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Computers help Kent Prairie kindergarten class learn to read, write

ARLINGTON Kent Prairie Elementary kindergarten students are learning to read and write through an educational aid that many of them started using before they started school.
When fourth-grade teacher Maria Eckley began teaching kindergarten this year, she asked Kent Prairie Principal Kathy Engell if she could take her computers with her. Engell and Eckley reported to the Arlington School District Board of Directors Oct. 22 that the technology was well-suited to the childrens needs.
These are kids who are already used to using computers, Eckley said. Theyre living in a digital world.
Eckleys equipment includes six eMacs, three Waterford computers and one set of speakers, as well as a laptop, video Presenter, document camera and wireless mouse. With these tools, shes guided her students through the process of writing, starting with their names.
Theyre excited by all the ways they can make their names look, Eckley said. They can erase mistakes quickly on the screen. It empowers them as writers. They take pride in the polished look of what they print, which encourages them to see themselves as writers. Plus, the keyboard is all capital letters, but when they type, it connects them to what the lowercase letters look like.
Eckley uses the document camera to record the students as they practice writing individual letters, and uses Presenter to play the videos of their practices for their classmates.
Its great for students who might not have fine motor coordination yet, since they can practice tracing the letters as they appear on their screens, Eckley said. Some of them will practice without me. They love having their work put on camera, and theyre very excited to share praise and feedback with each other.
The Presenter also allows Eckley to drill her students on digital flashcards that test their ability to recognize letters and words.
I can walk around the room and work with individual students while the flashcards are running, Eckley said.
Eckley noted that parents have confirmed that her students are taking these lessons home with them.
As soon as they get home, theyll ask their parents if they can go on our site, Eckley said, referring to her classes Web sites, which include interactive games to test the students skills.
Eckley has been making arrangements to share her resources with her fellow Kent Prairie kindergarten teachers, and she and Engell agree on the lesson theyve learned.
Teaching technology has thrived in kindergarten, Eckley said.
Just like it did in our fourth-grade, Engell said.

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