How do you get students to keep their hands on the home row?

November 6th, 2017 Mike Gecawich

Hi everybody and welcome to our weekly show Ask EduTyping brought to you every Thursday at 4:15 PM Eastern time on Facebook, and we bring that to you live every week. My name is Mike Gecawich and I’m Co-founder of Teaching.com, EduTyping.com, and Typing.com. This show is set up to field questions from our user audience from across the globe.

So if you use Typing.com, EduTyping or any instructional keyboarding product, we welcome your questions each week. You can reach us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, using #AskEduTyping. And if we don’t get your questions this week, please remember that we will try our best to respond to each and every question that we receive.

So we begin each week with a different typing tip. This week’s tip will be about warming up. So what this basically means is before you introduce a formal, keyboarding lessons, meaning you’re about to use EduTyping, Typing.com or any keyboarding product that introduces students to a structured lesson it’s great to have them warm up their hands and their eyes and all of their motor skills to get them prepared for the real thing.

Just like our bodies need to be warmed up before we do exercise or any physical activity. This same concept applies for keyboarding. So basically, what this means is, let’s say: you’re introducing the F and the J keys.

Before you have your students start that formal lesson you can do a warmup exercise like a dictation drill, and basically all this encompasses is having your students open up a word processing program or they don’t even need to have anything open at all on screen, and you just begin by saying. Okay, hands on your home row keys.

And, you start to dictate what letters for the student to press on the keyboard, so you would say something like F – F Space J – J Space. And you get into a rhythm that allows students to kinda warm up their brains, get their fingers, warmed up, position themselves at their workstations properly.

Then, after about a minute or a minute and a half, they should be ready to go. So we’re gonna start with our first question of the week. I’m joined every week by my colleague Robin who will read our first question for Ask EduTyping. Robin—

Our first question is from Lynn, from Maine.

I teach digital literacy to all freshmen. The first unit I cover is keyboarding. The problem is, students have been introduced to technology way before I have been in class and they have developed the worst typing habits known to mankind. I use typing drills, games, candy, stickers and other incentives. Some take charge of their technique and others refuse. Unfortunately, we do not have a keyboarding computer class in elementary or middle school, any suggestions or a high school business teacher and her keyboarding students.

Well, Lynn you’re not alone, first of all. And Lynn is from Maine and I just want to point out that I am a native New Englander and I love Maine lobsta! Yes, that’s lobsta ending with an “a” not an “er”. We gotta pronounce it the right way here in the New England area.

So first of all, Lynn, the obvious answer here is that– first of all, you’re not alone there. There are many schools with the same challenges, meaning middle school teachers or high school teachers who are introducing keyboarding notice that their students have developed very poor habits over time.

They haven’t been given formal instruction at grades kindergarten through sixth grade, sometimes seventh or eighth grade. In your case, you’re teaching high school, so your freshmen are coming in, and basically, they have no concept of proper keyboarding technique because—it’s not their fault—we live in a world of many devices where basically there is no technique. You just swipe your finger and you can load an app. And they’re used to using their thumbs to text.

So are there are many challenges in front of you, as well as many other teachers out there with the same problem. So my first recommendation is to form a committee and begin to lobby that keyboarding is introduced in the primary grades as early as kindergarten is ideal. But if you can get started in second or third grade that will obviously be better. You know, bad habits are tough to break, so if you form good habits at a young age, obviously they’re just like riding a bike. They’ll stick hopefully for a lifetime.

How to do this is get on your school board’s agenda for the next school board,
or school committee meeting, and maybe you can lobby your principal or an elementary principal or any technology person within your district and invite some business community members who can also help strengthen your case, to implement keyboarding at a younger grade level.

You’d be surprised that your school committee will take note of it, but they’re usually the ones to make the decisions for the district, especially start funding, goes you even if you’re able to introduce it at a small level it’s better than what you have right now.

In addition to that, definitely for your high school students who are coming in with bad habits. My recommendation is—especially, when introducing keyboarding early on— to count posture and technique as a certain percentage, maybe it’s 10 or 15 percent.

My recommendation is to bump that percentage up so that students are seriously penalized when they’re not demonstrating proper keyboarding techniques. You might want to bump that up to 30 or 40 percent, maybe even 50 percent of their grade, especially in the beginning, so that they understand the importance of utilizing that.

Secondly, it’s important that students really hear, not just from you, but from businesses at large the importance of having typing skills in today’s technology-driven world.

So my recommendation would be to reach out to your community members and anybody who is working in a business or owns a business, invite them into your classroom and have them have a conversation with your students so they can talk about the importance that they see for typing skills in the workplace. Because it’s becoming a foundational skill, that employers expect from their employees.

And then I’ll offer this one final thing, Lynn, I would be happy to do a video meeting with your class or classes, I’m, not sure how many sections of keyboarding you teach.

However, if you email me at [email protected] after we get through with our show today and provide me with your contact information I’ll be happy to talk to your students and let them know that you know, as a person who’s an expert in the area of keyboarding and I’m also an employer, that it’s a critical skill.

Maybe that will help you reinforce, aren’t some of the concepts that down been trying to drive home with them. So thank you and that was a great question. So, let’s get on with our second question of the week, Robin if you would—

Our second question comes from Linda, How do I get students to keep their hands on the home row?

Well, that’s a basic question and I’m sure many teachers from around the globe are curious to find out the answer to So the first typing kind of strategy that I would try to implement is that your students are very visual.

The keyboard by nature is very visual. It’s got a lot of keys on it, different letters and symbols. So by nature, your students need to see what they’re touching, and today’s technology-driven world they are so used to seeing different devices and touching and swiping and so on. So that’s they’re familiar with.

The problem is, is anchoring those hands on the home row keys is very challenging for students because with apps there is no uniform way of touching. There may be a button in this corner and then another app may have a button in that corner. So yeah they’re not really trained that way.

So here’s what I recommend, take a blank sheet of paper. Have your students place both hands on that sheet of paper, have them trace their hands—they love to do that—and then write the corresponding home row keys above each corresponding finger. So it would be ASDF JKL;.

Then what they can do is then lay the paper flat and have them— you can use a dictation drill like I want you to touch the letter, A S D F etc. So that they are kind of getting detached from the physical keyboard. So this is an offline activity that’s very helpful and you can have them do that on a regular basis.

Another strategy is, if you go to blog.EduTyping.com, that’s our blog that we update our every week with a variety of instructional strategies. One of the blog sections is a downloadable blank board, so students can print that out and then label the home row keys as well and then again you can do different exercises on paper.

Another great strategy, and students love this, I call it the homeroom stars board. Basically you take a piece of poster board mounted to corkboard if you can, or just your wall. And then what you can do is pass out construction paper, to students, or you can do this yourself, but students love working with different tools themselves, your preference. And what you do is you basically cut out little time frames of a home.

Standing obviously for the home row keys. And those construction paper homes get their students names written on them. You can use any kinda measuring stick on this piece of poster (label it home row stars), my suggestion would be something like a thermometer. So starting with different measurements, where it’s really cold starting with 0 degrees, going up to something like 150 degrees and then, as you see improvements on students move them up that thermometer, so they can see their progress.

So if you see students using grid home row techniques, you can just move them up a little bit each week. And they love to see their name in lights. We all do. So that’s a little incentive. Now another is you could provide small incentives and rewards. If you can find a little tinker toy that represents an anchor that you could hand out to students.

That can be used when you see them anchoring their fingers on the home row key and then another thing that works real good is candy. We just passed Halloween last night, so we don’t need any more sugar in their system. However, actually, what was 2 days ago. So something like a 100 Grand bar or a PayDay bar, it’s kind of a reward, you can say ‘hey, you know you’re getting rewarded for doing good technique.’ So hopefully those tips help you out. Good luck and now we’re gonna move to our final question of the week, now, so Robin, if you would—

The last question comes from Kathy— How, do you get students to break their bad typing habits? Example, students won’t use the correct finger positions for the keys. With all the texting going, students just wanna have their fingers all over the keyboard. I find it very challenging to get them to do the correct techniques and reaches. I do occasionally put on the speed skins so that they don’t look down at the keyboard as much and I try to get them to use the correct reaches with their fingers. Any suggestions?

Well, that’s a great question, first of all, many of the strategies I just was talking about in our second question, where you can use incentives like the home row stars or you could have a typing and posture stars board. Where are you make construction paper stars and label those with the student’s name and move them up as you see progress.

Another suggestion, as I previously mentioned, was definitely put a higher percentage on keyboarding posture and technique when it comes to grading. It’s not something that the program like Typing.com or EduTyping can grade for you, but it’s important to have that offline evaluation where you walk around the computer lab and consistently correct students.

In an appropriate, positive reinforcement way when they’re, demonstrating poor technique and posture at the keyboard. You mentioned that you use keyboarding skins. I’m very familiar with keyboarding skins, and they do come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, well not shapes or sizes, but they come in, or a variety of different colors and contour.

What I mean by that is, if you not familiar with what a keyboarding skin is, it’s basically I’m kind of an elastic-y rubber cover that mounts itself on top of the keyboard, so basically it eliminates students from being able to see the keys but it still allows for the students to be able to touch the keys as they normally were.

The problem with the skins is that it takes away the natural feel of the keyboard, so when a student is pressing a key without a skin on top of it, it’s a much different feel and it’s a little bit harder to press down. Even though it’s very, very slight. It still kind of plays with the psyche is far as touch typing goes.

My recommendation would be not to use skins, introduce students to a different type of way of covering the keys with a type of keyboard cover that I mentioned earlier. We have a product called No Peak Keyboarding Covers, and you can make these out of cardboard actually so you don’t have to purchase them.

Basically, you rest it on top of the keyboard and then students slide their fingers underneath and they can still look for a visual reference to make sure that they’ve got fingers on the right keys. But it will also enforce good typing habits, because otherwise they’re just gonna make a ton of mistakes.

So, and you don’t need to leave these on all the time and you can actually say ‘Hey listen,’ to a percentage of your class that’s having difficulty and just use it with those folks. So incentive, don’t use skins use covers and provide a higher grading percentage for their keyboarding posture and technique.

So that’s all we have time for this week at Ask EduTyping. But again, if we didn’t field your questions today please feel free to send them to—and we welcome them—our hashtag #AskEduTyping through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. It was a pleasure talking to you again this week. I look forward to next week and remember, to teach is to learn twice. Take care, everybody!

2 responses to “How do you get students to keep their hands on the home row?”

  1. Nicole Friedel says:

    I am enjoying reading your blog! I especially liked the information you shared about how typing strengthens both sides of your brain!!
    I teach K-8th tech apps (4th-8th grade uses typing.com). The K-4th grade only comes once a week, and I have tried starting keyboarding in 3rd-4th, but found we weren’t able to make much progress only coming once per week. I went to my principal and 4th grade teachers to see about having those students more often, and after 2 years of asking, I finally got to have them twice a week! I wish it was 3x a week, but I am able to see much more progress than only once a week.
    When I take grades for keyboarding, for 4-8th grade, it is 100% finger placement and eyes on screen. If students do those 2 things, the speed and accuracy will follow.
    Thanks for all your ideas!

  2. Sharon Doyle says:

    This is the exact situation that I am dealing with: how can I encourage students to position their hands on the home row and anchor those keys. I have used the keyboard skins as well and half way through the semester I had students stop using them. Last year students used covers that also hid their hand but only in a certain position. Sometimes they would look underneath or over the top of the covers. Students in my school are using Chromebooks so I am still looking for the ideal cover.

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