Keyboarding | Why is it that kids can remember all of their friends’ favorite colors, but they have so much trouble remembering where the letters are on the keyboard? After searching in vain for an effective keyboarding tutorial for younger kinds, I developed a mnemonic system to make learning the keyboard just as memorable as learning fun facts about friends (See KeyboardLand—The Trick to Finding Those Letters). Now that I’ve seen how helpful it has been for my students, I’ve expanded this system into a new 3-part game that can be played by individual students at their computers, or as a class at the SMARTboard. In this interactive game, the home row keys are each represented by an animal (ape, snake, dog, and so on). Each animal has a favorite toy, which s/he keeps in the “upstairs” room of the house (the top row keys), and a favorite musical instrument, which he keeps in the “downstairs” room of the house (the bottom row keys). For example, once students see the image of Mrs. Snake’s house with her toy Wagon in the attic, and her favorite Xylophone in the den downstairs, it’s easier for them to remember that all of these letters are in the same “neighborhood” on the keyboard, and that they can all be typed with the left ring finger.
To create multiple pathways toward memorization, there are different dimensions to this game. In the first part, students can wander through the neighborhood and see which toys and instruments each animal has upstairs/downstairs. They can also click on the animals to make them move, and on each house’s mailbox to unfold a map showing where in the KeyboardLand neighborhood they are at any given time. Once students get familiar with the animals and their favorite toys/instruments, they can move on to the next part of the game, in which they can test their memory of where each animal is by seeing if they can guess who is hiding behind each bush during a surprise party in the park. (Each animal, toy, and instrument also makes a sound, to further cement in the memory of where each one is located). After that, they are ready for the main part of the game, in which they will listen for specific challenges from a talking owl (e.g., “How fast can you find Mrs. Frog?”) and see how quickly they can click/touch on the corresponding button. Students will then have to use their memory of the “neighborhood” to remember where Mrs. Frog lives (at the letter F). If they miss an answer, they will hear, “Uh-oh. Try again.” If they get it right, they will be rewarded with a sound and animation showing the animal/toy/instrument combination that they have memorized. As the game proceeds, students will be challenged to recall the favorite musical instrument of each animal, which he keeps downstairs (the bottom row keys), and the favorite toy of each animal, which he keeps upstairs (the top row keys). The game helps to cement in an image of where each letter is located, while at the same time providing a fun way for kids to challenge themselves to recall each letter’s location as fast as they can.
This system has worked wonders for my K-5 students, and I hope it will for yours too!