1998 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article. 
Go to next article. 
Return to 1998 Conference Table of Contents 


ENGAGING EMERGENT LITERACY ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES

Deborah Rollfs
Teacher Led Technology Challenge Project
Berkeley Unified School District
1720 Oregon Street
Berkeley, CA 94703
Voice/Message: 510-644-6447
FAX: 510-644-7738
Internet: DRollfs@aol.com

Mary Wrenn
Teacher Led Technology Challenge Project
Berkeley Unified School District
1720 Oregon Street
Berkeley, CA 94703
Voice/Message: 510-644-6447
FAX: 510-644-7738
Internet: wrenn@ix.netcom.com

In October of 1996 the Berkeley Unified School District in California was awarded a six and a half million dollar, five year federal challenge grant. This grant project, the Teacher Led Technology Challenge Project, seeks to integrate the use of technology in the teaching and learning of general education classrooms. We have targeted all of the district’s preschool through eighth grade classrooms.

Each year schools are added to the project so that at the end of three years at most schools (four years at the early childhood level) are participating. At each school approximately one-third of the faculty is added to the project each year. One teacher is selected to be a lead teacher at each site for each year and manages the implementation of project objectives at the site with support from project staff. At the prekindergarten level, with just a few teachers at multiple sites, the lead teacher serves as a role model for participating teachers and is responsible for creating appropriate activities for them.

The lead teacher receives three computers for his or her classroom and each participating teacher gets two computers. Each site is provided with an instructional technician who works under the supervision of the lead teacher and provides classroom support to participating teachers. Teachers are given a menu of training options including, but not limited to courses at local colleges, workshops put on by project staff, one-to-one computer tutoring by “personal trainers”, demonstration lessons in the classroom by project staff, as well as ongoing support from the instructional technician.

Several project objectives distinguish this proposal from other technology-related programs. This project operates on the premise that, as research has shown, involvement of families in their children’s education is the key to a successful program. Each participating teacher identifies five to seven students who do not have multimedia computers at home and would benefit from additional use of a computer. The families of these students are given the opportunity to borrow the classroom computers for weekends, vacations and holidays. Families are required to attend one training session. They agree to pick up (at an agreed upon time) and return (before the start of school) the computer on time and to fill out a log of the computer use while they have it. For families that already own computers, a software borrowing program allows them to try out software that children are using in their classrooms or that appears to be engaging and educational. Families borrow the software, books, manipulative and activity guides for three weeks.

At the early childhood level, we decided to structure the computer borrowing program with a focus on literacy. Emergent literacy is a term that has evolved over the last ten years and describes what is developing in children before they read and write that leads to literacy. Researchers explored why some children were coming to kindergarten knowing how to read and write by examining how those families and homes were different from those children coming to kindergarten with limited skills or without those skills. We know now that just as children crawl before they walk and babble before they talk, so to are they developing all kinds of skills and ideas about print before they read and write.

Literacy involves the interrelatedness of reading and writing. Technology that is appropriately integrated into a children’s learning has terrific potential to help children experiment and practice with meaningful projects involving early reading and writing and language activities.

When children view books on the computer the notion of going from left to right and top to bottom is demonstrated. In some programs children can click on the word and hear the word spoken and sometimes see a picture related to its definition. With custom keyboards and software, children can experiment with letters and works, hearing these letters and words spoken as they create them.

In addition to a focus on literacy, we wanted to design computer activities for families that would be both developmentally appropriate and would engage the families and the children in ways that supported interactive learning. We observed that children this age sometimes became so absorbed in what was happening on the screen that they “zoned out” and became difficult to talk to when using a computer, similar to what sometimes happens when young children watch television.

The activities we have designed for home use so far fall into four general categories. These include lift-the-flap books, other books, songs, and field trips. Brief descriptions of each follow. The activities themselves will be shown during our workshop.

Lift-the-flap books in which what is under the flap fits into a pattern have been easiest to develop into a computer activity where there are at least two equally attractive roles for the participants. One that we adapted is “Donde esta Spot?” by Eric Hill. In adapting these books we have used the software Kid Pix Studio by Broderbund or Intellipics by Intellitools. We put the book on computer with a screen for each page except the flap page. As one person clicks through the book on the computer, when getting to the flap page, the other gets to lift the flap and “read” that page. In the Spot book, a picture and the word “no” is under each flap.

Other books which we have adapted for interactive activities include “Glad Monster, Sad Monster” by Ed Emberly and Anne Miranda and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. In the monster book each color monster desribes what makes them feel a certain emotion. A page folds out with a mask for children to put on and then describe what makes them feel like each monster. We have provided the masks and book along with the computer activity. In books such as “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” we provide manipulatives and give the partner a role in acting out certain predictable parts of the story.

Other activities include computer slide shows of class field trips; putting children’s experiences into print and sharing them with their families has been very popular with families. We have also recorded classroom songs with pictures into computer slide shows so that families can learn the songs the children sing in school.

References

Books

Carle, Eric, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, (1969), New York.

Emberly, Ed & Miranda, Anne, “Glad Monster, Sad Monster”, (1997), Toronto.

Hill, Eric, “Donde Esta Spot” (1980), New York.

Software

Kid Pix Studio, Broderbund Software, Inc.

Intellipics, Intellitools, Inc.


Go to previous article. 
Go to next article. 
Return to 1998 Conference Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings 


Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.