When teaching typing, the goal is not speed and precision. The goal is that the students type well enough not to interfere with their thinking.
Let me repeat it:
The goal of typing is for students to type well enough not to interfere with their thinking.
Just as breathing requires no thinking and playing the piano is automatic (for some), students need to be able to think while they type, with fingers automatically moving over the keys that register their thoughts. Finding key placement shouldn’t interfere with how they develop a phrase. Of course, this is the case when students are just starting out, but by third grade, students should be comfortable enough with key placement to work on speed.
Typing as fast as the speed of thought isn’t as hard as it looks. For students in school, “speed of thought” refers to the speed at which they develop ideas that will be recorded. 20 words per minute means they know most key pitches by touch. 30 wpm is the low end for not interfering with thinking. 45 words per minute is fine.
Students used to learn typing in high school, as a skill. Now it’s a tool for learning. Much of what we ask students to do on the path to authentic learning requires typing. Consider the academic need for:
- comment on discussion forums and blogs
- diary in blogs and online tools like Penzu
- search online (type addresses in a search bar)
- take digital notes (using Evernote, OneNote and similar)
- collaborate on Google Apps like Docs, Sheets, Presentations
- do online quizzes (like PARCC, SB)
- use online tools for basic courses (Wordle, Animoto, Story Creators)
If you are a Common Core State, keyboard input often appears in the standards, but can be summarized in these three ways:
- Keyboard input is addressed tangentially–students must be able to type *** pages in one sitting (see CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.6 For example. “One-sitting pages” begin in grade 4 with one page and continue through grade 6 where they are increased to three – see CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.6)
- In 3rd year, common core discusses the to use from the keyboard to produce work, that is CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.6 which specifically mentions “using technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills)”
- the keyboard is required to take Common Core Standards Assessments in spring.
The myth is that students will learn when they need it. It’s half true. They will learn on their own, but it will not necessarily be in time for their needs. If you’re in a tech-infused school, it’s your job to teach them the right way to type so they can organically develop the tools to support learning.
Most teachers deploy typing with a graded program like Tap to learn. In September of the new school year, students begin Lesson 1. Around May, they have completed all lessons and are considered trained. Everything is on autopilot with little teacher intervention. It works for about ten percent of students. They are the ones who are intrinsically motivated to learn and nothing stands in their way.
The other 90% need a little more help. Here are six ideas to make your typing lessons fun and effective:
Keyboard typing exercise
Drill is part of every granular typing program. Students have to learn about key placement, finger usage, posture, and all those other details.
There are many options for this – free and paid. Students usually start with enthusiasm, which wanes over a few months as it becomes more of the same rote practice.
When your organic typing program shows signs of student wear and tear, throw in a sprinkle of games that teach key placement, speed, and accuracy. Big Brown Bear is ideal for the youngest; Nitrotyping for the elderly and popcorn machine for intermediate classes from 2nd to 5th.
Offer games sporadically, not on a schedule. Make it a reward for typing cues.
Keyboard typing quiz
Students understand the concept of “quizzes”. It is a test of knowledge, a line in the sand where students show their mastery of the subject or suffer a poor grade. Some schools require assessments of student learning in technology. A typing quiz shows both the teacher and the students how they are improving (although this is not always the case).
Some quizzes you could try:
- quick quiz–Grades 3-8–provide a game page for typing and assessing student speed and accuracy. This can be done with a printed copy or an online site like TypingTest.com
- key placement quiz–Grades 3 through 8 –give students a blank keyboard so they can see how many keys they know. Here is an example :
These are summative, but you can give formative preparation quizzes that show what will be expected. Give out these quizzes each marking period so students can track their progress. The first time you give them out during a school year, use them as a reference for future quizzes.
Students work in teams to answer keyboard-related questions in a game show format. You can use a Jeopardy template that not only includes keyboard questions, but also shortcuts students use often.
Include in the class survey
Within a month of starting a typing program, have students use their growing skills authentically in class projects. It can be reading reports, research, a brochure for a history class or a collaborative document via Google Apps. The keyboard is a tool for communicating knowledge about a subject, much like a pencil, an artist’s brush, or a violin. The better their keyboarding skills, the easier it is to complete project work, such as a blog reply, a family tree, or character trading cards in a book.
Remind students to use the keyboard skills they learned to facilitate this real-life experience: hands on their side of the keyboard, use of all fingers, good posture, elbows at sides. Let their team of grade-level teachers know what features to look for when students research computers in the classroom or at the library. Ask parents to reinforce it at home.
Using the keyboard is the most efficient way to learn it. It won’t be long before keyboarding with good technique becomes a habit.
ASCII Art uses keyboard input skills to create artistic representations of classroom learning. It’s a fun way to use the keyboard in other classes. All the students do is find an image that represents the class inquiry topic being discussed, watermark it in the word processing program, type on the washed-out image with a variety of keystrokes, and then remove watermark. It usually takes about thirty minutes and always excites students with the uniqueness of their work.
Here are some examples:
I would like to know how you maintain the practice of typing in your class.
Learn more about keyboard input:
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over 100 technical resources, including a K-12 Technology Program, K-8 keyboard program, K-8 Digital Citizenship Curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in technical education, master teacher, webmaster for four blogs, a Voice of the Amazon VineCSTA presentation editor, freelance journalist on technology education topics and author of technology thrillers, Chase a submarine And twenty four days. You can find his resources at Structured learning.