For some students, learning to type on a computer can be as difficult a task as learning to write with a pencil. Students with good fine motor skills are often better at mastering this particular skill.
Typing requires coordinating finger movements and memory skills. A student must first remember where the letters, numbers, and symbols are located on the keyboard. He must then "send" signals from his brain to the appropriate finger muscles to move to the keys he wants to hit.
For example, to type a capital "A," a student must not only remember where the shift key and "A" key are located, but must use one finger to hit the shift key, and another to press the "A" key, all the while remembering what word he is trying to spell.
Hopefully, as a student practices keyboarding, he will begin to remember the location of keys more easily, and as a result, be better able to focus on the content of his story or writing. As he begins to learn where keys are, and is able to hit the right keys more easily, the student may also focus less on hand-eye coordination when typing. For the student who struggles with either the memory or coordination aspects of typing, producing written work on a keyboard can be a challenge.
Here are some strategies to develop and strengthen students' use of a keyboard for writing.
- Use games to build keyboarding skills. For example, some computer software has students race a car by moving their car forward with each correctly typed word.
- Utilize selected software applications specifically designed for maximizing writing quality, for example, those that let allow students to represent an outline graphically and then it automatically converts the picture to a text outline.
- If students have too much difficulty typing, you might want to provide voice-activated word-processing programs.
- Promote the use of macros or writing software that "learns" the student's commonly used vocabulary, thus reducing the number of student keystrokes needed when writing.
- Have students use voice synthesis software to make it easier to review drafts of their writing. Consider supplying voice-recognition programs for students who cannot type.
- Introduce activities where students combine fine motor practice with visual discrimination, for example, stringing beads in various patterns, fitting puzzle pieces together, etc.
- Improve visual-motor control by presenting activities where students coordinate what their hands do, with what they see. Upright surfaces such as easels and chalkboards allow students to see hand movements at eye level. Dot-to-dot books, tracing activities, maze activities, playing jacks and pick-up sticks, and building puzzles are all activities where hand movements are guided by visual cues.