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Making Calendar Time Meaningful

Making Calendar Time Meaningful

I try to live each day with the philosophy “work smarter, not harder.” In the same way, I try to teach according to the same motto. I have my preschoolers for a short time before they head off to kindergarten, and I want to make sure that I am making the most of each minute I am with them. Learning needs to be meaningful, and that means that I need to be constantly assessing my own approaches and methods.

One of the activities that kept popping up on my radar is calendar time. I have worked at different centers who had varying views on it. At a couple of the preschools I have been in, as well as schools that I observed while getting my degree, they did this every day. It was a ritual. Sit on the circle time rug, talk about the day, the date, how many days until ____, and some even talked about the year. On the opposite spectrum, I worked for an organization where calendar was taboo. If you were caught with a calendar, you would be beheaded by lunch…well, maybe they would have been a little more understanding. Let’s just say no one dared ask for one in their classroom. One of my most dearly revered professors leaned more on this side too. She told us that a four year old would have to do calendar so many hundreds of times (I am really wishing I had written down the exact number now) before they understood it. I am going to say it is 350 times (and I know that’s the ballpark), which means that it would take roughly a year and a half of doing calendar for the concept to sink in. And that is if they go to school five days a week and the teacher does it every single day. We are talking years for kiddos who go less than Monday through Friday.

Making Calendar Time Meaningful by Preschool Inspirations

This certainly does not mean that engaging in calendar activities is evil or that it is damaging children. To me it meant that I was just wasting a lot of my time and their time because when a child is ready to achieve a skill, it is natural and occurs with ease, lots of times without the direct help of an adult. Another way to look at it is like trying to teach a five month old to walk. They will be ready in a little while, but they still need to learn to sit, crawl, pull up, balance, and more before they will even be ready to walk. We can try to help  move their legs back and forth, but it’s not going to happen until all of the important steps in the middle take place.

There is a really great article written about this “calendar hot topic” by the National Association for the Education of Young Children called Calendar Time for  Young Children: Good Intentions Gone AwryAccording to this article, it all comes down to the fact that calendar time for preschoolers and even kindergarteners is not meaningful. Young children can understand the concepts of before and after, but not the days of the week. In fact, according to NAEYC, the ability to understand how many days there are from now until a future event will not take place until a child is between the ages of 7 and 10.

If you are like me, you may wonder about children who are very advanced. Would this be appropriate for them? I certainly wanted to find the answer to this, so last year I did my own little experiment. I began teaching calendar time to my most advanced pre-kindergartener. If anyone would figure it out, it would be her! So here was my prime opportunity. We spent two months working on calendar. Each day she came in, and I would ask the “typical calendar questions.” What is today? Which day was yesterday? What is tomorrow? How many days until _______? We went over them four times a week, and after two steady months, my question had been answered.  For a child who mastered skills so easily, I could see that this activity was still too advanced for her.

I had come to a crossroads. Do I just throw out the whole concept? Do we do it on occasion? Can I adjust this to make it meaningful? Thankfully, I decided I really wanted to devise a way that could work out for everyone. I desired to provide a solution for those teachers who just love calendar, and I was determined to make it developmentally appropriate for preschoolers (and kindergarteners). And I did it — I created a method to make calendar time interactive and meaningful!

My interactive calendar, as I will call it,  mostly focuses on math, and I don’t even bring up the days of the week. Well I do in other meaningful ways, but I don’t do it with the interactive calendar.  The main focus of this is to familiarize preschoolers with how a calendar looks and to give them more confidence with numbers and enjoyment in matching, sorting, patterning, number recognition, etc. Here’s how I completely transformed our calendar time.

First, I decided that instead of using it in a large group setting, we would have it as a “small center” on one side of my easel. Children can come and go as they please and spend as long as they want. They can touch it, rearrange it, and just explore it!

Making Calendar Time Meaningful by Preschool Inspirations-4

To make it sturdy enough for little fingers, I laminated all the numbers and added velcro dots.

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Each day I write the number  that we are on with a dry erase crayon. The dry erase markers rub off too easily, so the crayons are perfect. Then I put the numbers in a container for them to find at the bottom of the easel. You may even see child written numbers on our calendar from time to time. Making Calendar Time Meaningful by Preschool Inspirations-5

They love to match the laminated number cards with the handwritten numbers!

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Calendar time is so much more meaningful now! Sometimes, just one child will play at the calendar center, but lots of times, I find two friends there helping one another. Within a few minutes, I usually see a completed calendar after some great team work.

Making Calendar Time Meaningful by Preschool Inspirations-2

This has truly been an incredibly successful approach to “calendaresque” activities. I have found my preschooler’s comprehension of numbers and quantity has skyrocketed. Calendar time is not a task to do anymore — it is an interactive experience led by the interest of each child. We don’t even do this every month, just as long as they find it fulfilling and interesting.

To see how we do another different calendar technique in December, take a peek at our calendar activity here.

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  • Becky

    I skimmed through your article, but am pinning to read more. I come from the classroom and now homeschool. I abandoned calendar time last year because it seemed like a waste of time. This year, I’ve been determined to make it work, but it’s not working. Love your premise and philosophy about making learning meaningful! (Stopping by from KBN.)

    • Katie

      It’s a pleasure to have you, Becky! Thank you so much for the inspiring comment. If you try the interactive calendar (or your own improvised version), I’d love to hear how it goes.

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  • Jill

    I love how this interactive calendar doesn’t focus on days. How creative!

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

    • Katie

      Why thank you, Jill. I appreciate you hosting the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop! There are so many great ideas there!

  • Stephanie Kay

    When I started homeschooling my oldest child as a preschooler I tortured us both with calendar time – month, date, weather outside, holidays. PURE TORTURE. His K/1st grade math even had it as part of the curriculum. About 6 months into it I threw it out. Now that my kids are 5, 7, 8, 10 years and another that’s 8 months I can attest to kids not grasping the calendar concept until 7-10 years. They may parrot back the right answers but they don’t really understand what you are talking about. With my 1st child I tried to do it all the “right” way (according to my education background and loads of books). I never did any preschool type stuff with my 4th child and amazingly enough he’s learned it all anyway. Thanks for reminding me why we don’t do calendar work. :) Thanks for linking to Family Fun Friday.

    • Katie

      Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of experience with us, Stephanie Kay! I do agree about the torture aspect :). It is amazing how children just learn so easily, and it’s when we stress about advanced topics and try to force them, that it just adds more work and frustration. Learning is meant to be natural…not stressful.

  • Candace

    I have been teaching preschool for almost 2 years. Up until now I have trying to make calendar work not wanting to admit that it’s not. I love your idea for using the calendar as almost a center, my kids already love mess with it so this will be an easy transition. What is your view on talking about the weather or should that go away to?

    • Katie

      Thanks for visiting, Candace! I hope your class loves getting to interact with the calendar soon. I wish I had thought of this when I was only two years into it :). As far as weather, I would gauge the interests of your class, but I think that there are some great science lessons that are age appropriate. Does your class enjoy talking about how it feels outside and what the sky looks like? I feel that weather does not have to be taught in circle time necessarily. It can be interactive as well by bringing in a sensory table full of snow or rain. You could use a fan to demonstrate wind or a hair dryer to blow warm air on them. And I have some weather ideas in the works that will be coming out in a couple of months. Happy teaching!