Teach touch-typing

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By John Duffty senior lecturer at the University of Chester, and freelance writer

Introduce simple keyboard activity ideas to boost children’s touch-typing skills

Any teacher who has watched a child laboriously hunt along the computer keyboard for a specific letter will recognise the fact that keyboards do nothing to assist with the efficiency of written work. Children need to quickly gain full familiarity with the computer keyboard in order to achieve their potential. In addition to this, many teachers (and Ofsted) are now arguing that children profit from being taught to touch-type. There are many benefits to this, such as increased confidence and speed and, when performed correctly, touch-typing can help to reduce repetitive strain injury. Indeed, those who do not use it are at most risk of back and neck injuries since they are generally hunched over the keyboard slowly hunting for, and tapping at, keys.

The notion of young children learning to touch-type still has a slightly alien feel, and some would argue that time taken mastering the technique is time that should be spent on other ‘more important skills’; or that young children’s hands are too small to touch-type comfortably. However, modern approaches are combining touch-typing with spelling and letter recognition skills, so that learning the technique boosts other literacy skills.

It is also important to remember that real, confident and effective touch-typing is the product of a series of exercises and activities. Children will gain the skills faster than they learn ‘joined-up writing’, but the process will not be instantaneous. The following ideas eight suggest strategies and activities to lead children towards effective touch-typing.

ACTIVITIES Ages 7-11

Developing keyboard familiarity

Lack of familiarity with the keyboard can make ICT sessions a frustrating experience for everyone. To combat this, children need to become as familiar with the ‘QWERTY’ layout as they are with the alphabetical arrangement. Here are a few ideas to help achieve that goal:

  1. Make the classroom a QWERTY friendly place:
    • Display wall posters showing clear images of the QWERTY keyboard, with letters colour coded.
    • Use Keyboard Crazy type activities (www.keyboardcrazy.co.uk) in order to develop your children’s understanding of the keyboard.
  2. With young children, it is also useful to adapt the keyboard:
    • Apply coloured stickers to differentiate specific keys, such as the return key, shift and space bar.
    • Cover keys they will not be using with blank stickers, to help them concentrate on the keys they will be using.
  3. Individual photocopied keyboards, laminated and used as desktop reminders, are great in many ten-minute familiarisation games. They can form the beginning of each ICT session or be part of a literacy session:
    • Let the children create mnemonics for the layout of the keys. This is useful if each row is done as two phrases, for example the top row of keys can be used to produce: ‘Queen Wendy Eats Rotting Turnips’ and ‘Young Unicorns Ice-skate On Ponds’.
    • Challenge the children to look at the rows of keys and ask them how many words they can create using just the keys from the top, middle, or bottom row.
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