I’ve often been asked by teachers when they are trying to wrap their heads around Reggio-inspired teaching, “But how do you do calendar time?!?” Well, let me fill you in on a little secret…it’s not in the curriculum! Shhh! I know, it’s something we have all been taught to “teach” at the beginning of each day, but it’s actually not a requirement in the curriculum. (Well at least not where I teach!) I know what you’re thinking, it’s important for the children to know the days of the week, what day comes next, and so on. And I completely agree. However, I just do it a little different!
At the beginning of the school year I always create a routine of having open-ended invitations set up around the room for the children to play freely with and explore while everyone comes in. It makes it much easier for the kids and families to transition easier into the classroom, frees me up to chat with families and really work in building relationships with parents, allows me to engage with the children in a more free-spirited way, and take attendance! I also have a sign-in of some sort set up at the entrance of the classroom along with a couple comfy chairs and the children’s portfolios and documentation books at a coffee table for families to relax in before they begin their hectic morning. The coffee is always on and I love when, after those first days of school, parents come in, grab a mug and plunk themselves on the rug, in a chair, or gather to chit chat with each other. No more standing in the hallways peering through the class window. Please, come in!
Back to the sign in…
It usually entails a name building or writing activity. Something quick and relatively easy for the children to do. Sometimes they find their name on a rock and put it in the basket. Other times they can build their name with alphabet stones, or stamp it into play-dough. (I discovered this really great package on teachers pay teachers for setting up a play-dough group. Amazing!! Here’s the link) I like to use a smartboard to have the children drag their names over, or do a little questionnaire related to something we’ve been learning about. I find that this can really help me, especially in the beginning of the year, identify those little sweeties who may need a little extra help in letter recognition or letter sound work.
I’ve also, used this 15 minute window to walk around with a pack of sticky notes and write down some observations I am having. I can quickly put these in there folders I keep for parent conferences. (I’ll post more about how I run parent conferences and activity conferences). But in the meantime you can check out my activity conference pack on my teachers pay teachers store here.
After the little ones have had some time to settle in, I ring chimes that serve to signify play time is over and it’s time for a story. As an aside, I have to mention, that parents and families are never asked to leave. I really don’t mind whose in the classroom. Ever. I actually really love having parents around, I know it’s hard for some, but once you embrace it, it can be a blessing!
So at this point, I always read a story. I love reading to the kids. Story time is one of my most loved momens in a Kindergarten classroom. Any classroom, really! But, I’m very careful of the book I choose for the first read of the day. It is never one that I want to use in a lesson. I try and keep it light. The Pigeon Series, Elephant and Piggie, or Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems is always a go to.
After our story, we read through a morning message. Morning messages are such a fantastic teaching tool. I always thought I was pretty good at them, but then of course Pinterest has shown me otherwise! I love Pinterest and am slightly obsessed. As a teacher, I feel like it is invaluable. Anyways, I’ve found some other things to put in my morning messages, and now I think I am pretty great!!
I always use it to highlight capitals and lowercase letters. We also count how many sentences by underlining them. This helps students begin to recognize “sentence stoppers.” As we learned letter sounds, I like leaving out beginning then ending sounds as the year progresses. This is a great time to let the kids have some ownership as well. They like to come up and circle letters, underline, or count.
I usually write what day it is, about what we will do that day, and then to have a good day. I always structure it the same until a couple months in when the kids can read through it without my help. Then we can change it up a bit.
Now it’s time to talk about the calendar! At the beginning of the year, I don’t have an actual calendar. I like the kids to make as much around the room as possible. The calendar is one of those things. I get a very large piece of paper or Bristol board, and put it out during “exploration” time (this is centre time for others) with rulers, pencils, days of the week flash cards and months of the year headings. In small groups, I help students in creating the calendar. We figure out how many squares to draw, write the numbers on each square, write the days of the week, label the month at the top, then write important dates. Then the trace over it with a permanent marker! This is a super exciting part. Permanent markers are very coveted, a prized possession.
Once the calendar is finished, I let the kids decorate it ver talk about that season the month falls into, and what that tells us about what we could draw. The calendar always becomes one of my most favourite things in the classroom and, best of all, the children can explain why it is latex our the way it is and the role of each piece. It truly is a fantastic thing to try with your class.