Article, Writing Activities
Teaching With Technology: Learning Letters With Tech
- Grades: Early Childhood, Infant, PreK–K, 1–2
Scholastic.com has created a site to assist new pre-K to eighth-grade teachers in their first year in the classroom. The free site offers standards-based content, time-saving productivity tools, downloadable resources, and expert advice. The "Teacher Toolkit" helps teachers create customized lesson plans, assignments, tests, and presentations, all aligned to specific state standards. There's also a classroom homepage builder and a database of lessons and activities on high-interest teaching themes such as weather, getting to know one another, poetry, and more. It's all free, so check it out at www.scholastic.com/newteacher
Scribbling with a computer keyboard? Certainly! Young children can start scribbling with a computer keyboard for example, by pressing any key to see what will happen on the screen. Soon, they may notice patterns. They may see that the SHIFT key makes all the letters bigger. A "magic moment" happens when they discover the different letters in their names and can start spelling short words.
Actual typing starts at about age 4 and can be facilitated with talking word-processing software such as Max's Sandbox ( http://www.maxssandbox.com/ ), designed for Windows computers that have Microsoft Office installed, or Dr. Peet's Talk Writer ( http://www.drpeet.com/ ), for either Macs or Windows.
Next, children begin classifying the keys, noticing that the top row is just for numbers, for example. After that, it's on to writing short, familiar words such as their names. At this point, don't worry about formal keyboarding. The time for formal keyboarding instruction isn't until upper elementary grades.
Here are some ideas for tapping into the power of technology in your classroom:
Magical Talking Letters & Other Smart Toys
Any toy store contains dozens of affordable toys that offer colorful alphabet keys. Look for products that are responsive, have adjustable volume controls, and will hold up in a classroom setting. Some toys, such as the Neurosmith's MagnaPhonics, let children experiment with letter combinations. LeapFrog's new LeapPad Plus Writing (see review on page 7) gives children feedback on the marks they make on a page.
The Reverse Teleprompter-Dictated Stories
If you're a good typist, let children dictate their written language as your fingers fly. If you are fast enough, they can actually see the words appear on the screen as they say them (ask them to speak slowly and clearly). For even more fun, use a computer projector to make children's language look large and impressive!
Build a Bulletin Board
If you have a classroom Web site, turn your Homepage into a virtual bulletin board on young children and writing. Call it Stages of Writing and scan samples of children's writing, along with each child's age and the month the sample was created (you'll find the link to the Southwood Elementary School above).
Tip: Save your pictures as JPEG files (.72 dpi, or "screen resolution") so that they will load quickly and still look clear.
Software and Toy Review
LeapPad Plus Writing
Teaches writing, letter formation, reading, logic, math
This new LeapPad functions exactly like previous LeapPad models (it can run old software), except that it comes with a special pencil stylus so that children can write on the pages. This allows children to do dot-to-dot puzzles and letter and numeral tracing. Our testers liked the mazes and letter tracing the best. A large eraser makes it easy to clean the pages for future use, and the paper is durable enough to put up with repeated classroom use. LeapFrog, 800-701-5327; www.leapfrog.com ; $59.95; additional books are $15. Ages 4 to 8.
Putt-Putt: Pep's Birthday Surprise
Teaches logical thinking
The seventh Putt-Putt title lets children drive Putt-Putt around Cartown, helping the residents reap rewards and gathering supplies for his dog. Remembering where all the clues are can be tricky; a real challenge for preschoolers. To compensate, ask children to create a map to keep near the computer. Atari, 978-921-3700; www.funkidsgames.com ; Windows XP; $19.99. Ages 4 to 7.
Get Ready to Read!
A project of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, this site has handy links for parents and teachers, along with an online screening instrument.
Kansas Kids Ready for Learning
This rich resource from the Kansas Department of Education contains hundreds of useful links related to how children learn to read and write.
Developmental Stages of Writing
Staff members at Southwood Elementary School have put together an illustrated, stage-by-stage time line on how children's writing develops.