Since I’m moving from third grade to first grade for next year (and then I’ll loop with my kids twice up through third grade) I’ve spent my summer organizing all of my materials, looking for what I’ll need, and setting up my classroom in a slightly different way. One of the first things I knew I wanted to add into our classroom and routines was a classroom calendar as part of our morning routine.
Classroom calendars used to be commonplace in nearly every first grade classroom, and even a lot of second grade classrooms. As the push for standards accountability has grown, I’ve noticed fewer and fewer teachers implementing calendar in their classrooms because the “standards” don’t “dictate” it, or because they just are feeling the time crunch and with the struggle to fit everything in, calendar has been cut. Today I’m going to share with you why I think calendar is so important in the primary grades to help convince you if you’re on the fence, and also give you some support if you need to justify the use of the time to someone questioning your practices.
Successful calendar routines are so much more than just singing the days of the week and the months of the year. While this is an important part (I don’t care what the standards say as much as I would much rather have adults that know how to say and spell days and months and know how many days each month has. I digress) there are so many more math standards that can be included as part of your daily calendar routine. These help give students a tiny bit of practice every.single.day and helps build their number sense as they apply their number into different formats and math applications.
Clearly, part of the calendar routine is the actual calendar. This is when you can talk about the days of the week, the months of the year, the number of days, concepts like yesterday, today, and tomorrow, etc.
I have the months lined up on one side of the calendar, and then my today, tomorrow, and yesterday system on the other. I use abbreviated days of the week for that because it helps students see the abbreviations in action and understand what they are, so when we get to that standard, they have a frame of reference. (See, here’s a standard).
We’ll use the months to help us sing the month song from time to time, and with the days along the top we can use that to sing the days of the week as well. We’ll write the date each day on the date sign practicing different forms of the date and bringing in those abbreviations.
We’ll track the seasons throughout the year. I made cards for both autumn and fall so we’ll talk about the different terms and trade them out at some point. We’ll also track the weather each day. I made cards for basically every type of weather we have here in Chicago (though it often changes more than once a day) and they should cover what most other people experience (science standards). We’ll also use a thermometer to track our temperature each morning (math and science standards).
And now comes to the real “meat” of the calendar routine; the why it’s so important. We’ll use the number of the day (the number of days we’ve been in school) to practice and review various number sense skills and math standards. We’ll begin with the first day of school, but we won’t go through the entire thing, and will gradually add and build the skills within the first two weeks.
We’ll write the number in ordinal form (1st, 2nd, etc) to help us track where we are in the year. We’ll also read the sentence aloud so students are hearing the proper way to say those numbers.
We’ll also review various number sense skills. We won’t begin this one until after the third day of school so we don’t have to work with negative numbers, and we’ll go with the hundreds chart frame beginning on the 10th day of school. Every day we’ll review even and odd, number lines, greater than and less than, and place value. As the year goes on, this job will be given to a calendar student to complete independently during morning work time, and we’ll quickly review a couple components. This one page covers and reviews so many math standards. With daily practice, it helps to solidify for students what each of these concepts are.
We’ll also use the number of the day to review money. We’ll begin this on day one, and a change from some of the other routines is that we won’t erase this page each day. So when we come over on the second day, we’ll see one penny and add one more for the second day. Then on the fifth day, we’ll add that penny and discuss how 5 pennies are the same as 1 nickel and we’ll erase and exchange. By writing the amount in dollars and cents each day, we help to show the decimal system in a little way beginning right from the first day of first grade. It also helps build the concept of 10 as the tenths place gets used.
Finally, we’ll use the number of the day to show multiple ways to make the number. During this time, after modeling, students will offer their ideas for ways to make the number. I can use this time to also show that the money can be made using coins in different ways than we’ve used above. This is an amazing time that is naturally differentiated as students who are ready to apply more difficult concepts offer them up. You can quickly explain them as you record them.
Vickie from Primary Press does an amazing job with this in her kindergarten classroom. Yes, that’s kindergarteners using parentheses to multiply.
It naturally fits that as the kids are ready for more, the numbers get larger. It’s also really easy to apply different math concepts you’re learning during this time. For example, teaching fractions: you can write a fraction for how many days have already passed this week. Practicing subtraction: How many days are left this month? Graphing: Record the weather each day in graph form for a week or two. The entire calendar time will take between 10-15 minutes. As skills become easier for students, less time needs to be spent on it whole class and you can use that time to quickly review choice concepts and then spend additional time with students building the numbers. It’s a low stress way to continue to spiral back to key concepts throughout the year.
Or, if you’re interested in both sets, I offer them as a bundle at a discount.
If black and white is not your favorite or your theme, I offer a couple different styles and am working on others. You can see all of them by clicking here.
Do you do a calendar routine in your classroom? Do you work on anything different during that time?