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Technology in a Third Grade Classroom

A third grade teacher shares her successes integrating technology into a variety of projects in her classroom.
By Susan Sommer

I  have had computers in my third grade classroom my entire teaching career. Unfortunately, as with many innovations in education, they seemed to get less and less use as the years went by. As curriculum demands increased and independent student time decreased, my use of the computers as a drill and practice tool and as a means of reinforcing new concepts was soon becoming outdated. As I began considering a Masterís degree, I found a Classroom Technology Specialty that really sparked my interest. It was during my work for my graduate degree that I really began to see the computer as a resource and as a tool in my classroom.
     I have taught third grade in the same district for 16 years. I have seen the changes that technology has made in our district and how those changes have affected my teaching. I began my career with two Atari computers in my classroom. Now I have an iMac for my professional use and an Apple IIe for my students. I also have access to our computer lab that houses 25 Macintosh computers. We do most of our computer work in the lab. We can schedule up to 3 days of 40 minutes each day in the lab. There is a paraprofessional in the lab to assist the students with their projects. This also allows students who need extra time to go into the lab and work at other times during the week.

Check out all of the Standards applicable to this story!

ISTE technology standards
II. Social, ethical, legal, and human issues.
III. Technology productivity tools

Language Arts English
VIII. Developing Research Skills
XII. Applying Language Skills

Math K-4
XIII. Patterns and Relationships

Science K-4
III. Life Science

Click here for a detailed description.

I  begin building the foundation for my studentís final project early in the school year. We begin familiarizing ourselves with various software and uses of the computer. We begin by working on the word processing software: Type to Learn. The students begin working on keyboarding in order to be able to complete future projects. They often keyboard 2 to 3 times a week in our computer lab for approximately 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
      We also begin working on Kid Pix very early in the school year, learning about the tools and the various types of projects that can be completed. We work on creating fun pictures and experimenting with the different tools that can be used with this program. Each student then creates one picture that tells their name and one thing that they enjoy. We then save those pictures and move into the Slide show portion of the program. The students select a transition and a sound to go along with their picture. We discuss as a class the various methods that we could use to place our slides in order. The class discusses several options such as alphabetical by first or last names, random, slide subject, etc. We import our pictures along with our transitions and sounds into a slide show. This project is always a hit at our Open House night in the fall.
I  have my students do a mini Kid Pix slide show in February for Dental health month. They must create a slide show that will teach the rest of the class some facts about dental health. They again create the slides and order them using information that they have gathered in class. Students can use the slide shows as a way to review for the test over the dental health unit.
     Another project that we work on as a class is a graphing project where we use the program Number Crunchers. This is a weeklong project for each student. They work on this independently, one student at a time. The students are responsible for picking a subject that they would like to graph on Monday. Tuesday, they gather the information they need from their classmates. On Wednesday and Thursday, they can go to the computer lab in their free time and graph their information. They can choose between a vertical bar graph, a horizontal bar graph, a line graph, or a pie graph. They need to use their math skills to decide which graph would be appropriate for their individual graph. After they have completed their graph they may add a graphic and a title. Once they have printed their graph, they must explain their graph to their classmates and interpret their data on Friday. They need to explain their reasons for selecting the type of graph that they chose. They also need to make a statement that they can surmise from their graph.
"This is a fun and challenging project that can last throughout the year. The students enjoy the challenge of coming up with the neatest idea for their graph. "
I  always begin the year with a simple graph such as the number of boys and the number of girls in our classroom. We make that graph together and discuss the reasons that one particular graph would show our information better than another. We often look at the way the different graphs would look, using the same data. This gives the students a good idea of why one graph might be preferred over another type. We also graph the temperature for several days, so that they can see a good example of a line graph. We also create another graph using favorite universities. I include my alma mater, our in-state rival, and then a smaller university that is located closer to our town. After doing these graphs together, the students have a basic understanding of the four types of graphs that they can choose from. Once we have completed this process, the students are basically on their own. They get their subject approved by me, I give them class time to gather their information, and then it is their project. This is a fun and challenging project that can last throughout the year. The students enjoy the challenge of coming up with the neatest idea for their graph.
    Students also publish their writing using various pieces of software. I usually use the Amazing Writing Machine. We use this program to publish their poetry. They can use the word processing side to write their poem and then they can also illustrate their poem. I try to let my students publish as often as they can. We use Print Shop Deluxe to create greeting cards for Christmas and Valentineís Day. We also use the word processor to write Acrostic poems that we create for our classroom pal. My students are allowed to complete one book report each 9 weeks on the computer. They can write and draw their reports using any of the various pieces of software that we have worked on throughout the year.
I  also have my students use Kid Pix to create number sentences and draw sets. We use this quite often during our beginning multiplication instruction. Students stamp two sets of three roses and then complete the number sentence 2 x 3 = 6. This helps to reinforce the concepts that are being covered in the classroom. It gives them a fun way to work on their facts.
    As mid-year approaches, we begin to look at specific sites on the Internet. We check out the groundhog site and various other educational sites. We become familiar with the Internet through guided instruction. We look up information concerning Presidents Lincoln and Washington. We gather that information and use a word processing document to write a short report about one of those Presidents.
  The main project that my students do is a multi-media presentation. I use all of the projects we have worked on all year as a springboard for this one project. This is a three-week project. This is one project in my animal unit. The students will have been in the animals unit for one week before we begin the multimedia portion of the project. The students will have been given instruction and demonstrations in the HyperStudio software as well as time in the computer lab to practice using the software. We have created several practice cards, using the software. This time is in addition to the actual time that they spend on their projects.
     I use the software Mammals as the anticipatory set for the beginning of my multimedia portion of the unit. I use this software because the students can look at different types of mammals. They can read interesting facts about the animals and hear the sounds that they make.
      I have gathered several different types of resources for the studentsí use. They have access to classroom textbooks, animal series books from the library, videos, and software. They gather the information that they are going to put into their HyperStudio projects from the various resources that are available.
My assessment for this project is a rubric. I use a rubric for a number of reasons. I want the students to know what is expected of them in order to receive the grade that they desire. I also want the higher achieving students to know that the extra effort that they put into their projects will be rewarded also. The rubric also communicates to the parents the expectations of the project and how the project will be graded. The students have the rubric to look at before they ever begin the work on their project.
     I provide the students with a storyboard that they may use to create their various cards. I also provide them with an animal checklist that includes the information that their cards should contain. There is a checklist for the title card as well as for each of the other cards in the stack. As the students work on each card, they can make sure that they have met all of the requirements needed to have a completed project.
"These projects are a fun way to use computers to support problem solving, data collection, information management, communications, presentations, and decision-making."
This is one of the neatest projects that we accomplish in third grade. The students take pride in their presentation. They have respect for the other studentsí projects, because they know the time and effort that has gone into each one of these presentations. They spend a great deal of time on the technology aspect of this project. But the students donít think of it in terms of it being a technology project. They see this as a way to get their information out to their fellow classmates. And while each student is doing the same assignment, there are never two projects the same.
     These projects are a fun way to use computers to support problem solving, data collection, information management, communications, presentations, and decision-making. The students are involved in compiling, organizing, analyzing, and synthesizing information, and technology is supporting these processes. I feel that this type of project also helps to level the playing field for a good number of my students. They are capable of creating projects and written work on the computer that might not have been possible for them using traditional methods. The technology that I use with my students no longer is drill and practice or games. My students use the technology that we have available to us to support the learning that is going on in our classroom.
I  have often wondered if the students are using the computers to enhance the learning that is going on in the regular classroom or are we using the classroom materials to assist in our computer projects. I believe that we are doing both. I also know that my students enjoy their time in the lab and they are excited to go there and work. I can honestly say, I have never had a student come up to me and ask if they get to write a book report that day. Students are always asking if we get to go to the lab! What a nice change!
Interested in the software mentioned in the story?

Click on the software title to learn more!

Type to Learn click here for a product review.

Kid Pix

Number Crunchers

Amazing Writing Machine click here for a product review.

Print Shop Deluxe




Link to Teacher testimony and to comments and suggestions for Susan Sommer teaches third grade in Fredonia, Kansas.

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