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Teaching kids typing skills??

Started by Tash Jacobs 16 Sep 2014 9:11am () Replies (47)

A collegue and I were chatting recently about the debate over need to teach our students handwriting in this new fast changing digital world.  We ended up pondering and debating over the question..

Should we be teaching our students to touch type from an early age?

Since this discussion I have watched several older students typing away somewhat inefficiently with their two finger styles (which are now so embedded as to be hard to change).  

We would be really interested to know what others are thinking and doing around this topic.


  • Abbie (View all users posts) 16 Sep 2014 9:07pm ()

    A colleague challenged me regarding handwriting: what's the point in teaching it in isolation if they go away and don't practice it regularly. Consequently it has become common to hear 'check your grip' from my mouth during writing/spelling tests/reading etc. I have found a greater overall improvement in student grip by doing that than previous years. She issued a similar challenge in punctuation which I am still working at!

    Regarding the purpose: I mix spelling in with handwriting. They do their focus letters and then write out word families/spelling patterns. With my year 7/8 students several years ago we wrote and completed grammar exercises as part of the handwriting. With my juniors it is grip. 

    Also their grip in handwriting translates to art, to colouring, gripping an iPad pen etc. I believe it does have a place, as long as there is a purpose for doing it. 

    I have heard of cases where employers are specifically requesting handwritten applications. I cannot see writing going the way of heiroglyphics so to speak, simply because we are still read and write, whether in an e-platform or with pen and paper. I have heard of calligraphy referred to as an art. 

    I was reading a research summary some time ago (couldn't reference it unfortunately) that looked at university student note-taking. Students who were writing their notes rather than recording them were doing better overall (of note though is that the 'typists' were recording near verbatim, whereas writing required more economy of words). I know I certainly take better notes when I can write them (have used notability of late for this purpose),  and I remember more than when I simply type.

    @Shona Poppe: what a great solution using both dance mat! I must try that in my room. We use handwriting to work on grip and letter formation particularly. That which students are copying are spelling patterns/words so it isn't just a string of letters/random words (mostly). 

    It would be interesting to revisit this as a historian in 100 years and reconsider this discussion!

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 28 Sep 2014 2:06pm ()

    I agree that there is a place if there is a purpose. I only heard to aid other classroom skills though, not bigger purpose. 

    In my youth, we were asked for handwritten applications. If the job requires that skill all well and good. I would question whether I wanted to work for someone not using the tools we have access to now.

    I'm also hearing "they." Where is the place of choice of tools and meeting needs of individual learners in your classes?

    As a "Twitter" fiend, I question that handwriting alone creates the need for pithy epithets!

    I'm being nit picky I know but I'm enjoying reading all these posts which I've left for my Sunday reading!

  • LEAST (View all users posts) 17 Sep 2014 8:31am ()

    I too believe that handwriting is a skill that should not be lost and tjhat legi ble handwriting is an essential element for lifelong purpse in the future. As a taeacher of year 7 & 8 however i feel that this is a non engaging task and does not become any more than a chore for those who still have difficulty with it at this age. I now make it a negotiated task on task  board where students are able to choose when to practice in the week.

    Unlike keyboarding skills and computer  management in pressure situations such as due dates and online tests or assessments. Typing speed and checking for errors, file save and submitting assignments in the right places, is an essential skill for the future surely.

  • Tash Jacobs (View all users posts) 17 Sep 2014 11:41am ()

    What are your thoughts around why we are having such trouble with kids and their pencil grips?

  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 17 Sep 2014 12:07pm ()

    You got me wondering Tash.  I was hoping that it was the same as previous years, after a quick discussion with our Learning Motivator (team leader) who teaches y0-1 she said that its always been the same. (10 years in that syndicate)

    "You know the students that have had penmanship at home, and those that dont."

    So from her point of view, its about their education at home.  

    My daughter is 3, and knows how to hold a pen.  She has difficulty obviously, but knows to pinch, and rest it on your 'tall boy' finger.  However the first thing she learnt to do was to unlock my phone.  Not because it was forced on her, but I think because she see's us on them a lot, and wants to know what it is.  In saying that she also would rather paint, and use a pen more than use a digital device.  Possibly because my wife is an artist, and our daughter sees that a lot too.   It all comes back to education at home.  The first 5 years is at home, and we know as teachers, its the most important.  If only the rest of the world knew the same... and actualy practiced it.

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 17 Sep 2014 12:09pm ()

    This is one of those discussions that likes to come back up every now and again.

    Personally, I still see a point for having the basic skills of writing—not necessarily cursive handwriting, but certainly printing. I personally still write with a pen occasionally (just jotting down a brief note or when I'm out geocaching—have to sign that logbook!) but most of the time I have a laptop/tablet/phone with me to capture that information.

    While reading through this thread, I did have to wonder about the 'stranded on a desert island' scenario Laughing. How will be write SOS in the sand if we don't know how to form letters? Yeah, okay, it's extreme but it's a thought. Cool

    I type just about everything I do. For the last 6 years or so my work has had me in front of a computer almost the entire time. Why would I write?

    As for the pencil grip question. My children don't grip their pencils correctly. I, my wife and my Mum (also a teacher and SPELD tutor) have all tried to correct this but they just fall back into the same habits. I'm guessing but it looks to me like it depends on the expectations at school/classroom as to whether pencils are gripped correctly. I cannot understand how my children can write the way they hold their pencils with it stick through (between) random fingers. I don't believe it will help with cursive, joined handwriting.

    So I say teach them typing/keyboarding skills (another well-debated area). I learnt to type when I was in Year 9 (3rd form then) and continued to learn up until Year 11. I'm so glad I did as it made a huge difference in my work and definitely in my study. Writing a thesis would have taken much much longer if I couldn't type quickly and efficiently!

    That's my 10c worth.

  • MrsB30 (View all users posts) 18 Sep 2014 9:32am ()

    I think it's important to continue teaching handwriting to younger students, as it's much harder to change habits as they get older.

    As a teacher of Year 2-3, the abilities of my students handwriting is one extreme to the other. For this reason I have been doing handwriting groups. We always start with a handwriting warm-up as a whole class - form drawing, pencil aerobics or similar. My lowest group work on pencil grip and the size of their letters as most write very big, use capitals incorrectly and reverse their letters. My middle group are perfecting their formation - lots of floating letters and inconsistency with shape and size. I alternate working with these two groups each week. My top group have excellent handwriting and they don't need to practice shape, size and formation! So they work independently each week practicing cursive. Reading this thread has inspired me to have them use their time to practice typing, as it would be more beneficial than cursive. They were having typing practice as a follow up if they finished early anyway, but I think now they will have more time to do this.

  • Jenni11 (View all users posts) 18 Sep 2014 10:45am ()

    I am very interested in this!  As a teacher of Y5&6 I have some students who I regularly direct to the keyboard as their writing is illegible!

    I am wondering if anyone uses any good online touch typing programmes? I can see this becoming a component of my handwriting programme (along with penmanship).Smile

  • MrsB30 (View all users posts) 19 Sep 2014 8:13am ()
  • Jill Hammonds (View all users posts) 18 Sep 2014 8:55pm ()

    Great discussion and I'm sure no single right answer. It seems to me there are even two questions. Should we teach handwriting and should we teach typing?  I personally don't think we are quite ready to ditch writing with a pen and like so many things practice during the mastery stage is necessary. However I do get concerned when I see students who can already write neatly, locked into handwriting lessons. Most students with reasonable coordination should be past the need for formal lessons by year 4. If they can't print or write neatly by then, practice is unlikely to help. 

    The next question - should we have typing lessons?  Most slowness is caused by unfamiliarity with the keyboard, so some laminated keyboards and word games are a more efficient way of gaining familiarity. Regular use as part of useful tasks would then seem the next most important factor. At primary level, formal touch typing should be weighed against more productive use of limited time. I don't touch type but I can type faster than I can write if I relax and let my fingers do the walking. 

    Finally with the major improvement in dictation software, extensive typing will soon be less necessary. Check out https://dictation.io but be sure to set it to NZ speech. Talk slowly and clearly and include punctuation prompts. You will be surprised how accurate it is, and then you can export or copy and paste across. 

    Battery about to die - dont have that problem with a pencil ;-)

    Fortunately I have my laptop handy so thought I would add in here the keyboard graphic and keyboard word games for anyone who is interested.  Feel free to print as many as you want for use in your classroom.

    Keyboard graphicKeyboard graphic

    Junior keyboard word games   Junior Keyboard word games 

    Senior keyboard word games  Senior keyboard word games

    Cheers, Jill

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 19 Sep 2014 8:55am ()

    I just wanted to add a thought about dictation software.

    In terms of whether or not to teacher touch-typing at school, for over 15 years I've heard the argument that it's not a necessary skill as soon you'll just be able to dictate everything to a computer. Well, yes... you can... and the software is much better now than it used to be.


    Having worked for several years in an open-plan office (which I would suggest is the norm in many businesses), one thing that drives people crazy is constant talk. While some people you simply don't notice, when others talk you will hear every syllable ringing in your ears. I just can't see speech-to-text being the norm in these sorts of environments that we know today.

    Of course things are always changing... Maybe office layouts will get better? Maybe we'll only have to think to get our words recorded!

  • Jill Hammonds (View all users posts) 19 Sep 2014 1:33pm ()

    "Maybe we'll only have to think to get our words recorded!"

    Bring it on!!!! Cool

    Meantime teaching kids what style level of voice is appropriate to situations would be a real bonus.  (Maybe that's because I'm down staying with the grandkids at present LOL) Sealed

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 28 Sep 2014 2:18pm ()

    So true! It's more important to teach the best form of communication!

    All I'm hearing here is tool tool tool - all based on personal belief rather than real future-focussed reasons. Um...and not sure about Nathaniel's rationale about being marooned on a desert island. 

    Until we have equity and can easily access digital devices, there is a place for learning to print the letters - but not mindless drills. 

    Can I have some real research please into use of fine motor skills maybe? Or effect on reading?

    I return to one of Jill's earlier statements. Is it more about our reluctance to accept change?

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 29 Sep 2014 8:49am ()

    hahaha - I'm not sure about my rationale either!!! Cool

    Was just a random thought I had! I'm surprised that no one really pulled my up on the fact that you don't need to handwrite to form a big SOS in the sand using sticks/rocks etc. You only need to know what the letters look like and be able to form them in some way.

  • Shane (View all users posts) 19 Sep 2014 12:49pm ()

    Ha! I can see the time when they look back and say 'I can't believe they wasted time teaching kids to type' as voice recognition gets better and better. . . 

    For what it's worth, I teach Yr 7-8 and as long as a child can print legibly enough to take notes then that's good enough. The kids can't read cursive anymore as they seldom see it. It's faster to write using a device, easier to correct and makes writing achievable (and god forbid - exciting) for so many more boys and kids with learning disabilities. For all those reasons, we are using Typing Web in place of traditional handwriting lessons.

    I'll never stop a child from using that pen and paper - but they can see it for themselves after a few weeks how much easier the whole writing process becomes digitally.

    For the reasons explained by teachers of younger pupils I can still see a need for letter recognition, basic handwriting (not linking) and the ability to do this at a reasonable speed.

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 28 Sep 2014 2:21pm ()

    i am with you Shane. Hooray!

  • Janet McQueen (View all users posts) 19 Sep 2014 1:30pm ()

    Just to add to your thinking and discussion on handwriting verses typing I would like to suggest that you read this article in the New York Times which looks at brain functions used for each. maybe handwriting helps us to think more deeply?  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?emc=edit_bg_20140603&nl=booming&nlid=59208117 . 

    I would be interested in your thoughts. 

  • Jill Hammonds (View all users posts) 19 Sep 2014 1:43pm ()

    I sometimes wonder if in another generation we will be concerned that we are no longer having to type on a keyboard, or articulate our thoughts out loud in order to communicate - for the very same reasons.  Currently we see links to the scripting process because that is what we have known.  Maybe it will turn out that a generation who grew up learning to script via a keyboard will have also have gained those benefits, or for those who learn to script via dictation that that very act creates the neural pathways.  Currently we are too early in the process to have any evidence upon which to judge, but my thinking is that whatever we do it will have benefits of one kind or another provided that it requires thought processes to be occurring.  Some handwriting lessons I've seen actually tend to have a negative impact - being reflective about the +s and -s is important.  Assess what students are gaining and or losing through the activities with which we fill their day.

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 28 Sep 2014 1:09pm ()

    You may have it right, Jill. Are we just suffering another "I'm unsettled by change" moment In this handwriting/typing debate?

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