|About Family Literacy|
|Computers and Young Children|
|Variations in Resources Available|
|Ideas for Students with Minimal Skills in Technology/English|
We started working on this project at the request of Cathy Lindsley, who administers Even Start funding in the State of Oregon. She was working with Linda Eckert, NW LINCS Coordinator, and they were searching for a program to implement a pilot site for the National LINCS Project. The site was to produce a pilot project and lesson plans specifically involving family literacy programs and technology. The purposes of the project are:
The three of us all work in family literacy programs with Hispanic immigrants. Family literacy is generally recognized to have four integrated components: adult education (AE), early child education (ECE), parenting education and support or parent time (PES or PT), and parent and child together time (known as PACT). The overall goal is to strengthen families to improve child literacy and school readiness and performance, as well as to assist parents in improving job skills, integrating into the community, and increasing their involvement in their children’s education.
One of our intentions was to assure that these lessons be informed by the concept of component integration, a key to comprehensive family literacy. This means that the messages being emphasized in one component are reinforced in all components (NCFL, 2002, Foundations in Family Literacy, p. 37), that they are designed to be part of a whole. When the components are integrated, their individual effects are magnified. It is this reinforcement that truly helps adults transform knowledge into applicable skills and ultimately influences the future of the child. It’s a team effort with intentional planning. In its ideal form, integration unites parent educators, adult educators, early child teachers, home visitors and other staff in awareness and ability to reinforce the learning going on in the other areas. In practice, limited time and other constricting factors make complete integration across the components an ongoing challenge to the creativity of personnel. We have tried to construct these curriculum ideas in ways which will involve all teachers and home visitors in a mutual exploration of materials and ideas and also in a loop of continuous feedback. For example, in Video Observation and Scaffolding in the ECE Classroom (Lesson 8), the core message might be that children’s play is directly related to their cognitive, physical and social development, and that by understanding this relationship we can better support our children’s learning. Parent and adult educators work together on content; taping and modeling behavior goes on in the ECE classroom; and outcome behavior is witnessed and reinforced in the adult classrooms, in PACT and in the home by the home visitor.
Two of us worked on an earlier curriculum development project for ESL in Family Literacy (see http://nwlincs.org/fmlt/toc.htm). The lessons we have developed here fit within that context. In addition, we explore how to enhance technological literacy in a Family Literacy setting. There are many basic computer technology resources available. This project attempts to answer the question of how the use of technology can lead to progress toward specific family literacy goals.
We had an online discussion about the issue of integrating technology into an existing need rather than imposing it and making it the central focus. Sometimes it can be so exciting to focus on the technology that we forget why we are doing it. The students want and need to learn to use computers for many reasons – jobs, their children’s homework, accessing information and resources in the community and the world, and communication with family far away, to mention a few. We need to make sure we are using technology appropriately – to enhance educational goals for parents and children, to forward the learning for all.
All of us use computers when working with parents. There is some controversy in the literature about the appropriateness of using computers to any extent with children at very young ages (i.e., under age 5). Most sources* agree that the primary tasks of children under age 5 are developing more basic skills, including large motor skills and exploring the physical world, as well as a lot of social and linguistic interaction with other people. It seems wise at the very least to limit computer use among small children, or at least not to focus on it.
This is the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) website concerning technology. You can find their position statement under the Best Practices link.
Some parents in our programs have computers at home and use them with their young children. Discussing this with parents may be similar to discussing the use of television. Once children enter into public school at age 5, they are increasingly exposed to computers. Family literacy programs who work with school-age children need to help parents work productively with the children’s teachers.
Another issue is whether, and to what extent, the education should be bilingual. Though we do much of our work with parents in English, it is important to support native language development in very young children in order to enhance overall language skills. As a result, that work generally ends up being either in the native language or bilingual. When you have parents and children working together on projects, as we often do in these lessons, use of both languages is essential. Several lessons have parents adding captions to photos. For the adults, it works well to have these captions be in English. But when sharing with the children, the labels need to be in the native language, or in both languages. For example, labels for the ECE classroom (Lesson 2) will contribute to a print-rich environment for the children, and need to be in the native language as well as in English.
We talked about the realities of our programs and limitations of computer resources in the classroom. Some programs have no computers in the classroom, or maybe only one, with no Internet or print capability. Some may have access to a state-of-the-art computer lab. Most fall somewhere between these two extremes. Mary Ann teaches in a classroom with one computer, with no Internet access. Carol has used a good computer lab classroom at a nearby public library. Sylvan has six older computers with Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Works, no Internet access, no printers. We decided to set up the lesson plans in levels of program technology resources, at first trying to define low, medium, and high levels, but then we realized that there is a lot of variety across a continuum, with a varied access to technology resources among programs. Our classes are multi-level in the area of technology as well as in other areas (basic literacy and English skills), so activities we present try to take into account both differing levels of students’ ability and different levels of technology available in the classroom.
When students are at low levels in English (0-1 SPL) and also have no computer background, activities must be limited at first. It’s important to understand that basic introduction to computer use is just that – not to assume that students know anything at all about a computer (other than that they want to learn how to use one, in a safe and supportive environment). It is helpful to do basic introductory instruction in the native language if possible, so that students have one less barrier in understanding how to do this. As skills improve, instruction can include more English. Some introductory activities are to explore the parts of the computer, how to turn it on and off, a tour of Windows and basic navigation. Use the Paint and Draw tools on the computer to practice moving the mouse.
After learning the basics of how to use a mouse (click, double-click, and click-and-drag), students can practice by playing Solitaire. In order to do this, they have to learn how to find the program, how to open it, and the basic rules of the game. This can then be expanded to serve more purposes – for example, printing out the instructions for the game to teach English, discussing sequence and patterns (alternating red and black, descending numbers), and even fractions (¼, ½, 1/13, 1/26, 1/52, etc.).
Other games we’ve used with students include Jacks, Tetris, Blocks, Hangman, and other word games.
One teacher resource is Computers in Action: http://easternlincs.worlded.org/docs/cia/toc.htm, which has lesson plans for integrating ESL with learning to use a computer. For example, you can create an activity where parents drag shapes around on the screen according to verbal directions. They learn how to drag objects and how to use prepositions.
www.crayola.com has simple on-line jigsaw puzzles. Click on “games”. This is fun and good practice for controlling the mouse. Puzzles range from 12 pieces to 104.
If you have a computer in the classroom, or a laptop: set up daily attendance file with Excel. Parents can learn to scroll, delete, save. All they need to type is an x in a box. They can take turns printing the attendance each day. A version of this activity, using actual number of hours, is outlined in Lesson 1.
Use Word to create labels for common household or classroom vocabulary (see Lesson 2). Post them in the classroom or parents can take them home and label their environment. You can extend this by showing parents how to change font and size.
Parents can create a class roster. Each enters their name and phone number. Print out a copy for each parent. This can be used to set up a phone tree where parents can notify each other in case of school closure or other information.
Another idea is to create scrabble tiles using Excel. This can be done in the first language as well as in English. You can set up the spreadsheet ahead of time, so all parents have to do is type the alphabet. Use a regular Scrabble game to tell you how many of each letter to make.
We talked about the importance of keyboarding practice, and the fact that there’s not really time for that during our class periods. Are there community resources students can access to get this on their own? Libraries, schools? Then there are barriers of child care and transportation. Maybe set aside a certain amount of time in the schedule each week for students to practice. Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, a widely available program, has been helpful to our students in their work to improve keyboarding skills, and doesn’t require high levels of English. We’ve also used outdated word-processing manuals with basic keyboarding drills as resources for students. There are also keyboarding helps online, including many listed at http://dmoz.org/Computers/Software/Educational/Typing/
Ideally, with enough computers, there can be an open lab setting, with the more experienced students acting as mentors for the others. One valuable strategy is to teach and reinforce the skills of one student by having them teach others. This sets up a dynamic where the students all help each other in class in other ways as well.
Mary Ann has been working on setting up a website, and her description of her process is included in Appendix A. She encourages everyone to give this a try. Carol has a nice handout about the Internet with some references to searching (which we didn’t address in any of the lessons included here), in English and Spanish (see Appendix B). In addition, we include a webliography with a few of the helpful sites we found during the time we were working on this project.
The three of us met several times over the course of four months, brainstorming lessons we’ve used or thought of using with our students. It was fun to compare notes and exchange ideas while we tried to come up with ten more or less representative lesson plans to spark ideas. Some are self-contained lesson plans that would be used in one class session. Others are outlines or parts of units that would last much longer than one day. We developed one lesson plan together to get an idea of format and process, and then each developed three more lessons, with lots of input and feedback from the others. In the end, this is a true collaboration.
Each lesson begins with an explanation of why we would use that lesson and states the expected outcomes and objectives. Unless otherwise stated, all lessons assume some basic understanding of how to turn the computer on, how to use a mouse, etc. If pre-class activities are needed, they are outlined here. The lessons include basic activities, with options for technological enhancement to address multiple levels of resources available. Finally, there are extensions and variations so that the lesson is adaptable to meet the needs of different programs or classrooms. Some lessons may seem to have similar methods and activities, but outcomes and objectives are different. The order we chose (1-10) is more or less chronological through the year or term, though obviously there can be variations in these, especially in the middle lessons.
Like the earlier curriculum guide, this set of lessons is intended only as an introduction, and we hope others will add their ideas of lessons they have used as well.