I thought this was a good article with some great links for some free typing instruction. I hope it is helpful to you.
Until next time, God bless,
By Andy Harris
When I was growing up, I was expected to take a typing class in high school. We had mostly manual typewriters, as well as a few electric typewriters with the automatic carriage return. Typing was taught in the vocational education program, and nobody learned to type until high school. People were expected to type college papers, but typing wasn’t usually expected until the high school level.
Things have changed.
With the advent of computing, high-end word processors, and electronic documents, typing has shifted from being a vocational skill needed at the high school level to a skill that’s now needed by elementary school students. The issue is how to teach typing in a way that will be practical and useful. Fortunately, typing is a repetitive skill that is ideal to teach via the use of computing technology.
There are many great free apps for teaching kids (and adults) how to type well. This month, I highlight a number of great typing programs. All are completely free and work on any reasonably modern computer. They do require an Internet connection, but the connection doesn’t need to be terribly fast.
I recommend using a full-size keyboard for typing instruction, preferably a real keyboard (not a laptop). You can get a USB keyboard quite inexpensively, and it should work with no problems on pretty much any computer. Laptop keyboards are often a bit non-standard and aren’t always full-size. Typing instruction is one place where a traditional computer may be a better option than a tablet.
TypingWeb (www.typingweb.com) is a website devoted to typing instruction. It has a number of interesting features and is one of the more complete sites available. It requires a login, but the content is completely free. You can purchase an upgrade, but as long as you don’t mind advertisements, the free version has everything you need.
You can create multiple accounts to keep track of each student’s work independently, and you can also set up a teacher account to manage all your students’ records. You get complete feedback from each lesson, including identification of the problem keys and speed/accuracy reports.
The site also includes a very nice typing test that helps you determine each student’s current skill level. As the student types, the program identifies problem keys and generates custom letters that let him focus on the keys that are giving him trouble. Many lessons are available to students, ranging from quite simple to more complex. Results from the typing test will help a student determine which lessons he needs to begin with, and students can take the test many times to evaluate their skills.
When he’s ready, the student can take an “official” test that leads to certification by the Typing Institute of America. Successful completion of the test results in a printable certificate that displays the speed and level of accuracy he has achieved. This is a nice benefit, especially for older students who are interested in adding certifications for job placement.
The lessons are sensible but not exciting. The site comes with a number of interesting, fun, motivating games. I especially like the “Fruit Ninja” clone, in which you type letters to slice up innocent produce. There are a number of other fun typing games that invite you, for example, to kill zombies (another functional skill) or play a form of “dance revolution” (if you don’t know this one, your kids do) using the keyboard, and there is even a cup-stacking game. The games are pretty fun and have very appealing themes and graphics. You might have trouble getting kids to do the lessons, but the games will be highly motivating and might be all they really need.
If you need more practice, you can also find lessons based on current headlines from various sources. My oldest son will type sports headlines all day long, even though he’s not quite equipped to type at that level of proficiency. Note that you may need to keep an eye on the content, as the stories are pulled from actual news websites and may contain content you may need to talk with students about or avoid entirely. (The sports stories today “feature” a number of drug-testing scandals, for example.) Overall, TypingWeb.com is an excellent resource for teaching your family to type, and it’s totally free.
Dance Mat Typing
Dance Mat Typing (www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing) is a really great typing site produced by the BBC. This program is interactive and colorful; students are guided through lessons by animated animals. There is far more instruction in this program than is offered on the TypingWeb.com site, and it feels much more guided. However, the animations may put off older children, and the animals speak with thick accents, which may be difficult for some students to understand.
The entire program is presented as a game, with multiple levels and stages. Each level is a mini-game. You can print off a worksheet to help you practice the concepts for each of the mini-games. The game requires no login, but it also doesn’t keep track of individual progress.
Dance Mat Typing works in Flash, so it requires you to be online to play the games. It will work on nearly any computer that supports Flash. There is a non-Flash version of each game, but the Flash versions are much more interesting. Dance Mat Typing is ideal for use by younger learners. It does not support full words or sentences but focuses on learning all the letters in a fun and interactive way.
Free Typing Games
FreeTypingGame.Net is another site that offers dozens of great typing resources (http://www.freetypinggame.net/play.asp ), including many interesting games that can be played at a number of levels. As usual, the games involve typing various sequences to zap aliens, drive racecars, or participate in other high-interest activities.
The site also includes a number of typing tutorials. Each tutorial focuses on two letters at a time. If a student walks through all the tutorials, she should be well prepared to play the games. The games can be customized to support each lesson, so you can adjust the difficulty of the game to emphasize whatever specific skills the student is currently working on.
You can also take a timed test to check your current speed and accuracy. A leader board is available, if you want to compare your scores with others’ scores, but this could be discouraging for some kids. (I typed 79 WPM with 100% accuracy and scored only 62nd on the leader board.) This site does not keep track of individual student progress, so you’ll need to track your students’ progress manually, but this can still be a great addition to your bag of typing tricks.
With these sites, you should have no trouble finding great tools to help you teach typing to your kids. Let me know if you find any other great resources!
Andy Harris is a homeschool dad, father of four great kids, and husband to the greatest homeschool teacher ever. He has taught all ages of students, from kindergarten to university level. Andy is the author of a number of well-known books, including HTML/XHTML/CSS: All in One for Dummies, Game Programming—The L Line, PHP6/ MySQL Programming for the Absolute Beginner, and Beginning Flash Game Programming for Dummies. For more information about his books, to see where he is speaking next, or to just say hi, please stop by his website: www.aharrisbooks.net
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.