Have you ever tried a linear calendar in your preschool classroom? More developmentally appropriate than a traditional calendar, a linear calendar will help your kiddos understand the passage of time in a way that is meaningful to them. The age-appropriate nature of a linear calendar will keep your kiddos engaged and eager to see what number comes next, how many days of school they have until the weekend, and when holidays and important days are coming!
What is a linear calendar?
A linear calendar is simply a display of the calendar numbers in a straight line rather than on a traditional calendar. It typically has space above or below the numbers (or both) to add cards that show which days you are at school and at home and when holidays, birthdays, and special events are happening.
Why use a linear calendar?
For a VERY long time, I used a traditional calendar faithfully. Every single day. We would spend half an hour talking about the days of the week, the months of the year, counting, doing patterns, naming yesterday, today, and tomorrow, making the number of the day different ways, and on and on and on… And still, even on the last day of school, I could ask my kiddos “What day is today?” and they had NO clue.
When things aren’t working in my classroom, I always want to find out why. And I am a pretty big research buff, so I started looking into calendar time in preschool and very quickly realized that it just isn’t appropriate. For starters, according to the Texas prekindergarten guidelines, my kiddos should be able to “connect their lives to events, time, and routines.” There is ZERO mention of knowing days of the week or months of the year. Even in the kindergarten standards, they are only supposed to be able to use the terms before, after, next, first, last, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. They aren’t supposed to be able to measure time using a calendar until 1st grade.
So why was I pushing that down into pre-k?
I still don’t really know the answer to that question. But I do know that my research efforts led me straight to linear calendars. I started using one, and I have never looked back! (If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out this article from Stanford University.)
Do I have you convinced yet? Good! Now let’s talk about setting it up and using it!
Setting up a linear calendar
The first step to setting up a linear calendar is finding a place for it. Because the numbers are in one straight line, you’ll need a long stretch of wall. Ideally, you’d want to have it displayed at the eye level of your kiddos so that they can easily see it and help with using it. However, I didn’t have that luxury, so I had to put mine above my circle time board.
Once you have a place for your linear calendar, you’ll need to decide how you want to display it. My favorite method is to use pocket charts. I took a standard-sized pocket chart and cut it into strips. Then I hung them on the wall until I had enough space to display 31 numbers. For me, that meant 3 pieces across the top row and three pieces across the bottom row. That gave me space for 30 numbers, so I just added a little piece to each row at the end. You can also use self-adhesive pockets or velcro dots to create your display.
Now that you know how you’re going to display your linear calendar, you’ll need to print off the calendar numbers and the house & school cards. I put the number cards in backwards so that we can turn them over each day as we go. Then I put the house & school cards under the number cards to show which days we are in school and which days we are at home.
The final step is to add cards for any holidays, birthdays, or special events that are happening that month. I put those in front of the number card so that my kiddos can see how far away the special day is. For example, if a kiddo has a birthday on the 10th, I put a birthday card in front of the number 10. Even if they don’t know yet what number will be on the card when we turn it over, we can count each day to see how many days until that birthday!
How to use a linear calendar
Now that you’ve got your linear calendar all set up, what do you do with it? Before I answer that question, I want you to take a minute to erase everything you’ve ever learned about calendar time!
- It doesn’t have to last 30 minutes.
- You don’t have to sing the days of the week and months of the year.
- You don’t have to cover every math strand during calendar time.
That last bullet point even makes me cringe a little because i don’t have a “calendar time” in my room. We do the linear calendar as part of our math circle, and it only takes 3-4 minutes.
And guess what? That’s all it needs to take!
So here’s what I do!
- Count to see what number we need that day. I always use a fun pointer to do this! (These hand pointers are some of my favorites!) On the first day of the month I ask my kiddos to tell me what number we start counting with. They tell me that it’s number one. And I make a huge production out of counting to one!
- Point the numbers as we count.
- Turn over that day’s number when we get to it. After Christmas break, I start asking them to tell me what number comes next rather than counting all the way to it. I also start asking them to tell me what the number looks like before I turn it over if it’s a double digit number. (What does a fourteen look like? A 1 and a 4!)
- As my kiddos are ready, we start talking about the terms before & after, yesterday & tomorrow, and before & after.
That’s all we do each day. I will add in some other things from day to day. but, I only pick one of these to do. I do NOT do all of them in a single day!
- Count how many days of school we have left before the weekend.
- On the last day of the week, we count how many “sleeps” until we get to come back to school.
- Skywrite the number that we turn over.
- Count how many days until any holidays, birthdays, or special events.
I also add in patterns whenever my kiddos are ready for it by using calendar numbers that have fun seasonal pictures on them! When I do that, I ask them to tell me the number that comes next AND the picture that comes next.
Get my linear calendar sets!
If you are ready to get your linear calendar all set up, I can make it super easy for you! I’ve got everything you need in my TPT store! You’ll want to start with my Basic Linear Calendar Set.
Once you’ve got your basic linear calendar set up, you’ll want to take a look at my monthly and holiday number sets. I’ve got one for each month plus the 7 major holidays.
And if you want to get my entire collection of linear calendar sets, I’ve got them all in one big bundle! It will give you everything you need to use a linear calendar in your classroom all year long! Just click HERE to go get your set!
Want to learn about another routine that I LOVE to use during my math circle time? Then check out this post about how I use Question of the Day in my classroom!
Do you use a linear calendar in our classroom? Let me know in the comments what you do with yours! I’d love to hear from you!