Kids on the Keyboard

CSR Issue: May/June 01


No one can argue about the importance of effectively using the computer keyboard. We use it to write reports, keep track of our finances and communicate with our friends, family and coworkers. While keyboarding skills are important for children to acquire, don’t forget about the developmental milestones that limit what a child can do. Try to imagine struggling with spelling, sentence structure and the location of the keys on the keyboard all at once &emdash; that’s what kids face when they first start typing. So, how much instruction is your child ready for? The Ages and Stages chart (right) will give you some guidelines. The, check out our list of developmentally appropriate keyboarding software recommendations.

Early Elementary (grades K-2)
Either wait altogether to present keyboarding to younger kids, or start with one of these low-pressure introductions.

Type to Learn Jr., 4.0 stars
If you're looking for a way to get young kids comfortable with the keyboard, this program is a good choice. Children will learn the location of keys, and although specific hand placement is not taught, they will begin to divide the keyboard into right hand and left-hand keys. Lessons include typing upper and lowercase letters, numbers, short words, sentences, and punctuation. Kids will also learn to use the spacebar and the return/enter key. Three games reinforce the skills, and printable progress reports let grown-ups know how their kids are performing. We liked the straightforward nature of the activities and found the graphics colorful and appealing. Sunburst Communications, Inc., 800-338-3457,, ages 5-7, Win 95, 98; Mac OS

Read, Write & Type! Learning System, 4.0 stars
For students who need very structured, slow-paced, step-by-step phonics instruction, this combination reading, writing and typing product is just the ticket. It's actually based on an older (1995) program called Read, Write and Type!, and the original CD hasn't changed a great deal. Kids are still introduced to letter sounds and their corresponding keys on the keyboard by playing typing and phonics games to free the Storytellers, little characters trapped behind each keyboard letter. Content begins with single letters and ends up with short sentences and stories. There's a villain to deal with and two helpful guiding “hands” that teach children proper hand placement. This new version has ESL help for Spanish speaking students. A second CD playfully assesses children on their progress and provides detailed progress reports. There are also 18 paperback mini-books, stickers, a plastic keyboard overlay and a 60-page activity book. In all, this is a very complete system, but not perfect for everyone. The pacing is slow and steady, and kids who like to move quickly will be frustrated. Talking Fingers, Inc., 888-839-8939,, ages 6-9, Win 95/98/ME, Mac

Upper Elementary (grades 3-5)
Eight to ten year old children are typically ready to practice their keyboarding skills more formally but aren’t quite ready for the repetition and intensity of a full-blown typing program. These two classics offer typing practice in entertaining contexts.

JumpStart Typing, 4.3 stars
In the guise of an Olympics event, this CD teaches the fundamentals of typing via 30 excellent arcade-style lessons. The goal is to earn power cards to unlock the trophy room where the team coach has been imprisoned! Cards are earned by fast and accurate typing. In the “extreme keyboarding” competition, kids type to compete for top scores in such events as foos ball, wall-climbing, snowboarding and skateboarding. The program carefully tracks kids' accuracy and speed, and the activities offer a nice mix of fun and well thought-out instruction. Knowledge Adventure, 800-542-4240, not available, ages 7-10, Win 95, Win 3.1, Mac OS

Disney's Adventure in Typing with Timon & Pumbaa, 4.3 stars
Designed for children as young as six, this keyboarding program features step-by-step tutorials that teach hand placement and key strokes. Children are encouraged to improve their speed and accuracy by playing five engaging games. In one game, for instance, kids type sentences to help Timon and Pumbaa negotiate a maze of tunnels to avoid hungry hyenas. In another game, they shoot bugs by typing the correct letters. Detailed records of progress are kept. The Lion King theme may be best for younger kids &emdash; but even adult testers found the program helpful in increasing typing speed and accuracy. Disney Interactive, 800-900-9234,, ages 6-up, Win 95, Win 3.1, Mac OS

Middle & High School
Once in middle school, most children are ready for official typing instruction. Keyboarding tips and strategies will come in handy as kids more regularly use word processors for school projects, or writing email. There are three excellent software choices for older kids.

Typing Tutor 10, 4.5 stars
This full-featured typing tutorial offers two approaches to beginning typing &emdash; the traditional “home-row method” and the newer “CETM” technique that teaches the whole keyboard in a series of ten sequential lessons specific to each finger. Whichever way you go, you're sure to improve your speed and accuracy. The program offers customized lessons, progress tracking, three keyboard layouts, arcade-style practice games and more. The CD's ease of use is a real strength, and additional, downloadable practice exercises add to its longevity. Simon & Schuster Interactive, 888-793-9972,, ages 9-up, Win, Mac OS

Typing Instructor 11 Deluxe Edition, 4.6 stars
This outstanding typing tutorial offers lessons, tests, practice exercises, arcade games and progress reports, all set within a travel theme. As in previous versions, you can begin by taking a pretest, the results of which are used to create a customized lesson plan. Goals are, of course, to increase typing accuracy and speed. You can select your background music (lots of good choices) and pick your travel destination, which further expands the theme. The range of lessons is good &emdash; this is a program that both the novice and experienced typist can benefit from. You can download more content than ever before from the Internet. Individual Software Incorporated, 800-822-3522,, ages 8-up, Win

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Version 11, 4.7 stars
It seems that the creators of typing programs are never satisfied! Here is yet another version (number 11) of the already good Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Instruction begins with an assessment of the student's typing skills. Next, structured lessons are provided, always accompanied by a set of onscreen hands to model proper hand placement. Kids can visit the Media Center for video and instruction on ergonomic issues, or go to the Game Hallway for arcade-style practice. The program is highly effective at improving both speed and accuracy. With this new version, Mavis evaluates student proficiency in typing emails and letters, and personally delivers feedback during the lessons. The Learning Company, 800-543-9778,, ages 8-up, Win


Preschool & Kindergarten (ages 3-6)
Kids can spell their names and recognize letters on the keyboard. Children can hunt and peck to spell their names or other simple, familiar words and can remember placement of commonly used keys like ENTER and SPACEBAR.

Early Elementary (ages 6-9)
Children can begin to write with the keyboard but use a hunt and peck approach. By the end of this period, they may remember where some of the frequently used letter keys are like a and s. Typing for kids in this age group is usually a very slow process as they are focused more on details of how to compose words and sentences.

Upper Elementary (ages 9 to 12)
Children have basic spelling and writing skills and can begin to word process short reports, stories and email. They are able to use the keyboard for punctuation, e.g., SHIFT for caps and quotation marks.

Middle and High School (ages 12-up)
Kids have both attention and language arts skills necessary for formal keyboarding instruction.


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