Calendars Make Time Visible
“What day is it today?”
I ask students this question at the beginning of every session. It started as strategy of modeling self-talk, showing students my thought processes as I recorded the session data in the data log. Thinking aloud highlights internal steps of planning and information seeking. With busy schedules, often across multiple sites, it’s easy to become confused about the day/date. I needed to check a calendar! I quickly realized the benefit of two separate calendars: one for me, and one for the students. My calendar is electronic and full of meetings, notes, and responsibilities.
The student calendar is a traditional paper calendar with an engaging theme (e.g., baby animals, underwater dog photos, wild weather, etc.). When I travel from place to place, without a dedicated clinical space, I use a 7”x7” mini-calendar. Calendar referencing is built into the beginning of each session. Students find the day’s date. For younger students, this involves guided questions, and prompts, e.g., “What month is it? It’s cold outside and winter break is coming soon. It’s De…”
Students write their birthdays on the calendar, as appropriate (I verify the dates of their birthdays and research family backgrounds before asking them). We record school events, field trips, assemblies, half-days, etc., using child-focused interpretations, e.g., “No School” instead of “Teacher In-Service Day”. Students decorate the date squares for events with a tiny drawing or writing in fancy lettering. We discuss holidays listed on the calendar, e.g., “Some people celebrate (holiday). Does your family celebrate (holiday)?”
Calendars let us predict upcoming events, reflect on prior events, and recognize the passage of time. We cross out days that are finished and we count down days until fun events. Calendars involve specific vocabulary for past, present, and future:
• “Yesterday was (day) and today is (day).”
• “Last week (point to date) we (describe past activity). Today (point to date), we are going to (describe upcoming activity).”
• “How many days until (activity)? Let’s count. Start here because this is today.”
• “We have no school next week (point to date). What are you going to do? (Model future tense options)”
• “We had a break last week (point to date). What did you do? (Model past tense options)”
Learning about the calendar initially involved free exploration of the pages and pictures, and labeling/reciting days of the week, and months of the year. Students shared and took turns looking through the months. They had time to feel comfortable with the contents before we learned about the day/date. Calendar activities in small groups expand on the classroom calendar routine and allow for extended practice.
When the year changes, we celebrate having a new calendar. We model two important time markers: the end of the calendar year (December/January), and the end of the school year (May/June). Calendars reflect daily routines and events. Early calendar interactions may lay a foundation for goal-directed planning behaviors, based on anticipating events, which is a valuable skill as students mature.