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It’s inevitable, isn’t it. Sooner or later a teacher will suggest, recommend, or expect an assignment to be typed on a computer. When this will start to become the norm is still a question mark in my life as my oldest is only in grade 3. But, it has happened once already, so it looks like it begins around age 8. He brought home a several page assignment that he had to turn into a book, and he was led to believe that typing it out would be the preferred method.
His handwriting, that is to say his printing, isn’t particularly neat, and we’re working on improving this. But he’s in elementary school where foundational education is [supposed to be] taught, and writing, or printing neatly, is one of those things I believe should be of primary focus at this age.
Currently my boy is writing a fictional story. He is practicing elements of story writing, such as introductions, main body, conclusion, as well as paragraph formation, correct use of punctuation, flow in the plot, etc. The kids have been working on this for over a week now, mostly during class time, by working on drafts, editing their drafts, clarifying things and improving their story. I believe there may have been some attempt for the kids to read each others’ stories in order to lend commentary and improvement.
On a Friday afternoon Ben brought home his hand-written pages, which was supposed to be his final draft. He said he had to turn in the completed book on Monday. He said he could type it out and that they would be docked marks if it wasn’t typed.
I heard this: Reduced marks for not typing?
I emailed the teacher that same afternoon and asked for clarification, and was told later that weekend that they would not be docked marks for turning in a hand-written book. The teacher clarified that if someone wanted to write it out by hand, it would have to be neatly printed, and in double space format.
I went back to my very literal, take-at-face-value-everything-he-hears 8 year old boy and he said “that’s not what I understood”.
(Aside note: Speaking to another parent, who asked her child about this, brings back the point illustrated in this post about what a child hears a teacher say, which may or may not be what the teacher meant to communicate. That other child indicated they would get a half point bonus mark for typing out their book rather than writing it out by hand. I am challenged by this: which is it? Will they get less marks for writing, or more marks for typing? And what is the difference? That parent also contacted the teacher for clarification and the answer that was reported back to me was different than the one I received. I’m baffled, again. Is it me? Am I the one who is confused?)
Ultimately, our child is interested in computers. He had started some online typing lessons back in the summer and enjoyed doing them. I wish I had kept up with them into the school year because if he really wants to type more (but not necessarily write more by hand) then it would make things easier if he knew how to type properly, with all ten fingers rather than just tapping out the words with the two index fingers.
Which is not to say that I necessarily agree he should be typing out all this work in grade 3. Quite the contrary…
But let’s stay with this typing topic for a moment. Typing lessons are usually structured in such a way that you repeat a series of letters over and over again. Then you type out a word, or a few words, over and over again. Over time, you graduate to sentences, and paragraphs…and that is the part that appeals to me. When he types out, for practice purposes, properly structured, grammatically correct sentences, he will pick up proper language formation.
At what point do kids start to text on smartphones these days? Age 10, or earlier? Later? We all know it’s coming, if it hasn’t already…I don’t need to tell you how texting has evolved into a whole new language in itself. What with its abbreviations (lol for laugh out loud), number replacements in words (l8 for late) and its complete lack of regard toward sentence structure, or punctuation. Texting will certainly not help improve a child’s written work, whether for personal or school reasons. Texting may actually do more damage than good while a child is still learning the basic foundations of writing.
Which brings me back to typing lessons for kids.
I advocate for proper typing on a keyboard, even at a young age. But let them learn how to type properly. There are many good lessons available for free online that the kids can plug into. The one we’re using right now appeals to son, and I may even get our 1st grader involved if she asks (when she asks).
The challenge is that I do not see a smooth transition from the expectation of handing in typed, versus hand-written, assignments for school. There’s all this hype about how cursive writing is being dropped by the school curriculum (and frankly, I don’t really have much love for cursive writing myself). But what takes its place? Certainly not typing lessons. Or, is there a plan to introduce typing back into the curriculum? I remember in the 1980s, typing was an elective course we could take in grade 9…today’s world has changed significantly, and waiting until high school is no longer realistic to introduce typing to kids. Should it start in elementary school? If yes, when? And who should do the teaching?
Since no one can provide me with an adequate answer to any of my questions, I take it upon myself to teach the typing. Ultimately, it will be me who has to set up, guide and supervise the kids’ computer output. I hope that a proactive attitude will benefit both the kids, and myself, for future homework drama.
Because one thing I know for sure: this is only the beginning of the whole ‘kids and computers’ topic.