The Linear Calendar Wall

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“For 5 and 6 year olds, time becomes marked by what happened yesterday, today and what might happen tomorrow.”

Sally Haughey – Fairy Dust Teaching

Our linear calendar is an important teaching tool and classroom routine in our kindergarten world.  This idea was born after many conversations with Kassia Omohundro Weekend, author of Math Exchanges, as we were both beginning new school years teaching kindergarten for the first time. We weren’t satisfied with the typical calendar routines in kindergarten (or the higher grades we had previously taught) and started to ask ourselves what would be a meaningful and authentic engagement for documenting the passage of time. We wanted to incorporate a time line of sorts, along with an audit trail documenting our learning together over the course of a year. The linear calendar has evolved a bit over the past seven years, but it remains an important piece of our classroom journey.

I get a calendar from an office supply store every summer and pull it apart. I display it from August to July on a large bulletin board in our room. Every month is included because I want it to show a full calendar year. The first thing that goes on the calendar is our birthdays. I spend time the first week of school having each child find his or her birthday month and day and put a star sticker on that day. This is how the calendar wall is introduced to the children. I see a lot of talk and curiosity as they ask, “When is my birthday?”, “How many months until my birthday?”, and “Look! My birthday is close to (a friend’s) birthday!”

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Each month, I take that page off the wall and bring it over to our meeting area. We interact with this calendar all month in an authentic way – just like I write in my calendar planner. Together, we write in important events such as Back to School Night, early releases, guest speakers, teacher workdays, holidays, etc. We indicate days we are in school and days we are at home by highlighting weekends and holidays with a yellow marker. I spend time at the beginning of each month showing how the calendar flows into the next month by starting on the next day. This is a tricky concept and one worth talking about every month. Some years I have cut the extra days off the end and beginning of the month so the kids can see how it all fits together. When August ends on a Wednesday, then Thursday is the first day of September.

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Every day we look at the calendar during morning meeting and see what is happening that day and what might be happening later in the week. At the end of the day, we cross out the day and write what day of school we just finished. We look to see what is happening tomorrow and for the rest of the week. I’ve found this SO much more meaningful than a song about what “yesterday, today and tomorrow” is, a sentence frame about what today is and what tomorrow with be or a recitation of reading the calendar – all things I’ve done in the past and yet, in June, many kids didn’t know how to interact with a calendar or tell you when tomorrow is.

The kids interact with this calendar on their own throughout the day. You can see them reading it with pointers, talking about how many days until winter break, counting days until the next birthday, reflecting on things we did in prior months, and having conversations during play, reading, etc. I am always amazed at the meaningful conversations that happen in front of the calendar wall.

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At the end of each month, we reflect on all that we accomplished or experienced that month. We create an interactive writing piece together to summarize the month, and choose pictures to display on our calendar wall. The children and I put this together and display it above the calendar month page. This creates a timeline that captures our year together. Children, families and visitors all enjoy looking at our wall story about the year.

With each month page, I also display the piece of art that each child creates on their birthday, and birthday cards with the child’s name, picture and birth date.

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Engaging the children in meaningful conversation, noticings, experiences and authentic calendar interactions and talk is appropriate and beneficial in kindergarten. It’s also fun!

I’ve found the linear calendar to be an essential tool in the teaching and learning in our classroom. I hope this post is helpful to anyone interested in creating one with their kids! Enjoy!

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Our 2018-2019 calendar wall – ready to go!

 

 

 

Art as a mentor text

Talking about art while tracing shapes and lines

My kindergarteners have been looking closely at the artwork of Wassily Kandinsky as we learn about geometry in math. We are using his art to explore shapes, lines, color and important vocabulary for positional words that are part of our state standards. I’m using Kandinsky’s art just like I use mentor texts throughout my literacy workshop. It’s been very exciting to see how the children are learning math while “standing on the shoulders” (as Katie Wood Ray says) of this artist. His fascinating abstract art paintings engage my students and allow us to surround our math instruction with rich talk about a variety of geometric terms, as well as art terms. For example, mathematicians use the term “rhombus”, but artists use the term “diamond” to speak about the same shape. We  are creating an ongoing shared writing text with what we are noticing.  This writing that came from their talk looked like this: I see a red square next to a blue curved line. I see a big yellow curved line overlapping a black circle. I see 5 small circles under a pink rhombus. 

Last week we used the program Pixie in the computer lab to create our own Kandinsky inspired works of art. The students used a variety of shapes, colors and lines to create their own work of art. They talked about how they were choosing the placement of their shapes and carefully planned out their work.

This week we are creating our very own “Kindergarten Kandinsky” wall mural as we use his work as our mentor text to create a piece of art showing our knowledge of shapes, colors and lines. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about this!

I value the importance of visual texts, such as our Kandinsky pieces, as another form of literacy. Teaching children to read art, to create art from using artists as mentors, and to talk about art is a key piece of my literacy instruction.

How do you use visual art in your teaching? 

Our Pixie Kandinsky Inspired Art

Math & Literacy

Pat and I have the pleasure of kicking off a blog tour on October 3rd for a new math book from Stenhouse Publishers – Math Exchanges by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind. You may be wondering why we are reviewing a book on math here at Catching Readers. Well, Math Exchanges stands on the shoulders of great literacy thinkers such as Regie Routman, Lucy Calkins and Debbie Miller as the author shows us how conversation through the workshop approach in math is as powerful for teaching and learning with young mathematicians as it is for young readers and writers.  If you are anxious to start implementing powerful small group instruction through a Math Workshop, Math Exchanges is now available and can be previewed on the Stenhouse website. Kassia also has a blog where you can read more of her great math thinking.  Check back on October 3rd as we launch the blog tour!