Calendar time in the upper grades


Calendar time is well known among the younger grade teachers. It's a time tested tradition- the kiddos gather at the carpet,  talk about the date, days of the week, months, weather, etc. It's a great opportunity to focus the kids and get them ready for their day. By the upper grades, the kids are past the point where they would benefit from this kind of calendar time. They know the days of the week and months of the year, so it is just no longer needed. As an upper grade teacher, though, I know that my kiddos still need a focus activity at the beginning of the day. They need to do something to get them into "learning mode" - especially during the crazy days leading up to Christmas vacation! As I was thinking about this, I was also receiving training on the PARCC test, which my district will be taking this year. That's right- straight up taking the test. Not optional, not piloting, not "testing it out". It counts for us. I noticed that the fifth grade math practice test is mainly fractions. This got my gears turning- I decided to link fraction practice with my new morning focus activity- calendar time!




Don't mind the messy writing- I let a kiddo fill it in each morning!

Every afternoon before we leave, I have a student post the date for the next day using this format:

Today is (date). 
It is the number day of school out of 180.

When the kiddos come in each morning, they check out the morning message and make a fraction. Easy enough, right? Then, they simplify the fraction. After that, they convert it into a decimal (rounded to the nearest hundredth because we have not yet learned about repeating decimals). Then, they convert it into a percentage as a bit of enrichment. After that, they figure out how many days are left of school and repeat.

I love this for so many reasons. First, it reinforces core concepts. The kids are expressing their understanding of fractions by creating a fraction using the numbers given. They are simplifying the fractions (though not always successfully, especially with large or uncommon numbers). Converting the fraction to a decimal reinforces decimal/fraction relationship knowledge, and also helps to reinforce the idea of the fraction bar representing division. The percentage is a bit of enrichment for the kiddos as it is a sixth grade concept. 

Another reason I love this is because it gives every student a place to be successful. The struggling kiddos can make the fractions using the numbers given and successfully compute the days remaining with subtraction. They can also feel successful as they make the second fraction with the number they found by subtracting. Typical students can simplify most of the fractions, and convert most of the fractions to decimals. Advanced students can convert the more difficult fractions to decimals and then convert those to percentages. 

After the kiddos have the chance to complete the work, we talk about it for a few minutes during "calendar time." I go over the math, and then let one student copy over the numbers to the board. After that, we've settled in and are ready to tackle our day.

This could be applied at other levels, as well. Sixth and seventh grade students could create a ratio. All upper elementary students could write equations using variables to show how to calculate the numbers of days remaining. I'm sure that there are even applications at the high school level as  "do now" type of activity. 

Do you use calendar time in your upper elementary classroom? If so, I'd love to hear about it!


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