Teaching Typing and Computer Skills

Touch typing is a very important skill for students, and particularly students with vision impairments. By the time a student reaches year 7, they will need to be able to touch type at least 30 words per minute and be familiar with key commands for navigating the computer without a mouse.

When to introduce keyboarding instruction requires individual appraisal. Students as young as Grade 1 have had success using the QWERTY keyboard. Generally short lessons (five to ten minutes) every day works best with young students. The time can be lengthened as progress is made.

Rather than having the student work alone using a typing program to learn touch typing, the primary-aged student will enjoy greater success if an adult closely monitors the learning to ensure that the student sits correctly and uses the correct fingers for each key.

Once the keyboard has been learned, quotations or passages from plays or poetry can be typed from memory or dictated and the skill can be quickly generalised into presentation of work in class.

The following method is only one of many which are available to teach keyboarding skills to students.

Teaching typing

Prerequisites:

  • Good finger and wrist strength
  • Ability to maintain good posture
  • Finger dexterity – the ability to isolate fingers
  • Knowledge of the alphabet

Teach the student to:

  • Place fingers on home row
  • Type individual letters on home row
  • Type two letter words using home row keys
  • Type three/five letter words using home row keys
  • Type keys to strengthen little finger of right hand – (o, p, ; return)
  • Use shift key to type capital letters
  • Type words with new letters and home row
  • Type sentences with new letters and home row
  • Type keys to strengthen little fingers of left hand (q)
  • Type keys above home row with right hand (u, o, l)
  • Type keys above home row with left hand (w, e, r,)
  • Type keys with index finger of right/left hands (t, y, g, h)
  • Type words using new letters from home row
  • Type sentences using new letters from home row
  • Type keys on bottom row below home row (b, n)
  • Type keys on bottom row below home row (c, v)
  • Type keys on bottom row below home row (x, m)
  • Type keys on bottom row below home row (z, , .)
  • Use the function keys. The function keys (those named F1-F12) are special keys which combine two or more key strokes into one single keystroke. For example instead of using command +h for help, in some programs just striking F1 will take the user right into the help menu. Most word processing programs will give an explanation on the use of the function keys.
  • Use shortcuts. Shortcuts allow the student to use less keystrokes to perform actions on the keyboard. For example, if the students have many windows open, by holding down the option and the command key and typing “w”, on a Macintosh computer, all the windows will close automatically. Or, by typing command plus =, the student goes directly to the edit menu. Thus, shortcuts allow the student to get into menus and operate programs easily. The shift, the tab, the control, option and the command keys, combined with the letters on the keyboard help to eliminate individual strokes. A list of shortcuts often accompany applications.
  • Use numeric keypad. The numeric keypad (the keys at the far right of the keyboard) can help the student to operate programs such as JAWS. The numbers replace the need to use the arrow keys, the return key, and the function keys. The shift, option and command keys along with the numbers are used instead.

Strategies:

  • Type words using spelling rules:
    • silent e rule, rat-rate, hat-hate, fat-fate; use other vowels a, i, o, u, rip-ripe, not-note, cut-cute
    • cannot end a word with U or V – must put UE and VE true, blue, give, curve
    • the sound UV is spelled ove, love, dove, above, glove
  • Type sentences using words from spelling rules (eg I love the dove that landed on a glove.)
  • Type journal entries, poems, stories and nursery rhymes
  • Accuracy and rhythm are important when a student starts to type. The teacher may wish to have the students listen to a good typist in order that they can hear what good rhythm sounds like on the keyboard.
  • Type pre-test and post-test weekly spelling tests
  • Type the phone numbers of friends or local business from home row
  • When the student is able to type from home row, more advanced skills can be introduced such as timed test, the use of more advanced vocabulary and typing words in categories. Emphasis can now be placed on speed.
  • Number keys allow the student to produce documents within word processor or spreadsheet

More ideas: support the reluctant typist and more ideas to improve speed and accuracy

Adapted from: Technology Guide to Assist Students with Visual Impairments in Meeting Curriculum Goals, Special Education Technology – British Columbia (SET-BC)