calendar time with deaf and hard of hearing elementary students. Children sitting on the floor looking up at the teacher smiling

Calendar Time: 5 Strategies to Improve Calendar Skills with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Calendar time is a staple in nearly every elementary classroom across the nation. Calendar time is when the date and the weather, include a few other math skills are discussed and then typically we move on with the learning objectives of the day. In a typical classroom, children come to school with working conversational knowledge of how a calendar works. They easily discuss what happened yesterday, and share that grandma is coming to visit next week. Some misperceptions with time occur, like saying last week instead of last month, but students have a general concept of time. During calendar time, we are confirming or clarifying those perceptions. We are teaching the specific language both verbally and in print to coordinate with the discussions.

These students have overheard their families discuss time on multiple occasions. For a deaf and hard of hearing child, without full access to the language of their family, conversations related to time are rarely overheard. Conversations about time concepts are often neglected in direct conversation. Therefore, these students come to school with little, if any, understanding of calendar concepts. For this reason, we are now teaching vocabulary rather than using the vocabulary to reinforce the skill. In classroom with deaf and hard of hearing students, we have to teach calendar time a little bit differently.

Explicitly teach calendar vocabulary and the associated categories

You cannot discuss, analyze or consistently use something you do not have vocabulary for. I feel like I start every blog post with the statement to explicitly teach vocabulary, but honestly it is ALWAYS the first step when working with deaf and hard of hearing students. You cannot assume that the students have the vocabulary for the topic. You must pre-teach, teach and re-teach the vocabulary until your students are expressively, fluently using it in their own conversations.

Explicitly teach calendar vocabulary

One of the primary keys in teaching vocabulary is to use categories. Using categories helps the brain to make connections. These connections, assist in storing information that is easily accessible in both long term and short term memory.

In this case, the main category is calendar, followed by, months, days, numbers, seasons, and common calendar words. For the first four of those you will teach the names and spellings of the category and the specific order of each of the categories. Then teach them on the calendar. Where do you find the name of the month, days of the week etc.

Calendar vocabulary must be understood and used expressively, receptively in both ASL and print before the calendar can be used effectively.

Do a focused unit study (at least  1-2 weeks on calendar words. Explicitly teach the vocabulary, spelling in whole group, small group and individually if necessary. This sets the expectation that these are words that we use frequently and you are expected to know them. 

Work with the calendar words every day.

Practice sorting and ordering months, days, numbers. EVERY DAY. In the beginning and throughout the year, set up centers, homework, or in class strategy sessions to work on this skill. I put together all the worksheets and centers I have used over the years and you can grab those here.

Students who cannot see “in their mind” the order of the months, days and numbers, will not be able to understand the concepts of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, or last week , next week, last month or next month

The static vocabulary must understood and used expressively, receptively in both ASL and print before the calendar can be USED effectively. When I have students that are really not ready to be using calendar skills, we use calendar time to focus on skill building rather than using the calendar. For example, if the focus is to learn the days of the week then I will pull out the days of the week from the calendar.

I can scaffold the level of my questions to support increased independence

Level 1 Give students days of the week cards and request the cards in order. Who has Sunday? Who has Monday?

Level 2 Put in selected cards and ask which day is next or which days are missing.

Level 3 Give out all the cards and then ask one or more students put them on the calendar in order.

After this task is completed, I show them where “today” the number is on the calendar and ask what the name of the day today is. We MASTER days of the week and today before moving on to yesterday and tomorrow.

Use calendar words as a center intermixed with other learning skills.

It is important that these words become generalized into everyday conversation. These words MUST BE MASTERED. Include calendar words in morning work, a math center, as daily homework or any other part of your day that seems appropriate with your students.

Calendar Vocabulary is not just something students will need during calendar time. These words pop up everywhere and impact every part of our lives.

The important lesson here is that calendar vocabulary is not just something that students will need during calendar time. These words pop up everywhere and impact every part of our lives. Therefore, your students must develop fluency with calendar words. Intermix worksheets and centers into their day until it just becomes too easy for them to do. Be sure to provide the adequate amount of support in the beginning. You can provide individual student anchor charts, but also students should know where to look in the classroom to find vocabulary relating to calendar.

This helps the brain process information and ensure that the vocabulary is moved to long term memory. For example if you give the student a worksheet containing the word February. You want the student to recognize the word as a “calendar word” where can I go for help with calendar words? I can go to the calendar in the room. What kind of word is this? It is the name of a month. I can look at the months to help me order these words.

Provide materials that require students to actively participate during calendar time

Often calendar time relies on a couple volunteers to help move cards around or write down numbers.  And, well, some of our other students struggle to maintain attention to what the others are doing or saying.

Give every student the opportunity to actively participate in writing the date everyday.

One strategy that has worked really well in my classroom is to require every student to actively participate in calendar time everyday. This seems so simple but it is really effective. You can see the calendar book I use here. Each student has their own daily calendar book. Each day as we figure out the date, the students follow along in their own book and find the day, month and date. They then write out the day, month and date in both written form and by the numbers.

Ex. Monday, January 3, 2022 and 1/3/2022

The pages are simple, with minimal writing except for the date and keeps them actively engaged.

Use Calendar Time to explicitly teach how to use the calendar

When you start to notice that students are becoming competent with the calendar vocabulary, begin implementing “random” questions. They will need to use the information on the calendar to answer the question. This will give you as the teacher an incredible amount of information about the skills your students understand and those that need teaching and reteaching.

When you start to notice that students are becoming competent with the calendar vocabulary, begin implementing random questions.

In the beginning, I start with one random question a day (I may start out with questions that I expect them to know that answers to), then move on to more challenging questions. All of the questions can be answered by using the calendar, so it actively helps my students understand all the ways the calendar can be useful. The calendar is not just words and numbers to memorize but something we use daily to get information and plan our lives.

Integrate calendar words into everyday conversations

Calendar time  is not just a specific event that happens at 8:30 in the classroom. Talk about calendar.  All day long, everyday.  Over use the words this month, next months, today, tomorrow, yesterday, next week last week. After you explicitly teach vocabulary, be intentional about using the words in conversation. Getting vocabulary from unknown to full time use and understanding is a long process, but 100% worth it for your students.

To grab the Calendar Bundle full of worksheets, task cards, anchor charts and MORE that include ASL and English on nearly every page, CLICK HERE.

Thanks for reading! If you would like to learn more about working with students with language deprivation syndrome, grab this FREE DOWNLOAD or check out this Blog Post: What is Language Deprivation?

teacher of the deaf
Heather Burgen

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teacher of the deaf

Hi, I'm Heather Burgen!

I am a hearing teacher of the deaf dedicated to working with both deaf and hearing colleagues in providing the best education for deaf and hard of hearing children.

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