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Minutes from ME

Letterbar

A PRE-READER'S PC PRIMER (Continued)

Text, Shapes and Colors

When students have mastered the use of shapes tools in the PAINT program they are also accomplished in manipulation and control of the mouse, in navigation around the monitor screen, in clicking and double-clicking and they have even noticed and used the derivative menus system.

Now it is time to add letters and numbers to the mix! Also a good time to review the considerable number of vocabulary and computer terms the children have learned up to now: the mouse, cursor, monitor, screen, keyboard, drive, CD-ROM, icon, menu, scroll, highlight, double-click, etc.

Beginning to work with letters and numbers takes us into the wide vocabulary of the keyboard. As the focus switches from shapes to letters it’s exciting to see that shape drawing and coloring have become “second nature” to the children, it's so habitual that they no longer notice they’re using computer methods to do this stuff. Success!!

LETTERS AND NUMBERS

In the PAINT program the condition for making letters and numbers is set by clicking on the A task button, labeled 'Text' in the pop-up system.

Task bar with A button and text toolbar

To begin making text click on the A button and immediately draw a large box on the screen. This box will display with a dotted outline as shown and a flashing vertical cursor at the starting point of text entry. (At this point the text toolbar may be viewed and the font style and size altered.)
Now normal keying is used to enter text (such as the A above) and keying is finalized by clicking anywhere on the screen outside the box, this causes the outline around the text to disappear and prevents further keyed input.

LESSON STEPS

It's a good idea to pre-set certain opening conditions before the students begin .....
With the PAINT program live on all computers, open (view) the text toolbar, select a suitable, simple font style such as ARIAL, click on the B (for bold) option and choose a satisfyingly large font size such as 36.
Set the CAPSLOCK key to ON to avoid case recognition distractions.

Begin the lesson by explaining the new vocabulary words which relate to the keys to be used; they are the SPACEBAR and the LETTER and NUMBER keys.
Now the instructions begin.
Click on the A button and immediately trace a large box outline on the screen, as you release the mouse button notice that a large winking cursor appears at the beginning of the box you have drawn. Now you can enter text, here's how to do it.

Tap the space bar two times then type an A, tap two more times then type a B, continue through the alphabet to the letter L. This is a sufficient keying challenge for kindergartners.

After admiring our typing practice computer skills along with letter recognition skills.
Ask one child to choose and announce either the box or ellipse shape, another child to select a color and another to choose a letter. All children must now follow the directions, drawing on their own screen the answer to the combination announced.
For example, the first combination chosen for drawing ("AFTER" example below) is to -
Draw a BLUE BOX around the LETTER D.
Then the second selection is a RED ELLIPSE around the LETTER A.
Repeat the selection until every child has made a choice and had her classmates follow her instructions
Now take a break to stroll around the lab and admire each others' work.

Letter Marks, Before and After

NUMBER RECOGNITION IS PRACTICED IN A SIMILAR FASHION.
Tap the spacebar three times then type a 0 (zero), tap the spacebar three more times then type a 1. Repeat this sequence for each number on through 9. Then repeat the zero through 9 sequence a few times and your monitor's screen will be filled with numbers.

Screenful of plain numbers

The basic screen is now set up, you may want to save it at this point in its "untouched" condition before the various experiments described hereafter are visited upon it.

The joy of numbers is that there are so many recognition (plus computer skills) exercises to be concocted with simply a screen full of them!

Instructions for the first example below are:
DRAW a GREEN BOX around one 1, draw a BLUE ELLIPSE around two 4s, draw a RED ELLIPSE around two 6s, draw BLUE BOXES around three 3s, a BROWN ELLIPSE around one 5, a yellow ellipse around one 9 and finally draw one ORANGE BOX around ALL THE EIGHTS.

Marked Up NumbersMarked Up Numbers

The second example demonstrates computer coloring skills, instructions this time are:
COLOR four 4s LIGHT BLUE, color four 7s BLUE, color four 0s ORANGE, five 3s GREEN, two 5s YELLOW and three 7s RED.
{Again either classmates or the instructor can dream up the task combinations.)

Further numbers selection criteria could be -
All the odd numbers, all even numbers, all multiples of three, etc.
The number of corners on a square, eyes in your head, toes on one foot, chairs sampled by Goldilocks, Snow White's dwarfs, planets in the Solar System, pigs who built houses, wings on a dog, etc., etc.
Set up to color no zeroes, a single one, two twos, three threes, and so on and see how long it takes for someone to recognize the pattern. Darned if the colored column's length doesn't increase by one each time!

EXTRA STEPS

In a final farewell to shapes offer students "free" drawing time with the conditions that each drawing must contain at least four black straight lines, two yellow boxes and three green ellipses (first example below}.
Then turn the offer around, put the students in charge by encouraging free drawing and asking each artist to describe the criteria used after the drawing is finished. In the second example below I am told by the artist that the compulsory contents are one purple box, three purple ellipses, thirteen lines and a bunch of other stuff.

Freestyle Drawing, SpecifiedFreestyle Drawing, Unspecified

Again my thanks go to my friend Anders, for his art work and continued inspiration.

Letters Bar Reversed

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