Child's play: Learning about teaching children

December 1 2008

Erin Lin softly chided a small boy as he tossed clothes high in the air over his shoulder looking for something he wanted dress up in for play.

"You should be gentle," she said quietly.

Her journey to the floor of Indiana State University's Early Education Center surrounded by 3- to 5-year-old children began a world away in Keelung, Taiwan.

"My parents have a kindergarten so I would like to learn about early childhood education," said the international graduate student in early childhood education. "I heard ISU had a good education degree so that's why I came here."

Through visiting the center twice a week with her early childhood class, Lin learned different childcare methods which she passed along to her parents in Taiwan.

"Every time I come here I learn a lot," she said. "Then I will communicate with my parents about what the difference is between here and Taiwan. Then I will hear what my parents think, how to improve Taiwan's education system."

Lin passed along one idea that deals with quieting loud children.

"If children are too noisy, American teachers, they would use different teaching methods, just like 'I'm touching my lips' or they will sing a song," she said. "In Taiwan, we don't have this teaching method. We just say, 'OK child, I will turn off the light, be quiet.' But this way is more active, and then the children know, oh, we sing a song and we can be quiet."

Taking the students from the college classroom into the childcare center allows them to move their knowledge from the personal and professional levels into the practical, according to Yong Joon Park, Indiana State assistant professor of elementary, early and special education.

"I think, as a teacher, they need three kinds of knowledge -- personal, practical and professional, but most people only have personal," he said. "They need to know how to engage young children into learning, how to observe children's behaviors and how to manage the classroom. I think that it is important to know how to ask young children the meaningful questions such as open-ended questions. I think that it is also important to know how to use developmentally appropriate words for young children."

Gail Gottschling, director of the ISU Early Childhood Education Center and assistant professor of elementary, early and special education, said with the importance of early years and early learning in a child's development it is important to have qualified teachers.

"Early childhood education is not something you can study solely from a book," she said. "It is vital that there is this laboratory experience for the students to draw upon and make connections with what they're learning in their college classrooms."

Through four years of studying and hands-on classes, ISU early childhood teachers are prepared for the classroom and life, according to Gottschling.

"We know the importance of all teachers being well rounded. The two-year degree does give a certain degree of the technical experience, but a four-year degree really rounds it out," she said.

Sara Cole, an ISU graduate student in speech language pathology who has taken child development classes and works at the center, said by working with the children she can watch their developmental stages.

"Sometimes if they're arguing over something I like to see how they work it out, or if the chair is stuck under the table it's very interesting to watch how the work that out," she said.

As children in the center moved from tables where they played with bags of sand to building blocks to dress up, they were learning, according to Lin.

"You should educate children earlier because they learn through play," she said. "Playing with the kitchen set can improve their literacy so when you play with that, you should focus on what they are doing."

As one of the children climbed into Cole's lap, she said they are interesting to watch at play.

"I plan on working with kids in the future so this is providing me with a good experience to get hands-on work," she said.

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Contact:

Yong Joon Park, Indiana State University assistant professor of elementary, early and special education, at 812-237-7892 or ypark4@isugw.indstate.edu

Gail Gottschling, Indiana State University assistant professor of elementary, early and special education and Early Childhood Education director, at 812-237-2547 or g-gottschling@indstate.edu

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or jsicking@indstate.edu

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/428299044_yxkDT-D.jpg

Cutline: Erin Lin, ISU graduate student in early childhood education from Keelung, Taiwan, helps children at the Early Childhood Education Center select outfits in which to dress up. ISU Photo/Tony Campbell

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/428296790_ThSdC-D.jpg

Cutline: Children at ISU's Early Childhood Education Center read along with Yong Joon Park, ISU assistant professor of elementary, early and special education. ISU Photo/Tony Campbell

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Story Highlights

Taking ISU students from the college classroom into the childcare center allows them to move their knowledge from the personal and professional levels into the practical.

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