Monday, 13 August 2012

Rethinking Calendar Routines. Is it Time? Yep.


The Great Calendar Debate  


Ok.  I have a few Calendar Routine issues.  I can get a little cranky when the conversation rolls around to this topic.  For years I have railed against the calendar in ANY classroom being only filled up until today’s date. A calendar is a tool. Used to help you organize what is coming up more than it is as a record of what is past.  You can argue against any of the points I may raise later, but in this case, if you do nothing else this year, fill in the rest of your calendar. Please. 



That being said, an amazing conversation sprung up on #Kinderchat over a year ago, debating the usefulness of a traditional calendar routine, and instead trying to think of the calendar as a tool, not a routine.  Of course, kindred spirits were discovered in Kassia and Amy,  links to NAEYC articles Days to My Birthday and Good Intentions Gone Awry  to mull over, excerpts from Jessica Shumway’s book Number Sense Routines and Kassia’s Math Exchanges to read, and best of all, last summer,  building a year long calendar to try out for real.  One huge long, linear, write-on-it continuous one-day-leads-into-the-next calendar.  

The boring part of this post - the building of it, is not important. I taped them all together, cutting and  pasting so that there were never any empty days at the end of one month. I fussed about linear over vertical, permanently on the wall as Amy did, or mounted on a Science Backboard to fold away as Kassia contemplated,  or just leaving it as a calendar to flip though as Patty did.  How you do it is not as important as just doing it.  I ended up choosing what was just right for me.  




So, September last year.  Just to make sure I was really ready, we started the year with the usual month calendar.  And used the yearly calendar whenever we could. How Big is a Kindergarten Year? was our question.  We built a song around it, focused on birthdays. Because every conversation about time came down to a conversation about birthdays. Kids wrote on the calendar, putting in important dates.  We held up the big calendar and counted the months.  Over, and over and over.  Never assuming that there are 12 of them.  

September was a flurry of recording big events (ok, just birthdays. I told you.  Mom’s birthdays, pet’s birthdays, do bug's have birthdays? You name it. ) A clear understanding of what is important to a five year old emerges.  One K mentions Halloween.  No one cares about the calendar. They don’t care WHEN Halloween is, they just know it is amazing - what will you wear, what candy is best - it takes time for the conversation to float to the when of it.  But then, ready for them is a visual idea of just how soon it is!!  It is right near the beginning of our Kindergarten year!!!  

Boom.  The conversation explodes into Traditional Holidays, something I do very little of : )  So Christmas is here? Because of the picture? Hey look at the pictures at the top!!  Easter is kinda a long way off . . . My birthday is before that.  Hey, what about Valentines?  Oh, I said.  It is close to 100 Day (Psssst. Nobody cared about 100 Day. Till Later. Till it was relevant). My birthday is in the winter.  How many months until???? becomes the most important question we have. 

And on other days? Nothing.  Everyday is not a treasure chest of rich discussion.  But a year long calendar invites it. Is waiting for that moment.  

We dump the monthly calendar and we build a this week pocket collection of stuff, because it seemed like some things repeated on a certain day in school. School lends itself to a rhythm of routine that is cosy, comforting, and predictable.   The morning announcements has lots of information to be recorded. Let’s compare to what we did last week, will it happen next week? Is it a once a year thing? What season did it happen in? When was that again? Hey wait, I know it was a Wednesday, will it be on Wednesday again? Can we leave this up for next week?




Did we sing Days of the Week songs? Sometimes. It worked for some that were wondering. Plus some taught the others the song from PreSchool. But better was asking the kids who already knew the days of the week.  How do you know it is a Monday? “Because of the M.  But Tuesday is tough - I mix it up with the other one.”  Did we sing Months of the Year? Nope.  We talked more about the seasons - we live in Canada after all, weather matters here : ) 

The Year Long Calendar becomes a living document.  It is unfolded, folded like an accordion,  stapled to the wall, pulled down, flopped over the big table to check for stuff. Color coded stickers are used to record Days in School, but not until some k’s big sister mentioned 100 day.  We go back and figure it out.  We cut it into seasons and tape it back together. It lays forgotten, then is reborn when a K remembers, oh the Calendar is a great tool for figuring THAT out.  

It is a tool. It is not a routine, or a chant. It is not a set amount of time spent everyday settling the class into the routine of the day.  It matters. Because it is relevant to the kids when they need it.  

So. I am hooked. While I believe in the pedagogy, the research, and my own belief in the developmentally appropriate power of this, it is not for those reasons that I am currently building my new Year Long Calendar for my new crew. Or that the extensions for it are huge in my head right now, like the concept of visual timeline that we build through the year - maybe wrapping around the room.

It is because my old one ended up tattered, worn and loved.  At the end of the year, kids could pick a something from the room to keep.  The Calendar was the first thing to get picked.  Over the glitter markers I never used. Over the giant cardboard truck, over the big books we had made. And there was a sigh from many that they could not have it.  

It is because the little weed who got it looked at me and whispered, “It is like I get to keep Kindergarten!” 

A calendar routine that can do that? Yep. 

40 comments:

  1. I love this!!!!!!!!! I am the weirdo in our school who puts up,all the numbers on the calendar at the start of the month. Now you've got me thinking about becoming the weirdo with the year long calendar. It sure sparks a lot of thoughtful conversation. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Thanks @mrsmelva :) I am looking forward to the day we are not the weirdos . . .

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  4. I totally totally agree with your statement that calendar is not a routine or a chant. I also abandoned the traditional calendar route two years at and it worked wonders for class management too. Now I feel my students are learning things they really need to know and aren't just memorizing. Great post!

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    1. Thanks - I started thinking year long thoughts when a few years ago I completely forgot to keep track of days in school. It was December when I remembered. So in January we figured it out. It made so much sense. But of course habits die hard. Would love to see your version.

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  5. You used the Mom calendar, brilliant! I am going to borrow this idea...so excited!

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  6. I'm another weirdo who puts up all the numbers for the month. But now you have got me thinking ... Didn't want to think after spending all day in the classroom getting it ready. But I'm thinking. I really like and philosophically and pedagogically agree with what happened with the month long calendar. You used the Organized Mom calendar - is that available at Staples/Walmart?
    (I live in a small town in BC too)

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  7. I'm curious - are you putting up the traditional monthly calendar at all this year?

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  8. So glad to have messed up your start off: ) The nice thing is you can start it anytime. I got the calendar at my local grocery, so likely it is everywhere. I picked it up because the space for writing on each day was big. I also liked the big pictures at the top. While they are hopelessly linked to holidays, they were a good cue for the kinders. Probably one of the school desk calendars would work well too.

    I won't be putting up the traditional calendar. We will be sorting, ordering making number lines, grids, arrays with the old calendar numbers. I did miss having a "real life" place with bold numbers to send kids to if they asked what a number looked like.

    Have I met you on twitter? I find the multiple handles of social media can get me - I am @learningmurd if you are there.

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  9. I'm going to leap in and rethink my calendar. It works. But if there is a better, more authentic way ... If there are any ideas, tips, to pass on ...

    I think I saw the Mom calendars at Staples - or Walmart - or somewhere. I like the banner on the top as a visual cue for the kidlets.

    I found the kinderchat challenges in blogland last week and that gave me the nudge to take the Twitter plunge. Don't really know what I am doing, but am intrigued and excited about the PLC opportunities. My brain has been stretched already through ideas (like yours) that I have found out about through twitter. I am BCrubberboots (the thought was to link it with my blog rubberboots and elf shoes) but I am thinking that it has too many characters. Learning curve.

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  10. What a wonderful post! I heartily agree that traditional calendar activities are soon stale and rote. Recently, I posted in my blog about using patterns and predictions to up the ante for calendar time. But, I like your year long idea better. Change is a good thing, right?

    Barb
    itsabouttimeteachers.blogspot.com

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  11. We use a calendar as a tool in our classroom too. However, being preschool we do it a month at a time. I put all the important events up on it and at the end of the day we review what we did and record it on that day. Every month gets saved and it's one of our give aways at the end of the year.

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  12. You've got me thinking. Thank you for this!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

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  13. Wow! I love to reflect on my teaching practice and you have made me do just that!!! We have been in school for five days. I had my monthly calendar all set to go, but have yet to use it. Why? It just didn't call to me. There were so many other exciting things that I just couldn't bring myself to use that bulletin board with my kiddos. Now you are making me thing about how to use a calendar as a tool. I am such a calendar girl. I always have one with me, whether it be electronic or paper. Thanks, I think. : )
    Camille
    An Open Door

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  14. So glad to get people thinking. I even got myself thinking :) I was all ready to staple this year in all it's glory across two bulliten boards. Then, in responding to your lovely posts, I skimmed the pictures again. Of course I can't staple it down yet. We haven't gone exploring yet!

    Oh! Maybe I will accordion it to show September. Then reveal month after month after month. Hmmmm. I like that. Good thing. School starts tomorrow - and on any calendar, that is very soon :)

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  15. Love this post!!! I too have had a Calendar sitting up on my wall that I rarely used because I hated the Calender rountine that people did. I also felt like the only one who didn't do Calendar. This totally fits in with Responsive Classroom which I love and follow as well!

    I posted about this post on my blog and linked back to you!!

    Renee
    The Reading Corner

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    1. Thanks Renee - your post on the Math Notebooks was great, as I have struggled with recording student thinking in math. We use a brain board, record our thinking, and often take a photo of it. The k's can then add their thinking after as well. I think your system would be a way to keep it all together.

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  16. I love this and totally agree. My first graders always used to say..USE YOUR RESOURCES! So why would we only give them part of the resources?

    Kimberley
    1stinmaine.blogspot.com
    @kagmoran

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  17. Thank you for giving me something to think about. I am also a 20+ year teacher and I am always looking for ways to make things fresh for me and my kidlets.

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  18. Kristin VanCuren Koester17 October 2012 at 18:12

    Without rattling on too long, I wanted to let you know that using some of the ideas that you shared here has completely opened up many new awesome conversations among my students. I can't believe the doors it has opened up. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

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    1. I love the tangents that you can take - young children's concept of time can be quite unique to our way of thinking.

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  19. I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information.
    weedub

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  20. Thanks Andi. As an interesting aside, #kinderchat had a conversation with new k teachers, giving advice. I had mentioned that something that works one year might be disastrous another year. Due to a new Smartboard in my classroom, my year long calendar has been sorely tested. I am in the process of making it relevant again by turning it into a Learning Wall, an audit trail of our year with photos and student reflection. Wish me luck : )

    A great resource for audit trails is Vivian Vasques "Negotiating Critical Literacies" http://vivianmvasquez.blogspot.ca/

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  21. Okay, I lOVE this idea. Tammy sent me over. I'm going to jump in, too. Hey! Just noticed the comment above me. I did my masters project on critical literacies and vivian was an author I read a LOT!
    I also notice you haven't posted since August. I hope you start posting again 'cause you have amazing ideas to share.
    Thanks!

    ❀Barbara❀
    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

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  22. I love this! I teach second grade, but calendar is still something that the kiddos need to work on. I have the perfect spot for this! Thanks so much for your post. I am a new follower!
    Hilary
    Second Grade is Out of This World

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  23. I read this in the summer and kept saying "yes!" out loud....and then I went out and bought myself a giant calendar. So far, this approach has far EXCEEDED my expectations - I feel like my kids are learning SO MANY MORE functional skills related to time and using a calendar. We've worked in seasons (gr. 1 science), past/present/future (gr. 1 social studies) and SO MUCH MATH AND COUNTING. It's also been awesome connecting time, as we record and anticipate special dates in every student's life....

    Thank you for the inspiration - I will take a picture of our very long calendar sometime soon and send it to you, perhaps? Calendar is, once again, my favorite time of day. :)

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  24. Oh I love pictures! Please send or post here - or better yet - blog it and share here there and everywhere.

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  25. marya anderson5 July 2013 at 12:14

    Yes!! Thank you! I have always loathed the half-hour "calendar time" that was limited to the myopic view, and irrelevant to the kids. But I would hate to see calendars removed from classrooms. They are wonderful tools and can certainly be meaningful to children...differently at different ages. You nailed it. Thanks so much for sharing your views and ideas.

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  26. Thanks for a very thought-provoking post. I was sitting down today to think about my calendar routine for next year in first when I saw the link to your post on Twitter. Now I'm rethinking wall space and thinking about where to put a year long calendar so the kids can see it. I've used a calendar notebook with my kids and I like the daily written practice they get, but it does get stale. You've got me thinking...

    Kate
    @ksull723

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  27. Thanks for the post. I love the idea of using it as a tool. I am a new grade 1/2 teacher this year and am trying to arrange my class in my mind...definitely using this!

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  28. I'm getting ready for a new year and really want to go this route. What are the stickers for that I see on some of the months?
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

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    1. I included a link to this post in my blog today. Thank you for pushing me to rethink things.

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  29. Counting days in school, just wrote a blog on that - thanks for the inspiration

    http://weedsareplantstoo.blogspot.ca/2013/08/taking-swing-at-100-day.html

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  30. I love this. I got rid of calendar when teaching first grade and lurking during some kinderchats. I had hated calendar and how most of my class wasn't participating or understanding what was going on. I had my yearlong calendar on the wall for them to look at, and we referred to it often. I didn't miss trying to figure out how many tens and ones each day had, and neither did my students. Beautifully written.

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  31. Thank you! Last year I did like Marseille..with the best of intentions,I took pictures and wrote down important events but didn't get around to showing the kids the entire timeline of their year, which would be super cool. This year,I decided to put the pictures in frames and put them on the shelf whee the kids hang their coats do they can be reminded of all the great things we did in the year...but you have me thinking I'd like to do the accordion calendar...that's awesome! I live all the ideas here!

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  32. Sorry,it should be Mardelle. It. Auto corrected and I missed it. My apologies.

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  33. I'm sorry Mardelle. Auto correction changed your name and I missed it. :-)

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    1. No troubles, It always does that to me too! I really hope that I can do the audit trails this year. I think that is where the real connection to the passage of time will be

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  34. LOVE this and now I know I'm not alone in this feeling so inauthentic! I love the idea of a year long calendar and have never considered it ... although I was considering a timeline, it becomes more of a record/document of the past instead of a planning tool. I do have a tip for those who are using the pocket style calendar. My students have written the number dates 1-31 on white cardstock and we put them all in place at the start of the month. As the days pass we cover them with circles that are a contrasting color that have the dates also printed on them, so you can see at a glance what day it is and what days have passed, which are ahead. It's so much better than the blank days staring back at you!
    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

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  35. What a wonderful post!! And that last comment stole my heart! Thank you for sharing!
    ~Melissa
    Teacher Treasure Hunter

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