Learning while teaching

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Senior elementary education major Alissa Davies of Lacombe, left, and several of her students at the Amite Migrant Head Start Center show Dr. Cynthia Elliott, Merritt Family Endowed Professor in the College of Education and Human Development, right, one of the word books they created to boost their English and Spanish literacy skills.


Alissa Davies, Elementary Education major

Dr. Cynthia Elliott, Merritt Family Endowed Professor, College of Education and Human Development



“Leamos.” It translates as “let's read.”

For senior elementary education major Alissa Davies of Lacombe, the Spanish word was her title for the research and service-learning project she undertook with Dr. Cynthia Elliott, Merritt Family Endowed Professor in the College of Education and Human Development.

Alissa Davies, Elemetary Education MajorBut, for the children at the Amite Migrant Head Start Center in Amite, “leamos” just meant “fun.”

Each week, Alissa visited their classroom to sing, read stories, and help them create a trio of little books -- their very own bright illustrations of concepts such as colors and numbers in Spanish and English.

The children didn’t know that the fun they were having was launching them on their way to reading and writing in both languages. And they certainly didn’t know that the pretty lady with the guitar was exploring their language and literacy development or that she would be able to present her research at future academic conferences an experience that would be an asset to the future teacher’s resume.

Involving education students such as Alissa in research is one of Dr. Elliott’s goals as an endowed professor. “Each semester, I offer undergraduates the opportunity to work with me on my own research or on a topic that interests them,” she said. “This project was right down Alissa’s alley because it combined music and literacy.” Alissa is minoring in music.

The project was developed based on the ongoing partnership Southeastern enjoys with the Regina Coeli Child Development Center, the non-profit organization for 16 Head Start Centerson the north shore.

“In addition to the research, there was the element of service-learning,” Dr. Elliott said. "Alissa was providing a service to the children to address a specific need expressed by the center the children’s need to learn English based on a strong foundation of literacy in their native language.”

“What I like about the project,” Dr. Elliott added, “is that it wasn’t necessarily related to a specific course. Alissa was linking this service to her academic learning. That was probably the most rewarding part -- as well as supporting the early literacy and language development for the children.”

Alissa agrees. For example, to help her control rambunctious four-year-olds who all wanted her attention at once, she applied a group management technique that she had learned in class and had seen a classroom teacher put into practice.

“I heard my teacher speak about this strategy, I observed it in a school, then I was actually able to apply it and see the improvement,” she said. “I went out of the classroom skipping that day. The children were learning and I was learning.”

“Research goes much deeper than just being words on paper,” Alissa said. “It’s about creating opportunities with something as basic as singing a simple song. This has definitely been a growing experience.”

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