Monday, 13 August 2012

Rethinking Calendar Routines. Is it Time? Yep.

The Great Calendar Debate  

Ok.  I have a few Calendar Routine issues.  I can get a little cranky when the conversation rolls around to this topic.  For years I have railed against the calendar in ANY classroom being only filled up until today’s date. A calendar is a tool. Used to help you organize what is coming up more than it is as a record of what is past.  You can argue against any of the points I may raise later, but in this case, if you do nothing else this year, fill in the rest of your calendar. Please. 

That being said, an amazing conversation sprung up on #Kinderchat over a year ago, debating the usefulness of a traditional calendar routine, and instead trying to think of the calendar as a tool, not a routine.  Of course, kindred spirits were discovered in Kassia and Amy,  links to NAEYC articles Days to My Birthday and Good Intentions Gone Awry  to mull over, excerpts from Jessica Shumway’s book Number Sense Routines and Kassia’s Math Exchanges to read, and best of all, last summer,  building a year long calendar to try out for real.  One huge long, linear, write-on-it continuous one-day-leads-into-the-next calendar.  

The boring part of this post - the building of it, is not important. I taped them all together, cutting and  pasting so that there were never any empty days at the end of one month. I fussed about linear over vertical, permanently on the wall as Amy did, or mounted on a Science Backboard to fold away as Kassia contemplated,  or just leaving it as a calendar to flip though as Patty did.  How you do it is not as important as just doing it.  I ended up choosing what was just right for me.  

So, September last year.  Just to make sure I was really ready, we started the year with the usual month calendar.  And used the yearly calendar whenever we could. How Big is a Kindergarten Year? was our question.  We built a song around it, focused on birthdays. Because every conversation about time came down to a conversation about birthdays. Kids wrote on the calendar, putting in important dates.  We held up the big calendar and counted the months.  Over, and over and over.  Never assuming that there are 12 of them.  

September was a flurry of recording big events (ok, just birthdays. I told you.  Mom’s birthdays, pet’s birthdays, do bug's have birthdays? You name it. ) A clear understanding of what is important to a five year old emerges.  One K mentions Halloween.  No one cares about the calendar. They don’t care WHEN Halloween is, they just know it is amazing - what will you wear, what candy is best - it takes time for the conversation to float to the when of it.  But then, ready for them is a visual idea of just how soon it is!!  It is right near the beginning of our Kindergarten year!!!  

Boom.  The conversation explodes into Traditional Holidays, something I do very little of : )  So Christmas is here? Because of the picture? Hey look at the pictures at the top!!  Easter is kinda a long way off . . . My birthday is before that.  Hey, what about Valentines?  Oh, I said.  It is close to 100 Day (Psssst. Nobody cared about 100 Day. Till Later. Till it was relevant). My birthday is in the winter.  How many months until???? becomes the most important question we have. 

And on other days? Nothing.  Everyday is not a treasure chest of rich discussion.  But a year long calendar invites it. Is waiting for that moment.  

We dump the monthly calendar and we build a this week pocket collection of stuff, because it seemed like some things repeated on a certain day in school. School lends itself to a rhythm of routine that is cosy, comforting, and predictable.   The morning announcements has lots of information to be recorded. Let’s compare to what we did last week, will it happen next week? Is it a once a year thing? What season did it happen in? When was that again? Hey wait, I know it was a Wednesday, will it be on Wednesday again? Can we leave this up for next week?

Did we sing Days of the Week songs? Sometimes. It worked for some that were wondering. Plus some taught the others the song from PreSchool. But better was asking the kids who already knew the days of the week.  How do you know it is a Monday? “Because of the M.  But Tuesday is tough - I mix it up with the other one.”  Did we sing Months of the Year? Nope.  We talked more about the seasons - we live in Canada after all, weather matters here : ) 

The Year Long Calendar becomes a living document.  It is unfolded, folded like an accordion,  stapled to the wall, pulled down, flopped over the big table to check for stuff. Color coded stickers are used to record Days in School, but not until some k’s big sister mentioned 100 day.  We go back and figure it out.  We cut it into seasons and tape it back together. It lays forgotten, then is reborn when a K remembers, oh the Calendar is a great tool for figuring THAT out.  

It is a tool. It is not a routine, or a chant. It is not a set amount of time spent everyday settling the class into the routine of the day.  It matters. Because it is relevant to the kids when they need it.  

So. I am hooked. While I believe in the pedagogy, the research, and my own belief in the developmentally appropriate power of this, it is not for those reasons that I am currently building my new Year Long Calendar for my new crew. Or that the extensions for it are huge in my head right now, like the concept of visual timeline that we build through the year - maybe wrapping around the room.

It is because my old one ended up tattered, worn and loved.  At the end of the year, kids could pick a something from the room to keep.  The Calendar was the first thing to get picked.  Over the glitter markers I never used. Over the giant cardboard truck, over the big books we had made. And there was a sigh from many that they could not have it.  

It is because the little weed who got it looked at me and whispered, “It is like I get to keep Kindergarten!” 

A calendar routine that can do that? Yep. 

Friday, 10 August 2012


Picture Book 10 for 10 challenge

“This post is for #PB10for10 which was started by @mandyrobek and @CathyMere three years ago to share picture book resources.”

I thought that this year I would give this a go. Thanks to Patty, who set up a blog for this sole purpose : )  Easier said than done.  I have 10 for when my growns were littles.  I have 10 that touch me as a grown up, and 10 that send 5 year olds into conniptions. I have 10 for older kids, and ten for my grandkids, when they come.  

I have over 2000 children’s books in my library.  And I know that there are books in that collection that will move me, delight me, teach me, and calm me when I am 90 years old.  As they have always done. 

So for this moment in time? #Pb10for10

1. Frog belly Rat Bone, by  Timothy Basil Ering

A one of a kind story about the earth, bad guys who see the light, the power of teamwork, and the wonder of treasure in a bleak world.

2. The Bike Lesson, by Stan Berenstain

This is for nostalgia, but kids still love it. I remember reading it as a child - I still have the very much worse-for-wear copy.  Papa Bear just keeps on showing Brother Bear how it is done - such a great lesson in the Art of Butting Out and Letting Kids Shine : ) 

3. Toad, by Ruth Brown 

Gritty, mucky, sloppy, gloomy with prose to die for and a sunshine moment like no other.  Read it.  

4. Jamberry, By  Bruce Degen

“One Berry, Two Berry, Pick me a Blueberry
Hat berry, Shoe Berry in my Canoe Berry”  
My family can recite this book years later. We all have our own copy. 

5a. Granny is a Darling   and   5.b The PIcnic,  by   Kady MacDonald Denton

Ok, Of course I am cheating by putting in two.  But seriously.  The Picnic follows two children who want to picnic with their respective parents but they are too busy. As children cannot cross the street on their own, they devise a way to do just that : )  This is now out of print, but Granny is another gem by an author who I was lucky enough to meet when she flew into our remote school 25 years ago for her first Author’s Visit to a school.  As she is also the illustrator, we saw the paint process from idea to published format.  

6. King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, by  Audrey Wood.

Stunningly detailed illustrations with a very playful text absolutely entice kids to look at this book over and over and over.  And the king’s face is priceless. 

7. Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, by  Mo Willems

Ok. We all love Mo Willems, but this book is fantastic on so many levels.  Besides, it has the word ‘naked’ right in it : )  Plus, the message is powerful.  And simple. 

8. Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman

I hate to but in a theme one - this is Halloween, but my kids loved it, my students love it, and I love it.  We actually had this on tape years ago, and chunks of the book are sung, so now it is my go-to, sing it, do the voices, love it story.  Plus we make a wicked story bag to take home instead of junky candy, so it is all good,  baby.  

With that quote I should mention the Pete the Cat books.  But I won’t : ) (pssssssst! they are STUPID awesome! You should get all of them right now.) 

9. Balloon Farm, by Jerdine Nolen

I read this many times to my own children, but rarely to my own students. I need to fix that.  I once found myself in a library with very young ‘uns draped on me when one brought this book over.  I knew it well, and was surprised it got picked. We had very little time, so I just flipped pages and we talked through it.  The librarian later said that book got signed out to tatters : )** Bah. I just see now that it has been made into a movie.  Full disclosure - haven’t seen it, might be good, but I tend to get a little cranky when books are movietized. 

This one just bumped a bunch of contenders as the last pick in as it popped into my head.  An other oldie. Another no-longer-in-print paperback that I originally found in a gonna toss it bin.   Beautiful rhyme, a lesson in persistence, imagination, and wonder.  I love it for lots of reasons, but I love it best as it brings me to the memory of a moment curled up on a sofa whispering it to a boy feeling left out in a world of cousins, family, and crazy.   In a top ten of Picture books, this time, the words were enough. 

So. I could have picked 10 others.  Another day I might have. But as I look this over, I am happy.  It helps me to see that it is not the book but the relationship we have with it.  And for some books, it is Love at First Sight.  Others grow on you.  And others sneak up and poke at you till you notice them.  

I might still be reading this week’s top novel when I am 90.  I might still be reading magazines, tweets, or articles.  I might still be reading non-fiction.  I might be teleporting in a hovercar to the latest author’s opening.  I might be doing that.  But what I know for sure is that I will be looking at my Picture Books.  I will not be dusting them off.  They will have worn pages and loved bindings.  Because powerful writing, deep themes, and complex ideas are found in a great Picture Book.