Sunday, October 12, 2008


Composing at the keyboard might seem natural to us by now, but for elementary students it's a developing skill.

A variety of factors slow down the task--Where are the letters? How do I spell that word? Did I type it correctly? The first two factors are difficult to control but we can do something about the last one. In fact, we're helping the student develop good keyboarding habits by doing something about it.

Using a simple word processor, such as the NEO, sets the stage for good keyboarding habits. It's all work and no play. Instruct the student to type a spelling or vocabulary word and hit Enter. When you see that they are successful performing this pattern with a couple of words, cover up the screen with a folder or piece of paper and ask them to type their whole word list. They'll be shocked.

At the end of the list remove the shield and have them review their accuracy. Many students will be surprised at how many correct words they have keyed in. You'll find that their keyboarding is generally faster when they are not spending time reviewing the screen to see if they have keyed in the correct letter.
We work faster when we're not looking at our computer screens after each typed word, and students will learn to work faster, too.


Cheryl said...

Why cover the screen without also covering the hands? Ideally, you want the child to watch the screen only (or the book if they are transposing from something else). Touch typing can't really be efficient if you look at the keyboard.

School System Occupational Therapist in Virginia said...

Cheryl is right; if a student is learning touch typing you need to find a way to keep them from looking at the keyboard.

In this case, I was using the word processor as a tool to help the student see how letters in words were formed correctly. He had just completed a handwritten spelling test and many letters had been reversed that I have hardly ever seen reversed (r, for example). I wanted him to "write" the words with the word processor and see the letters correctly on the screen.

I use word processors, sometimes, to give students hope for the future. One day they'll be using word processors and computers quite a bit and their writing will be legible and "perfect" right away. I don't expect a student to be anywhere ready for touch typing until at least 4th grade. For students who have poor kinesthetic awareness I'm not sure touch typing is a possibility for a very long time. Thankfully, our county does not expect OTs to be typing tutors.

Cheryl said...

Ah, the age group and treatment context make the difference. I assumed that you were working on keyboarding as an alternative to handwriting in an older child. Thanks for clarifying.