How to…. teach your child to touch type
By Kate Hilpern
‘Why do they need to learn it at all?’ is probably your first, and most burning, question. Isn’t touch-typing an outdated skill that was taught to ‘young ladies’ at secretarial schools back in the dark ages? In fact, there are dozens of reasons that today’s youngsters should all be learning it.
Not only does touch-typing mean children can work faster, potentially producing work at double the speed, but it also gets kids focusing on content instead of the keyboard – meaning they’re likely to wind up with higher quality work quicker. Touch-typing is also more accurate and has been found to help children improve reading, writing and spellings. It can be of particular benefit for children with dyslexia who find typing easier than handwriting. Best of all, it’s a skill for life that’s quick to learn and isn’t complicated. No wonder that in some countries, such as Australia and America, touch-typing is now taught in schools.
So, keyboards at the ready...
Don’t submit to the ‘I can’t touch-type and have always got by’ way of thinking
Parents who can’t touch-type often claim to be just as fast as those who can – or at least point out that they’ve managed with one or two finger typing for years, so why can’t their kids do the same? But non-touch typists can never be as fast (probably half the speed) and waste a lot of time looking between the keyboard and screen.
Start them young
Experts agree the best time for children to learn is when their hands are big enough to fit comfortably on a standard keyboard, typically around 6 or 7 years old. Handily, this coincides with when they are practising their spelling skills and when they love being on the computer so are motivated to learn. Children of this age also have a good concentration span and it will set them up for secondary school when most homework is expected to be typed. It’s not as if it’s too late by secondary school or even adulthood, but the earlier the better.
It doesn’t need to cost a penny
Some touch-typing courses cost money, but there are plenty of free online courses aimed specifically at children. With BBC’s Dance Mat Typing, for example, children kick off by learning the home rows, then each stage introduces new letters. Meanwhile, Typing Club has helpful video tutorials and fun animations. Search Google for other free courses aimed at kids, taking particular note of the reviews that provide pros and cons of each so that you can find the best one to suit your child’s personality and interests.
Make learning fun
This isn’t hard as the online tutorials capture young imaginations, with – for example - cartoon characters and adventure games. With Dance Mat Typing, for instance, there are plenty of fun characters to meet along the way, along with humorous songs at the end of each lesson. Meanwhile, Nessy Fingers enables kids to race dinosaurs on Dino Island, beat the court characters at Dragon Pants Castle and face the slippery perils of Penguin Mountain.
Use the school holidays
If you’re worried about finding time to teach your children touch-typing during term-time, then get started in the summer holidays when you can ‘sell’ it to them as time to play on the computer.
Keep lessons short
For primary aged children, aim for two 10-minute practices per day. If you can only do one 10-minute practice a day, don’t panic – the key is not to make lessons too long as that’s when they’ll start losing concentration and interest. Secondary school children can probably cope with longer lessons.
After your child has mastered the basics, work on accuracy then speed
Again, this can be fun. ‘Graduates’ of Dance Mat Typing, for example, can select numerous typing games and tests. TypeRacer puts global users in a competition to type a chunk of text fastest (all errors must be corrected to finish). VW Beetles move across the screen in real time and text selections draw not only from literature but song lyrics and TV/film quotes. Also check out Ratatype (designed to boost typing accuracy and speed) and Key Hero (enables children to chart their progress). Other children find daily dictation from their parents just as enjoyable, especially if you let them choose the font, colour and make the content fun or personal.
Above all, value accuracy over speed – some kids make a lot of mistakes or are tempted to keep looking at their hands if they’re pressurised to type fast before they are ready.
Most children can get up to 30 words per minute in about 10 weeks, but some children learn faster than others. Work at a pace that’s right for them and remember practice makes perfect.
We’d love to hear your stories and views about children and touch typing. Share them on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #chalkandchat