When should keyboarding begin?


Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there were machines called electric typewriters, where I learned how to type – or shall I say – keyboard!

Posted by MP Clemens, Retrieved from Flickr.com via Creative Commons, July 18, 2009

Although each of my subject-area classes taught me something about my world, typing class taught me the most useful and practical skill.  Little did I know that this skill would become so relevant as I use it every single day.  Years ago, typing skills were needed in only certain job assignments, but with the rampant use of computers in the 21st Century, one of my goals is to pass on this now necessary skill to my students.  But why teach the skill?

It’s all about what we allow to become a habit.  The sooner we teach our kids how to type – and type properly – the better they will be in the long run.  As soon as children have developed the right finger span and motor coordination, they are ready to learn to keyboard properly using home row.  “It is an essential 21st century skill and helping them master it early, not only provides a fun and useful activity for children to work on, but it will also help them share thoughts and ideas while saving a tremendous amount of time.” (Nielsen, 2011).  When a student possesses the proper keyboarding technique, projects will be completed faster and less time will be spent looking at the keyboard.  So, why isn’t the “hunt-and-peck” method good enough?

Posted by Andrew Malone, Retrieved from Flickr.com via Creative Commons, Sept. 12, 2009

Hunt-and-peck methods are inefficient and students will tend to take a longer time on the computer. (Rogers, et al, 2003).  If we do not provide our students with a typing tutor type of program, they “will automatically resort to the ‘Columbus Method’ of typing, where they search the keyboard for a particular letter, then press it with their forefinger.” (Andreas, 2007).   Keyboarding is a skill, much like music, that with ongoing and consistent practice, it will become a habit.  “The ability to type well is an asset and will enable the child to do research faster and finish term papers faster and more efficiently.  By requiring a child to learn to type the correct way, you are giving him a stepping stone to the future.” (Andreas, 2007).

In my computer lab classes, I introduce keyboarding to my students as young as Kindergarten, starting with letter recognition and key location.  As they begin recognizing keys by sight, I gradually introduce them to the concept of home row, normally this occurs by the time they reach 2nd grade.  From there, I am able to give them opportunities to practice accuracy and eventually add in the element of speed.  Of course, it’s a fun process for the students and they certainly have their favorite typing games!  (Please see below for some fun sites).  Last year, by year’s end, one of my 4th  grade students was typing 23 words per minute with 98% accuracy.

According to the International Society for Technology in Eduation, NETS-S standard number 6, Technology Operations and Concepts states that “Students are to demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.  (ISTE, 2012).  I believe that learning to keyboard properly is an essential part of this standard, and will enable students to operate technology systems much more efficiently.

In 2003, a research study was completed on keyboarding in elementary schools, and it made the following conclusions (Rogers, et al, 2003):

  • More schools are including keyboarding instruction in the curriculum and at earlier grades, starting with Kindergarten.
  • Third grade is the defining year to introduce the touch method of keyboarding.
  • Classroom teachers are the main typing instructors, along with media specialists.
  • Keyboarding software is used more often than a keyboarding textbook.
  • Average teaching time is 30 minutes a week for 36 weeks.
  • Reinforcement and continued practice at every grade level is important.
  • A dramatic increase in language arts skills because of word and sentence input was noted.

Of course, we, as teachers must stay sensitive to our students with special needs when it comes to learning how to type.  There are a number of alternatives and assistive technologies that we can use with students who need it.  (Shelly, Gunter, Gunter, 2012)

Do not fret if you are the “hunt and peck” typist…it’s not your fault.  Typing was an elective when some of us were in high school.  But, I really believe that it is never too late to learn.  So, while your students are learning to touch type, why don’t you join them?  It might be fun!

Free online typing resources:

Nimblefingers Typing

Dance Mat Typing

Typing Tutor

Keyboarding Games

Andreas, N. (Aug., 2007).  Why Kids Should Learn to Type Properly. [Internet article].  Retrieved from http://voices.yahoo.com/why-kids-learn-type-properly-474423.html?cat=25

International Society for Technology in Education. (2012).  NETS-S Standard 6, Technology Operations and Concepts. [Web source].  Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/nets-s-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Moore, Kathy. (Nov., 2010).  How to Start Kids Typing on Keyboards. [Web video].  Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me6O7JyotB0

Nielsen, L. (Feb., 2011). When and How Should Kids Learn to Type? [Web Log]. Retrieved from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/02/when-should-students-start-learning-to.html

Rogers, H., Laehn, J., Lang, A., O’Leary, D., Sommers, M. (July, 2003).  The Status of Elementary Keyboarding – A Longitudinal Study. [Research study]. Retrieved from http://facstaff.uww.edu/rogersh/keyresearch/elemkeystatusmanu.pdf

Shelly, G., Gunter, G., Gunter, R. (2012).  Assistive Technologies Corner.  In McMahon, K. (Ed.)  Teachers Discovering Computers:  Integrating Technology in a Connected World, 7th ed. (p. 197).  Boston, MA:  Course Technology, Cengage Learning.  


14 responses »

  1. Hi Cindy,

    Thanks for a great read. You know, i wouldn’t have thought to instruct keyboarding in the modern age as it seems like something inherent we use on such a regular basis, but you brinng up great points about the Columbus method (hilarious title by the way) and resorting to hunting and pecking. I suppose we don’t just know how to write without being taught and more and more students are using electronic media for ALL of their writing these days so of course this should be taught. I use about 4 of my 10 fingers when I type but those 4 fingers FLY across my keyboard and I can type while listening or talking with someone else. Not my proudest accomplishment but it comes in handy. I’m sure learning to type properly would improve my efficiency so great suggestion.

    Have a great week,

    • Thanks so much, Tasha! I wish I had come up with the terminology “Columbus method” myself. (I plan to use that terminology with my kiddos at school.) 🙂 Whenever I got my first Smartphone several years ago, it was really hard for me to actually just use my thumbs on the keyboard (try picturing me using home row on something only 4 inches tall). 🙂 I believe the brain is a magnificent thing, and truly adjusts to habits that we form. I am amazed at some of our high school students who can actually type really fast with 3 or 4 fingers! I so appreciate your comments. You have a wonderful week yourself!


  2. Hi Cindy,

    I first just have to say that I find this post incredibly organized and informational. I appreciate how “well-thought out” your writing is and that your information was validated by a research study. All of the resources you provided are useful and I will definitely be sharing them with those of my students who struggle with typing. It is because of your hard work in Elementary school that us Middle School teachers do not have to stress as much with keyboard instruction.

    I definitely agree with you, that typing is the most useful skill I learned. I HATED my business/typing class in high school. I found it to be torture when they covered my hands and forced me to stay after school until I could type a certain number of words per minute. Although I dreaded it at the time, I am so grateful for having learned the skill. I also use this skill every day. There are actually teachers at my school who struggle with typing and it takes them hours to create professional emails, documents, lesson plans, etc. I am much more efficient. I always share my stories of torture with my students. I explain that although it is not always fun to learn and practice typing, it is definitely worthwhile. There are fortunately games now to aid in the process.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and research on such an important topic.


    • Erin, thanks so much for your kind words. 🙂 Learning to keyboard today is a much more exciting experience than what it was when I learned it. With all the colors, sounds and action involved with typing tutor programs today, it makes it more like a game than a chore, for sure! I love being able to touch type. When you don’t have to actually look at the keyboard all the time, it makes typing so much more efficient. You should have seen me when I first got my first Smartphone several years ago – it took a little bit for me to get used to just using my thumbs. 🙂 Thanks again for your reply. Have a super week!


  3. great Information, I think practice is one of the best activities for more proficient typing skills without looking at the keyboard.
    One of the exercises that stimulate the student to practice is setting a goal amount of words per minute to be typed, and who prints more words in one minute and giving that student a motivational prize. Some students acquire the skill typing speed on a keyboard through chat or an Internet search, etc.
    As well I consider typing speed skill on the keyboard is a self-reliant skill.

    • Muneer, thanks so much for your comments. I do agree that ongoing practice is totally necessary to improve in any skill area. I usually equate this to practicing for a sport like basketball – although it may seem mundane, those repeated drills help that person become a better player in the long run. I like that you brought up the point that they should also practice this skill during Internet research and through chat. Some of my students will practice properly during the typing lesson, but then go back to old habits during other computer activities. My rule in the lab is that whatever you are typing, type properly. 🙂 Thanks again for you reply.

  4. Hi Cindy,
    Sorry I used the difference blog this one is the right!!
    I enjoyed this website I think it is a convenient way to make a Classroom for K-12 to keep them on task. As well as the teacher can observe the conduct of the students and continue to improve the levels of students based on reports for each student. This is an excellent which provides a first hand solution regarding communication between students, their teachers, and the students’ parents.

  5. You know, this is a very appropriate post for all teachers and parents to read. The student nowadays must be able to type on the keyboard effeciently in order to complete homework quickly. The typist of hte past would be jealous of the word processor. Imagine, no white-out or correct key needed! The typist would just use spellcheck in order to correct many errors.

    I am homeschooling my kids, and I an starting typing very soon. Even now, with the computer experience that they have, they are ok typists. Once I start them on actual typing tutors, they will not oonly be able to type faster, but also they will be more comfortable and confident in front of the computer. With these, I believe that they will produce better writing independently.

  6. I never got any kind of keyboarding classes until I was in 8th grade…I may be dating myself…that was back in 1988. Do the math, figure it out….LOL. But what I can remember about the keyboarding class was that the frustration level I experienced was out of control. The teacher literally had us sit at the old school green screen Apple computers…put a shoebox cover over our hands so we couldn’t see the keys….and told us to type what he handed out. There was no practice. There was no “L L L O O O L L L…….J J J U U U J J J” instruction. It was right into the fire. And for me, this was my first exposure to technology, other than Atari…yes, I just dated myself again, I know.

    Now, I look back and wonder if that was the best method for teaching me how to type…er…keyboard. Probably not. But at that time, how much experience was there in teaching teachers how to use and integrate technology in the class? I would guess not much. My business teacher was more interested in getting us to learn basic BASIC commands:

    10 Hi, my name is BLAH
    20 go to 10

    Those kinds of things.

    He was not really interested in getting us to know the home keys. Perhaps this was a skill I was supposed to already have? I’m not sure. I was not very happy, though. As a result, my mother went out and got my brother and I a used C-64 computer. We were the happiest kids on our street! We had a computer! Although we didn’t know how to use it, I was always playing with the keyboard.

    Obviously, I eventually learned the home keys, and then all of the keys….and finally I got to work on speed and accuracy. I’n srikk nto prefecr. Can you figure it out?


    • Great reply!! I know how frustrating it can be for students to learn to type, ESPECIALLY when it’s a dull and boring format – AND with a teacher who doesn’t care. That’s why I love the number of programs they offer online, many for free. 🙂 And I love to make it a fun activity for them. The students actually love to set personal goals for themselves, and really try to compete to do better and better each time.

      And you are not at all dating yourself:) In 1988, I had already been out of high school for 7 years! I am so grateful for computers today. Thanks again for your reply.

  7. Excellent post! You brought me back in time, I learned typing with a similar kind of typewritter. I remeber jamming my fingers between the keys. I agree with you about teaching the skills to all our students. Many times my students are facinated by the fact that I can type without looking at the keyboard. I watch them peck at the keyboard and wondered if it would make a difference. I have seen some teenagers type incredibly fast using 2 fingers. I have also seen these same teenagers text on their phone keyboard using just their thumb. After reading your post I am conviced we need to teach the proper skills. Students will need this for their education and future employment.

  8. Cindy,

    I found your topic so relevant and your blog very well done and interesting. I immediately thought back to my 9th grade computer class where I first learned how to type well. That class was so useful! My typing skills are excellent, and I owe it to that class. For some reason, those skills were never forgotten, unlike some math concepts, or battles learned about in history. Perhaps it is like you say–because typing is used so much, it is a skill that won’t be forgotten.
    My husband hunts for his keys–he has to look at the keyboard when he types. Every time I watch him type, I’m grateful for the skills I learned.

    –Meghan S.

  9. In my previous position as media specialist, I also had to teach computer/technology classes. This mostly consisted of teaching younger students (PK) to become familiar with maneuvering the mouse and following directions (assuming the audio and headphones worked). Older students practiced keyboarding skills via programs like Tux Typing. As much as I’d love to teach students how to use “fancy” multimedia, they first had to learn the basics. Typing skills are a necessity in this day and age.

    According to the research study by Rogers et al. (2003), “Keyboarding software is used more often than a keyboarding textbook.” Students are not going to learn successful typing skills by reading a book. Yes, some students might. Others will be more successful by getting their hands on a keyboard and practicing their typing skills via software programs, online games, or online tutorials.

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