Pupils can develop literacy and computer skills at the same time. By Chris Johnston
Primary teachers are understandably concerned about how to teach information technology while meeting time-consuming obligations such as the literacy hour. What many of them don't seem to realise is the extent to which IT can help teach other areas of the curriculum.
Jo-Anna Leech, a key stage 1 teacher at Sellindge county primary school, near Ashford in Kent, has come up with a way to conduct the literacy hour and get pupils started on the IT road at the same time.
She designed the Infant Explorer Website - which can be found at www.naturegrid.org.ukinfant - because of the lack of Web material specifically aimed at this age group.
Ms Leech puts a laptop computer, provided under Kent's National Grid for Learning Initiative, on the floor and uses the site as an electronic book with her pupils.
Infant Explorer includes a "Big Book", which features Sebastian Swan and his family. There are photographs of Sebastian, a swan who lives on a lake at the Canterbury Environmental Education Centre. Ms Leech uses the site like a book, using the cursor as a pointer. The pupils send e-mails to Sebastian, which she answers and posts on the Website.
She is in no doubt that the site and the computer motivate children to read and write. "They have all written Sebastian an e-mail. Usually they find writing quite hard but there were no complaints; they did some beautiful writing. "
Pupils not good at reading have been trying harder because they have become so interested in Sebastian's story and in the technology. "You see them working in a completely different way, using skills they have learned to navigate around the screen and talk about different parts of the computer, clicking and saving," Ms Leech says.
The Website's Literacy Links section contains resources and lesson plans, which will change each term in line with the national literacy framework learning targets.
Teachers can also write their own Big Book and insert another character is they wish.
Sebastian has also sparked parental interest. "A lot of them think a computer is only for games - many don't realise there are things like the Web or more educational programmes available."
The Internet can also be a powerful aid to finding teaching tools and resources. Useful sites to help teach the literacy hour and encourage infant reading include: lJwww.littleplanet.com lJwww.candlelightstories.com kids. asp lJwww.disney.comDisney Books Readastoryindex.html lJFor a good selection of poems visit www.geocities.comAthens Olympus1333kids.htm lJA well-presented alphabet book can be found at www.mrtc.org twrightanimalsgrandad.htm lJYou can get into the swing of Christmas and e-mail Santa Claus at www.northpole. com lJPupils will enjoy the BBC's Teletubbies site at www.bbc.co.uk educationteletubbies or the Little Animals Activity Centre at www. bbc.co.ukeducationlaac lJArgosphere features stories and comprehensive activities, and can be found at www.argosphere.net.