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.
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?"
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!!)
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.