WILLMAR -- If you can't figure out which letter of the alphabet goes with which animal, it's nice to have a friend nearby.
A new SMART Table at Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar gives kindergarteners a chance to work together to solve those and other challenging assignments at school.
Roosevelt has used a variety of donations to acquire two of the multi-user, interactive tables for its kindergarten classes.
After having a table for just a few weeks, teachers are finding new ways to use it all the time.
"We're just scratching the surface so far," said Sue Olson. They will be receiving more training before school starts next fall and will have even more ideas.
"They love it," Jen Otto said, as she watched four children working at the table together.
The tables work on the same idea as the popular interactive whiteboards which are found in classrooms for all ages.
The SMART Table was designed for young children. It's a child's height, and four children can use it together, one to a side, and they can work together to complete an assignment in reading or math.
The large computer touch-screen on the top of the gray and blue console allows students to drag answers across the screen or draw with their fingertips.
At Roosevelt on Thursday, four students gathered around the table to work on their letter skills. Each had a choice of four letters on the tabletop screen.
If all four of them used a fingertip to drag the correct letter to the center of the touch-screen, the table played music for them and moved on to the next question.
They demonstrated what would happen if someone dragged the wrong letter to the center. The table popped all four answers out of the center so they could try again.
In other alphabet games, the children matched letters with animals whose names began with those letters. They also used another program to write or draw what they wanted on the screen.
As they worked, the four of them often recited their alphabet.
"It gives them a wonderful chance to communicate with a peer," Otto said.
Each of the seven kindergarten classrooms at Roosevelt uses a table for a couple days at a time. It's on wheels, so it can be moved easily from room to room.
Otto, Olson and Erika Johnson said they learn more about the table every time they use it.
"We just finished a farm unit," Johnson said, and she was able to find farm-related exercises on the table.
"There's some good math on there," Olson said.
The teachers first heard about the table at a convention last year, they said. Then Principal Patti Dols asked the kindergarten teachers if they would be interested in one.
"She's been good about keeping us up to date on technology," Olson said.
Dols said she has enjoyed watching students at the table. "I've noticed there's more discussion" among the students, she said.
Funding for the tables is from a variety of sources, Dols said, and much of it has come from grants from Jennie-O Turkey Store, Roosevelt PTSA and the Willmar Public Schools Foundation. Each table costs about $6,000.