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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Using Calendars in Preschool

Calendars.  We hang them, write on them, we refer to them on our phones.  In preschool we even sing about them.  It seems that wherever you go - especially in classrooms, you can easily find a calendar.

But what kind of calendar is best for preschoolers to learn from?  Or do preschoolers even need calendars at all?

The truth is that most research seems to point to the fact that most traditional calendar methods are not developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.  In fact, some experts say that that there is "little evidence that calendar activities that mark extended periods of time (a month, a week) are meaningful for children below first grade (Friedman 2000)."

The truth is, if I were forced to come down on one side or the other about whether I agreed with that statement, I would have to agree.  I really do think calendar concepts are too abstract for most preschoolers.  Which is a hard fact to swallow considering how much we utilize (and enjoy) calendar time in preschool.  The fact is that it's a)comfortable, b)predictable, and c)well, it's just what we do.  The truth is that I can easily rationalize that calendar time is surely beneficial in some small ways to preschoolers.

That being said, I am still not ready to abandon this small part of our daily routine yet.  I still would like to cling to the parts of calendar time that preschooler can learn from, such as numeration skills, rote counting, before and after concepts, sequencing skills, etc.

Here how I currently do calendar time with the Little People.

We actually have three phases of our calendar.  The first one in the year that we use is our Circle Calendar.  I start talking about this calendar during week three of the school year.  It looks like this:

The outer circle is stationary and the inner circle rotates around from day to day.  I attach sticky velcro pieces between the front and back circle in order to secure the moving inner circle once we set the day.

As you can see, each day has a picture.  Monday through Friday have "At School" pictures.  We talk about this picture, and how it signifies that those days we come to school.  Saturday and Sunday have "Stay at Home" pictures, as we call those "Stay at Home Days".

If we have a holiday, we add the picture that you see on Monday in the picture above.  This tells us that we usually go to school on that day of the week, but on this special day we will not go to school.  It is a holiday. (In this case it was Labor Day).

We also add other pictures of events that will be happening during the week.  We have a picture for birthdays, for school pictures, for outside presenters coming in, etc.  I stick these on at the beginning of the week, and then we talk about them as they approach. (You can see how I organize those pictures here.)

What I like about this calendar is that it shows how the days repeat.  The kids see that after we go through a week of Monday - Sunday, those days start all over again - and again the week after that.  Plus, I like that it only shows the week at hand.  We don't talk about months or dates - just the week ahead of us.

So, what do you think about using calendars in preschool?  As we vote in my class with the Little People, are you thumbs up, or thumbs down?

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