Scribbling with a computer keyboard? Certainly! Young children can start scribbling with a computer keyboard for example, by pressing any key to see what will happen on the screen. Soon, they may notice patterns. They may see that the SHIFT key makes all the letters bigger. A "magic moment" happens when they discover the different letters in their names and can start spelling short words.

Actual typing starts at about age 4 and can be facilitated with talking word-processing software. Children will begin classifying the keys, noticing that the top row is just for numbers, for example. After that, it's on to writing short, familiar words such as their names. At this point, don't worry about formal keyboarding. The time for formal keyboarding instruction isn't until upper elementary grades.

Here are some ideas for tapping into the power of technology in your classroom:


Magical Talking Letters and Other Smart Toys

Any toy store contains dozens of affordable toys that offer colorful alphabet keys. Look for products that are responsive, have adjustable volume controls, and will hold up in a classroom setting. Some toys let children experiment with letter combinations. LeapFrog's LeapPad Plus Writing gives children feedback on the marks they make on a page.


The Reverse Teleprompter-Dictated Stories

If you're a good typist, let children dictate their written language as your fingers fly. If you are fast enough, they can actually see the words appear on the screen as they say them (ask them to speak slowly and clearly). You could also consider using a dictation software. For even more fun, use a projector to make children's language look large and impressive!

High Tech

Build a Virtual Bulletin Board

If you have a classroom website, turn your homepage into a virtual bulletin board on young children and writing. Call it Stages of Writing and scan samples of children's writing, along with each child's age and the month the sample was created.

Tip: Save your pictures as JPEG files (.72 dpi, or "screen resolution") so that they will load quickly and still look clear.


Web Exploration

Get Ready to Read! website

A project of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, this site has handy links for parents and teachers, along with an online screening instrument.

Kids Ready for Learning website

This rich resource from the University of Kansas contains useful links related to how children learn to read and write.