rethinking calendar

calendarAt the beginning of the school year, I have very little in the classroom. The first days of school are all about getting to know each other and building community. They are also about inviting the children to take ownership of their learning environment. After celebrating the birthday of our classroom library, we began to discuss special days. Birthdays, Diwali and Christmas were the first to make the list. We also talked about other important events like the first day of school, assemblies and pizza days. “How will we know when these days are coming?” I asked. The students were quick to reply, “We need a calendar.” In groups, they represented what they knew about calendars.

As I was cleaning the room at the end of the summer, I came across an old unused calendar. I knew I wanted to involve the students in co-constructing areas of our classroom. This included the calendar, so I kept it for reference. They immediately noticed that it had boxes and numbers. Some recognized the year. Others noticed the days of the week. “S” noticed empty boxes along the top row of certain months and wondered why they were empty. We also looked at a commercially prepared blank calendar.

observing calendar
A group of students was particularly interested in creating our classroom calendar. They were given bristol board, two sizes of blank stickies and the calendars to use as a reference. It was very interesting to see how their problem-solving unfolded. They began to lay out sticky after sticky without giving it any thought. There was no consideration for how many small and large stickies they would need. Some overlapped, some didn’t. Eventually they ran out and asked for more. I asked how many they needed and they didn’t know. When I asked them how they could find out, it took them a while to decide to look at the actual calendars. They counted the boxes on the calendar and compared the total with the number of stickies they used. It turned out they actually did need more, but before I handed them over, I asked them to take a closer look at their calendar to see if they needed to make any changes. They began comparing row by row and realized they needed seven stickies in each row, so they began to re-configure their arrangement.

comparing calendars

Once everything was re-arranged they could clearly see how many stickies they needed. “O” told her classmates that they needed “five here, four here and three here.” When I asked how many that was altogether, they counted and decided they needed twelve.

calendar stickies 2

With the stickies finally in place, they used metre sticks and markers to draw lines and label the days of the week. After a few days we had our first calendar! We took a class survey to find out if we should keep the calendar blank and stick numbers to it or if we should write on it and make another calendar next month. It was unanimous. Others wanted a chance to make one too. I love when they inspire each other!

constructing calendar This whole process was yet another reminder for me to slow down. The discussion this group had around constructing the calendar was rich and the problem-solving in which they engaged was authentic and meaningful. I’m sure I’ll be frequently reminding myself of this lesson as our year progresses.

13 thoughts on “rethinking calendar

  1. This is awesome! What a wonderful activity to challenge the kiddos – and awesome to see it was their motivation to work on it as the year goes on!

  2. I have shared this Serge with a few of the teachers I work with in grade one! Thanks for including this in your blog! By unpacking the curriculum expectations in grade one, on teaching ‘calendar’, we really need to rethink about the amount of time we spend at the beginning of day on our ‘calendar routines’ and replace it with something that is more meaningful and cognitively appropriate for our grade one students.

      • I can’t wait to hear what those ideas are. Its a Thursday morning at the end of July and this grade 1 teacher is having her mind blown, in the best way. I’ve got my coffee and morning music and I’m taking digital notes. If only I could convince my school to give me tables and to take away the darn desks.

        Mme Amanda

  3. Hi there!
    I am also FDK teacher turned grade 1 this year and I am all over your blog for inspiration!!! I had planned to create a calendar with the students this year but having them create it on their own is even better! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful ideas!!

  4. Hi Serge, a great post -thanks! I’m moving up to K/1 next year and this supports/inspires the direction I wanted to go with calendar. You mentioned changes? I’m interested in knowing how the rest of the year went Ruth this project…any insights yo share? Thanks again!

    • Once they grasped the concept, they began to represent the date in different ways such as using base 10 blocks to represent the number which eventually led to including a number sentence (addition and subtraction depending on how the particular student chose to represent the number). The students did this independently rather than participate in a calendar routine. When we had our daily debriefs, they would also share how they represented the date if they chose to. Other students would visit what their classmate had done and might have discussions around what they noticed.

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