How to Teach Keyboarding

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Teaching Keyboarding in the PreK-8 Technology Classroom – Guest Post by Katie McKinley

When I was in high school, I clearly remember taking a typing class. In fact, I can still hear the perky voice of Ms. Coleman, my business education teacher, cheerfully chirping, “A space; D space; A-D space.” Typing was something that was nice for high school students to know, especially those that were going into business. For students now, they are surrounded by computers from before they are able to walk. It’s not just a skill that’s “nice” to have in the business world; having basic keyboarding skills is a necessity. Fortunately for students, typing programs have come a long way from the perky voice of Ms. Coleman! 

Teachers have the ability to choose different programs to use to suit their needs and the needs of their students. Almost all typing programs are web-based, and most offer a lot of content for free. Teachers who are interested in having students gain practice without being super-focused on collecting scoring data can easily take advantage of these free programs! Some of my favorite programs include: Typetastic, Typing Club, and Dance Mat Typing, or games such as Type Racer and Nitro Type.

With the adoption of Common Core Standards, typing has become a part of every writing curriculum. The following standards directly address typing:

  • W.1.6. With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.
  • W.2.6. With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.
  • W.3.6. With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
  • W.4.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
  • W.5.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of two pages in a single sitting.
  • W.6.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.
  • W.7.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.
  • W.8.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

ISTE indirectly addresses typing in the following standards:

  • 1. Empowered Learner – Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. Students:
    • c. Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
  • 6. Creative Communicator – Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students:
    • a. Choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication. 
    • b. Create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations. 
    • c. Communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations. 
    • d. Publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Students are expected to use technology to publish writing starting in grade 1. Although CCSS doesn’t specifically mention keyboarding skills until grade 3, by the time students are in sixth grade they are expected to type three pages in a single sitting. This translates to roughly 33 words per minute (wpm). The average adult types 38-40 wpm. Clearly, typing practice needs to start at an early age.

At the beginning of a keyboarding unit, students need to be able to understand the basic vocabulary:

  • Accuracy
  • Home Row Keys
  • Letter Keys
  • Numeric Keypad
  • Communicate
  • QWERTY Keyboard
  • Words per Minute (WPM)
  • Cursor
  • Keyboard

These vocabulary terms can be reused each year starting in second grade; they are not specific to a single keyboarding unit or lesson.

Introducing Students to the Keyboard

Even the youngest students can benefit from preliminary keyboarding lessons. While they are learning their letters, they can learn to recognize their placement on a keyboard. Actual “keyboarding” doesn’t need to happen quite yet, but identifying where the letters are on the keyboard, and being able to see where to strike in order to type a word (like their name, or sight words) is valuable practice. 

Ways to practice the keyboard layout:

  • online games 
  • pop-it keyboards 
  • printed keyboards 
  • drag-and-drop activities 
  • students can color the letters for sight words 
  • label blank keyboards 
  • pretend to type letters 
  • many online games allow students to “build” a keyboard, identify letters, and most have tablet options

For PreK – 1, letter recognition and placement on the keyboard is the end goal. 

Starting in later grades, students should spend time practicing touch-typing on a computer keyboard. 

At this point, it is important to enforce proper typing posture: 

  • sit up straight
  • feet flat on the floor
  • fingers on home row
  • wrists resting on the desk

Young students are introduced to devices at a young age, and it’s necessary to emphasize to them that this is an important life skill and they need to put in the time and effort required to become proficient.

That being said, keyboarding is something that is better done in frequent, short intervals. Students need to maintain focus in order to be successful at learning to type, and that is best done in a short period of time. 

This makes keyboarding an excellent activity to do as a warm-up for lessons! Ideally, students should spend 10-15 minutes at a time on keyboarding practice. After that, students can become distracted. As students begin practicing typing, stress the importance of proper form – they all want to be fast, but typing is a “go slow to go fast” activity. Emphasize the importance of training the brain and the fingers to work together to find the right keys. With more practice, the speed will come!

This is an example of how keyboarding skills can progress through the grade levels:

KindergartenFind any letter or number key on the keyboard
1st GradeFind any key on the keyboard and know which hand to use for each half of the keyboard
2nd Grade5 WPM using correct hand
3rd Grade10 WPM correct finger placement for home row
85% accuracy
4th Grade15 WPM with correct finger for each key
85% accuracy
5th Grade20 WPM without looking at the keyboard
90% accuracy
6th and UpAdd 5 WPM per grade level while maintaining 90% accuracy

From there, words per minute will continue to increase. An accuracy percentage of about 90% is a great goal as students become faster typers. 

This editable poster is in my free resource library

No matter how and when a tech teacher introduces typing, it is important to remember that keyboarding is a life skill. As a tech teacher we should focus on giving students the tools they need to be successful in school and beyond. So, no matter the approach it benefits students to get them typing!

Katie McKinley is an educator with 20 years experience teaching students in grades K-8. Her background is in Math/Science Education, and she holds a masters degree in Applied Educational Technology. Currently she is Technology Coordinator for a Private School.

Brittany Washburn

Brittany Washburn

Hi, I'm Brittany. I'm an educator obsessed with technology and passionate about teaching students 21st century skills. I'm so glad you came to visit my website.

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