Take Your Students to Typing Camp!
- Grades: 3–5
In my district, keyboarding instruction is a third grade requirement. We believe it is important for our students to be provided with formal typing instruction before they enter middle school so that they do not develop “hunt and peck” habits that are hard to break. However, we have found that short, sporadic visits to the computer lab are not effective. When students are first introduced to typing, they need lengthy, consecutive time periods in which they learn the location of the letters on the keyboard and have ample time to practice typing using the correct fingers. Long periods spent practicing keyboarding can be very laborious for elementary students. . . . unless you make it fun! My solution is Typing Camp! What is more enjoyable than camp?
READ ON to learn how my students pretend to go camping for a week while learning to type. You can watch a VIDEO about Typing Camp and learn how you can set up your own Typing Camp!
Getting Ready for Typing Camp
Before students go to Typing Camp there is quite a bit of preparation on the part of the teacher. Below I have laid out the work and planning that take place before the students begin their camping experience.
Make Camp T-Shirts
Camping is a wonderful way to build community among your students. One way to help them feel like they are really at camp with their classmates is to have them wear matching camp T-shirts. In the past, I have created designs in Print Shop and then printed them on iron-on transfer paper that I purchased at an office supply store. (There is a feature in Print Shop that allows users to print any page as an iron-on transfer so that it prints out as a mirror image.) Each student brings a white T-shirt to school, and parents volunteer to iron the graphic onto each student's T-shirt.
In recent years we have actually had a local T-shirt company design a keyboarding T-shirt for us, and students have been asked to pay five dollars for their T-shirt. Of course this is a more expensive option that may be less desirable in this economy.
Turn Your Classroom or Computer Lab Into a Campground!
To make the experience most authentic, I set up a tent in my classroom along with camping chairs, artificial trees, a camp sign, and a fake campfire provided by a local Boy Scout pack. During breaks from typing, students love hanging out in the tent to eat their snack or gathering around the campfire to sing our Typing Camp chant.
Determine a Time and Location
You may or may not have a computer lab at your school where all students can type at one time. We are lucky to have an isolated lab with 30 computers. Since third graders use the computer lab in the afternoons for a solid week, we have to make sure we set our dates for Typing Camp at the beginning of the year. This allows other teachers to make arrangements to use the laptops instead of the lab during the times we are at camp. Even though we travel to the computer lab to type, we return to our classroom to enjoy breaks at our campground. There is not enough room to set up camp in the computer lab. If you are like many teachers and just have some computers in your classroom, your camping experience may look different. Some students may be typing while other students are doing camp-related activities.
Create Camp Memory Books
One of the ways I remember my summer camping experiences is the souvenirs and photos I always brought home with me. The signatures of my cabinmates and the crafts that I made were cherished for years. I create a camping memory book to which students add photos at the end of the week. The book also includes a page with a drawing of a keyboard (so that students remember which fingers are responsible for which keys), a copy of the Typing Camp chant we learn during the week, and a signature page at the end of the book so that campers can remember all of the classmates with whom they shared the camping experience. Each page is copied on card stock, cut in half, and bound into a little book for each student. Parents use our binding machine at school to help make the books the week before we go to camp.
Below are links to download my Typing Camp memory book pages. Of course you will likely want to change the captions to fit your own camping experience, but here are some templates for you to use. Each file has two pages printed in one sheet. I copy them on colored card stock so that they are more durable. All files will open in Microsoft Word except for page 9. You will need Print Shop to open the certificate.
Download Page 9-Certificate (Print Shop file)
Send Out a Request for Camp Snacks
We ask parents to send in different snacks for campers to eat during breaks. We make a list of approved snacks, and parents sign up for a specific day of the week. We also set aside one day for s'mores. We purchased an indoor s'mores making kit, and parents donate graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars on this day.
Choose the Typing Software Your Students Will Use
After learning the specific fingers that are responsible for each letter on the keyboard, our students actually practice writing sentences in Microsoft Word the first day they are in the lab. However, that can get very boring very quickly. We choose to use Type to Learn 3 during most of our time at Typing Camp. It is a wonderful program that combines traditional typing practice along with games that make the practice fun and motivating. We have a site license for this software program at our school. Below is a link to Type to Learn as well as some additional software programs that can be used for typing instruction.
I also keep a close eye on the Scholastic Click order forms in the months leading up to Typing Camp. If the Type to Learn Home Edition is ever offered, I send home a note to parents inviting them to purchase a copy so that their child can practice at home. This is great because I can then use the many bonus points that I earn to buy more great books for my classroom library. Below is the note I send home to parents inviting them to purchase a copy for home.
What We Do at Typing Camp
Typing camp lasts for a week. Students spend the entire afternoon for five consecutive days learning about the keyboard, practicing their typing, and doing fun camp-related activities.
Day 1: On the first day, students are introduced to the letter keys on the keyboard. Our students watch a short video (that is no longer being produced or available to purchase) that provides them with funny little phrases to help them remember which fingers are responsible for specific keys on the keyboard. See the examples below.
Left Pinky Finger: QAZ (Quick Ask Zoe)
Left Index Finger: WST (What Stops X-rays?)
Left Middle Finger: EDC (Even Dogs Can't)
Left Pointer Finger: RFV, TGB (Red Fish Vanish, Then Grow Bigger)
Right Pointer Finger: YHN, UJM (Yaks Hear Noises, Under Jack's Mattress)
Right Middle Finger: IK, (I Keep Commas)
Right Index Finger: UL. (Under Long Periods)
Right Pinky Finger: P (Peanuts!)
Thumbs (Space Bar)
These phrases come from the instructional video we use. If you do not use the video, you could probably come up with more meaningful (and less odd) phrases to help your students learn the keys.
While watching the video, our students are not in the lab. They are using "TypeRight" keyboards that are not connected to a computer. However, using keyboards that are attached to computers (while the computers are turned off) would be just as beneficial.
After the learning the keys, students complete the keyboard page in their memory books (see picture above). They can then use this as a reminder when we go to the lab throughout the rest of the week.
Day 2: After reviewing the keys that we learned on day 1, students use flip books to type sentences in Microsoft Word using specific fingers at a time. (I do not believe these books are available any longer, but here is a link to the Almena home page.) Of course you do not need to have a specific book. You can also create your own sentences for students to type or project sentences using a projector that is hooked up to a computer in your lab.
Since this activity can become quite boring after an hour or so, you can even ask students to write collaborative stories. They begin at one computer and write a single sentence. When you say switch, they move to the next computer and add a line to their classmate's story. This continues for a while until the stories have at least ten sentences. They are often humorous to read aloud at the end of the activity.
At the end of day 2, I give a demonstration of Type to Learn so that students are ready to begin using the program the following day.
Days 3 and 4:
Students begin completing "missions" in Type to Learn 3. They move through the levels at their own pace by first completing a tutorial and then passing a challenge game in order to complete each level. This program is great because the teacher can easily print reports to see how each child is progressing. On days 3 and 4 students also begin using SpeedSkins. SpeedSkins ensure that students are not looking at their fingers when typing. This requires them to truly use the correct finger for each letter.
Day 5: After spending the first part of camp in the computer lab typing, we end our camp experience by adding pictures to our camp memory books. Each page in the students' memory books has a typed caption that reminds them of something they did at camp. After taking pictures of students throughout the week, I print out the pictures and pass them out to each student. They glue the photos on the correct pages. Students also collect signatures from their classmates on the signature page in their memory books. These books are then taken home so that parents can see what their child did at camp, and the students have a camp souvenir that they can keep forever.
Beyond Day 5: We do not want students to forget all that they learned at Typing Camp. For this reason, we continue to revisit the computer lab for shorter periods of time throughout the rest of the school year so that students' typing skills remain sharp.
Camp-Related Activities We Do Each Day
Since our afternoons are three hours long, students can become restless spending the entire time typing. Their fingers and their brains need a break!! During break times, we eat snacks, do some campfire read-alouds, and sing our Typing Camp chant around the campfire. The Typing Camp chant is a little song I wrote that is fun to sing and helps students review the phrases of the keys on the keyboard. (I used Super Duper Music Looper to create the music track for the song. You can download the Typing Camp chant lyrics in MS Word as well as audio files of an instrumental version of the chant and the chant with leader vocals.
In our computer lab, students sit in rows. Each row is a different "cabin," and those students come up with a creative name for their individual cabin. Since our tent is not big enough to fit the entire class, a different cabin gets to eat their snack in the tent each day during the break.
Watch a Typing Camp Video
In this video you will hear us singing our Typing Camp chant, and you can watch our Typing Camp in action!
Share Your Ideas!
In today's society, typing is certainly an important skill to teach our students. However, it can become laborious if not done in a fun context! This Typing Camp tradition is one that has been done in our district for many years, and many of the ideas I am sharing with you have been shared with me by my wonderful colleagues. We are always looking for ways to improve what we do and would love to hear your creative ideas for typing instruction!