Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Deconstructed Calendar

Some of the "stuff" (for lack of a better term) we do with young children need to be re-evaluated and deconstructed. Take Calendar Time for example. I struggled for years through calendar time.  Why did I even do calendar time?  The 2-5 yr olds that are in my program rarely fully understood the calendar.  It was more of a routine than anything and something that ate up valuable play and discovery time.  With a simple change, calendar time has turned into an amazing learning opportunity completely lead by the children! 

But first, here are my issues with traditional calendar time:

1)  It's boring and very recited, don't confuse recited with learning.  Just because a child can recite the days of the week does not mean they fully grasp the concept of days/weeks/months.
2) I always had discipline issues.  Why?  See issue #1.
3) A child cannot see rows out of a grid of squares.  Yes, I know this skill needs to be learned in order for a child to learn to read....but, is calendar time the most effective time to teach this skill?
4)  A grid of squares that a child cannot make sense of is not the best way to teach children number order.  By the time the second week of numbers is added to the calendar, young children will lose any sense of number order.
5) Squares in a square do not show distance.  They do not appear to be taking us anywhere.  They do not represent time passing because in the end, you are still inside this little square.....we have not traveled across a great distance.
6) I knew in my heart I was doing Calendar Time to please the parents, not the kids.  Parents love to hear their child recite things because that means they "know it" right?  Wrong.....but it's hard to get all parents on board with that theory.

So then.....last year I boycotted Calendar Time all together, but that didn't feel right either.  I needed some way to help young children grasp the concept of time, and moving towards something.  It was also a guaranteed "math moment" everyday.  Let's face it, sometimes math gets overlooked with the excitment of other things.  There is math hidden all over the place, but sometimes we forget to grab those moments and really make the best of them.  Calendar time was my guaranteed contact with numbers every day.  Do young children necessarily need daily contact with numbers?  Debateable.  After going a year without it, I definitely noticed a difference in my crew going off to Kindergarten, so I knew I had to bring it back.

CALENDAR TIME DECONSTRUCTED

After putting much thought into how I could make calendar time more relevant in the mind of a child I came up with the following:

1) I got rid of the grid.
I deconstructed a regular calendar.  I cut the weeks apart and hung them in one long continuous row.  Interestingly enough, as I was hanging this up, the children ALL noticed. The first thing they noticed was how long it was.  "Whoa!  That is really long"  "That's big Nita!" "What is it?"



2) What's NOW....what's NEXT?
I put the current month on the far left side of the looong row, and the NEXT month at the far right hand of the looong row.  Comments from the children on this "OH! It's a Calendar" (the older ones recognized the month cards) "I see!  We are going from this one alllllllllllllll the way to that one!"  (wow...already they are grasping the concept!!)

3) Gave ownership to the children, boosted self esteems, increased vocabulary,encouraged teamwork and motivated the children to recognize numbers!
To put true ownership of the calendar into the hands of the children, I hid the number of the day.  Whenever the number is discovered, this is when we do calendar time. It is no longer a forced activity full of discipline issues. The children who are interested (which, so far, has been everyone) gather around and watch the person who found the number put it in the appropriate spot. 

What happens if the calendar number is not found?  Nothing.  It will be found eventually.  Since my goals with the calendar are not learning the days of the week, but rather number order and recognition and measurement, it doesn't really matter.  When that number is finally found, they put it in the right spot then.  Moments like this provide even more learning.  For example:  say on the 10th the number is not found.  On the 11th, they find the 11.  The children need to recognize that 11 is not going to come after 9.  When 10 is finally discovered,they then need to recognize that it is a 10, not 12 and put it in the correct spot!  (did I lose anyone on that description??!)

The benefits of this one component have been huge.
  • The child who knows what number we are looking for feels wonderful because they know their numbers.
  •  The children who are learning about numbers learn through teamwork and from their peers.
  •  The vocabulary used to give clues as to the number's whereabouts help children grasp those directional terms such as under, over, in, behind, around, near etc.

              The calendar is now a highlight of the morning, it's a BIG deal.  When a child arrives after the number has been found, they are truly bummed, and in most cases will go to the calendar and double check that indeed a new number is up.  They then see if the correct day is up, and if it isn't then they will quickly fix it!
What a great self - esteem boost for Cole (5) as Erik (3) and Lindsey (2)
join him to figure out how many days until Gavin's birthday.  I would
like to note that this was not asked of them...this was their own doing. They left what
they were playing when they saw Cole counting.  Lindsey and Erik continued pointing
and counting all the way to October long after Cole left to go play.
4)  Physically move towards a new month.
Each week, we slide the "Mon., Tues., Wed.," card down to show us starting a new week and moving closer to a birthday, a Holiday or simply the next month.

I encourage you to take a close look at each part of your day.  Do somethings just not feel right? If so, fix it. Perhaps there are other "typical" and "expected" parts of an early childhood program that need to be decontructed too!

Remember, put responsibility and ownership in the hands of children as often as you can!  The results are FABULOUS!


Now go play!  (and....deconstruct if need be!!)


29 comments:

  1. I absolutely love this idea for my 2 and 4 year old. Thanks!!!

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  2. I love this! I'd always boycotted calendar time, but I'm in a new classroom where it's a big part of the routine. I love, love, LOVE your blog, it's giving me loads of ideas. best wishes!

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    1. I'm glad you find my blog helpful Summer! The "deconstructed calendar" is a gem!! I wish I would have figured it out years ago!!! The kids just love it, and they are learning SO MUCH MORE with it this way!! They have complete ownership of the calendar, and that is huge for a young child! :)

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  3. I love this for calendar time!! Do you just have the one month up, or is it multiple months? I love the idea of hiding the number. My kids are always up for a good game of hide and seek. :) I just found your blog today, and I'm already making a list of things I'm going to implement in my classroom (and I think I'm going to print off this blog post to share with the other teachers).

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    1. I just hang up the current month at the beginning of the month, and the following month at the end. The children completely understand that we are moving from one month to the next this way.

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    2. Mine absolutely LOVE finding stuff! They get so excited, and what I notice is that the calendar is PLAYED with! Which is WONDERFUL! They will mess up the numbers and challenge each other to fix it etc. -- The calendar is a part of their discussions too, as we approach exciting days like Bdays and Holidays -- as well as a new month -- oh, is that ever exciting! It just MAKES SENSE....which is the goal! :) Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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  4. You are my hero. So excited to deconstruct in the fall!! How do you handle weekends/days off? Do you put up those numbers?

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    1. Awe....thanks!!! When we are away, there are just MORE numbers to find, and more number order to practice!!! I hide ALL the numbers that we have missed. It's a grand way to document where the children are with their recognition and order sense, WITHOUT them even knowing! :)

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  5. GREAT IDEA! I abandoned calendar also. Paid a lot of money for the one that I "just had to have" now it is in the closet. :-/ Now we are just doing days of the weeks and months of the year. I have a today is xxxxxxx Poster and we place the day there. But as you said it is mostly recited. I also struggle with removing *calendar time* completely. I like your idea but do not have the wall space you have. As my group gets older I feel the need to bring in back but want a less boring way.Part of me is saying no big deal Kindergarten is soon enough for calendar - and the other part of me misses the routine of it. My group really enjoy it - when it becomes a *chore* I guess I can take it away completely.

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    1. Do not feel that you HAVE to do the calendar. I like the way I do it as a daily contact with number recognition....but it is not necessary. Do you read Teacher Tom's blog? If not, I would recommend it. He had a wonderful post lately about the fact that there are letters and numbers in child's play EVERYWHERE, we need to relax! :)

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  6. I noticed that your number 1 doesn't start on the first square, I'm assuming that's because the month didn't start on Sunday. Did you have any questions from the children about all those empty spots before 1?

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    1. They of course wonder why it doesn't start at the beginning prior to us moving the name of the days strip back to the beginning of the month -- then they understand.

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  7. What a great concept! As a supervisor of a preschool aged daycare, I have let my staff boycott calendar time, but I love this idea and we are going to start doing calendar again whether they like it or not! ;)

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    1. Just please remember to make this a part of child's play -- not a seperate component of the day. The entire process should be owned by the children. My crew LOVES ownership!! THanks for taking the time to comment!! I hope your staff likes it!!

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  8. Great idea! I just had a conversation with my kindergarten teacher colleagues about the traditional calendars and their value at this stage of development. Most of us agreed to use a daily visual schedule rather than month calendar. But now I can use this linear calendar instead. Would it be helpful to put up the months that have already passed around the room, in one long chain, so students can visualize the passage of time? We often count the days of school, but have no visual representation of that total, so it also becomes rote memory rather than a conceptual understanding of the number value. We could also use this number line to measure numbers (eg. How long is 5 days? Is it always the same? How many groups of 5 can we measure in one month? etc

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    1. For a Kindergarten classroom, I think it would be neat to show the month's that have passed -- and, perhaps hang photos below of some key things that happened in that month? A linear journal? THANKS for taking the time to comment!! :D Best of luck to you in your new school year!!

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  9. I LOVE this and your whole blog! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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    1. I am so glad you like it!! Thank you!! (I'm a bit late at replying to this comment!! I see you wrote this almost a YEAR ago!! Whoopsies!!!)

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  10. Nice post, Denita! So wonderful to find other early childhood educators who think of ways to make these concepts developmentally appropriate and meaningful.

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    1. Thank you!! My motto is make it meaningful or skip it! Young children have one shot at being little -- don't waste their time on meaningless :)

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  11. OK, I am going to deconstruct my calendar this fall so I had to come back and reread your blog about it. My question is: You mentioned something about sliding down the days of the week like the Monday, Tues.... could you explain that a little more? After a long weekend my brain must still be on vacation!

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    1. I think she means that she moves the strip that says "Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday...Saturday Sunday" from hanging over the numbers from the weeks prior to the current week. If you scroll up to the last picture, you'll see that the kids are standing in front of the days of the week strip hanging over the week's numbers.

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    2. Alinda--- on Mondays, we just slide the days of the week sign down so it is over the new week. (we don't literally slide it, we unstick and move it down. I use poster putty to hang stuff on my wall)

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    3. Such as great idea! I plan to make changes to use it very soon. Thanks for sharing it.

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  12. In my previous setting I actually bought 5 calendar pocket charts that were only a week long, I hung them all across the whiteboard, the kids LOVED this and it was so meaningful. At the beginning of the month we'd put special days in the pockets...birthdays, etc...and I asked families to let us know of any special events at their homes we could add..moving, family visits etc. I'm in a Reggio-inspired magnet school now, so the big pocket-chart-blue is not appropriate for the aesthetics and I'm trying to come up with something more natural looking.

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    1. I am interested in trying the deconstructed calendar with my class this year. I am also trying to create a Reggio inspired environment. I'm interested in what you did for a more natural look.

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  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  14. You could make a wooden base, or burlap?

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  15. My community has a group called Educare that visits local child care centers to offer training, advice, and supplies. They suggested that we not do calendar time with the preschoolers, for many of the reasons you discussed. However, as far as I know, they didn't offer any alternatives such as linear calendars. I have just had the calendar up in my room but don't spend any time discussing it with the group, and it felt weird to me. I plan to implement a linear calendar soon and discuss the change with the Educare ladies :)

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