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by Sandy Scragg | January 3, 2019 New York Teacher issue
People assume that children pick up typing skills these days because of their early exposure to technology. However, as any teacher who has ever asked students to type an essay on a computer can tell you, that’s not usually the case.
Kids may be able to text proficiently on their phones, but when it comes to working on a keyboard with longer pieces of text, they’re often all thumbs. Explicitly teaching typing skills has gone out of fashion along with the typewriter, but the need to type fluently is still very much in demand.
One thing has changed: The old benchmarks of learning to type on a typewriter were accuracy and speed. Because it’s easy to correct mistakes on a computer, the goal of teaching typing today is to have students’ fingers keep pace with their thoughts. If they spend time searching for the right keys, they’ll forget what they wanted to communicate and will get frustrated.
There are some excellent typing programs online that you can access with your class. New York State’s Next Generation Learning Standards include keyboarding in grades K–12, so these are skills that need to be addressed.
Here are some free typing lessons and games for different grade levels:
Typing.com: The games found on Typing.com are great for elementary students and the young at heart. They are fun and help students learn to type fluently. The games are intuitive, and you can learn to play quickly. Many of the games allow you to customize levels and word difficulty. I enjoy the “Zombie Defender” game, but there are many to choose from. Typing.com also has an excellent keyboarding curriculum for teachers, also free, which can be used with students of any age.
TypingClub: The lesson plans at TypingClub are expressly designed for educators. They report on typing speed and accuracy, but have cool features to keep kids’ fingers moving. “Ava and the Rabbit” is an online story that requires you to type it to bring it to life. “Jungle Junior” is a lesson designed for K–1 students that teaches age-appropriate keyboarding. The site also includes assessments and multiple languages.
PowerTyping: PowerTyping seems simple, as many of the lessons are just typing letters repetitively, but they work on finger muscle memory. A percussion soundtrack can be played to encourage rhythmic typing. Scores and data can be saved and compared. It’s best for middle and high school students.
Ratatype: Upper elementary through high school students can practice touch typing on this website. You can create a group for your class, invite students with a custom link and review their stats and progress. Typing tests with instant scoring are also available to assess your class at any time.
Typing Games Zone: Games are ideal vehicles to learn typing since the quick reflexes you need to succeed in the game are the same that get you to type without thinking. Many of the activities found at Typing Games Zone are designed for older students and mimic some favorite arcade games.
While these are all helpful resources, you can also purchase entire typing curricula. EduTyping.com is a popular and often recommended program. A typing curriculum may be a wise investment if your school uses laptops frequently in the classroom.
Sandy Scragg is an instructional technology specialist with more than 15 years of experience in New York City public schools.
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