Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kindergarten Students Get "Keyboard Happy" instead of "Mouse Click Happy"

Students and staff in Mason City Community School District have now been on summer break for one week.  Students' last day was June 9, while a majority of the staff were done June 10.

Today I noticed that I still have a blog post "in the cue," waiting to be written and published.  Despite school is out for summer (hope you don't mind the Alice Cooper song reference), I still want to blog about the Harding Elementary Kindergarten students and what I discovered about their computer skills in April and May.  I think my discovery is one that should be discussed, pondered, debated, and "food for thought," even if school is out for summer!

In April, the students and I celebrated National Poetry Month and Poem in Your Pocket Day.  There are tons of different forms of poetry, but I decided that I would have students in grades K-4 write an acrostic poem.  Of course, next year I plan on expanding to book spine poetry, shape poems, and hopefully many more forms!  You can read about how we celebrated National Poetry Month and Poem in Your Pocket Day by clicking here.

All students in grades K-4 wrote an acrostic name poem.  By having students writing a poem about themselves, not only are they learning about a form of poetry, but they are also getting a chance to express themselves, be creative, and develop positive relationships.

Despite all grades writing an acrostic name poem, I had students use different forms of media to write his/her own acrostic name poem.

  • Students in grades K-2 wrote it on a paper form I created.  Then the K-2 students transferred their work to ReadWriteThink interactive acrostic poem webpage that provides a format to write an acrostic poem.
  • Students in grades 3-4 used their own Google Drive accounts to write an acrostic name poem, as this allowed third and fourth grade students to practice logging into their Google Drive accounts, use Google Docs with a purpose, and practice their keyboarding skills.

So, what is so special about the kindergarten students that I am highlighting them in this blog post?!

Well,  as kindergarten students were transferring their acrostic name poem from paper to the Read WriteThink interactive acrostic poem webpage, I discovered something that I had predicted might happen; students had a difficult time finding the letters on the keyboard!  Kindergarten students have become so "mouse click happy" that they weren't aware of the keyboard!  Largely due to the websites for that grade level and lack of proactivity on my part, these students have become so accustom to the mouse, that they weren't even aware of the keyboard!

As a cycle passed of watching kindergarten students having trouble finding letters on the keyboard, I pondered the following...

  • How can I help kindergarten students become better acclimated to the keyboard?
  • Should I stop my mini-unit on acrostic poems and switch over to some sort of keyboarding instruction for kindergarten students?  Should I also include students in first and second grades in keyboarding instruction, especially so late in the school year?
  • Am I better off re-thinking keyboarding instruction in the fall with all grade levels, so the entire school year they improve and become more affluent using the keyboard?

I have always known that keyboarding skills don't just start at third grade, when formal keyboarding instruction begins, particularly in our school district, but they should begin keyboarding skills at a much younger age.  There is a HUGE ongoing discussion, debate, questioning, etc. of when should formal keyboarding skills be taught, how it should be taught, etc..  I come across many questions, thoughts, and discussions regarding keyboarding skills via SLIK-12 (UNI school library email list serv I belong to), Twitter, Facebook, blogs, conferences, and face-to-face discussions.

So, what did I do to resolve the kindergarten students' lack of keyboarding skills?

Kindergarten students finished their acrostic name poems (that cycle I discovered their struggle to find letters on the keyboard), so it was perfect timing to switch to a keyboarding mini-unit!

Now the following questions arose...

  • How do I teach keyboarding skills to this age group?
  • How should I introduce it?
  • How do I keep them captivated and attentive?
  • What website(s) should I use?
I decided to use ABC Ya Alphabet Zoo and ABC Ya Typing Rocket Junior with the kindergarten students.

And, what was the result of teaching kindergarten students how to locate letters on the keyboard?  Kindergarten students were captivated and excited about using the two websites to locate letters!  I observed a HUGE improvement in locating letters!  Students became more at ease and fluent when locating letters!  The best part was when students were given the option for "free choice" during the last week of school, students chose to use these two websites!

Obviously, by identifying a "teachable moment," pondering how to help students, and implementing an entirely new unit in kindergarten, a positive outcome arose.  In fact, this will lead to many more positive outcomes in many grade levels!

Now I know that definitely the next step is to introduce keyboarding skills to all grade levels K-4 at the start of the school year, while also continuing to teach students the traditional start of year skills (i.e. using a shelf-marker, taking care of books, identifying parts of a book, identifying Caldecott Award-winning books, identifying fiction and non-fiction books, using the card catalog, logging into Google Drive, etc.), so they can be successful for the rest of the school year!

Check out the following pictures of kindergarten students getting "keyboard happy!"