Kicking SMART up a notch

First Posted: 9/2/2009

For elementary school students, learning to work together is a big deal.
The new SMART Tables, which were just released this past spring, are helping that process along for area classrooms.
Emily Nistons first-grade class at B.H. Tharrington Primary School and Shoals Elementary School are the recipients of these new tables.
SMART Tables are similar to SmartBoards except they are in table form. More than one person can work at the table at the same time, choosing to do a number of activities relating to topics such as language arts, math, social studies, science, grammar and healthful living.
The teachers set up the programs for the children based on what they are learning in class. The students can then choose from a number of activities relating to that topic. The table is hands-on and interactive, allowing students to use a number of their senses to learn. It can be beneficial to visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners.
Its not about having the technology. Its about doing things in a quick, effective manner that has students working together and thats fun, said Eric Riggs, principal at Shoals Elementary.
I love this tool because it reaches all my learners, said Niston. I can differentiate the activities for the students that need a challenge and for those that need to work on a certain skill.
While the teachers have only had the tables for a few days, they have already learned that they teach students how to collaborate. Students cannot switch to a new activity unless everyone agrees. In the painting program, if one child changes the color, every childs color is changed.
They also learn to help each other out. If one child knows the answer to the question and sees the others struggling, he or she can explain how to reach the answer to the other children.
Its a wonderful tool for first graders to branch out and work with others. Theyre learning how to collaborate. They have to work together to talk about the answer, said Niston.
Teamwork is something they have to have even as adults. Its teaching them how to work together and be more cooperative, said Jeana Cox, a second-grade teacher at Shoals Elementary.
Because of the interactive nature of the table, students are learning without realizing it. Because they can choose the different activities that they do, it allows them to feel more involved in the learning process.
Theyre working at their own pace. They think they are able to choose their own activities and yet its still an objective. They are in charge of their own learning, said Niston.
The student is doing the manipulation. There is a push for the student to be engaged instead of the teacher, said Riggs.
Nistons classroom has only had the SMART Table running since last week so the students are still figuring out everything it can do. However, they are all excited about the new tool they have to use during center time.
I like it because you can paint and do lots of stuff on it, said Redding Vaughn, first grader at Tharrington.
You can do fun stuff that you cant do on a SmartBoard, said Connor Lindsley, a first grader at Tharrington.
Cox hopes to focus more on the math portion of the table for her second graders. Every day she has her class work on a money-related math problem. Now, with the table, she can put similar problems on there for the students to work on other times during the day.
Both schools have noticed the advances in technology available to the students over the past few years. Tharrington Primary was the first school in the city system to have a SmartBoard in every classroom.
In the four years since Riggs and Cox started work at Shoals, the school has gone from having blackboards, to having white dry erase boards to now having SmartBoards, SMART Tables, Senteos and mobile laptop carts.
Were trying to get them ready for the real world, said Cox.
Shoals Elementary has two SMART Tables which can be checked out through the main office. Riggs sees them mostly as being for K-2 students but said 3-5 students can use them as well. Tharrington has one SMART Table in Nistons classroom which she plans to share with the other first-grade teachers.
Contact Morgan Wall at [email protected] or 719-1929.

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