As we work with students to improve their ability to communicate through writing, sometimes we use computers and keyboarding as an alternative means of participation. Keyboarding can provide students with a means to compensate for illegible or slow writing. The questions then occur; how do we learn keyboarding? How fast is functional? And how can we help our students to keyboard?
I’d like to share some data regarding how fast is functional in this first post about keyboarding.
In this unpublished manuscript, a 1999 study found that 5th grade boys typed an average of 8.5 words per minute, and 5th grade girls, 10.5 words per minute. This speed increased in 8th grade students, with boys typing 17.7 words per minute, and girls typing 18.9 words per minute.
Honaker, D. (1999). Handwriting and Keyboarding Legibility/Speed of 5th – 8th grade students, a pilot
study. Unpublished manuscript
Due to the size of the keyboard and young student hands, speed is often not assessed with elementary students. During keyboard instruction, the emphasis should be on positioning and form. A technology instructor in this article from Education World sets a rate of 3 words per minute for third graders, but adjusts according to the needs of the individual.
It’s also important to compare speed of handwriting to that of typing. Which is more effective for the student? Also, is the task evaluating composition skills, where the task demand is increased, or copying? And when monitoring progress, consistency is important. When calculating words per minute, the following rule is typically used: every 5 key strokes is considered 1 word. This will allow you to measure speed of typing with composition tasks. Be sure to record which typing program or website was used at baseline, and try to stick with that program when measuring progress.