I work with roughly 500 kindergarten through 5th-grade students. As part of their curriculum, students receive 40 minutes each week of technology class. During the first quarter, we focus on the keyboard.
Today’s students are expected to have some typing proficiency as early as kindergarten. For example, our students must be able to, at minimum, type their first and last name in order to access their devices and accounts. Our 2nd– through 5th-graders take computer-based assessments which require them to type constructed responses to questions. Learning to type is not an option for our students; it’s an essential skill.
Many of our young learners barely know their letters, let alone are ready to master touch-typing. Most sites that teach typing are timed, or require kids to type line after line of text. The games on these sites often require a mastery of the home row before kids can be successful. These games move so fast that they’re “over” before our little guys can even find the first letter on the keyboard.
Additionally, many of our youngest learners have never used a mouse or trackpad before, so navigating the cursor around the screen is a skill in and of itself.
The Keyboard for Kindergarteners
For my students who don’t yet know their letters and are unfamiliar with the layout of the keyboard, we use a free, game-based platform called TypeTastic.
I start my kindergartners, and even my 1st-graders, with very basic, arcade-style games that allow them to strengthen their mouse skills, and at the same time introduce them to the layout of the keyboard. The games use bugs and frogs and trucks to engage students, and they provide differentiation for various skill levels. These games build students’ letter-recognition skills and help them to understand the concept that the keyboard has its own specific layout.
As the weeks progress, we move into locating letters on the keyboard. With my kindergartners, the focus is less on proper technique and more on locating letters. The games start out very basic, so kids can easily figure out the objective of each game and are able to be successful from the very beginning. This encourages them to persevere as the levels get more challenging.
The games aren’t timed, which gives my little ones the time they need to locate keys and not feel rushed to “pound the keyboard.” They’re given as many tries as they need, without penalty. This is huge in getting my reluctant learners to stick with the task and not become overwhelmed or frustrated.