The third graders in my classroom begin to type their short stories with a flurry. Eyes scan their compositions for the next word and small pinky fingers stretch to reach the Q’s and P’s.

Periodically, a hand shoots up, “How do you make a question mark?”

“Mr. Strader, can you just type mine for me?”

Eventually, fingers cemented on the Home Keys begin to slide and eyes begin to wander. Some students take a 10-second finger stretching break before dutifully returning to work, while others begin to peruse the different color and font options.

One of the major shifts required by Common Core is the expectation that elementary students will use technology to produce and publish their own writing. By fourth grade, students must be able to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, reflecting the expectations of the standards, will ask students to use the keyboard to write their answers beginning in third grade. The purpose of this standard is to prepare students for a 21st century world that requires keyboarding fluency.
Watching my students struggle with basic computer tasks, such as double-clicking and indenting a paragraph, demonstrates the tremendous number of mini-lessons that are embedded within this elementary keyboarding standard. These skills aren’t easy. At times, even I struggle to drag-and-drop with a tricky trackpad! It is clear that students need dedicated time in school to practice using digital tools to achieve mastery.

Unfortunately, many elementary schools struggle to find the time to teach typing skills during the school day. The rigorous literacy and math demands of the Common Core already put pressure on teachers to limit the time given to classes such as art, music, and foreign languages. To carve out time specifically dedicated to typing, as an additional class, does not seem feasible to teachers and administrators.

In my third grade classroom, typing is a fully integrated component of the writing cycle. Students brainstorm and draft a first composition on paper. Then, they compose their first draft on the computer using Google Docs and, in the process of typing, complete a self-edit. Every word is saved automatically, and I can always help a student revert to a previous version if their draft “disappears.” Finally, students meet with me to discuss what they are writing as they prepare to type their final draft. Although students may move at different rates, depending on their comfort with typing, all students generate a final copy they can be proud of.

Here are the teaching strategies I use in my classroom to help push our mastery of the PARCC Common Core Writing Standard 6 which calls for the use of technology to publish writing.

1) Always set a completion goal for your students

– Today, we will complete paragraphs 1 and 2 of your fairy tale. And celebrate students who reach their goal, and proudly display their work.

2) Teach typing stretch breaks

– Just like writing, typing can give students a sore hand. Shake out wrists and fingers if they need a break.

3) Build the idea of becoming a Master Typist

– Highlight students who use the Home Keys with special gloves. Track students “Words per Minute” with hot air balloons on the classroom wall, and watch the numbers soar higher throughout the year.

Happy typing!

Written by Kent Strader

Kent Strader

Kent is a third grade Literacy teacher at DC Prep Benning Elementary and a 2014 CityBridge-NewSchools Education Innovation Fellow

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