Say goodbye to calendar time!

Say goodbye to calendar time!

I know – calendar time is a tradition. It’s something you’ve always done. It’s something that you just never want to give up. I get that. But as you can see in my photos, there is no calendar on our morning greeting boards…

Goodbye Calendar Time!

I recently participated in a discussion on Bam Radio with Rae Pica, Amanda Morgan, and Heather Shumaker titled,

Is it time to dump calendar time and letter of the week? 

Click the play button in the box above to listen in on our discussion for as you can see from the title, the discussion covers more that calendar time. I think you will find the conversation quite enlightening.

Then read my thoughts below!

Why I said goodbye to Calendar Time

I actually removed Calendar Time from my program shortly after I opened up my preschool. Calendar Time was something I had always done. It was a routine that was passed down to me from my previous teaching jobs. I never thought to question it as it seemed like a good idea to start our day talking about the month, day, year.  Over the years I even learned to get creative with it like singing the “Days of the Week” song to the tune of “The Adams Family.” But when I opened my own preschool, I began to really pay attention to what my students found meaningful, interesting, and valuable. I noticed that they just weren’t interested or connected to Calendar Time in the same way I was.

After doing some research, I realized that young children do not truly develop a sense of time in terms of dates, months, and years until well after their preschool years. Yes, they can memorize the months of the year and the days of the week. And yes, they can memorize counting up to 31. And yes, they can see that all these numbers and letters are organized in a neat package on our morning greeting board.

However, when I asked myself, “Is the precious time we spend everyday on these kinds of rote drills truly the most meaningful and valuable use of our time?” or “Does calendar time lead to meaningful conversations” or “Does calendar time assist in building a strong community” or “Are the children loving the process?” I had to say “no.”

These questions were at the root of what I wanted my morning greeting to achieve and after thinking it all over, I realized (and it was kind of frustrating realization) that calendar time just wasn’t right for my students or for accomplishing my goals. I said goodbye to calendar time and began to build new routines that I felt better honored the goals I had for my community of young students.

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

Hello to Greeting Time

I still wanted some kind of predictable routine to our morning. I felt a routine helped me and my students get into a rhythm, build community, calm anxieties, and yet I wanted our morning routine to be as relaxed and meaningful as possible. So over the years, I have continued to play with our morning greeting (Circletime) routine and continue to this day to question what I do so that I stay true to my goals. Here are some things we do during our morning time together…

We talk about our names

Young children are naturally interested in their names and we talk about our names every day with the help of our sign-in tokens…

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

Miss Abby’s class has their sign-in tokens too…

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

We answer our question of the day and use the question to spark conversation about what we will be doing that day or to invite the children to tell us their stories or experiences…

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

 We sing songs that build language and that get the children moving and smiling. I want to start our day with something that brings us joy…

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

We read together books that the children can relate to and that we can build on throughout the classroom environment…

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

We talk about the weather in simple terms, look for patterns in the weather, share experiences, promote new language AND of course we spend time outside everyday learning about the weather too…

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

We play simple games that provoke guessing, asking questions, thinking, and build community…

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

And we recognize our helper of the day…

Goodbye to Calendar Time!

Most of our morning greeting routine is simple and depending on the children’s interest, the entire amount of time we spend together each morning as a community varies. I love what Amanda Morgan says in the Bam Radio Interview when it comes to what is most important in the process of building a valuable morning greeting/circletime experience: “…an emphasis on meaningful language and having conversations with children because that is really important and one of the big building blocks of literacy that is more important than some of the rote activities that is common in many practices.” In regards to the length of morning greeting time Amanda states, “I don’t think we can put a number on it because it really does just need to be responsive to the children that we have in our group…”

Goodbye Calendar Time!

Links to Grow On…

10 Tips for circletime in the preschool classroom

The Weather Helper in Preschool

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24 Comments

  • Patri Posted September 10, 2016 7:20 am

    Hello from Spain!! I loved your post because you made me reflect on how we use daily the calendar. something will change in my classroom this year!! Thanks!

  • Sharlene Posted September 10, 2016 8:26 am

    I do calendar in a time line format with days marked for home days and school days. The kids anticipate upcoming holidays, birthdays, and events.

  • Sheri Posted September 10, 2016 9:43 am

    ❤️LOVED this one! I knew my circle time wasn’t what I wanted for my students but never thought I could give up calendar! THANK YOU! ????????

  • Mary Posted September 10, 2016 9:52 am

    Yes! Calendar time is an antiquated practice that is not DAP. Thank you for helping to get the word out????

  • Maryssa Posted September 10, 2016 11:49 am

    This is wonderful! I couldn’t agree more… 2 years ago I stopped doing the calendar as well and actually allowed the children to experience the calendar with their own hands. I had read an article (I don’t recall from where,) that shared that children don’t ever get to actually touch the calendar. They see it, and are supposed to learn it, but never get to be “hands-on” with it. So on the calendar I had, I wrote the numbers on the plastic part with expo markers, and allowed the children to find the matching numbers! There also wasn’t a certain time for which is was allowed to be played with. 2 friends at any part of the day were allowed to participate in the now math center. 🙂 Thank you for sharing! ❤️

  • Darlene Gormly Posted September 10, 2016 12:16 pm

    Same here! After noticing that the days/months still don’t really click after the time spent on them, it seems waste of valuable time. We also did away with weather at circle time, choosing instead to comment on it before/during going outdoors when we look out the window. Sometimes we’ll just ask as the children arrive — was it raining outside? Is it cold outside this morning? Will we need our coats to play outside, etc? We also focus on names, greetings, songs, and a question. Thanks for bringing up this topic.

  • Anne@MollysHanger Posted September 10, 2016 12:22 pm

    Kids really are older before they grasp the concept of time – good for you for recognizing it and adjusting to your kids strengths.

  • Jody Posted September 10, 2016 1:14 pm

    I have a multi-age classroom (montessori) I do calendar, each month is equipped with shapes, and colors that preschoolers will need to be working on. For example, October is black and orange circles. I alsonhave a calender helper each day that uses my magic wand to point to the numbers, practice return sweepn and put up the days new number. We also discuss patterns, yesterday today and tomorrow. Beginning middle end top bottom. I have thought many times about giving up calendar time as well but these are so many consistent repetitive concepts that the children are being exposed to. Some of my younger children will make the choice to go to the book corner or watch the fish and I don’t intervene as they are going to have two more years of calendar exposure with me.

  • Andrea Posted September 10, 2016 4:07 pm

    I guess it depends how you use the calendar in your Circle Time. We use the calendar to not just count, but to introduce seasonal shapes, colours, predicting, finding patterns, and looking forward to special days. Our calendar time is very hands on and each of my students look forward to their turn of being calendar helper. I think we sometimes shortchange what our students are capable – no, they may not grasp the full concept of days of the week/months of the year (we don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on those), but it can be used as a tool to help understand yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And they do begin to understand the calendar is there as a source of information. My son, who happens to be in my preschool class, loves to look at our fridge calendar at home and ask what all the special days marked with stickers are – he recognizes the symbols on them and we can talk about the events that are coming up so he knows what to expect. He especially loves to find everyone’s birthdays and his favourite holidays. I don’t think we should totally discredit calendar time just because we think it’s an out of date practice, but rather work to evolve it so it suits our goals for our students.

  • Casey Posted September 10, 2016 6:40 pm

    I too gave up calendar a few years ago. For our counting practice we count the children in attendance each day. We also count the absent children using the missing check in tags.

  • Patricia Posted September 10, 2016 7:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have to agree that the calendar is redundant and have felt 3’s and 4’s and pre-k just are not getting it. They are just going along with it. It really has no meaning to them. Your ideas here are great and I hope to use them in my next adventure in the classroom. I work with infants now, have worked in pre-k in the past, going on 24 years in this field. Still love it.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted September 11, 2016 12:01 am

    I love your response and for years, I too felt exactly the same way and successfully did just as you have described. To not do the Calendar wasn’t even an option for me as I had perfected my approach to what seemed successful and fun. I even trained other teachers to make their calendar time work the very best! I had the sense that the calendar was an important tool for teaching and reviewing concepts. But after time and careful consideration, I began to realize that I could teach and review all of these concepts without ever occupying time in my morning greeting. I began to see that the calendar itself was simply a tool and that tool was taking up space on my board and time in our morning gatherings that I would rather use in other ways.

    I no longer wanted to use my morning greeting time as a review of concepts but instead as a way to genuinely connect the children to a love for literacy, to build language, promote social development skills, inspire conversation, ask and answer questions about all kinds of things the children are interested, to build important bonds with each other as a community, and to introduce and explore new ideas. I can provide exposure to and a review of symbols, numbers, shapes, colors, patterns through my centers. I can provide opportunities to predict; count down to special days, offer up exciting helper opportunities, and so on without ever using a calendar. We can explore these things and more all around the classroom and all throughout the day – we can and we do. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment and although we are in a different place at the moment on the calendar, I can see we are headed in the same direction but just choosing our own paths along the way. I appreciate the way discussion such as this continues to challenge my teaching practices and decisions.

  • Robyn Fischer Posted September 11, 2016 9:13 am

    I am delighted to have come across your article this morning. I love the thoughtful process by which you decided to forgo the morning ritual of calendar during your circle time routine. I am energized with thoughts on how to approach this as trainingmodule in my next staff meeting. The tides of change are coming! 🙂

  • Kerrie Richardson Posted September 11, 2016 10:43 am

    I have taught years where I did not do calendar and years where I did do calendar. When I took calendar out of my routine, I found it difficult to remember the date myself each day (I know it has nothing to do with the students!) and also to talk about things that were coming up in our routine, like holiday and birthday celebrations. So I decided to do it this year. I think it depends on what you use it for. I like that we get to work on counting everyday, number recognition, patterning (every month’s number has a different pattern), and vocabulary (each month’s calendar has a theme). I am not so concerned about the kiddos knowing the days of the week, the month, and the year. Our calendar routine takes about 3 minutes, so it doesn’t feel like a waste of time. Also, my own 4 year is very interested in the calendar at home, and for getting a sense of time, so I don’t think it’s totally developmentally inappropriate. I think it’s all about how you teach it.

  • Tammie Carlisle Posted September 11, 2016 5:32 pm

    So glad to hear I am not the only one that feels this way about the calendar. I still do calendar, although I would be ok to pitch it. I agree that there are so many other things to do with that precious little bit of time each morning!:)

  • Shannon Posted September 11, 2016 7:53 pm

    Thank you, Deborah, for such a thought provoking post. I have also evolved what I do during circle time since I started teaching Pre-K five years ago. I also started with a traditional calendar time but was not satisfied with the results. As a teacher I am constantly reflecting on what I do in order to give my students the best learning experiences possible. I still have a calendar posted on my wall, however, it has become a small piece of what we do within our bigger Circle Time experience. I have incorporated many of the same activities you do into our morning routine and it is one of my favorite times of the day. So much learning can be incorporated into that precious time of day.

  • Amanda Mason Posted September 11, 2016 9:38 pm

    I love this! Thank you for your thoughtful approach that gets us all thinking about how we can do it best for our preschoolers. I gave up calendar after my first year or so and have loved it. We just began our 5th year and I still feel like I’m constantly trying to perfect EVERYTHING. I asked my husband as I rearranged the easels for the 75th time if he ever thought I would get it just right? Of course he said that he didn’t think so! I agree, but isn’t that part of the fun of it?!?! I just began trying your idea of having our weather helper draw the weather, and I already love it! Thank you for your never ending wealth of ideas and inspiration!

  • QualityKG Posted September 12, 2016 5:10 am

    Congrats for this nice post, I am totally in favour of removing calendar time from your pre-school. Most of the time it irritates to follow the same routine everyday, and kids are always ready to try new things or else they can loose their interest in learning. Daily different routine always excite the kid to attained the classes.

  • Nancy Pittman Posted September 12, 2016 7:17 pm

    Sharlene,
    This is the way I use a calendar. We don’t take time to go through what day it is, what was yesterday or tomorrow. I have the calendar set up each month with the Home Days covered with a house. Then birthdays covered with a birthday card and the child’s name on it. Special days are also marked with special cards. It does allow those children who are uncomfortable at school to see how soon they will have time at home again. It allows children to see what upcoming special events are coming. I have a check mark that I put on the date of today (I do this before school each morning) so the children can glance at it to see how close we are getting to a special day.
    But we do not use the calendar during our “gathering time” unless a child asks a question about it. Then I answer the question and continue without going into any more detail about the calendar during our “gathering time”. We do the question of the day, tell about at home experiences, and to talk about, and introduce, new experiences and events in our room. I use this time also to introduce new books, have the children retell books, have the children use puppets to retell books or a story. I introduce what we are going to do in the classroom for the day as well.
    I do not see any value or benefit for the children in PreK to have to use the calendar as we used to use it. As Deborah said, the calendar is not a needed thing in the classroom. I just continue to have it more for a way to assure the children there is an end to the week and let them see special days. That’s it in a nutshell. I guess you can say I use it as a security blanket for my children. Just to be able to glance at from time to time to be assured they will have time at home and of what is coming up!
    I found the desk calendar is a great thing to use. Not overly big and easy to put the cards on the days. Then tear off the month when over and keep going on to the next. Easy peazy.

  • L Baranda Larin Posted September 14, 2016 12:47 pm

    Throughout the time I taught and worked with young children I found there were more appropriate uses for that time. This time was an opportunity to build community, to socialize and for teachers to provide structured learning skills by scaffolding. The only use I found for going through a calendar activity was to satisfy the administration’s imposed dogma. Their view was that pre k was training for kinder.

  • Ms. Mary Posted September 18, 2016 9:12 pm

    I have taught preschool for more than half of my life and I am 62. I would never give up calendar time and I will share why. Each day we have a VIP, it is their chance to be in charge of the calendar and weather. Counting the numbers, looking ahead to special activities that will soon be coming up. Wondering and discussing whether we should take our umbrellas and wear our boots when we go for our morning walk. They love this time. It is their time to shine. Besides it only takes about 5 minutes. So much happiness and growth is given in those few minutes. However that being said…I do agree Circle Time is very important and it can be a very useful and fun time when you and your students are together as a unit. Talking, singing, reading and going over what our daily plans will be. So much info before the day really begins can be shared. But I feel at least for my students, Calendar and Weather Tme is a big part of that special time together.

  • Jennifer Jones Posted February 9, 2017 11:13 pm

    Deborah,

    I’m a fairly new follower and am loving all that you have to share. I do teach younger children mostly 3 yr olds. Most of what I’ve seen from you seems to pertain more to the 4 yr old age group. If you have any tips specifically for younger children can you please share?

    Also, I’ve noticed in your pictures I don’t see traditional “toys”. I’m referring to things like dolls, action figures, toy phones etc. Do you have these items in your studio or do you feel that’s a distraction? Our students attend our school only 2 1/2 hrs a day. How much free play would you allow with traditional toys in a day with that much time?
    Any and all advice is GREATLY APPRECIATED!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 9, 2017 11:41 pm

    Hi Jennifer,
    I will try to put more posts up from our three/four year old class for sure. As for the toys we choose, over time, I have come to realize that what the children need from me in my half-day preschool are experiences that they wouldn’t normally get at home. This has affected the kinds of “toys” we have available as well. My students love their action figures and such from home as much as any children do but because we don’t have them competing for the children’s attention in the classroom, the children learn very quickly and successfully to invest in new types of play that I believe is more innovative, creative, open-ended, and out-of-the-box thinking. We meet 3.5 hours a day – if I were to only have the children for 2.5 hours a day, that sense of urgency would be even more so. Over the past 7 years since starting my own private preschool, I have gradually purged most (not all) brand name or popular toys and replaced them with very carefully thought out materials and supplies that I find really capture attention and build engagement in math, science, sensory, and so on. I gotta tell you, I spend very little money on “toys” anymore – although I would if I thought I needed to – it’s really kind of nice that I don’t:)

  • Chris Posted March 3, 2017 12:19 am

    I am my school’s science teacher, and each pre-K class spends one day a week with me. I do not do calendar at circle time, because our circle time focuses on our science topic. We usually discuss a topic (the children raise their hands, and share something they know about a topic), read a non-fiction book, have a demonstration of an activity that we’ll do that day, or do a topic-related music/movement/drama activity.

    I choose one student each day to be my Mystery Helper. The children love this job — it’s kind of like VIP or Helper of the Day, but this helper never knows what his or her job will be. The Mystery Helper may help me to demonstrate an activity, such as testing objects with a magnet, or stirring salt into water to see if it dissolves, or showing how to use a stethoscope. Usually, it’s just a short demonstration to pique the children’s curiosity and teach safety and proper tool usage. The rest of the children pay rapt attention to whatever the Mystery Helper does. It’s quite a coveted role. To borrow a phrase from Ms. Mary, it’s that student’s time to shine.

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