At 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.