Now that it's back to school time--how about a little calendar talk. When I taught in a public school, we loved our "calendar time" in first grade. I bought myself a nice calendar set from Lakeshore Learning that came with all the trimmings and went to town. That calendar came home with me and sat in my "classroom stuff" box in various storage sheds, basement and garages until last year. Last year I dusted it off and hung it on the wall in our makeshift playroom. And we started using it. Doing a daily calendar time is such a simple, easy and fantastic learning tool.
There are so many different levels for this daily activity. Start with your pre-schooler or even toddlers. Then, if you choose to home school you can continue into the grade school years. Even if you choose to send your child out of the home for school, you can still use the calendar at home to reinforce what is being learned in the school.
Calendar time is about much more than the date.
It's hard for me to organize how I want to talk about this : ) First of all...if you don't have the money to buy a calendar set up at a fancy teaching store, that's fine. Simply get a piece of cardboard or poster board and use a ruler to make a 5x7 grid. Label the days of the week at the top. Each month you can write on a piece of paper and hang at the top. Laminate your work if you make it fancy and want to reuse it each year. My kit came with the numbers 1-31. I don't ever use those numbers though. Instead I cut out shapes for each month.
Let me explain why I do that--it's simple, that way I can teach shapes, color and patterns during calendar time. Each month I change the shapes and the colors and put them in a different pattern. Red, purple, red, purple one month and then blue, blue, orange, blue, blue, orange the next month. The pattern can also be explained in shapes: triangle, circle, square, triangle, circle, square.
The kids love to use a pointer and play teacher. A Lincoln log can be used in a pinch : ) This is a good time to learn leadership skills--speak in a loud, clear voice. Look at who you are speaking to. It's also a great chance to learn about taking turns. Not everyone gets to be the teacher each day.
I tape the numbers to a paper that I keep hanging on the wall. If you have cork board on your wall, or a hanging bulletin board you can tack them there. You can either use a tack for each day on the calendar, or slit a line in each square on the calendar and insert a paper clip for each day to be clipped on to.
Your child might not understand what a "pattern" is at first. They might not know their shapes and colors either. And you don't even have to explain these things. As the months go by you'll be surprised at how much they pick up. This activity touches on so many math themes from the most basic to complex it's not funny: even and odd numbers, counting by ones, patterns, shapes, colors, addition, months of the year. It's a good time to talk about seasons, weather and holidays as those topics come up. "What type of weather do we usually have during June?" "What clothes do you usually wear during January?" "What holiday do we celebrate in November?"
When you first begin this activity it's important to sit down and teach the procedure. You be the teacher for the first month. Explain what month it is and what a "date" is. Place the first date on the calendar and show that it doesn't automatically go in the first square--it corresponds with a day of the week. It's often hard to get going. Sometimes you feel like you're fighting an uphill battle. That's okay. Just keep at it. Count by ones each day and then stop before you get to the missing number,
"Okay boys and girls let's find today's date. Count with me as I point to each of the numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Raise your hand if you know what number today will be." After they identify the number ask them if anyone can tell you what color or shape the date will be on. Then let a child find that date and hang it on the calendar. Count together slowly again while pointing at the numbers and include the newly posted date.
After a few months (or years, depending on how old your children are when you start) you can send the kids to the calendar and ask them to do the activity on their own for the day if you are in a hurry. It's so fun to see them progress to this point.
If you choose to do this activity with a child who goes to school it's a good idea to go into his/her classroom and see how the teacher uses her calendar so that you are not teaching your child differently than how they are learning at school.
While you are gathered together on the floor by the calendar is a great time to sing some songs or do some finger plays. Have some fun!