George Lucas Educational Foundation

What's the Best Way for Kids to Learn Keyboarding?

What's the Best Way for Kids to Learn Keyboarding?

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With the introduction of STEM in the middle school and high school, our district is looking at how to reconfigure the tech arts, keyboarding and family and consumer science curriculums. Currently, kids get essentially three years of keyboarding in middle school, with different levels of challenge. My thought is that now, teaching keyboarding by middle school is really too late- most kids have developed "bad" keyboarding habits by that time if they did not learn touch typing, and re-learning will be difficult.

I took a poll of HS juniors today to see what they thought, and they all hated typing class in middle school and said it was hard to learn because they already knew how to get by on a keyboard, for better or worse. This makes me think we really need to move our keyboarding into the elementary school sooner rather than later.

If so, what programs or advice might you offer? Are the cute, online computer games that teach home row typing good enough? Should there be an investment in software? Should we encourage parents to teach kids to type at home?

What do you think about keyboarding? When should kids learn to type, and what's the best way? And how would you change the middle school class to reflect needs? We're open to any and all ideas! What's worked in your school or with your kids?

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Adam Fort's picture
Adam Fort
Touch typing enthusiast and educator

The best age to start learning a touch typing could be 5-7 years with typing tutor Dance Mat typing ( that all young kids love.

After 10-12, try tutors like Typeracer ( and Ratatype ( where children can compete.
At age of 7-9 kids should try more complicated tutors like TypingWeb ( that is more complicated and teacher may see the typist's progress.

mrlosik's picture
Helpful Guy

Coming from a background in child development and early education, I have never felt the elementary child possesses the small motor skills to be a truly efficient typist. With that being said, our kids face a set of demands (including standardized testing) that make it necessary for them to know their ways around a keyboard.

Starting in 1st Grade, I have them begin to play Keyboard Climber at It teaches them which hand to use and on which half of the keyboard letters live. By the middle of 2nd Grade we step up to Keyboard Climber 2 which then brings in numbers and capitals.

What I am trying to do is build simple awareness of where the keys are located. Even if they don't the dexterity, they at least know where the letters can be hunted and pecked. By Third Grade we are beginning to use GMAIL and Google Apps. Simply typing for a purpose is the best practice but we still use KBC2. We also introduce what is their hands-down favorite typing game Here kids race and earn money that they can use to trick out their cars. They can race each other and some kids log a ton of hours.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. We've assessed our 4th graders and found that in the games they are typing at what the game calculates as up to 32 words per minute. Compare that now to an assessment where I gave them 5 minutes to type a 150 word passage. The highest WPM for that exercise was 12 wpm. Minimal correlation showed up between the kids who were good at the game and their performance on the transcribing task. We also assessed how many words they could do in 5 minutes freely describing a funny video they had just watched. Scores on this task were higher than on the activity where they copied the passage. The class average was somewhere around 10 or 12. Remember, that was the high score on the last task.

Motivation and purpose seem to have a huge effect on how quickly our kids keyboard but I have also noticed that our students who struggle the most academically often struggle the most at this as well. There has to be some cognitive processing correlation that influences a kid's ability to keyboard.

I still sometimes shake my head that we are expecting nine and ten-year-olds to master something most of us didn't tackle until the ninth or tenth grade.

Typing_com's picture

Hi Kevin, this is Marlena from (formerly TypingWeb). We just wanted to say thanks for trying out our product, and we're glad you like it! We have just re-launched a new and improved site and would love to hear your feedback!

Bridget Link's picture

I have been a computer teacher for grades 3-5 for the last 16 years. (added 6th grade to my day as well this year) I will admit that I still struggle with keyboarding results even after this long. Students will do really well with typing when we are using a program of some sort but as soon as they are applying their skills whether it is in the form of an online test, a disussion on google classroom, or something as simple as an email they resort to hunting or pecking. I have found that by 6th grade they do not like to work in a typing program they would rather do anything but. I only make them work for 15-20 minutes in typing program and then we move on to something different. Third graders actually can handle the initial teaching of homerow and then I get their buy in by teaching them to type their first and last names without looking with LOTS of practice. I try to use many approaches to teach typing but I am still searching for that ultimate buyin for students.

AkiAga's picture

I really resonate with this post. My kids are in 4th & 5th grade and they have 'assignments' where they have to do on a computer but they don't really know how to type! Last year, my son's 4th grade teacher didn't really try to teach the kids typing (my daughter's 3rd grade teacher, tried but inconsistently). Now my son being in the 5th grade with a new teacher, who has students from different 4th grades, requires them to do some assignments on a computer. There are students in the class that had different teacher for 4th grade and learned better typing skills and are doing well. My son is at a disadvantage - writing for him is an extreme challenge, and now adding the typing issue is only a bit of a nightmare. ;-) I am trying to see what is the best way to help him learn. We tried doing some typing software/websites but my kids are not being consistent and don't feel like they have to do it. I know that classroom experience would be best and most beneficial. I tried to find a local class for elementary students that they could take, but there is nothing. I feel a bit frustrated as I don't want them to learn bad habits and have more stuff to do after school.

IMHO, typing should be taught at a 4th grade level in today's world.

paul garofano's picture
paul garofano
K-12 Ed Tech Specialist, STEAM Educator

We use QwertyTown in grades 1-8. It has been amazing!
The students are so engaged with it and the Teachers love it.
They're launching a newer version later this and we're very excited about it.

mrlosik's picture
Helpful Guy

Thanks for the resource Paul.

My big dilemma with keyboarding right now in the elementary grades is speed vs. form. Do we sacrifice speed to build good form? My fourth graders are able to type at least 10 to 20% more WPM if I allow them to go as fast as they can without worrying about form. What is the goal of keyboarding at this age, efficiently putting words on a screen or having good hand placement and movement? Some of our secondary people insist that good habits and form in elementary will eventually translate to better efficiency and then more speed as they mature. I tend to agree. What are your thoughts?

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