Teaching With Technology: Stir It Up

Cooking Up Ways to Boost Language and Literacy Skills

  • Grades: PreK–K

SMART TOYS

LeapZone School - Time LeapTop

letter, numeral, and shape recognition, counting

Resembling a small laptop computer but more colorful, this durable, battery-operated toy is designed to teach skills ranging from identifying letters and numbers to spelling simple words. In one fun activity, children choose three letters to spell a word or "make a cool sound" (a nonsense word). Each letter is sounded out nicely, introducing children to early phonics skills. The toy prompts a little too soon as children hunt for the letters and numbers, and some of the sounds like D and B are easily mixed up. The activities are generally well designed. LeapFrog, 800-701-5327, www.leapfrog.com; $49.95. Age 3 and up.

THINK OF YOUR CLASSROOM AS A POT OF STEW. THE recipe should include a hearty broth (a well-thought out curriculum plan based on children's individual needs), a nice variety of healthy fresh vegetables (your classroom materials) and just the right amount of spice (your brain, of course). When these ingredients simmer, you can get a great meal - or a classroom primed for learning.

You want to be sure that your classroom stew is not too thin, too thick, or too over-spiced. Experienced teachers and chefs alike know that balancing the ingredients is essential, and this is especially true for a broad curriculum area that falls under the language and literacy umbrella. So here are some high-tech "vegetables" for beefing up your language and literacy curriculum.

How Tech Can Help

Let's face it, the difference between an A and an E isn't all that obvious, especially when you're 4 years old. Visiting a country that uses an unfamiliar alphabet helps you realize just how baffling the English code system can be to a child. Technology can help by instantly labeling what a child hears or sees (for example, press a key and hear a sound). One outstanding activity is "Monique's Word Painting," found in Clifford's Reading (Scholastic Inc.; $19.95). Here, children see a blank canvas and can drag any combination of words onto it to see it illustrated on the screen. Software can playfully introduce children to a whole host of literacy skills, including letter and numeral recognition, sound/symbol matching, and playing with words.

Low-Tech Strategies

Well-stocked classrooms have a variety of writing materials accessible to children, including different types of paper and writing tools. Colored pencils, chalk, scented markers, paint, and glitter glue offer children many ways to play with letters. Sometimes ideas come on the spur of the moment. (One day, the temperature dropped well below zero, and the windows frosted over. The children had a great time writing the letters of their names onto the frosty windows.)

Mid-to-High Tech Strategies

Next time you see an obsolete typewriter at a yard sale, grab it for your language and literacy area. Children love pecking out their names, letter by letter, and then adding their own illustrations on the page. There is also a variety of durable "smart toys" (battery operated tabletop toys) that provide tactile experiences with letters and sounds. If you have a computer, there are dozens of programs to choose from. As you would with other materials, test the software first to make sure there is a good match between the activity and the child. Most of the software listed here offer activities that have multiple levels of difficulty and can be adapted to meet children's individual needs.

  • Subjects:
    Language Arts, Literacy, Teaching with Technology
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