To help students recognize that computer folders and files help people organize things in order to make it easier to find things later.
This lesson is the second of a two-part series about organization and information retrieval. During these lessons, students observe that numbers, colors, folders, and other markings are used for keeping track of things in a particular order. Through group discussions, students begin to recognize that a value of storing things in a useful order is that it helps keep track of where things are and makes it easier for finding these things later.
Children are often required to keep folders, notebooks, journals, and/or portfolios to organize and store their work so it can be reviewed at a later date—the essence of an information storage and retrieval system. Children can help design and use simple strategies for storing and retrieving information that is recorded in the form of words and pictures on physical media (for example, audio and video cassette tapes, paper, and photographs). Using things such as personal folders, pockets mounted on the wall, and plastic file boxes located in workstations, students can learn that things need to have places where they can be stored—and if they are stored well, they are easier to find later. Things containing the same type of information can be assigned a special color or name that make it easier to store them correctly and find them later. These experiences can provide students with the foundation they will need to address more sophisticated information-management problems in the future. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 201.)
Students begin with learning about the various organizing systems already in place in their classroom. You can expect that students at this level will understand that certain things "belong" in certain places. They have had experience with putting their toys away where they belong, for example. At school, they have already learned where to keep their pencils, where they can find paper towels, what to do with scrap paper, etc. It is likely, though, that students have not really thought about these things in terms of ordering, organizing, or systematizing. Some students may already understand that putting things "in their place" helps them know where things are, but others may not have linked the reason for ordering things with the act of ordering.
In Organization 1: Look at What I Organized!, students have opportunities to use and develop systems of organization in hands-on ways. They learn that systems of organization help make it easier to find things later. The hands-on and tangible learning experiences in this lesson serve as a foundation for understanding the fundamental organizing principles of creating and using computer files and folders, which is the focus of the second lesson. After students have studied the various systems in place in their classroom and have spent time talking about the role organizing plays in creating useful systems, they work in teams to develop their own systems of organization.
Organization 2: My Computer Folder helps students bridge their understanding of how and why we create systems of storage and organization to an elementary introduction to computers. In this lesson, students learn that computers store information that can later be retrieved. The hands-on and tangible learning experiences in the first part of this lesson serve as a foundation for understanding the fundamental organizing principles of creating and using computer files and folders. Students practice storing information in a file and learn how to create folders for storing their files. Students also close and reopen their folders and files in order to see that the computer saves their documents.
The main objective of this lesson is for students to realize that computers can store and organize information and that this information can be easily retrieved whenever they want to access it.
Begin this lesson with an engaging introduction to computers. Have students group around a computer and literally introduce the computer to them! If your group of students is unfamiliar with computers, start from the beginning and show them the screen, keyboard, and mouse. If you have a group of students that are already familiar with these basics of the computer or a group that is mixed in terms of student familiarity with computers, let students introduce these parts of the computer to the rest of the class. As students present, encourage them to ask each other questions about when they have used computers before; what they enjoy doing with computers; what they would like to learn about computers; and how they have seen others use computers. Tell them that they will learn a little about how people use computers to help them organize things.
You can use all of the ideas discussed in Introducing the Word Processor, on the Teacher's Desk website, or simply use some of these ideas as a fun way to orient students to the computer keyboard. Some of the activities, such as Keyboard Bingo and Sticky Fingers will help to familiarize students with the keyboard, and students who are still learning their letters will gain more practice with letter recognition. You might want to point out to students that the keyboard letters do not go in the same order as the alphabet because young students are often confused about the letters that are "out of order."
As students become familiar with the keyboard, they will also manipulate the mouse and, obviously, observe their work on the computer screen. For students who would benefit from further review, try Introduction to the Mouse, "Choo Choo Train", Lesson #1 on the Introduction to Computers and the Internet: Language Arts Skills Unit Plan for a creative orientation to using the computer mouse.
Note: If your group of students is relatively new to computers, utilizing these activities will offer students an engaging introduction to the keyboard and mouse. If your group is very familiar with the computer, it might be more engaging for them to work in groups and take turns being the teacher. Ask each group to pretend that it is the teacher. Its job is to describe a computer and its functions to the class. Students can also talk about what they enjoy doing on the computer. This provides a fun review for students, and they will learn more about computers than they first knew by listening to each group's "computer presentation."
Once students have become comfortable with the keyboard and mouse, lead a group discussion to quickly introduce this lesson. You could ask:
- Remember when you worked in teams to organize something in the classroom? What do you remember about that?
- Can you remember what organizing things helps us do?
- Do you think there might be a way to use a computer to help us organize things? (Accept all answers. It is important for each student to hypothesize about this possibility. Through the activities of this lesson, students will learn on their own that computers can store and organize information.)
Tell students that you will work together to find out how some people do use computers to organize things.
Students will benefit from a hands-on example of files and folders before creating and using them on the computer. Distribute folders to each student. Have each student choose a name for their folder and have them write this name on the front of the folder. You will want to decide whether to let students use inventive spelling (spelling the word as they hear it and think it is spelled) or whether you will help them learn the correct spelling of the word. Also, for students who are not yet writing, you can write their folder name for them, and ask them to draw a picture of it instead. Let each student decorate the front of her/his folder as s/he wishes. As a way to reinforce the vocabulary word "folder" and to lay the groundwork for learning that computer folders have different names, lead a brief discussion that allows each student to show other students their folders. You might ask:
- Why do you think these are called folders?
- What do we use folders for?
- How do you think a folder can help us keep track of papers?
- Do you think we can fit more than one paper in a folder?
- Let's hear about some of your folders' names. (Let each student who wants to share state the name of her/his folder.)
Tell students that the papers people put in folders are sometimes called files. At the doctor's office, dentist's office, their school's office, and many other offices, adults keep track of their files by keeping them in folders. If you have a file cabinet in the classroom, this is a good information storage system to show them.
It is now their turn to make a file to put in their folders. Have students use the File and Folder student sheet to write a letter. If a student is not yet able to write, she/he will need help with this part. When students are finished making their files and putting them in their folders, have everyone convene again in a large group. Review with them that they each have a folder and that their folder has a name. In their folder they now each have a file. You can facilitate students' comprehension of these vocabulary words by referring to their tangible folders and files and asking questions. Students will have a better understanding of their vocabulary words when they have concrete, tangible references. You might ask:
- If we put all the folders together in one pile, what would help us know which folder belonged to whom? (Names identify folders.)
- Why might we keep our files in our folders?
- If a file fell out of a folder, how could we tell whose file it is?
- Would a folder fit into a file?
- Do you think your folder could hold more files?
Students are now ready to apply their experience with tangible folders and files to the more abstract ones of a computer. Here is some suggested language for introducing students to the idea of computer files and folders:
Did you know that you could make a folder on a computer, too? Because computers are not made out of paper, computer folders look a bit different from our folders here, but they do the same job. Computer folders can store things just like your folders. And, just like in our folders, computer folders hold files. In fact, a computer can save a file in a folder for as long as you'd like, so that you always know just where to find a file when you are looking for it.
Everyone will have a turn to make his/her own computer file and folder. I will help you make a folder on the computer that has the same name as the folder you made earlier. Then, I will help you make a file on the computer that looks like the one you made on paper. I will show you how to put your computer file into your computer folder. Your computer folder will save your computer file, so that it will be there the next time you want to find it .
At this time, have students get on the computer. Students should have their tangible folders in hand while working on the computer because they will create computer folders with the same name; files with the same name; and the file document will be the letter that they wrote. This helps students bridge the gap between the concrete and the abstract. Having their tangible folders with them as they work on the computer will also provide them with a visual reference for understanding the file/folder system on a computer.
If you are working with a young student body, consider making the folders ahead of time, but having each student use the keyboard to type her/his folder name. Older students will likely be ready to open and name a new file themselves with some instruction from you. Again, each student should create a computer folder that has the same name as her/his paper folder. When they open their new file, they should name it the same name as their paper file; and they should type the same letter on the computer that they wrote on paper. This will give students additional practice with the keyboard and help them understand the abstract concept of computer folders and files.
Once students have created their files and folders on the computer, let each student close her/his file and folder and then try to reopen them. This will allow them to learn that the computer saves their folders and that their files can always be found in that folder. Extending upon what they learned in part one of this lesson, the system of files and folders on the computer organizes and stores (saves) their information in a way that makes it easy to find again later.
It is helpful for students to have an opportunity to reflect upon what they have practiced and learned through the activities of this lesson. As they review what they have learned, you also gain the opportunity to assess their level of understanding of the concepts covered in this lesson and addressed by the benchmarks. Ask students:
- Let's talk about what these words mean (computer, screen, keyboard, mouse, file, folder, and save).
- What is the same about your paper folders and files and your computer folders and files?
- What is different?
- Let/s think about what we could use computer folders/files for. What are some ideas?
- If you have a computer at home, would this folder be there? This file? Why not?
In addition to a class discussion, encourage students to talk about how they created their folders/files. Depending on your group's literacy level, you can expect a range of pictoral and linguistic communication of their experience. All students, though, can describe their actions and experience about working on the computer in a journal. If you are feeling extra creative, you can have students create paper and computer journal pages to keep in their respective folders!
For another Science NetLinks lesson that looks at how information can be more easily managed and retrieved if it is logically sorted and stored, go to Sorting.
You can really challenge your students by creating a class folder. The class folder would contain each student's folder/file. This builds another level of understanding about the way a computer can store information so that it can easily be found later. You can facilitate student learning that if every student in the school had a folder, it would be easier to locate their folder by classroom than to have to look through hundreds of individual folders.
Have students create additional files to keep in their folder. This is a project that can be ongoing throughout the school year.
Consider some of the other ideas in the lesson plans listed on Introduction to Computers and the Internet: Language Arts Skills - Unit Plan.