Early Childhood Activities

Many states are now supporting all-day kindergarten programs. There are mixed views on the role that technology should and can play on this age group. There are many preschool software programs available on most any content area, especially mathematics and reading. The following lessons will demonstrate how technology can be integrated into the lesson. When creating early childhood lessons that inte- grate technology, the teacher needs to consider the same factors as the previous con- tent lesson plans. The availability and location of computer hardware certainly affect the way activities will be presented and whether students will work individually or in small interest center groups. When using educational early childhood software, read the product’s suggestions for maximizing the learning experience. It is a good idea to review these suggestions carefully before presenting activities. Some of the early childhood software comes with special keyboards or speaking devices. They may take several weeks to arrive after they are ordered. Make sure to test them be- fore class use.

Teachers may also benefit from talking with other teachers about their early child- hood technology integration experiences. For example, teachers who have used ed- ucational software before can judge how much knowledge—both of computer usage and of the subject being presented—is required for the student to operate the pro- gram effectively. Will special orientation sessions be needed before the children com- plete the assigned tasks? Are some activities in the program more interesting, more useful, or more challenging to students than others? Experienced software users can answer these and other questions that the new user may have. Planning is the key to integrating technology with this age group. Also, although many of the children have experienced some sort of technology, including electronic games, digital phones, and computers, be sure not to assume that all are technology savvy. Teach- ers are strongly urged to do some research of their own to see that the specific soft- ware is age appropriate and that it will work with the computers in the classroom.

Early Childhood Mathematics

Title of Activity: Animals using Beanie Babies Basics

In this activity, students use Beanie Babies to calculate amounts, sort and classify, as well as work cooperatively on a project. They use technology resources, they count and record, practice their problem-solving and communication skills, and illustrate their results, thoughts, and ideas.

In this activity students address the following National Educational Technol- ogy Standards (NETS) for Students: 1—Basic operations and concepts; 2—Social, ethical, and human issues; 3—Technology productivity tools; 4—Technology com- munication tools; 5—Technology research tools; and 6—Technology problem- solving and decision-making tools.

Description. This learning activity capitalizes on students’ fascination with Beanie Babies. Students bring their Beanie Babies to school (or other popular toys) to count, classify, tally, and graph according to student-selected categories such as “clothed or unclothed,” “feathers or fur,” “real or imaginary,” color, number of legs, and animal family.

Students create new Beanie Babies electronically, using their creations for math- ematical comparisons and technological excursions and discoveries. After complet- ing this study, students electronically contact another class and compare Beanie Babies data by email.

Note: Although this activity is constructed around the notion of Beanie Babies, any seasonal or popular toy can be used.

Activity Preparation. Have students bring in their favorite Beanie Baby or what- ever object you decide to use.

Activity Procedure. Adjust this procedure to include age appropriate activities, such as an introduction to animals and their characteristics using stuffed animals. Have students weigh and measure their Beanie Babies using a balance scale and ei- ther rulers (standard measurement) or Unifix cubes (nonstandard measurement). Record the data in a database and compare results.

Compare the Beanie Babies to the real animals they represent. Have students in- vestigate each real animal through a multimedia encyclopedia to find the animal’s length, weight, and other characteristics. After all comparisons have been made, the children can rank the real animals by size. Classify animals again by real size.

Design Beanie Babies using geometric shapes. Students may use software such as Shape Up from Sunburst Communications. These stylized Beanie Babies provide an opportunity to use geometric language and creative expression to name each new animal and write a story about it.

Contact another class by email to compare data for the Beanie Babies. Have the class share its data on Beanie Babies. Check the Beanie Babies website for input op- tions. Use a search engine to connect to other resources about Beanie Babies.

Option: Have students apply knowledge about animal characteristics through KidPix and the online game Critter Characteristics, as well as by having students create quizzes.

Assessment. Entering characteristics of a Beanie Baby into a database will help as- sess students’ abilities to identify characteristics as well as classify and sort by spe- cific criteria.

Using the students’ completed graphs, assess students on their ability to construct the graph and interpret the results correctly by comparing data. Observe students working in groups and individually.

Keep anecdotal notes on students explaining their thinking. Evaluate students on their ability to explain solutions, and discuss alternative ideas and approaches

Comments. Various versions of this learning activity have been done using teddy bears, matchbox cars, stuffed animals, and so on. The phenomenon of Beanie Ba- bies and the Internet, however, have added an entirely new dimension to the proj- ect. Children have seen parents buying Beanie Babies as investments, thus making them aware of the increasing value of Beanie Babies as posted on the Internet. Even young children have followed their Beanie Babies’ increasing value. Some teachers have had their students graph the value of a specific Beanie Baby over time, spec- ulating on its ultimate value when sold at a fictitious sale at the end of the school year. It may be helpful to have a parent or aide assist in visiting Beanie Babies In- ternet sites.

Tools and Resources


KidPix, Internet, Database (e.g., Tabletop), drawing or painting, graphing (e.g., Table- top, Graph Club, GraphPower), geometry (e.g., Shape Up by Sunburst Communi- cations), multimedia encyclopedia (e.g., Encarta), CD-ROMs about animals


  • Beanie Babies
  • Balance scales
  • Rulers
  • Unifix cubes


Beanie Babies Collection Birthday Roster: www.ohio-usa.com/beaniebabies/birthday.html

Finding keypals/project partners; epals Classroom Exchange: www.epals.com

Global  Schoolhouse: www.gsn.org

Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections: www.iecc.org

Kids’ Space: www.kids-space.org

Ty Company: www.ty.com



Susan Nothwehr, Spencer Community School District, Spencer, Iowa (snothwehr@spencer.k12.ia.us)

Frada Boxer, Evanston/Skokie School District, Evanston, Illinois (frada@d65.k12. ia.us)

Source: Thomas, L., & Bitter, G. G. (2000). (Eds.). National Educational Technology Standards for Students: Connecting Curriculum and Technology. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education and The Digital Video Library (2005). Technology Based Learning & Research (TBLR), Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.


Early Childhood Language Arts

Title of Activity: Awesome Authors

In this activity students use spoken, written, and visual language to communicate effectively. In addition, they use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information, and create and communicate knowledge.

In this activity students address the following National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students: 1—Basic operations and concepts; 2—Social, ethical, and human issues; 3—Technology productivity tools; 4—Technology communication tools; 5—Technology research tools; and 6—Technology problem-solving and decision-making  tools.

Description. In this activity, students work in small groups to learn about plot de- velopment (beginning, middle, and end), character development, story structure, and creating parallel stories. Students are introduced to illustrations and associated copyright issues. They then write and illustrate their own stories. Students edit, revise, and publish their stories electronically. Parents and other students are encouraged to read and respond to students’ published stories. Videotaped author interviews are conducted with students questioning their peer authors.

Activity PreparationAdjust this activity to age-appropriate activities.

  • Meet with the school library media specialist to identify an author to be
  • Identify available resources on or about the author (e.g., video, websites, print, CD-ROMs, software, audiotapes, laser discs).
  • Locate and highlight the author’s website (if available).
  • Assemble a list or a collection of the author’s books to use as an
  • Discuss illustrators and
  • Identify style, composition, color, and media used by the author or

Activity Procedure. Adjust this procedure to include age-appropriate activities.

  1. Introduce the class to Maurice In the library, find books and other media about the selected author. Let students select their own books to read, but encourage them to select one by the author.
  2. Help students read about the author and become familiar with the author’s life and
  3. Read and view a variety of stories by the selected Work in small groups to identify story plots and character features.
  4. Facilitate a brainstorming session for students to describe what they have learned about the author and what they still need to learn. Record what students have learned about the author and his
  5. Have students research Maurice Sendak on the
  6. Have students select a character from one of the stories they have read and include the character in a short story of their own. Students use electronic- publishing software to write and illustrate a story that parallels the author’s story structure. Have students or adult helpers print copies of the stories for friends, family, and the
  7. Divide students into teams of three to develop questions and make plans to interview a peer Create a situation where students assume the role of a famous author. Set the scene such as a talk show or book signing. Students take turns trying on the following roles: author being interviewed about a story, interviewer, and cameraperson who is making sure that the camera angles are correct and that the interview is properly recorded on video. (Ask for assistance from another adult or from an older student.) Compile all videos onto a single tape for distribution to parents and families.


Tools and Resources

Software. Internet, Concept-mapping (e.g., Expression, Inspiration), multimedia- authoring and presentation (e.g., HyperStudio, KidPix Studio), desktop publishing (e.g., Easy Book, Kid Works Deluxe)

With very young children, it might be a good idea to provide illustrations that spark ideas and lend a coherent plot to the story. An interesting variation of this lesson is for the teacher to create a form in which students can fill in their own names and other information to create a story about themselves. Most major soft- ware companies have specific writing software programs that allow students to write and illustrate their own storybooks. The Key Caps accessory allows for foreign-language stories. Some programs are also available in a second language. Students should be encouraged to decorate their book covers further with their own artwork. This lends color and creativity to the book. Giant George and Ruby Robot, BIG and Little (Sunburst Communications) requires a Muppet Slate but also allows students to create and design various publications of differing sizes up to  5 feet tall. Clifford’s Big Book Publisher (Scholastic New Media) provides graph- ics, clip art, and fonts for younger students to write their own big books. Other related programs are Print Shop Deluxe (Broderbund), Hyperstudio (Roger Wagner Publishing), Kids Works Deluxe (Davidson & Associates, Inc.), My Own Stories (The Learning Company), Children’s Writing and Publishing Center (The Learning Company), and The Multimedia Workshop (Davidson & Associates, Inc.).



  • Video camcorder
  • TV
  • VCR


  • Library reference materials, both print and nonprint (books, videos, CD-ROMs)


Aaron Shepard’s RT Page (reader’s theater): www.aaronshep.com/rt

Authors and Illustrators on the Web (guide): www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~dkbrown/authors.html

Carol Hurst’s Literature Site (reviews): www.carolhurst.com/

Celebrating Cultures with Tomie de Paola: http://7-bar.aps.edu/library/cultures.html

Children’s Literature (reviews): www.childrenslit.com/home.htm

Index to Internet Sites–Children’s and Young Adults’ Authors and Illustrators: http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/biochildhome.htm

New York Public Library: www.nypl.org/chat

Read In!: www.readin.org

Scholastic  Network: http://teacher.scholastic.com

Author Site

Maurice Sendak: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/sendak_m.html falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/sendak.htm

Other Author Sites

Mike Artell: www.mikeartell.com

Judy Blume: http://judyblume.com

Jan Brett: http://www.janbrett.com

Marc Brown’s Arthur site: www.pbskids.org/arthur

Eric Carle: www.eric-carle.com 

Robert  Quackenbush: www.rquackenbush.com

Janet Stevens: www.janetstevens.com

Dr. Seuss: www.seussville.com

Assessment. Were students able to formulate and type in original sentences?

Were they interested in the story?

Did the story have basic elements such as plot, setting, and characters? Assess students on:

  1. Their ability to work cooperatively in small groups
  2. Their contribution to the short
  3. Their participation and contribution to the online author

Develop a rubric to assess individual student stories. The rubric should cover age- appropriate mechanics, content, voice, grammar, spelling, characterization, plot, and the effective use of writing and multimedia-authoring software.

Comments. The notion of communities is no longer limited to just a neighbor- hood. Children bring to school perceptions of the world they have gained from tele- vision, networks, and computers. Technology opens the door for children to participate in information exchanges with children from various cultures and dif- ferent parts of the world. In this unit, students learn about various aspects of their communities, beginning with the family and extending to the greater community. Students then compare their communities with the communities of other children around the world.


Barbara Ridgway, Helena Public Schools, Helena, Montana


JoAnn Gadicke, Sheboygan Area School District, Sheboygan, Wisconsin (jgadicke@sheboygan.k12.wi.us  or  jgadicke@excel.net)