Staying Connected: Early Childhood Education Conference

An important facet to my work as the Director of Curriculum Development at Better Chinese is to attend conferences, speak with fellow educators and make sure that my knowledge of and connection with the field of Chinese language education stays strong and sharp. This past weekend Better Chinese co-founder Li Shen and I were fortunate enough to attend the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC) Annual Conference held in Sacramento, CA. The CAEYC's mission is "dedicated to advancing excellence throughout the early care and education profession." ( Workshops and speakers centered around theory, best practices and challenges surrounding early childhood education. Of course, as a provider for leading Chinese language learning materials for young children (as well as older kids, but there will be other conferences for them), it was particularly affirming to go and hear people talk about how they think children learn best. I'm happy to report that many of the core tenets of the Better Chinese way - story-centered, inquiry-based, interactive, age-appropriate, relevant and fun learning - were underscored by the various scholars, experts and practitioners at the workshops we attended. Here are a few points that were brought up by presenters, that are also principles held by our editorial team here at Better Chinese as we develop our student and teacher editions. Concerned educators should make sure to:
  • Maintain the connection between the teacher and student
  • Keep kids engaged and active
  • Build a child's ability to read by introducing sounds, phonology and written words in an incremental, deliberate and challenging, yet manageable way.
  • Use multiple approaches in teaching in order to tap into children's differentiated learning styles and abilities
  • Allow students to explore on their own and initiate and direct their own learning in the environment around them
  • Be vigilant observers of children's needs and development, and to adapt classroom activities, environment and curriculum suitably
  • Utilize topics about which children care, and that are relevant to their lives to encourage their engagement with new vocabulary
  • Use child-sized materials that beckon to children's natural curiosity
  • Recognize that all knowledge is connected and interrelated and to help students learn in a holistic way
  • Use music and songs as a particularly engaging, fun and easy way to learn
  • Recognize that parents are the most influential teachers in a young child's life and to empower them and keep them informed
  • Expose children to new ideas and languages during the most fertile window of opportunity while they are young
  • Use a hands-on, interactive approach to learning language and developing literacy
  • Know that young children begin to develop phonological awareness from an early stage and even though they are not yet able to write their own words or characters, that they can begin to trace, recognize and understand that symbols on a page equate to specific words
Since this was a general conference on the education of young children, with several different "tracks" of attendees (administrators, science and technology educators, literacy folks, curriculum designers, etc.) there was no focus on Chinese language education in specific. However, the takeaway lessons from several workshops will definitely serve as a great affirmation and reminder for us to stay alert and attuned to the latest thinking in the field of childhood education. The children never stop learning, and nor do we! As educators, I find  it is truly invaluable to take the opportunity to take a step back, learn and refresh our connection with the core motivations of the work we do. Meeting with similarly concerned educators, whether at conferences or when visiting classrooms to observe and learn from teachers who are engaged in and passionate about their work is a part of my job I truly love. Seeing the adorable kids singing "我爱我的爸爸, 我爱我的妈妈...." is also wonderful, of course :) Go out and take a look at what conferences and workshops are offered in your area - not just Chinese language-focused conferences, but general ones, as well. As with our students, I find that with a curious and receptive mind, any time taken to talk about our work and reflect is a great refreshing motivator. Here's to keeping in touch with one another for the betterment of our learners! Geraldine Shen Director of Curriculum Development Better Chinese


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