There are a couple of differing views regarding doing calendar with preschoolers. I had a young teacher send me the following e-mail:
I was just curious if you had a formal calender time in your classroom. Now that we have been doing our calendar time everyday since August, I am wondering if it is still useful to my students. I change it up everyday so that it is engaging but I am just not sure if it is the best use of our time. Could you please let me know your thoughts? Thank you so much!
Yes, we do calendar time, and I am aware of the controversy regarding its value. I’ll just throw in that it takes us a maximum of 2 minutes, and it’s no big deal. We count up to the day and then the children who want to help guess raise their hands. (It’s a habit now.) I ask one of them, “Are you thinking of the number or the shape?” and they tell me.
If it’s a 2-digit day, they guess what two numbers make up ’16’, and I take any answer, then we figure it out together, starting at the 10 or 20 – “1-0, 1-1, 1-2, etc.” Then someone else guesses the shape and I say, “Why do you think it’s _____” and they usually know & say the pattern. Tape up the day and we are done. In my opinion it is a daily exposure to counting aloud and patterns, but we don’t spend a heap of time on it.
Hope it helps!
Here is a copy of my daily schedule. Please note that we are flexible with our times. Mealtimes are the only times that we need to be prompt.
Our doors open at 6 a.m., and full-day children can arrive anytime. We ask that all full-time children who need breakfast arrive by 8:00. Actual ‘preschool time’ is from 8:45- 11:15. Some of our children come for this time only. Even though that is ‘preschool time’, we know that learning happens all day.
6 – 7:30: Quiet play in our ‘gathering room’.
7:30 – 8:00 – Free play in our classroom
8:00 – 8:40 – Clean-up, bathroom visit, and breakfast
8:45 – Songs, Calendar, Story and Daily Discussion (We talk about our main topic and then hear what Center Choices will be.)
9/9:15-ish – 10:10 – Center Time (Blocks, Housekeeping, Books, Science, Writing Table, Painting, Sensory Table and three rotating Centers)
10:10-10:30 Clean-up and Jesus Time
10:30 – 11:00 Outside Time
11-11:25 Stories, bathroom visit (morning-only children get picked up at 11:15)
11:30-12:00 – Lunch
12:00-12:30 – Bathroom visit and get ready for nap. (Children watch a video while cots are set out.)
12:30 – 2:00 Nap
2:00 – 3:30 – Wake up, Free Play, Snack
3:30 – 4:30 – Outside Time
4:30 – 6:00 – Free Play
A simple stick-figure calendar is posted in our room so the children can see what is coming next. At home visits, I bring a copy to the child to go over and keep. (There is a short version for Preschool Only children and the longer version for All Day children.)
What works well in our room is that we try to limit transitions. Our center time is a good long hour where children can become deeply engaged in their work, and don’t have to start and stop so often.
I have always been dismayed by the amount of trash that we throw away at our Center. It’s just a fact that we have to use many cups, napkins, boxes and miles and miles of paper towels. Just recently we decided to try to make a dent in it, and start recycling our cereal boxes and milk jugs. I thought this would be a great subject to study with the children, and I’m glad we did. It was a little difficult to come up with ‘activities’ for them to do, but the conversations we had were very meaningful. Our story was Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha. It was good to begin by looking at the litter around the trash cans and discussing how that’s not good for our world. Then we talked about how if the trash trucks didn’t pick up the trash, our world would be ugly and stinky. That developed the idea that there’s a place for trash, then we moved on to discovering how everything doesn’t need to go in the trash. Some things can be used again, and somethings can be made new again. We spent some time finding all the trash cans around our school.
We ended the week by making paper out of construction paper scraps. You just tear some up, throw them in a blender with water, then pour them out over those weird disposable kitchen towels that look like mesh that’s over some kind of screen. Press out the water, let dry. (This was learned from Denise Fleming.)
Each child in our class has a journal. We usually introduce them the second week of preschool. Mine are very simple – cheap (10-20 cent) binder/folders with brads inside to hold blank paper. We label them with the child’s name and picture. (Gotta love that digital camera!) We start off with about 5 blank sheets of paper, and add paper as the year goes on. Last year I started keeping my classroom observations in the back of each folder. I told the children, “The white papers are for you, but the colorful papers are for me to write down when I see you do something great!” (They love that.)
The good part of limiting the number of papers is that it prevents it from geting filled up right away. (Last year I had them help assemble the journals, and in the first day, all the papers had drawings. We went through a bunch of paper.) We keep a date stamper handy, and after they have dictated their story, they stamp the date. (Another thing they love!)
During the day, I jot down notes on a piece of paper (I’ll talk about observations in a seperate post.) During naptime, once they are all finally sleeping, I transfer notes into their journals.
I’ll admit it -I’m a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ kind of teacher. I have a rough outline of how our day will go, but I am prepared to handle anything the kids might bring in – expecially if it’s something MUCH better than what I have ready!
How do I best explain this? There is a cooking show host I like who often says, “It’s a method – not a recipe.” I approach teaching the same way. We don’t just have ‘teaching times’ – group time/small group/what have you – I teach all day. There are some tricks that I’ve learned from conferences that are worth sharing.
* “That’s right! How did you know that?” When a child answers a question correctly or makes a wonderful observation, this is a great tool to use. It gives them the chance to explain how they came up with their answer, and it gives the other children the chance to hear how they did it.
* Don’t answer questions immediately. Sure, you probably know the answer – you’ve got a couple of decades on these guys, after all. A better response is, “Hmmm…what do you think?” This lets the child come up with a possible answer – and right or wrong, encourage the thinking! Ex: “Mrs. S, where does hair come from?” “What do you think?” “It’s all inside your head and it comes out.” “That’s a great idea! I wonder if we could look it up in our science book and see.” Use the resources! It’s also alright to answer, “I don’t know.”
When we’re down at the bathrooms, we have great conversations and speculations on all kinds of topics – where does the water come from? Where does it go? Is this enough soap? Why is the paper towel that color? Often the topics have nothing to do with the items in the bathroom, they are just the random thoughts and questions that we all have -and I love that! The same thing happens at mealtimes. Children have great thoughts, comments and observations and we get the chance to explore those at a relaxed pace. THAT is a great feeling – to be part of their learning.