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Have Kids Learn to Touch Type Before Going Back to School

A friend of mine asked me, “I’ve got three more weeks of summer left before the kids go back to school. Is there anything I can do that will help Emily do better this year?” My response was, “Teach her how to touch type!”


Three weeks of daily practice—even 15-20 minutes a day—is enough time to learn where the letters are, begin typing without looking at the keys, and maybe even to type faster than she can write by hand.


Years ago, I did an informal study to figure out how fast most students can write by hand. I worked with students in a one-to-one setting. I got them to first copy a paragraph that I had written. Then I had them compose a paragraph on their own. In that “study” students handwrote about 13 words per minute. I decided an appropriate goal for beginning typists should be 20 words per minute.


Here are some things to keep in mind if you take this project on with your child:


  • The goal should be to type 20 words per minute without looking at the keys.


  • Posture is important. If your child is small, make sure to put something under his feet to keep him comfortable. He should sit high enough so that his elbows are at approximately a 90-degree angle as he types. At school, I stack two chairs together when needed and put books under kids’ feet.


  • Students should use the correct fingers on the keys. This should become their personal goal regardless of what they are doing at the computer.


  • Typing games are okay to use if your child is dedicated to using the correct fingers. My experience is that most children won’t do this. In my keyboarding classes I do not allow the games until I am sure they will not “unlearn” everything by doing whatever they need to do to win the game.


  • Little hands need little keyboards. Netbooks are ideal for students with small hands because their keyboards tend to be more compact. There are also keyboards for small hands available for purchase. These keyboards connect through the USB port just like a larger-size keyboard. (Search “keyboards for little hands” on your favorite search engine to find a selection.)


There are many typing tutor websites and plenty of software on the market. I found this typing tutorial to be useful and it is completely free. It also does not require you to download software to your computer!


If you prefer to teach your child keyboarding yourself (without using software), you might be interested in reading about my alphabetic approach to teaching touch typing (PDF).


My idea is that the home row approach most often used really doesn’t make much sense to children. Whoever hears “a s d f j k l ;” in their daily life? Since older kids know the alphabet already I teach the keys in alphabetical order. This requires you to be involved in the lesson, however, because typing tutor software and websites always follow the home row order.


Learning to keyboard correctly is important these days. Almost everyone needs to use a computer for personal and professional reasons. If you use the correct fingers on the keys you will make fewer mistakes and type much faster than if you use a “hunt and peck” method. (My students call it the “search and kill” method.)


Good luck teaching keyboarding! Hopefully, your child can practice typing for a while in the morning and spend the rest of the day swimming and having fun. School will start soon enough. Proper keyboarding skills will help make homework go a little faster once school gets rolling again.

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