Sunday, August 2, 2015

So, what is Montessori?

  I have been an Early Childhood Teacher for 10 years. And I have loved every minute of it! I have been trained to teach in what is known as a "traditional" classroom, keeping track of development and progress, creating activities that are developmentally appropriate, all while ensuring that learning standards are addressed. I have done this for ten years. It is basically all that I have come to know.
   So, as I prepare myself for my role as a Spanish Teacher in a Montessori Preschool, I know that I need to educate myself a little on just what Montessori is all about. I recall learning about Maria Montessori and her methods on working with young children. I remembering feeling that it was an ideal model in which to teach and work with young children; but it was just not one that was aligned with the teaching methodology that I learned in my undergrad (and later grad) courses.
   ANYHOW, now it is my turn to go from teacher to learner. And for those of you who may have not heard of Maria Montessori, or are unsure of exactly what it all entails--- you can learn with me!
   I have been reading a few books and checking out all kinds of Montessori blogs to get a better idea of just what Montessori is and what it looks like.
   "Montessori is a method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, that is focused on self-directed activity, hands on learning and colloborative play. Children make their own choices based on what activities that the teachers have set out for them."
   Dr. Maria Montessori believed, as many Early Childhood Educators believe, that education of the child begins at birth. The first few years of a child's life are the most formative years, physically and mentally. She believed that the goal of Early Childhood should be to activate the child's desire to learn and help them to find and free their potential, for "within the child, lies the fate of the future."
   (So as not to bore anyone, I will only write about a few things right now.)
There are two key components in Montessori Education:
1) The Environment. This refers to the materials and activities that are readily accessible to the children. Activites in the environment are meant to enable self pride in the child. This means that each activity is one that they can do alone and/or present a challenge to foster growth. There are plenty of different activities set out for the child to explore. Materials that are available are categorized into Daily Living (Pouring, Dressing, Cutting), Sensorial (Addressing the five senses through Mystery Bags, Scent Bottles, Sounds), Academic (Alphabet & Numbers) and Cultural & Artistic (Items around the classroom are objects of interest such as cultural art and/or cultural toys/puzzles/books).
2) The Teacher. The teacher is responsible for preparing the environment to foster independence, freedom within limits and a sense of order in the classroom. The teacher serves more as a guide, as she observes each child to see what interests them and lays out activities that will foster that interest and skill level. When a child finds something that interests them, they tend to gain focus and start to concentrate. That is the moment that the child is truly learning and should not be interrupted.
   So much of what I have read thus far and have re-learned is what I feel is the true essence of Early Childhood Education, not what it has become today, full of assessments and learning standards. Don't get me wrong, I know children need to develop certain skills and such, but to put a time line on it only frustrates teacher and child alike. And as I continue on my journey in a Montessori school, I am eager to see the ins and outs of a Montessori classroom and how it fosters a child's development and I am eager to see this approach to Early Childhood Education.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Time For Some Redecorating!

  As I prepare for my new teaching adventure this coming fall, as a Spanish Teacher within a Montessori Preschool, I absolutely feel the need to do some minor redecorating on my blog! Nothing too major though---I don't have those kinds of design skills!!
  So, stay tuned... This process can be a little time consuming, but I am working hard on it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Where have I been????

    No, I have not forgotten about my lovely blog. Abandoned it a bit? Yes... As usual, life has become so crazy and much of my time the last month has been spent in baby shower planning mode! No, not for me... for my younger sister!! She is having her first child and I am working my butt off to make sure that her baby shower is everything that she wants... Aren't I the BEST big sister?  =)
   Anyhow, with that said, I have been away for awhile, and I do have plans to get back into blogging. I keep up with alot of other blogs and bloggers via Facebook, but I do miss taking the time to really read through blog posts. So I have every intention to get back into it... just not in the next few weeks! The baby shower is taking place in just over a week, and so hopefully my attention can go back to blogging and all the fun that comes with it!!

Here is a peek at the Baby Shower Invite: 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Plenty of fun with hearts...even after Valentine's Day!

   Ok so I am a little bummed that my plans for the classroom Valentine's Day party were ruined by yet ANOTHER Snow/Cold Day last Friday!
   I was all geared up for some fun...Check out how cute our bulletin board was!
   But my preschoolers did get a very small taste of some Valentine fun with heart themed activities, earlier in the week.
   I added hearts and gems into our rice sensory bin for the munchkins to work on their fine motor skills, as well as counting skills:
   They also worked on measurement & size in our Playdoh Center, with pretty pink playdoh and different sized heart cutters:
    I had quite a few Valentine activities prepped and ready to use but with the snow day, we never got a chance. So I tweaked one activity for my munchkin to have some learning fun at home too!
   She has been working hard on CVC words and she played a fun word building game:
 I found this great FREE resource on Vowel Sorting from Make, Take, Teach.
And I found these fun mailboxes from Target.
    We also hit up the after Valentine's Day sales for some candy to have some Math fun, which I will share next time!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Learning Fun With Number Bonds & Decomposing Numbers!

   Ok, so I will admit to not being up-to-date with all of this talk about Common Core. It's the latest and probably most disliked word in the field of education today for many in education. And as assumed, Common Core Standards are slowly trickling down into the preschool level.
    So as much as I want to keep all of the unnecessary and highly inappropriate ways of teaching youdng children at bay, I know that in order to prepare my preschoolers (and my 5 year old munchkin at home)  for what they will be exposed to in their elementary years, I have to learn more and embrace it.
    It doesn't mean I have to like it and agree with it 100%, but with all of the blogs I follow and the awesome work that I see created by teachers these days, I know that teaching with the Common Core is feasible and can be made to be fun for young children.
    Am I up for that challenge? Absolutely. If it means that my students have a better chance of success in school, then I will learn more about Common Core and find ways to make it engaging and fun.
   With that said, my kindergarten munchkin recently came home with some math homework on Number Bonds. It looked easy, I logged onto Pinterest to get some ideas on how I can help her at home and found quite a few ways to make this learning process in math something playful and fun.
Here is a fun little Snowman Mat that I made for her to work on number bonds and decomposing numbers.
She worked with two dice, rolled them and counted the dots to find out what number she would have to decompose. Then proceeded to use different colored snowflakes to create the visual. I then had her explain it to me. (Three blue snowflakes and four red snowflakes make 6 snowflakes.) Then I asked her to find a different way to make six.
Then we did the same activity with number seven,
It was fun and easy, so I made some Penguin mats to use with my preschoolers to simply introduce them to this same concept. We worked on making sets and decomposing the numbers four and five, by using different colors blocks to "feed" the Penguin.
Making sets of four:
Making sets of five:
Isnt't this guy the cutest little penguin? I love the eyes!!
     There are so many fun ways to teach this concept to kids and based on the thinking that was going on with my kids who are working at/above level, it was a bit of a challenge--which is what I feel they need every now and then, to avoid any boredom and repetition!
     So, as I learn more about Common Core and how to implement it, as well as all the good and bad things that come from it, I know that there will always be a fun and easy way to make it somewhat appropriate for the youngest learners.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We Are Smitten over "The Mitten"!

   We have fallen in love with the book, The Mitten by Jan Brett!
   One of my challenges this year is that I have six ESL students in my classroom. Each one's ability to speak and understand the language fluently varies. For this reason, I have shifted my literacy focus the past week to include more language activities, where the children can work on their oral language skills.
    The Mitten was a perfect book for practicing different literacy skills, ranging from learning the names of the animals (as some munchkins had no idea what a mole and a badger looked like) to sequencing the animals and retelling the story.    
    In small groups, we focused on oral language skills and retelling the story. I used a free The Mitten resource, by Mrs. Quinn, in small groups.
(I used my own huge white mitten cutout)
They each had a turn piling the animal picture cards on top of one another, which proved to be a somewhat challenging task for some of my ESL kids, as they had trouble remembering the names of some of the animals.
 We worked on fine motor skills as they each cut out a mitten and drew an animal from the story that was in their mitten:
Then we did another story extension in our journals:
(This is from one of my munchkins who has a good grasp of all the letter sounds, and I am encouraging her to work on some inventive spelling! It is absolutely one of my very favorite things to see how children use letters sounds to attempt to spell words.)
The mitten fun extended into our math centers as well, as we worked on couting and matching number to set with these two fun games:
Roll & Count Snowflake Game:
 Count & Match Mitten Game:
(Free Activity from Make, Take & Teach)
And we painted mittens templates and decorated them to add to our classroom door:
(Sorry, it isn't a very good pic!)
Ok, now I think I am over all of this talk about Winter...I am ready for spring!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Snowman Fun!

   Winter is in full effect and we are trying to embrace it! It was a rough and early start to winter, as we were slammed with snow (measured in feet!)- back in November, which is now known as "Snowvember". And it is only the middle of winter, so we have no choice but to try and embrace it, even though I am so over snow already at this point!
   HOWEVER, all of this snow makes planning fun learning activities very easy!
   We have read many books the past week, pertaining to snow and snowmen, and of course, we had to make a snowman craft to spruce up our January bulletin board!
   The munchkins have been getting lots of practice writing their names and I am so proud that so many of them have come a long way! The ones who were not even able to make a scribble, can now write their name legibly! And my munchkins that were not even able to hold and grip a pencil properly can now trace their names.... I love seeing how each child is progressing!
  Anyhow, I extended our name writing to make these cute little snowmen!

 We also talked alot about how to build a snowman! 
   Check out "How To Build A Snowman", as told from 4 year old preschoolers:

 
With all this snow and snowman talk, I have had many of them ask many times "Are we going to play outside today?"  (I wish we could, BUT I have already planned something I know they will enjoy- I will be bringing some snow into our water table later this week!)
    There is so much to do when it comes to Winter Fun and although I wish we had time to do it all, sadly there just isn't time- especially since Parent Teacher conferences are around the corner.... and you know what that means... the dreaded Progress Monitoring!!
   Well, I know I am going to try and make the best of it the next few weeks...