There is no doubt that learning how to type can substantially improve a child’s writing skills. This is particularly true for children who have sloppy handwriting, tend to write very slowly, or have difficulty with motor-functions and dexterity. Unfortunately, some of the same skills required for legible and efficient handwriting, such as fine motor skills and sustained attention and effort, are necessary to become a good typist. As a result, even though typing might be a great asset for your child, she may be resistant to putting time and effort into developing this skill.
So, if you really would like to improve your child’s writing through typing, you will need to do more than just simply buy Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum or have your child play fun games such the Burning Fingers or Typeracer. You will need to use parenting strategies that get your child motivated to learn to type, maintaining a desire to get better at it through sustained practice. Here are some recommendations:
1.) Work Together. Partner with your child, so she is not just given an assignment and left alone. This could include working on improving typing together, getting a new computer for her to work on, or creating a space in the house for typing and homework. Let others in your household see the time and effort that she is putting into developing her typing skills, so that there is adequate recognition and praise to sustain her work.
2.) Map it Out. Decide upon your teaching approach and estimate the effort that she will need to put forth in order to become a good typist. Typing is not an easy skill to learn, and it will be important for her to understand that it is a step-by-step process, where she will go from learning basic skills to becoming proficient. Expertise will come with ongoing practice and use of the skill.
3.) Set Goals. Agree on a number of specific goals together. Examine how typing skills can lead directly to many related improvements at school and an easier time in completing homework. Recommended goals include:
- Learn basic fingering and touch typing techniques
- Become a faster typer that handwriter
- Learn how to take advantage of spell checks and editing tools on the word processing software that you used.
- Learn how to apply typing skills to the brainstorming skills that are useful for developing ideas for writing assignments
- Set WPM (words per minute ) goals that are easily achievable and graduated (see here for specific age related goals)
4.) Describe the Benefits. Take a metacognitive approach where you think about the impact of improving typing skills. Topics such as how typing (and word processing) skills can lead to being able to make better presentations, getting better grades, or making it easier to organize written thoughts are important. Point out how typed work almost always gets a better grade than similar /exact written work with your child because it is so much easier to read for a teacher. A thorough discussion may help her to recognize that typing skills may make it faster for her to complete schoolwork, make it substantially easier for her to reorganize and correct mistakes, and virtually eliminate spelling and grammatical errors.
5.) Speed it Up. Demonstrate how much more efficient typing will be than writing once she masters the task. For example, typical early elementary school students physically write 5-7 words per minute, later elementary school students can write approximately 8-12 words per minute. The majority of later elementary school students can easily type at 25 words per minute after 4-6 weeks of steady practice at an effective typing program. If you really want to demonstrate the differences, find a passage about a topic that your child is interested in and have her write a copy of the passage as fast as she can for 3 minutes (or long enough to make sure that her hand gets tired) while you type a copy of the passage for 3 minutes. Demonstrate how many more words you typed than she was able to write, as well as looking at the neatness of the work.
6.) Make It Fun. Practice in a fun and engaging manner; using a variety of tools. This might include playing music while your child is typing, using a laptop that she might not normally have access to, or even learning to type with proper fingering on a tablet device. For example, there is some interesting split-keyboard programs for the IPad that mimic touch typing on a keyboard. Try and type passages about areas of interest. If possible, find passages about something that your child will enjoy discussing after they have typed it such as a possible summer day trip or information about a new game or hobby.
7.) Apply the Skills. Find teachable moments so that your child’s typing will apply to something that will be meaningful to her. For example, encourage her to send an e-mail to a grandparent, create a family blog that has pictures that she can describe, or contribute to a Wiki on a particular video game or other activity that she plays.
8.) Don’t Stop. Once she has achieved basic typing skills, engage in further discussion to maintain effort to improve their skills. For example, help her to think about how typing may assist in making to-do lists, improving her memory, learning to recognize proper spelling when she is using word processing programs, and how typing (with word processing programs) makes creating a draft much easier for her in contrast to making handwritten outlines and crossing things out.