OMG, you guys, I am SO excited about this site I found online, www.tuerchen.com. This is a cool site that allows you to create your own FREE online calendar. Since I try to start my class with a little calendar talk, this site provides a very cool visual that you can use along with your conversation. And, since, as Carol Gaab says, “The brain craves novelty,” this constantly changing visual can help keep students interested.
How to Create a Custom Calendar
To being, visit tuerchen.com and click “Create Calendar.” The site then will ask you if you plan to use the calendar for private use, which is free (choose this option) or commercial use, for which there is a fee. You will end up on a page that looks something like this:
The column at the left is where you customize your calendar. You can change the title, colors, the background image and the font. You can also customize how many days you want your calendar to have and add some special effects. Once you have made all your changes here, you can then add some fun stuff to the calendar itself.
Each numbered block on the calendar is actually a door. When you click on each block, you will get a box like this below.
This pop-up box lets you put an image, video, or gif behind each door. Make sure once you have inserted media behind the doors that you click save. I do not recommend that you insert your media on a projected screen with your class watching because some of the media that pops up when you search is not school appropriate, even if you put in a perfectly innocent search term (I put in “Joyeux Anniversaire,” which is “Happy Birthday” in French and got a cartoon image of two bears mating in the snow. You REALLY have to be careful!).
Once you have finished inserting your media, it’s time to make your calendar go live. Click on “Save and Share” in the top right corner. Be advised that, once the calendar goes live, the doors are not in order. Maybe it is possible to put them in order, but I haven’t figured out how to and I don’t want to, because I can reinforce numbers this way.
Once your calendar goes live it looks something like this, with your media peeking out from behind each door, as in the image below.
To open each door, just click on it and your media will appear. I project it on my Smart Board so my wiggly middle school students can come up to the front of the room and open a door with a touch of a finger, which I tell them to do in the target language, of course.
How I Use an Online Calendar in Class
I start every class with a bit of small talk about the date, weather, and important events that are coming up. The calendar is a great addition to this conversation. For example, if it is a really cold day (like today, with temperatures in the single digits), a picture of a snow-covered forest illustrates this very well. If it’s a holiday in the French or Spanish speaking word, media about that is a nice addition to a short culture talk about customs surrounding that celebration. Other things that go up on the calendar include students’ birthdays, my children’s birthdays, my wedding anniversary, a vacation week, a field trip day, a playoff game or any other special day worth mentioning. One thing you can’t do with this calendar is open up a door to a date that is in the future, so keep this in mind as you plan out your events.
The site lets you set up multiple calendars, so this year I set up a special December vacation countdown calendar. Each day on my December calendar had a word or expression behind its door that had to do with Christmas, Hanukkah, or winter. As a result, my students acquired some new vocabulary and could use some previously acquired words as well. Also, talking about getting presents is high interest, compelling input, so my students were very engaged.
I’m super excited about all the cool stuff I can do with this calendar! If you think of any other cool ideas on how to use it, let me know!