Thursday, July 5, 2018

Changes On The Horizon...

   WHOA... what's this?
 Teaching Munchkins has some activity after over a year??

   Yes, I have been MIA and Teaching Munchkins had been on hiatus for many, many months! 
  You know how every teacher has a year that is just downright chaotic? Well, this was THAT year for me. The 2016-2017 school year ended on a pretty funky note and I could only have hoped that things would improve in the 2017-2018 school year. 
   But that did not happen! Devastating NorCal wildfires ravaged our city for weeks in October and that really threw the whole school year out of whack. In December, a 1st grader & his father died tragically and it affected the entire school community. Shortly after, a beloved teacher aide quickly lost her battle to cancer. Both of these individuals (student & aide) were a part of my first year at the school, so they held a special place in my heart. Our school community experienced alot of sadness and grief for the first half of the year.
    And it continued to fall apart as my own personal matters started to surface...so the second half of the year was just as chaotic as the first half of the year. 
    And then March rolled around and a difficult decision was made. A Dual Immersion School was proving to NOT be a good fit for me. It was a hard thing to come to terms with. While I was growing and learning new things as a professional, I was just way too stressed and unhappy with the school environment and the demands that were being placed on the students & teachers. It started to reflect in my teaching and I just was not where I wanted to be. I was not being as successful as I could have been in that type of school environment. This is the second time I have felt this way since moving to California. I need to get it right and find something that was going to work out!

  While I loved my 2 years in Kindergarten, it was just too much. The developmentally inappropriate demands that are being trickled down to this grade level was going against everything I knew and believed about Early Childhood. I tried my best to alter things to cater to the vast variety of learners I had (and I had quite a diverse group!) but it is 5x harder to do so in a Dual Immersion program where students not only need to learn all the Kindergarten skills, they also have to learn it all in a new language! 

SO... long story short. I have moved on!

    I will now be a Transitional Kindergarten (TK) teacher in a new school, in a new school district! I am very excited to going back to teaching in a TK classroom, where I will be free to teach in a more developmentally appropriate manner! I need to stand by my Early Childhood Teaching Philosophy and get back to my love & passion for teaching the youngest learners!

    So until then, Teaching Munchkins will be under construction as I get all set up for the next school year. I am eager and excited for this adventure! I cannot wait to share my TK teaching adventures with all of you!
 We are working on making our website even better, and can't wait to share it with you.   Estamos mejorando nuestra pagina web, y les avisaremos cuando estΓƒ© lista para que vean las novedades.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Making Math Fun!

 One of my favorite centers is the Math Center. Now I am no fan of math, but being in a Dual Immersion program means that most of my materials/activities need to be in Spanish. However, when it comes to math, it goes across both languages, in that the only thing that is needed is a change of vocabulary. So it has been easy- and fun- to create learning activities for my Math Center.
  In my Math Center, there is one shelf. There are at least 8 activities for the children to choose from. Each center activity is specifically geared to whatever skills we have learned and skills that we are in the process of learning-- with some activities being a little more challenging for those kiddos who need it.
  Below are the activities that I had in my Math Center throughout the month of February. I just finished putting them away earlier this week! And now I am working on getting my March Math Centers prepped and ready to go.  (Click on the pictures for some of my favorite TPT resource!)

Building Number Sense:

 Number Sense with Ten/Twenty Frames:


Addition:

 Fine Motor: Sort & Count

Counting by 10's:

Write The Room:

 Color by Number:

My kinders really enjoy peeking in the bins of each center at the beginning of every week to see what new things they can access that week and explore.  The Math Center is one of the first places they gravitate towards every Monday morning! 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kindergarten learning can be fun, engaging and meaningful!

  Ok, so it happened. For the first time in my 10+ years of teaching, I was asked by my principal to present at a staff meeting. Keep in mind that I am new to California, new to the school district, new to a Dual Immersion school AND in a new grade level... so to be asked to present in front of my teacher peers was quite the shock and honor.
   Now, I am an Early Childhood Educator. Everything that filters through my mind in education comes from an Early Childhood perspective. As a preschool teacher in the past, I always asked myself  "How can I incorporate learning in child's play?"
Now as a Kindergarten teacher, I ask myself, 
"How can I incorporate more play into my student's learning?"
    It has been my mission to work adamantly to provide fun, play based, academic learning activities for my Kindergarteners. Why? Because I understand that regardless of all of the academic rigor that has trickled down onto our Kindergarten kids, they are still just 5 years old! They need to play, they need to have some fun in school. Their learning needs to be fun, engaging and meaningful.
This has always been my teaching philosophy since Teaching Day One.
    So anyhow, being a new teacher in a new state and a new school district (and in a new grade level), I have had to learn a lot this year. Hence, my prolonged absence from here! Time has not been my friend lately, that is for sure! But thanks to Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, I have come to find and create some really great, fun and engaging Center Work Activities for my bilingual Kinders. They love working in centers independently and I can do my other teacher duties (reading groups, guided writing, etc.) while they work.
     So, any how, I was asked by my principal to present about my Center Work Activities. She gave me the daunting task of presenting what I do and how I do it!!
     Last school year, I was teaching Spanish in a Montessori school and I learned alot. The one thing that I really took away from my Montessori experience is the notion of a Prepared Environment. Everything that I want and need my students to learn, as well as things that I know they need to practice, is all laid out for them, In my classroom, I have 4 different Centers: Art Center, ABC/Literacy Center, Math Center and a Library/Writing Center.
    In each center, there is one shelf. On each shelf, there are at least 8 activities for the children to choose from. Each center activity is specifically geared to whatever skills we have learned and skills that we are in the process of learning-- with some activities being a little more challenging for those kiddos who need it. The point of each activity is to provide the students with opportunities to practice academic skills and build fluency and confidence in their own abilities.
    By providing only certain activities, I am ensuring that they are "playing" with the materials and practicing the skills associated with it. By having several different options of focused activities to choose from, I am giving them a choice (though limited) in what it is they want to do or work on. I keep a close eye on the types of activities/games that are of high interest so that I know what is working and what is not working-- and switch activities out accordingly.


  In my next blog post, I will share the center activities that have been on our shelves for the 
past week and a half, as well as some of my favorite TPT authors that I utilize frequently!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Las Vocales/ The Vowels

  As a teacher who is new to teaching in Spanish at the Kindergarten level, it is hard to find good quality teaching resources (that are aligned with Common Core) to use, but thank goodness for Teachers Pay Teachers and some amazing teachers who have taken the time to create resources that are tailored to the needs of Spanish/ Bilingual teachers and students. One such teacher is Miss Campos, creator of Miss Campos Bilingue. She has some awesome teaching resources and printables that I have discovered. I have already purchased all of her resources for Vocales (Vowels). The past few weeks, we have been working with mastering all of the Vocales. Here are just a few of her resources:

Pocket Chart Cards

Sorting Picture Cards
Sound/Picture Search
Cut & Sort Pictures

    Once all of the vowels are learned, we will move onto Spanish consonants! And I do plan to continue to use these awesome resources! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Finding A Center System That Works...

   I think one of the most overwhelming things for me when it comes to teaching Kindergarten is that there is sooo much for kids to learn and so much that needs to be done throughout the year.  The whole idea of center time and center rotations is a daunting task.
   I kind of knew how I wanted to introduce centers based off of some great blog posts from other Kindergarten teachers. I knew to start off the year by allowing my Kinders to explore what was on the shelves in the classroom, knowing that it was the best way for them to get it out of their system. So when the time comes for them to actually work with the materials, they will have already explored (aka played) with them.
   The other K teachers on my team shared with me the ways in which they run their center time. Two teachers suggested doing one center per day...really? Just one center? I thought they meant that they started her centers that way at the beginning... but no-- they meant one center a day... all year long. I couldn't imagine it or picture it, but I read that other K teachers did the same. But I know that I want more out of my Center Time... so I decided to start doing some trial & error work with my centers, to try and find what would work for my classroom and my kinders.
   We spent the first few days of school just exploring the centers, learning the names of each of the centers. I introduced 2 centers a day. For 20 minutes, half of the kids explored the items in one center and the other half explored the other center. I assigned certain activities that they had to complete (simple ones, like cutting and coloring) before they switched to their 2nd center.
   What I found was that the kids wanted (and needed) more time to work in their centers.
So then I tried placing center activities/materials at each table and the kiddos stayed at their table for 30 minutes; they had to complete the activity and then they could use the materials (puzzles, sorting games, etc)  that were at the table, when they were done. This seemed to work pretty well, as there was enough time to complete the activity and "play" with the other center materials.
   So that is what I have been doing... One center activity a day... It was not what I had in mind, but you know what? It works for now. I have 4 color groups.
   Each color group stays at their assigned table for that day. They complete the activity and upon completing it, they have time to play with the other materials on the table/shelf in their area. At the end of the day, I pick up each group's basket and place it on the next table. So everyday, each group is sitting at a different table, completing a different activity and playing with different materials.
  I use this center set up for my Literacy Centers in the morning, which run about 45 minutes and then after lunch, we do Math Centers, which run only about 20-25 minutes. They have been having a fun time working through some of these awesome Back to School Math Stations by  Differentiated Kindergarten the past few weeks!
Sensory Bin filled with shredded paper:
The task was to find numbers and put them in order from 1-10.
Play Doh Mats:
Everyone loves playdoh, need I say more?
Number Order:
 The task was to work on number order once again and use links to put them in order.
Count & Color:
(This one took awhile for the kids to do, but they did so well!)

   So, this center system works well for now. The kids get it and know the routine; they don't have to worry that they won't get a chance to work at any center.
   However, in the future, I do hope to have the kiddos rotate through two centers per day during our Literacy Center Time.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Classroom Reveal ... FINALLY!

   Ok, we have now officially been in school for 2 weeks! And I am finally ready to reveal my classroom pics to the Blogger World!
   My school is fairly new, just recently opened in 2013 with just one Prek and two Kindergarten classrooms, with additional grades and classrooms added each year. My Kindergarten classroom was added this school year to make four K classrooms.The growth is happening fast!

So, with that being said, I wasn't working with much, since it is a new K classroom.

   I currently have 18 kids and my room is the perfect for the size!
   I went with a Chalkboard theme because my classroom has a lot of white space and I knew black and bold colors would stand out!
It is not 100% yet. I wish I had more furniture, but I know as the year moves along, I will find things here and there to add to the classroom. But for now, this is what it looks like!






   It took alot of work to start from scratch again, but this is my Kindergarten classroom, and I LOVE it! As time passes, I know I will tweak the set up of the centers and the arrangement of the tables several times! (Hell, I already have done so about 3 times already in the past 2 weeks!)
But at least for the next few weeks,
 it will be a work in progress!

Monday, August 1, 2016

When the shoe doesn't fit...

  Wow... has it really been over 6 months since my last post? Things have changed ALOT in that time... Hmm, where do I begin?
  Well, first off, I want to say that No- there have not been any huge life changes, like the loss of a family member or the addition of a new one! That hasn't been what has kept me away for so long.
   This past school year has just gone by so fast and I have learned alot about myself in my career as an Early Childhood Educator.
   I will say though, that the best part of relocation is that it allows you a chance to recreate yourself and explore new things and opportunities in life! The past 5 years of my life have been full of so much change and it has been a struggle in trying to find the right fit and the right teaching position.
  Our move from Chicago to Buffalo, NY back in 2011 had proven to be a hard four years for me, as I felt that my teaching career was put on hold. The opportunities to land a district job in the field of Early Childhood, were slim to none and the teaching positions that I wanted were not there.
  When we moved from New York to California in the summer of 2015, I knew that the change was going to be good. It had to be. I needed it to be. And thankfully, I immediately landed a job as a Spanish teacher in a Montessori School. It was a new experience for me to get a chance to step away from traditional education and experience another way to teach and see another way in which children learn. I jumped into it and enjoyed it right away!
   BUT then...I stopped posting on my blog right after the Christmas holiday. It wasn't that I left the school or life became too busy. It just stopped being worth blogging about, without noting the disappointment that I was feeling. I felt I wasn't working to my potential because of the position that I held as just the Spanish Teacher. To become a Montessori trained teacher is a entirely different (and long) process that I was not sure that I wanted to explore. There were so many ups and downs... I know that teaching isn't wonderful 100% of the time and there are times where we just have to suck it up and just keep moving forward.
  But it was only a few weeks after the holidays, that I realized that it just wasn't for me. I learned that although Montessori principles make a great teaching philosophy and it works for some children and teachers alike, it was just not the kind of teacher I was and it was not the kind of teacher I felt I wanted to be.
   The shoe just did not fit.
   I am grateful for the opportunity I had to teach in a Montessori school and learn a little more about Montessori Education. But if I were to be completely honest, I have missed working in a school district. I have really missed the comraderie of working & collaborating with other teachers in and outside of my grade level. I have missed the feel of a bigger school community. I lost all of that when I left Chicago...and I wanted it back. I wanted to be working in a school, within a school district again. I was willing to give up my love for PreK, and explore other grade levels, in order to do so.
   This spring, a new job opportunity came up to teach Kindergarten and I was all over it!

  So this upcoming school year, I will be moving out of the PreK  World and I will be teaching Kindergarten in a Dual Immersion School! I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am; not only will I be exploring a new area in my teaching career, but I am excited to be working in a school district again and to be working in a bilingual school community, that I feel will be similar to the one that I left behind in Chicago!
   I have only taught Kindergarten for one year, while in Chicago, before I moved along to teach in the bilingual PreK program. So, teaching Kindergarten, in Spanish, will be something very new for me! And I am really looking forward to it!
   YAY!!  I'm Going To Kindergarten!!