The importance of daily calendar work
Students need to be immersed in incidental calendar work daily if they are to gain fluency with days of the week, months of the year and seasons. But more than this, they need to have a deep understanding of how, why and where calendars are used as planning and organizing tools and they need to be able to solve calendar problems.
Back in the dark ages when I began teaching it was the norm to begin the day with some calendar work.
- Today’s date in numerals and numbers and words was a daily given (24th November or 24/11).
- Events were marked on the Calendar and questions
asked about them, e. g.
- How many more days till the swimming carnival?
- The weather was marked and
questions asked, e.g.
- More rainy this week or last week?
- What’s the chance it will rain tomorrow?
We might also have chanted rhymes, such as
Thirty days hath
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.
Or in England, a favourite was this rhyme by Sara Coleridge, daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
January brings the snow
Makes our nose and fingers glow.
February brings the rain
Thaws the frozen lake again.
Why am l going on about this?
Well, it’s not that I want to go back to the dark ages, rather that I want students to be more fluent and familiar with related calendar concepts. Over the last two terms, leaders have shared with me that they have students who do not:
- understand ordinal numbers past 1st, 2nd, 3rd,
- correctly read the dates written on the board, e.g. 21/9 simply being interpreted meaninglessly as 21.9 not as the 21st of the 9th month or 21st of September,
- know the months in sequence and how many days in each month,
- know how many days in a week or a fortnight,
- interpret and understand questions about yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week, last week, day before, two days after, next month, last month.
When we look at the Australian Curriculum Mathematics it looks on the surface as though work with calendars stops at the end of Year 2. But then at Years 3, 5 and 7 we find calendar questions on NAPLAN that are outside many students range of experiences and understanding.
Moving into 2020
So as we move into 2020 maybe it is time to get organised for incidental and strategic calendar work.
The following image of a wall calendar prompts lot of ideas for incidental activities from https://www.teachersuperstore.com.au/calendar-weather-pocket-chart
It is an expensive item, but also one that could be easily innovated on and created by clever, creative teachers. Also, the Natural Maths interactive Calendars software package, now updated for 2020 and with curriculum links, is ideal for strategic and explicit teaching. Check it out at
The vocabulary focus through the mental routines provided will not only build fluency and deep understanding but will also lay the reasoning required to answer NAPLAN-style problem questions.
Please make using calendars daily a goal for 2020!