Beacon Lesson Plan Library

That Was Alpha Smart of You

Michelle Gowan
Liberty County Schools


Students utilize the Alpha Smart mini word processor units during a writing workshop to draft and edit a piece of writing.


The student proofreads writing to correct convention errors in mechanics, usage, and punctuation, using dictionaries, handbooks, and other resources, including teacher or peers, as appropriate.

The student uses electronic technology appropriate to writing tasks (including but not limited to the Internet, databases and software) to create, revise, retrieve, and verify information.


- Writing materials
- One Alpha Smart unit for each student
- One set of written step-by-step directions for each student
- Printer with Alpha Smart adapter cable
- Print materials - paper and ink cartridge
- Extra AA batteries for Alpha Smart units that run out
- Dictionaries, thesaurus, grammar books, and other resources to assist students with editing their first drafts


1. If Alpha Smarts are not available at the teacher's school, the teacher will need to coordinate training and checkout from the Beacon Learning Center (Bay District School staff only). The units are packaged in lots of 10 and are accompanied by a printer. A total of 30 units are available for checkout. The teacher should plan several weeks in advance for checkout due to demand.

2. Once the Alpha Smarts are secured by the teacher, the teacher sets up a printing station where students may connect their Alpha Smarts to print products. The teacher should test the printer with the Alpha Smarts to make sure it is functioning properly and that there is suffcient ink cartridges.

3. Each Alpha Smart provided by the Beacon Learning Center is numbered. The teacher should establish a list of the units and assign use to students and record on the list.

4. If the teacher is concerned with security of student documents, the teacher may opt to activate the password feature. This may be done by calling the Alpha Smart company at the number noted in the literature received with the Beacon units. The teacher will receive a master password that should not be shared with any students. This password will allow the teacher to activate the password aspect of the unit and to override any password on the units. This is helpful when students forget their password. If the teacher is not concerned with password issues, the step-by-step directions should be modified to exclude those directions.

5. The teacher should have given a writing assignment requiring at least one paragraph of content. On the day of the activity, this written paragraph needs to be available for students to input onto the Alpha Smarts. The teacher will find that 100% of students will probably not have a paper available unless the teacher has collected them in advance. The teacher may either allow the student to draft at the computer or should have an alternative assignment prepared.


1. Reluctant writers love using the Alpha Smarts. If the units are being gathered from outside the normal classsroom routine, there will be instant interest and attention. In fact, if the units arrive several class days ahead of the scheduled activity, it will be hard to keep them in the containers as students will want to play with them. This is not a bad idea in that many students quickly figure out how to use the units and will be a great help once the activity begins.

2. The students should already have completed a writing activity and have completed a written paragraph of the teacher's choosing. The teacher should either hand out these papers or direct students to take out their papers to begin the activity.

3. Explain that the purpose of the activity is for students to gain experience using technology to input and edit information to generate a final product. Students will be expected to print a hard copy of their first draft, edit it for spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar and/or usage errors based on the level of instruction and competency the teacher expects from students. The teacher should stress that a minimum of three corrections should be identified to determine successful competion of the activity.

4. Distribute the Alpha Smart step-by-step directions and review with students prior to issuing the machines. Students will pay attention better without having the units to play with. Establish rules for traffic at the printer (e.g., not more than two students waiting at the computer at a time, etc.), editing materials to use (dictionaries, thesaurus, etc.) and/or particular preferences for editing (colored pencil, editing symbols, etc.) prior to beginning the activity.

5. Distribute the Alpha Smart units to students according to the assignment list and allows students to begin the drafting activity using the step-by-step directions.

6. The students will print first drafts, edit for mistakes. The students may utilize the teacher and/or peers to assist with editing the paper in three areas. The students then edit using the Alpha Smart units and reprint final copies. The student will submit the first draft and final draft to the teacher for review.


The students complete a first draft using the Alpha Smart unit. The draft will be printed, edited so that the teacher may note the changes, and a final printed draft will be attached. The teacher will issue a checkoff grade that establishes that the criteria was met to satisfy both standards. Satisfaction of the standards includes a first and final draft with at least three corrections/revisions noted.


Some students will complete the activity before others. The teacher should plan another assignment or activity for crowd control.

In the event there are not enough units for all students, the teacher should plan a secondary activity for those students waiting to use the units. Also, the teacher could set the units up in a work center with other activities going on simulataneously.

Alpha Smart checkout periods are for 10 days. The teacher should plan numerous activities for students to obtain the best benefit of these wonderful devices.

Both standards addressed apply at the 7th and 8th Grade levels.

The teacher may choose to connect the Alpha Smart units directly to a computer in the classroom to store on a disk on the hard drive. Special connection adapters are available from the Beacon Learning Center or can be purchased through
The teacher may train a few students to assist with the upload process so that the teacher will be available for conferencing

Web Links

Web supplement for That Was Alpha Smart of You
Alpha Smart

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