SMART Board super for special needs children - Brownsville Herald: Valley

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SMART Board super for special needs children

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Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 8:57 am, Mon Feb 11, 2013.

The children were all lined up on the carpet. Some of them sat on beanbag chairs – for sensory purposes – while others sat with their legs crisscrossed in front of them.

All of the boys, even the most difficult, wanted to do the activity that was about to begin. They loved the program "News 2 You," and unlike in the past, the program no longer required paper and pencils. Today, all the work was paperless, done on the classroom’s brand new "SMART Board." The Flip video system could always document the work.

Today, the teacher had decided, she would start the activity with an interactive cartoon called "Joey," a cartoon kangaroo who was introducing the Super Bowl.

Some of the boys enjoyed football, but many had no real understanding of the sport at all. However, they loved to help the plane fly and avoid hazards on the way to Dallas. Most of the boys simply wanted to touch the board to win gummy bears when their answers were right.

After watching the cartoon, the work turned to the News 2 You interactive story about the Super Bowl. There were three different story levels about the upcoming football game. The teacher had selected the middle level for the boys, as most of the children were ready for more pictures and words.

As the story began to be read, the teacher asked "Willy" to come up and touch the number 45. The boy smiled and approached the SMART board. As he touched the 45, the system highlighted the number.

"Is that 45?" the teacher asked the other boys. The students answered, "Yes." Then the coveted gummy bear was placed in Willy’s hand.

While reading the story, the teacher highlighted the year 2011 on the screen and asked what the number was. One boy raised his hand, shouting out the answer correctly. The child then asked for his preferred reward, a tiny red M&M.

After the story was read, the children began working on the game page and review sections. The boys enjoyed picking up a red, blue, green or black pen to write their answers on the SMART Board. They knew to put a circle around the correct answers and an "X" on the wrong ones. Correct responses meant a preferred reward for the child. Children who had more difficulty circling the right answer were allowed a second guess.

The SMART Board was a lot of fun for the boys. A crossword puzzle interaction page surprised the teacher, as it became a favorite for many of the boys. Here, they had to copy words onto a crossword puzzle. It wasn’t easy to write the answers. Occasionally, the teacher wasn’t quite sure what letter they were writing, but they were trying.

And they loved the interaction. Sometimes, while answering, a child would put extra graphics on the pictures. "Frank" loved to draw faces on the screen, especially when some of the PowerPoint stories on the Internet were placed on the board. The teacher could easily freeze a screen and talk about the picture.

The children also enjoyed the variety of fun "games" available on News 2 You, including matching, ABC order, weather, tic-tac-toe, and number mazes, to name a few.

The teacher could always count on up-to-date issues on the program, like Black History Month, new stamp issuances, upcoming popular movies, elections and environmental concerns. Plus, she had plenty of other software programs on the Hatch computer SMART Board combination and the Internet to keep the children engaged.

Fortunately, SMART Boards have been integrated into many preschool programs around the country. Studies show remarkable gains in reading and math skills for children preparing to enter Kindergarten.

Initially developed for preschool interactive learning, the technology has proven to be a powerful learning tool for children with disabilities. They are no longer for preschool children alone. The Internet has thousands of applications for children at all grade and skill levels. Plus, direct interaction with the SMART Board improves academics and communication for children with autism.

One company that has developed a wonderful Teachsmart Learning System is HATCH (www.hatchearlychildhood.com), with more than 1,100 individualized preschool activities for SMART Board interactive whiteboards.

HATCH also provides teachers and parents with direct training on how to use the SMART Board, the HATCH computer and the interactive software. The company can be reached also at 1-800-624-7968 for pricing of a SMART Board, Hatch computer, software and training for either a school or a home.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher, can be contacted at downpamg@aol.com.