Computer Resources for Primary Grades!
This month, the Education World Tech Team members answered the question Do you think K-3 students should use computers in school? with a resounding yes! Our experts also shared a plethora of activities and programs they use with primary students. Included: Web sites and software programs to use with your young students!
This month, we asked Education World Tech Team members to tell us whether they thought students in the primary grades should use computers. We expected a vigorous debate. What we got was a unanimous yes! What the team lacked in controversy, however, they more than made up for with recommendations on which computer programs to use with primary students -- and suggestions on how to use it!
Be sure to check out the previous Tech Team article, Should Kids in Primary Grades Use Computers?
HOW DO THEY DO IT?
"At our school, students in grades one through three have formal computer classes once a week; kindergarten children use the computer lab for less formal projects," said Pamela Livingston, director of information technology at Chestnut Hill Academy, in Philadelphia. "All our projects, however, relate to what's happening in the classroom.
"First-grade students study the Iditarod, for example, so during computer class, they find information about Alaska and the race," Livingston said. "The first graders also study Hawaii, and they use the Internet to look at photos and videos of Hawaii.
"Our second graders learn about the water cycle and the Vikings. Both of those units are rich in opportunities to research online information students would not be able to find otherwise," Livingston continued. "We also start exposing students to keyboarding in second grade. Teaching them where the keys are makes writing with the computer less frustrating.
"The third grade studies geography, Asia, and Africa -- all topics that provide opportunities for computer-savvy teachers to use software, Internet projects, and Internet research. We also participated in a great author chat with Mary Pope Osborne about her Magic Tree House series," Livingston concluded.
WHAT DO THEY USE?
"It is our school policy that K-2 students use the computer lab for skill reinforcement only," said Jennifer Wagner, technology coordinator at Crossroads Christian School, in Corona, California. "At that level, we use the Reader Rabbit series, Math Blaster, Teacher Created Materials, and various templates I create myself. We also do a bit of word processing, but that is minimal.
"Our third graders jump into computers with both feet," Wagner told Education World. "We begin the year with Kid Pix. By November, the kids have pretty much mastered the tools, and we do a ten-week salute to different artists and create our versions of their artwork. Favorites are Starry Night, by Van Gogh, and pictures by Mondrian, Seurat, and O'Keeffe. Kids remember this project and talk about it each year. Our third graders also use Math Blaster and Reading Blaster, and they begin word processing with Creative Writer 2.
"If you're teaching K-3 computer skills, you need a good program, such as Kid Pix, Wagner noted. "The program gives every student an understanding of mouse skills, graphic design, presentation design, graphic manipulation, and more, but it is so much fun they don't even know they're working with graphics. They think they're just coloring.
Creative Writer 2, by Microsoft, can't be beat for a word processing program for kids," Wagner continued. "Almost everything is done graphically. When they click File, for example, the icon looks like a file. Creative Writer 2 is also fun and very easy to use. We use it for keyboarding nine weeks a year, and no one ever complains. The program also includes a paint program that allows students to make posters, cards, banners, certificates, and more. It's a bit advanced for K-1, but kids in grades two or three can pick it up with a bit of guidance.
"The Reader Rabbit series can't be beat for teaching cognitive skills, such as math and phonics, and Math Blaster 4-6 is also a favorite," Wagner said. "If you are going to get only one program, however, make it Kid Pix. You can't go wrong."
"One software program that I highly recommend for use with first and second graders is Read, Write & Type, by Talking Fingers," said Lori Sanborn, technology specialist at Rancho Las Positas Elementary School, in Livermore, California. "With this program, children learn to read and write through a multisensory method that combines phonics and whole language and teaches keyboarding along with reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I'm not saying that you teach reading without a book or writing without paper, but computer programs can support and enhance the elementary reading and writing curriculum as they teach children to keyboard.
"Another program I couldn't do without is Kid Pix Studio Deluxe, by Mattel Interactive," Sanborn said. "Kid Pix is one of the most widely used creativity programs in schools, and it can be used from kindergarten through eighth grade. The Kid Pix drawing, painting, word processing, animation, and multimedia tools have been continually upgraded and improved since the program's original release almost ten years ago."
"I find that kindergarten students benefit from programs such as Stickybear Early Learning, which they can use to practice their new-found alphabet skills," said Libby Adams, computer resource teacher at Troost Academy, in Kansas City, Missouri. "Bailey's Bookhouse is another program that benefits kindergarten students by reinforcing what is taught in the classroom. First and second graders are writing well enough to publish their work in a program such as Kid Pix. In third grade, many reluctant learners benefit by using WiggleWorks, a program that meets the needs of a variety of learning styles."
"Some terrific software programs are available to use with K-3 students," said Mary Kreul, who teaches second grade at Richards Elementary School, in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. I have used the following programs very successfully with my second graders:
"In the past few years, there has also been an increase in the amount of materials and information available for younger students -- and their teachers -- on the Internet," Kreul said. Web sites such as Scholastic.com and Education World provide a wide variety of lessons and projects for early elementary students.
The Education World Tech Team includes 40 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. Stay tuned in the months ahead as members of the Tech Team share their thoughts on a wide variety of topics.
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