So, how many of you have ever used calendar time in your pre-k or kinder classroom? I know I have! It's one of those things you do just do because that's what everyone does. I mean...doesn't everyone do calendar time?? It seems to be such an integral part of any early childhood classroom.
Now, I have a different question...
How many of you have pulled your hair out while trying to do your calendar time? The kiddos get restless...they have NO idea how to figure out what today is...they think Saturday comes after Tuesday...they think "yesterday" means anything that happened at any point in their lives before they went to sleep the night before... Yeah, been there, done that!
But, for some reason, we just keep on doing it. Day, after day, after day... Sure, there are some kids that get it. Sure, there are some skills that we actually can teach effectively during calendar time. But, is it the best use of our time in an early childhood classroom? Is it the best way to get our kiddos to understand the passage of time? Is it the most effective way to teach those few things that they do actually learn?
I say...NO! And, the NAEYC agrees with me!
I am one of those teachers that doesn't do anything that is not purposeful. This means, basically, that I do my homework. I read. I research. I study. Then, I decide what to do in my classroom. So, naturally, when I found out I was moving to pre-k, I was on the hunt for anything and everything I could get my hands on regarding best practices in pre-k. One of the most perspective-changing things I read was an article called, "Calendar Time for Young Children: Good Intentions Gone Awry." You can read it for yourself here. This article (along with some other research I found) really made me rethink how I was using that 20-30 minutes every day that I normally spent on calendar time. So...I started thinking...and thinking...and thinking...
What do I know about prekinders that makes it necessary for me to adjust how I do my calendar time?
#1 Prekinders need to develop the concept of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
#2 Prekinders are not able to really grasp the concepts of days of the week or months of the year. They may be able to sing them or regurgitate them, but they don't understand them.
#3 Prekinders need to develop their numeral recognition and proficiency with the counting sequence in authentic, meaningful contexts.
All of this led me to some MAJOR realizations about calendar time!!!
#1 There is really no place for a traditional calendar time in a developmentally appropriate pre-k classroom.
#2 To deepen prekinders understanding of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we need a daily activity that is solely focused on that skill.
#3 To deepen prekinders understanding of the passage of time, we need a concrete, linear representation of the days as they pass.
#4 There are MANY different ways to expose my prekinders to the math skills generally covered during calendar time.
So...how does all of this transfer into a real classroom on a daily basis?? Well, let me tell you what I'm planning on doing!
During our math circle time, we will be doing lots of activities to reinforce numeral recognition and the counting sequence. BUT..small groups and centers are where the real development of these concepts will take place. My kiddos will learn to count by counting varied objects during centers. They will learn to recognize numerals by playing games and engaging in different small-group and center activities where numerals naturally occur. They need to be learning and practicing these skills in authentic ways as much as possible.
Now, for the passage of time... This is where it really looks different! Rather than posting a calender and adding a new number to it every day, I have spots set aside to post five different pictures that we will do at the end of each day. During our closing circle time, we will talk about all the things we did that day. Then, we will choose one of them to draw. (At first, I will draw the pictures. In time, the kiddos will take it over!) We will also write a sentence to go with the picture. Then, the next day during our math circle, we have a child-generated representation of "yesterday" that is very real and tangible to them. We can talk about what happened yesterday, what we might be doing today, and what they think we will do tomorrow. The pictures will stay up for the week, then I will move them into a folder to create an ongoing class journal of our year. This will give us a long-term reference for things that have happened in the past. Here is what our picture display looks like (sans pictures, of course!):
In addition to all of this, we will be doing a whole-group math journal every day. This is where I can target skills that most of my kiddos need extra help with, skills that we just need repetition with, or problem solving skills. But, my biggest focus will be on the problem solving aspect. I really want to get them thinking about how to figure something out.
So, there it is! No calendar time in Mrs. A's room!