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Although I had lessons in keyboarding a number of years ago, it isn't as if I sat down in a typing class every day and just learned to type. Yet these days, I have to admit that I am thankful for my keyboarding lessons. Had it not been for the fundamentals that I learned, such as finger positioning and the "proper" movement to strike certain keys, I assure you that my time spent at a keyboard would have been far more frustrating. I do not claim to be some sort of master typist, and I would note that all of us are always working to improve our skill level.
You obviously can't expect your fourth graders to suddenly start typing all of their homework before turning it in, but you can teach a building block that will help them master typing in the long run. The placement of one's fingers on the keyboard is key when learning how to type. While it will require lots and lots of practice before your students begin to feel that they're typing with any sort of speed, you can accomplish a lot prior to the practice that only a typewriter or computer and time can provide.
Many districts have already mandated lessons in keyboarding, and these days many schools begin teaching it to students as young as first grade. We encourage those of you who do not have this curriculum already in place to consider spending some time with your own class to teach them the basics. Putting a paper "keyboard" in front of every student is a very economical way to familiarize kids with the layout of the keys as well as proper finger placement. We've created a keyboard for you to download FREE and print. It is set up as 8.5x14 inches so that it may be printed "actual size" on legal paper, if your printer will do this. Otherwise, just print it to fit and enlarge it on a copier. The keyboard is designed as a blackline, so you may also have students color in the resting position keys.
At what level is appropriate to begin teaching keyboarding skills? Can kids really learn this? Lloyd W. Bartholome, head of the Business Information Systems & Education Department at Utah State University has written a very compelling article that addresses these and a number of other questions. Bartholome points out that a 1931 study (reconfirmed in 1959) finds that keyboarding can actually improve language arts skills.
There are many beginning level programs that you can purchase to help with learning to type. Read, Write & Type! ($17.95) is among the most popular, and Flash Typing ($19.95-34.95) uses color codes and flash cards to help students learn. There is also a Mavis Beacon ($19.95-39.95) series on typing from The Learning Company (now Mattel).
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