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Slated for Approval

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You just can't keep a good classroom tool down. Students at the LeTort Elementary School in Carlisle, Pa., this year are working with one of the oldest--personal slates--as well as one of the newest--personal computers.

"It started out as a little gimmick," said Richard Greger, the school's principal, but the 5 by 7-inch slates have proven to be a valu-able teaching aid, he said. Children have been using the slates to write down their answers in mathematics, spelling, writing, and phonics lessons since September.

Although Mr. Greger said he was surprised that the slates caught on as a serious educational tool, one LeTort teacher said she knew from the start that they would be popular.

"I knew the children would like them because they like something different," said Joan Hursen, whose 21 1st graders eagerly use their slates for phonics lessons and writing exercises.

The primary value for teachers, she added, is that when the children hold their slates aloft, "you can see instantly where a child is having a problem."

Mr. Greger originally ordered the wood-framed black slates as a way to commemorate the Carlisle Area School District's 150th anniversary next year. (The district claims to be the oldest in the state, although other districts may dispute that, he said.) He was looking for "something inexpensive that would be nice for the kids to keep as a memento and would also take in the history of early education," he said.

Last summer, at a local crafts fair, he found a few small, decorated slates that were being sold as wall ornaments and immediately saw the possibilities, he said.

With funds provided by the school's p.t.a., Mr. Greger arranged for a Carlisle crafts store to import 310 blank slates from the Portuguese manufacturer, at $1 per slate.

Then he, teachers, and parents used an electric engraving tool to personalize each slate with a student's name and grade, the school's name, and the year. The students may keep their own slates as mementos when school ends in June, Mr. Greger said.

Joan Stewart, a 2nd-grade teacher, described the slates as "a way to get variety into a lesson."

Her 23 pupils hardly lack for variety: One month after the slates arrived, Ms. Stewart received her first two classroom computers. LeTort students, Mr. Greger noted, "learn from computers and they learn from the slates. It's an interesting way to learn from the past."

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