Most elementary school students struggle with typing. This does not surprise me. They have been writing by hand since kindergarten. They are proud of their new cursive skills. It is easy to grab a pencil. Typing involves configuring their posture, the position of their hands, trying to remember where all those pesky keys are (why aren’t they just alphabetized? Discuss with students).
- Discuss if students handwrite faster/slower than they type. You are likely to get opinions from both sides of this discussion. If not, prompt students to make sense for both.
- When it’s clear that the class is divided on this topic (or not, that’s fine too), do an experiment to see which is faster: handwriting or typing.
- Go back to science class and engage in a discussion about the scientific method. Develop a hypothesis for this class research, something like: Third-grade students in Mr. X’s class can handwrite faster than they type (this is the most common opinion in my courses).
- Have students hand-copy the typing quiz they answered earlier in the term for 3 minutes.
- Analyze the results: Compare their handwriting speed to their typing speed. I encourage an individual comparison as well as a class average comparison to help understand the conclusion.
- Discuss the results: why do the students think that some students type faster and others slower? (In my classes, third graders were typing about 10 words per minute and handwriting about 15 words per minute. The discussion was lively and enthusiastic about why. Particularly valuable were the thoughts of those rare students who typed faster. ).
- Students will give many reasons why they type more slowly (they are new to typing, don’t do it much in class, their hands have become slack on the keyboard). In truth, the logistics of typing make it the clear winner once key placement is secure. Fingers on a keyboard are significantly faster than the moving pencil.
- One of the reasons students suggest is that they usually don’t type from a copy. Capture that reason (quite valid, I think, right?) and revise the experiment to have students type and handwrite from a prompt.
- What is the final conclusion?
- If possible, share the results from 4 to 8e. At what grade level do students consistently type faster than they write by hand? For what? Are the students surprised by the answer?
- Post a list on the wall of students who type faster than they write by hand. This surprises everyone.
I do this experiment in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. Third, students write faster on average. In 4th grade, the average is the same – students can type as fast as they write by hand. It surprises them and inspires them to work harder on their keyboard. In 5th grade, most students type faster, although many did not expect it.
After this experience, I see more students choosing the keyboard over handwriting, especially if an iPad is available over the bulky laptop or desktop. I also see them caring more about keyboarding proficiency as they realize it is their future. It has become an important tool in my keyboard toolbox that is just as effective as practicing exercises.
For more tips like this, check out The essential keyboard guide in 45 minutes a week.
For a lesson plan of this post, click Keyboard and scientific method.
Note: There are many examples of the scientific method and they all vary when it comes to the elementary years. Talk to your science teacher and adapt this experiment to the one she uses.
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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 Vineeditor of CSTA presentations, freelance journalist on technology education topics, contributor to NEA todayand author of technological thrillers, Chase a submarine And twenty four days. You can find his resources at Structured learning.