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Starring: Kathy Brott


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"My students like the interactivity aspect of calendar time," reports Kathy Brott. "I'm not asking them to sit still and listen to me talk at them; I’m asking them to teach everyone. Students feel empowered by their ability to be in control of their learning."

In Brott's second grade classroom at White Oak Elementary School in Sugar Hill, Georgia, calendar time is used to remediate and enrich math and language arts. The expansion of her daily calendar activities began as a simple effort to maintain students' full attention during what some considered a dull, repetitive routine.

"The primary thing I wanted from my calendar time was for my students to have fun and enjoy their learning," recalls Brott. "I wanted to make sure they looked forward to calendar time."

Today, students' eagerness for the 15 to 20 minutes they spend reviewing and previewing skills through calendar activities still surprises her. Math is the first and most logical place to begin with enrichment, and Brott makes the most of all types of number activities that can be connected with the calendar.

Most students have seen such standard activities as reading the calendar and counting the number of days school has been in session, says Brott. Through her calendar, she also asks students to perform other tasks, such as writing the date in as many ways as they can, identifying various patterns in the dates on the calendar, and reviewing fluency with fact families. She uses numbers on the calendar to reinforce the terms equivalent, non-equivalent, greater than, and less than.

"Students also can visualize the growing numbers of days they’ve been in school and the decreasing number of days left until the end of the year," Brott observes. "Many teachers add a penny for each day of the school year. I chose to add money equal to the number of days we've been in school. For example, on the 39th day of school, we add 39 cents. That helps the total grow faster."

Using money to track the days also provides students with a chance to make change. In a questioning activity that she calls "Magic Number," Brott's students use the calendar to exercise place value concepts. To balance their work with math skills, students also explore language arts during calendar time.

"Through MadLibs, I work with various parts of speech while completing a silly story," she explains. "In Word of the Day, students create a sentence using a word that will enrich their writing. The word is usually an adjective or an obscure word we discovered in another lesson."

An activity called "word sorts" involves students in organizing personalized lists of words, which strengthens application skills. In another facet of their language arts activities, students use math vocabulary terms to create written descriptions of calendar pieces.

"I also reinforce patterning skills by using different images on the calendar pieces," Brott told Education World. "In order to incorporate science and social studies, I use content images on the calendar pieces. Some of my favorite pieces are the life cycle of a frog, which aligns to our living things unit in science. Each piece has a different stage in the life cycle."

Brott's imagination can turn almost anything into a calendar activity. She believes the calendar period is a part of the school day that literally begs for thinking "outside the box." The Internet is a source of inspiration for Brott, and she returns the favor with a section of different teacher resources, such as downloadable calendar pieces, on her own site.

"I encourage teachers to try just one new activity every nine weeks," Brott shared. "It’s nearly impossible to implement all the activities at once. I only use a handful of activities at one time. I might have many activities posted in my calendar area; however, I don't do every activity every day."

For Brott, the reward for her effort is in the small daily triumphs that occur for her struggling students during calendar time.

"When a student says, 'Oh, now I get it!,' that's the moment when I know all the extra work putting together different activities is worth it," she added.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2011 Education World






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