The Benefits of Using a Whole Year Calendar
Like many primary teachers, each new school year I’d set up my calendar activities area and the students would take turns putting numbers into a pocket chart calendar holder.
I’d do the typical calendar routines with the children and they learned a lot about numbers and became familiar with the days of the week and the months of the year. Each month, I’d put out new commercial or teacher made, seasonal shapes for each day of the new month.
One year, at the beginning of January, I cut apart a free calendar from the local drugstore (see image below) and posted the whole thing on the wall, starting with January and ending with December, so the class could see a whole year calendar at a glance. It was also convenient for me to see where I was in the grand scheme of things.
I didn’t spend a lot of time on it and just used highlighters and a black Sharpie™. Please note, that the image above is an example and the ones I used in my classroom had more multicultural holidays showing.
New Calendar Activities and Observations
I left the calendar on the wall, put a long pointer beside it for fun and waited. Slowly the kids started using the pointer and asking questions like these:
- Why is that on the wall? What is it?
- What do those bigger letters say (January, February…)?
- Why is that big number, (2017, 2018, etc.) on each page?
- Why do some pages start with grey numbers and not black?
- Where’s my birthday?
- Why are some of the numbers black and some red?
- What do the words along the top say?
- So what is a week again?
As I answered their questions, they observed the left to right reading of the calendar, learned that each block was a new month, that the word at the top of each page was the name of the month and that the big number was the name of the year. I didn’t use this calendar regularly with the children but the children liked to study it, use the pointer and talk about it during independent play periods.
And all year long, the questions and/or comments kept coming:
- That says Sunday right? We don’t come to school on Sunday.
- So is that tree Christmas? So there’s a long time until Christmas isn’t there. We are way at the top and it is way at the bottom. Is that a long time?
- We don’t come to school on the red numbers, right?
- There’s my birthday. There are 5 more months (some said pages or squares) until my birthday. It’s a long wait isn’t it?
- Anne’s birthday is really soon isn’t it. It’s on the next piece.
- What month is it now? What is next month called?
- My cousin is coming in the summer. When is summer? It’s pretty soon right, only two away.
Time is an abstract concept for little kids
Young children think of time as day and night, morning and bedtime, school days and weekends, story time, recess time and snack time and two sleeps away. Some things they do take longer to finish, other things take a shorter amount of time to complete.
They are working towards understanding the concept of time and need experiences with it before the terms year, month, week, hours, minutes and seconds become meaningful. They slowly learn that clocks and calendars are tools to help us keep track of time and are useful when planning events and activities.
After giving the students ample time to ask questions, I slowly used the year calendar to introduce and explain vocabulary such as:
- day, night
- yesterday, tomorrow
- week, month, year, date
- event, a month from now, three months from now
- seasons, Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer
- morning, afternoon, evening
- before, after, time
- beginning of the year, middle of the year, end of the year, new year,
- week-end, week-day
- second, minute, hour, moment
- order, first, second, third…
- guess, about, estimate
Some children wanted to create their own calendars, so I set out materials in the writing area. The usual supplies such as markers, pencils, stapler, etc were already there, so I added more blank paper, blank monthly calendars, sample free calendars from local stores, as well as picture books about time and/or calendars.
I began to see the value in providing children with the opportunity to view the whole year at a glance, rather than just one month at a time. I could see how their concept of long-term time and their ability to look to the future was developing and that their sense of calendar time was becoming more meaningful. I wished I had thought of this idea earlier and appreciated what a great long-term learning experience it was for my students.
Using Everyday Items
For more ideas on how to use everyday items to challenge kids to investigate, make collections, to sort, to classify and compare, to make observations about quantity, size, position and/or proportion and to develop new vocabulary, check out my ebook, Challenging Children with Everyday Things…..