing to do the calender is about exposure to the many, many concepts the calendar can introduce, without expectations of mastery.

Our calendar/schedule wall.

Our calendar/schedule wall.

We start out the year with this song (tune of “Oh my darlin'”):

There are 7 days, there are 7 days, there are 7 days in a week,

There are 7 days, there are 7 days, there are 7 days in a week,

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

I have a white card that “hides” the number of the date, and after children “guess” which number it’s going to be, we count up to it, and reveal the number. The children usually pick up on the fact that there is a pattern in the numbers, though I often will wait for them to point it out.

Some changes I DID make after the first year that “No more calendar time” was suggested, I no longer added days as the month went on. I put up all the numbers at once, and talk about the days as we get to them. I also stopped having them repeat the entire date after me. They don’t usually know (or care) what it means to say, “Today is, Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013.” Instead, we just talk about the day of the week, number and month as separate parts.  The whole thing is 5 minutes, tops.

Visual Schedule

In addition to the calendar, we have a visual schedule of our day. Our Special Ed teacher, Miss Sandy, is going to make us some new ones, so they are more clear as to what they actually are representing. In the past, I have had the visual schedule in a straight line. Last year, because of space constraints, I had it displayed very similar to the way it is here on the wall. I was leery about it at first, but as Miss Sandy pointed out, it is kind of nice that it goes left to right, but also shows that sometimes, you go back to the beginning of the next line to keep reading it; a literacy skill that is also practiced through the use of the “regular” calendar.

At the beginning of the year, as children are learning the routines of our day, we go over the visual schedule at the beginning of each class. This is especially helpful for those children who need to know there is going to be a structure to the day, and exactly what that structure is. By Thanksgiving (or before), we no longer read the schedule every day. If there is going to be a change, we WILL go over it, but by that time, things are pretty routine. Every year, we have children who go up to it every day to look at, or to see “where we’re at, and what’s next.” For this reason, I keep it up on the wall year round.

Wrap Up

In closing, I’d just like to point out that I understand why some teachers have gone away from the calendar as a daily activity. I understand the child development piece on why it might not make sense, as so many children are not developmentally ready to differentiate between the different concepts of time.

That said, I also know that it is an enjoyable part of our preschool day. Children tend to pick up many useful things from the calendar, especially if they are having fun while talking about it. My expectation is not that they all become 4 and 5 year old experts on the space-time continuum. I just want to expose them to a great tool, that also happens to practice counting, and teach them a thing or two about numbers, patterns, and days of the week.

There are many great blog posts written by other teachers on why they are no longer using a monthly calendar in their classroom, or how they might be using the calendar differently. Here are some posts on the subject. If you have one and want to link to it here, you are welcome to, no matter what side of the debate you are on.

Rethinking Calendar Routines. Is It Time? Yep.  by Mardelle Sauerborn

A New Year… No More Calendar Time  by Tiffany Van Meer

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2 thoughts on “Calendar Time?

  1. grannyK says:

    Wonderful post. I do the same with calendars and months. We look at a calendar and have a song for the days of the week. Some kids pick it up and others are baffled by time. No pressure, just a fun activity. I do believe that the more we expose a concept, the more likely they will learn it. I wouldn’t take it away completely, myself.

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