Teaching Children to Use the Computer Keyboard
by Don McCabe
Once children start learning to read and write, they often cast their eyes on the computer. They want to use the keyboard. There's something almost magic about the way letters pop up on the screen. And that bit of magic can help children not only learn the computer keyboard, but if they're experiencing a bit of difficulty learning to read and write, learning the keyboard may just be that key to unlocking the door to complete literacy.
Parents often ask me, “How young can I start my children on learning the keyboard?”
Like most of my answers, it starts, “It all depends…” I hate to keep saying that, but there are so many factors involved. One is the size of their hands and whether or not they can gently rest four fingers of each hand on the home row keys. If their hands are big enough, if they're big enough to sit at a computer, and if they really want to learn, they're old enough.
When I'm asked to recommend a keyboarding program, I simply ask the parents, “Do your children have any problem at all reading or spelling?” If the answer is, “No,” then almost any commercial program will do the trick.
The reason is that there isn't that much difference between any of the programs. They all teach in the first lesson the seven letters and the semi-colon that constitute that home row. And from there on in, it's a race to finish learning all the letters in as few lessons as possible.
But if the answer is, “Yes, my children do have reading and spelling problems,” then commercial typing or keyboarding programs may be very frustrating to them. My theory is simply: Good readers have built-in responses to spelling patterns, so they can easily read and spell non-words like: depotion, piction, incordation, and cligging. Good typists are good readers who quickly build upon these built-in responses to develop new patterns.
Poor readers don't know the patterns and don't know the words so they must type letter-by-letter, stroke-by-stroke. Poor readers need training in spelling patterns to become good typists.
If you can copy the following just as fast as the above paragraph, then perhaps I don't know what I talking about.
dGoo rdsreea vhae bltui-ni srspsnoee ot psllngie pttrnsae, os tyhe can slyiea rdea nda pslle nno-wdros lkei: dptneoio, pctniio, nicordation, nda clggngii. Gdoo ytptssi rae gdoo rdrseae hwo qckylui bldui pnuo htsee btln-uii rspnsseoe ot dvlpeeo nwe pttrnsae.
Proo rdrseae dnt'o nwko hte pttrnsae nda dnt'o nwko hte rwdos os htey mtso ytpe lttr-yb-lttreeee, rtsk-yb-rtskoeoe.
Proo rdrseae ndee rtngnaii ni psllenig pttrnsae ot bcmeoe gdoo ytptssi.
What then can parents do for their children who have reading/spelling problems? Well, they can create their own typing texts that help with reading and spelling very simply.
Here is one ordering of the teaching of the keyboard by lessons:
Lesson 1 a, d, l, and space bar. Lesson 2: s and ; Lesson 3: f, t. Lesson 4 r, j. Lesson 5 c, k. Lesson 6 i. Lesson 7, h. Lesson 8 e. Lessons 9 through 14, shifting, commas, question marks, apostrophes, quotation marks while the patterns available are drill in. Lessons 15 to 28 will have the letters in this order: g, m, n, b, o, p, u, w, y, v, q, x, z.
Sample lessons in the beginning which parents can create might look something like this for Lesson 3 in which the f and t are taught.
fff fttf fttf aaa ttt at at at ffttf ffttf fat (do three times)
at fat fats; fl fl flat flats; ffttf fttf fat; (do three times)
at: slat; slat slats; flat flats; sat fat; (do three times)
fff fttf all fall falls; all tall stall stalls (do three times)
all tall; all tall stall; all fall falls; all tall; (do three times)
fast last; last fast; fast last; fast fast fast; (do three times)
fff fad fads; ddd dad dads; lll lad lads; (do three times)
ttt at fat fats; flat flats; sat at fat; ;;; (do three times)
a fat dad sat; at last a fast lad; alas; (do three times)
This is the order of presentation that is used in Individualized Keyboarding.
Another ordering that works well and can be used for the teaching of handwriting as well is: abcd rst y efgh w ingklm opqu vxz. One letter per lesson or unit and using only the letters available to teach words that have the same patterns. (From: Starting at Square One)
Making their own keyboarding program can be very rewarding for parents as well as saving them the cost of purchasing such a program. For those parents who would rather purchase a ready-made program, we do believe that you might want to compare the AVKO's non-commercial program with any of the other programs on the market.