As technology--computers in particular-- becomemore integrated across the curriculum a question arises: "When should students learn how to keyboard?"

Most researchers feel that student should start formal keyboarding lessons during fourth grade. However, there are many educators (and I agree with them) that feel that students can start to use their eye and motor coordination to learn keyboarding skills earlier than that. I encourage younger students to use more than one finger, if they possibly can. This allows students to feel more comfortable learning keyboarding skills later, when they begin learning keyboarding formally. I also encourage students to type sitting straight with both feet on the ground so they can develop good posture habits prior to formal training. I also believed that students can use the keyboard as they learn to recognize their letters.

You may find the following tips and strategies helpful as you implement keyboarding skills and/or pre-skills in the lower grades:

  • Save old keyboards that get thrown away in your school and use them for learning stations in your classroom. In fact, you can color the keyboards splitting the keyboards down the middle in terms of color so that students are used to seeing and thinking of the keyboard in two different sections. You can even incorporate costume jewelry at your keyboard learning stations. For example, the left hand side of your keyboard could be painted pink, and the right-hand side of your keyboard blue. Then, students could wear a pink ring on their left hand and a blue ring on their right hand. Make sure you use pastel colors on your keyboard so students can still see the letters to develop their letter recognition skills.

  • Use the following worksheets to help young students learn to recognize letters as they are found on the keyboard. You can also use the worksheets as students are learning their site words. Simply have the students color in the keys as they learn different words. Keep several copies of the worksheets available for every day student use. Students can even use the worksheets to practice their keyboarding. Students have wonderful imaginations!
    • Color that PC Keyboard Worksheet (.pdf format) - please note...I have revised this worksheet so it includes lowercase and uppercase alphabetical letters. Remember, we areusing these worksheets for letter recognition. The fact that students also see the location of the letter on the keyboard is secondary.
    • Color that PC Keyboard Worksheet 2 - (.pdf format) Please note: this worksheet is the same as the worksheet above except that it contains two graphics, instead of one.
    • Color that Apple Keyboard Worksheet (.pdf format) - please note...I have revised this worksheet so it includes lowercase and uppercase alphabetical letters. Remember, we areusing these worksheets for letter recognition. The fact that students also see the location of the letter on the keyboard is secondary.
    • Color that Apple Keyboard Worksheet 2 - (.pdf format) Please note: this worksheet is the same as the worksheet above except that it contains two graphics, instead of one.

  • I came across this idea from Bruce Baker and thought it was clever for 4-6 graders....Keyboarding with Boxers: To encourage my keyboarding students to learn good touch keying and not look at their fingers, ask them to bring a cute pair of boxer shorts to class. They put the computer keyboard through the elastic and set it on their desk. They put their hands through the legs and position them correctly on the keyboard and off they go! They think it's cool and it encourages good keying technique since they can't see and really have to concentrate on their sense of touch.

  • Teach children the stop - think - point - click strategy of working in the computer lab. I have learned that when you work with young children in the computer lab little fingers fly. Teach students the following commands before they go into the lab (or at least before they start to use their computers):
    • STOP - students wiggle their fingers in the air to show you they have stopped you using the keyboard
    • THINK - students put their fingers on their temples and look at their monitors as you describe something you want them to look for on the monitor
    • POINT - students actually point to their monitor to show you that they have found what you described in the "think process" of this strategy. Depending on your students, you may choose to tap students on the shoulder before they stop pointing and prepare for the click step of this process
    • CLICK - with this command, the students actually click on the item you described in the previous step

  • If very young students have trouble using the mouse and become confused, put a small sticker on the left mouse button and tell them to click on the sticker.

  • Remember classroom management is just as important when students work in the computer lab, as it is when students work in the classroom.

  • When students (any age) are working in the computer lab I do not allow them to raise their hand for help. Instead, I give them a Post-it note they can stick on the top of their monitor to let me know they need help. In one class we actually set up a colored Dixie cup system. We nestled three different colored Dixie cups at each workstation: a red cup, a yellow cup, and a blue cup. The cups were placed at each workstation, face down (see illustration).

  • You can also assign student roles in the computer lab. Here are some of the roles I have assigned depending on the age group:
    • Print Master - the person who delivers all print-outs so students don't line up at the printer
    • Computer Expert - the early bird (who always finished first) can become your second pair of hands and look for signs that other students need help. The only rule I establish with my computer experts is this: you cannot touch another person's mouse or keyboard...you can assist, but you can't do the work for the other person!
    • Master Electrician - turns the lights up or down in the lab
  • Encourage students to curl their fingers over the keys like the image to the right. Teach good form early! You can learn more about good keyboarding technique when you visit the Crazy Keyboarding for Kids Website. (View form worksheet that I use with older students: Keyboarding Technique Grading Sheet (.pdf format)

  • Be aware of ergonomic correctness when students are working at the keyboard. Check the illustration below for ergonomic tips.

Click here to open a larger, more detailed ergonomic slide.

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