Counting popsicle sticks. Singing songs about weather. Chanting the days of the week. The Calendar Time routine has become a veritable staple in many PreK-2 classrooms.
Which is why I don’t make this challenge lightly. But between research and my own observations, I can’t help but wonder whether Calendar Time is pulling its weight proportionate to its allotted time/energy.
“Calendar Time for Young Children: Good Intentions Gone Awry” (May 2008) by Sallee J. Beneke, Michaelene M. Ostrosky, and Lilian G. Katz raises some important questions with regards to our use of calendar time. The two biggest include:
- Developmental readiness, especially with regards to temporal understanding (“According to Friedman (2000), the ability to judge the relative time from a past event or until a future event in terms of the calendar year is not in place until sometime between 7 and 10 years of age”).
- The skills we work to cultivate during calendar time are often better suited toward guided group/individual work that is more easily differentiated.
The article offers several alternatives that would be more developmentally appropriate and effective for the intended outcomes of Calendar Time, such as:
- Showing the story of the day’s schedule with a picture schedule
- Shared photo-journals or artifacts chronicling class happenings
- Time-linked displays to document learning
- Project work that brings time-related concepts to a more immediate and relevant sphere
“Teachers who intend to keep calendar a part of their daily classroom routine will be more effective if they develop ways to incorporate the calendar that require little time and reflect young children’s limited development of time concepts.”
I witnessed just how valuable the alternatives can be in watching my own daughter’s temporal development unfold. When she was about 4 years old, I noticed that she could never keep track of how soon events would occur — life became an endless stream of questioning to find out how many days before _____. In response, I decided to create for her what we called our “week wheel,” on which we stuck pictures of frequent events (which she illustrated, of course). Quite apart from saving my sanity, this handy tool also provided a hands-on method for her to better comprehend what comes next.
More recently, she started asking me what day of the week it was — every single day. For a long time, I didn’t think much of it; I dismissed it as simple curiosity. Until I realized that she was creating her own picture calendar out of the one included in the weekly bulletin at church.
Each day, as soon as she heard the name of the day, she’d dash back in to check what she’d planned for herself for the day, meticulously crossing off the day before. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way for her to learn the days of the week than this kind of authentic, personal application.
Obviously, such strategies become more complex when there are 20-30+ kids in the mix — a whole-group Calendar Time seems sensible. But what seems more efficient isn’t necessarily going to be effective. We can and must get creative to find ways to meet our kids where they are in all their diverse needs and interests.
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto