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Monday, August 17, 2015

Bucknell University education research impacts the community and the field.

"The energy grew in the community space at Barnes & Noble at Bucknell as children and their parents arrived for a biweekly read-aloud." 

Fourteen three- to six-year-olds took their places on pillows and in small chairs in anticipation. Then, Professor Lori Smolleck, chair, Department of Education, and Helen Vu '16 joined them.

Photo: Bucknell University

"Today, we're going to talk about shapes," Smolleck said. "What are some shapes that you know?"  

"A heart!" said a girl, who was then invited to come up and draw it.
"A square!"
"A triangle!"
"A circle!"  
When the children exhausted the shapes they could remember, Smolleck added some others — an octagon and a hexagon — while she held up examples and carefully led the group in counting each side, comparing similarities and differences among all of the shapes.

At first glance, this may seem to be a simple exercise, but there's extensive planning behind it. Smolleck and Vu are working on an education research project to better understand how read-alouds contribute to learning. Each lesson builds on what the children already know and prepares them for what's next, be it pre-school or kindergarten. The lessons are recorded to collect data for analysis. 

Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert
This lesson was based on the book Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert, which was a tool for Smolleck and Vu to help the kids learn mathematical concepts and early literacy comprehension strategies. "By the end of this lesson, our goal is to have the children recognize shapes, differentiate between shapes and create their own animal or scene out of them so they can see how shapes come together to make something larger," said Smolleck. "It allows them to practice understanding mathematical concepts and also to use fine motor skills and exercise creative thought."...

This type of research informs the field of education as well, helping teachers reflect on their work to better reach learning outcomes and expand their awareness of what they do and say in the classroom, which can affect students' knowledge and attitudes.

"Conducting research of this nature is an invaluable experience, which will greatly impact Helen's future as a graduate student and educator," said Smolleck. "She's gaining familiarity with current educational reform and research in early childhood and literacy education, as well as other content areas such as science, social studies and mathematics education. This may impact her choice to employ more reform-oriented methods of teaching that are balanced in relation to the integration of content areas. I also think it will help Helen reflect on her own teaching philosophies and make her implicit beliefs about teaching and instruction explicit as she continues to examine her teaching strategies and develop as an educator."

Source: Bucknell University