Calendar is a staple of many preschool circle time routines and often justified as “math instruction” even though many of the skills targeted during calendar surpass Virginia’s standards for four-year-olds. Try the quiz below to see just how far.
Hint: Research shows that temporal concepts like units of time (days, weeks) and their sequence as represented by the calendar are not meaningful to children below first grade (Etheridge & King, 2005).
While counting and patterning are important skills for preschoolers to learn, doing so using the calendar “does not emphasize foundational mathematics” (National Research Council, 2009, p. 241). Consider these alternatives to providing more developmentally appropriate and authentic instruction on the skills typically targeted during calendar.
- Reinforce concepts like later, before, and after during daily activities.
- Create a class events book or monthly timeline on the classroom wall and add pictures as the year progresses.
- Associate each day of the week with a different activity that takes place, such as Musical Monday, Toss-the-beanbag Tuesday, and so on.
- Create paper chains that count down to exciting events like field trips, birthdays, or class parties.
Note: Use numbers as adjectives (e.g. 4 blocks, 2 friends, 5 goldfish) rather than nouns (e.g. rote counting number names), also known as “naked numbers” (Brownell, Chen, & Ginet, 2014). Developing number sense requires children have a meaningful sense of a number’s quantity. To do so, they need experience using number names to describe “how many” objects are in a set before using numbers to represent that set.
- Create a class sign in area where children choose their picture to indicate they are present or answer a “question of the day.” Count the groups reinforcing one-to-one correspondence and comparison vocabulary like more and less.
- Provide children with a number card depicting a number (1-10) in dots or numeral form and ask them to go on a scavenger hunt to retrieve that many objects.
- Incorporate music and movement into circle time by a rolling a dice and choosing a movement to do that many times (e.g. 4 claps, 6 jumps).
- Read books that introduce language patterns (e.g. I Went Walking and Brown Bear, Brown Bear) and growing patterns (e.g. The Napping House).
- Provide experiences for children to recognize and copy patterns before completing or extending them. Read patterns with children to help them hear and feel the regularity. Provide play-based opportunities for them to copy patterns by creating patterns models like pictures of block or Lego towers to be reproduced.
- Create different types of patterns during circle time using musical instruments or body movements. Children can also form “people patterns” using colors of clothing, actions (e.g. sit/stand/sit), etc.
- Article: Calendar Time for Young Children, Good Intentions Gone Awry
- Podcast: How to Free Up 60 Minutes of Circle Time Every Day
- Blog Post: Say Goodbye to Calendar Time!
Brownell, J. O., Chen, J., Ginet, L. (2014). Big ideas of early mathematics: What teachers of young children need to know. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Etheridge, E.A., & J.R. King. (2005). Calendar math in preschool and primary classrooms: Questioning the curriculum. Early Childhood Education Journal 32(5): 291–296.
National Research Council. (2009). Mathematics learning in early childhood: Paths toward excellence and equity. Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics, Christopher T. Cross, Taniesha A. Woods, and Heidi Schweingruber, Editors. Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.