This post is on my experience with reviving the importance of touch-typing and motivating students to learn it. It’s a round-up of my attempt to get 8-10 year old to practice typing on their own and setting up a typing competition as incentive.
Despite being quick typists on all sorts of gadgets, most kids have a pretty lousy typing speed on the keyboard. And a keyboard isn’t going away anytime soon. The older generation lived its conception, and we’ve grown up with it and saw it develop. Our students’ generation, however, is stuck between: A) parents who never learned touch-typing; and B) schools that don’t have time for it. There aren’t many parents out there who should be looked up to when it comes to efficient typing. And now that schools are moving to the integrated model of technology in the classroom, from 8:00 to 3:00 there’s no room for touch-typing.
The best idea at the time was to get students to learn touch-typing at home. They were not unfamiliar with the concept; I would cover the basics and best practices of touch-typing at the beginning of every year. I did’t want to use the label “homework” for something like this, they’ve got enough. Instead, 45 minutes of typing practice a week was “encouraged.”
The next decision to make was choosing a the platform we would use to track and measure student progress. I opted for the free web-app, TypingWeb. This site was perfect for what I wanted to accomplish because of its simplicity and flexibility. Managing students and generating reports is a breeze. All students in grades 3 through 5 had an account with TypingWeb and were able to login from home and take lessons and play games.
Since TypingWeb is web-accessible, students could easily practice from home. This led me to think about setting up a typing competition for 30 days. I would track student progress, post weekly top scores, and run a ‘Typing Finale’ for the fastest typists at the end of the month.
The first step was communicating the idea to colleagues and parents. I sent letters to both, posted an announcement on the school newsletter, and introduced it to students in classrooms with a flyer and a brief appearance. Part of the plan was to keep the computer lab open during recess times for students to come in and type. It meant a lot of enthusiastic kids in the lab, but many lunches at my desk for me.
Once a week, I would use TypingWeb’s reports tool to compile data that I wanted to post. I designed a flyer that showed: A) the top 5 classrooms with average minutes on typing practice; B) the 5 fastest typists that week in the entire elementary; and C) the 3 fastest students in each classroom. Teachers also received a copy each week by email to share with their class.
The typing madness quickly gained popularity, and by the second week, the computer lab had 100% occupancy during recess times. What was especially pleasant from my observation at that time, was that students were actually demonstrating proper touch-typing skills.
At the end of the competition, I asked the fastest typist in each class to participate in a “type-off” in the computer lab. We had a fun 20-minute session in the computer lab where students raced to see who could type the alphabet, in order, the fastest. Four out of the nine finalists typed the entire alphabet in less than ten seconds. Later that week, we had a pizza lunch for the finalists where they enjoyed some junk food and received certificates showing off their typing speed.
The initiative was a success but wasn’t without its bumps along the road. A big one was when I noticed that students’ WPM score was dropping everyday. It dawned on me that this was because the lessons got more difficult as students progressed in levels. Lucky for me, TypingWeb reports let you generate average net WPM scores for lessons and typing tests separately. Counting students’ WPM scores on their typing tests was more reasonable.
What I need to work on is getting all students to participate. Many kids weren’t really serious about the whole thing and didn’t practice much over the period of month. A few slipped through the cracks and didn’t even bother logging on to their TypingWeb accounts at all.
The goal was to have all third graders type at 15 words-per-minute (WPM), fourth graders at 20 WPM, and fifth graders at 25 WPM by the end of the year. The results are as follows:
- 50% of 3rd graders achieved their goal
- 75% of 4th graders achieved their goal
- 68% of 5th graders achieved their goal
Definitely room for improvement there, but it’s a good start. Hopefully this will catch on and I would have finally succeeded into tricking students to do some homework for me.
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