In today’s technologically advanced world, typing is a skill a child will need to be a successful in education and most careers. Back in my own educational experience, typing skills were an optional course first offered in junior high school. Anyone else remember a room full of typewriters? In today’s world, young children are exposed to technology and are taught computer skills during the primary grades. This article provides an overview of required prerequisite skills for typing and reviews Elementary Level Typing programs.
Prerequisite Skills for Elementary Level Typing
In order for a typing program to work, a child will need two types of prerequisite skills.
- Visual Discrimination. The child will need to be able to match uppercase letters and lower to upper case letters. The child will also need to be able to match symbols that appear on the keyboard and in writing (e.g., period, question mark, etc.).
- Fine Motor Control and Precision. The child will also need precise motor control of their hands to move their fingers independently of each other to hit a target (i.e., the desired key on the keyboard). Sometimes waiting a few years will help a child mature into these skills. If a child has a fine motor delay, occupational therapy can also help build up the dexterity and strength needed for writing and typing skills. A Multisensory handwriting program can also be used to improve fine motor skills before introducing typing.
Elementary Level Typing Programs Tried:
Handwriting without Tears
Handwriting without Tears has a typing program set up for each grade level. The program is a subscription format, so you only have access to the grade level program you purchased for about 1 year.
Each level works on appropriate developmental skills for the advertised grade level. The program is well designed and has achievable goals.
- About 2 years ago I had a Kindergartener and 2nd grader use the Handwriting without Tears typing program. Although the Kindergarten program worked on basic computer skills developmentally appropriate for a 5 year old (i.e., mouse skills and matching letters), it was a poor fit for my child. She was missing the prerequisite fine motor control and precision to use the program. The mouse skills activities were very frustrating for her and we had to stop using the program. Although my second grader had the necessary prerequisite skills for using the program, he also has ADHD and could not focus on the lessons. They were just not motivating enough for him. CLICK HERE to read more about research based ways to help a reluctant learner.
- Since the program is subscription based, if you find that the level you purchased is too easy or too hard for your child, you would have to purchase an additional level.
The Handwriting without Tears typing program is well developed and may be a great fit for typically developing children.
Typing.com is a free typing program that can be accessed online. It teaches basic typing skills and would likely work for many children. My older child used it for a while, but also became bored with the format.
Other Elementary Level Typing Programs
TTRS is a subscription type program that I considered using. In addition to teaching typing skills, it also works on reading and spelling skills. TTRS is a research-based program that is supposed to be very helpful for dyslexic children.
What finally worked:
For my son, pulling up a laptop or going over to the computer and waiting for boot up and to get into the programs really hindered typing activities. Access to other programs and the internet was also a distraction. I ended up purchasing an Alphasmart from Amazon to use for typing and other writing activities. An Alphasmart is a portable keyboard/word processor. There is a small screen to view your typing and about 8 different files. The AlphaSmart limits distractions as it is only a word processor (no search engines, internet, or games).
Dr. Fry’s Computer Keyboarding for Beginners
What I really needed was a basic typing book with lessons I could adapt for my children. I went with Dr. Fry’s Computer Keyboarding for Beginners and would definitely recommend it. For my children, I shorten the lessons significantly to meet their attention span. Like most typing programs, the book begins with home row exercises and then gradually expands to include the other keys on the keyboard. There is also a section of high frequency words to practice for typing automaticity. This printed book format has been the only format where I have had the control needed to adapt lessons appropriately for my children.
Conclusion on Elementary Level Typing Programs
There are a wide variety of typing courses available both online and in book format. This article reviewed a very small number of typing programs. Basic free typing programs like typing.com may be appropriate for many children starting at age 6 to 7. Handwriting without Tears is a well-established company that is most well-known for their handwriting program. Their typing program may be appropriate for typically developing children starting in Kindergarten. If you have a child with a limited attention span, I would recommend going with a typing book where you can easily adapt the lesson length to meet their needs.