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Keyboarding for a 5yo?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

DS (5) is in a Magic Treehouse Phase, and we have spent a number of days in character already (interestingly, he wants to be Annie, because she is "braver", even though he is a lot more like Jack himself).


He has also started to "write" MTH stories for himself. Traveling to and from the seaside on the train, he has dictated two "volumes" to me and added drawings himself. I am quite proud of his stamina: they run over several (rather short and plagiarized, of course) chapters, have a beginning and ending and make sense, with only very few prompts from me "I think you need to include a sentence about how they knew this", or "I think you should put "Annie and Jack" here instead of just "they", as it's the beginning of a new chapter; the like. I have really tried hard not to intrude into his creative process.


So I can actually do other stuff as he spends time on this, we have allowed him to type the next "volume" on DH's machine (he also does the drawing now with a graphic program, I could not persuade him that his crayon drawings look much prettier and can always be scanned and added) and I have promised him we will print out the book.


Of course he uses all lower case, takes forever for every line, uses a lot of creative spelling and only rudimentary punctuation (I am actually quite impressed how well he spells, you can tell he's been reading a lot on his own lately) and basically calls me over after every sentence to show proudly what he's written and to ask me to save it. But apart from that he is incredibly focused and persistent, in ways I haven't seen in any activity for a long time - and the story so far is perfectly legible and makes sense. I shall enjoy printing it out. I am thinking of making two versions, print out his original work and one that's been corrected for spelling and punctuation.


I am wondering if there is any way to facilitate his keyboarding, so he can focus more on the creative process and will not eventually become too frustrated by the slow speed? is it even possible with 5yo hands to (sort of) touch type, it doesn't have to be perfect touch typing of course, just make things easier and faster? Would he need a special keyboard? Or should I try to set up an old notebook with smaller keys for him? (Sounds like the perfect solution actually if only I could get rid of that horrribly slow and unstable Windows Vista - I know there are ways to replace it with a more stable Windows version but so far I have been too chicken to try, I am not much of a tech person).


Anyone with experience in the matter of little authors?

post #2 of 6
You could be describing my son.

At that age, we recorded his stories on cassette tape. The alternative is to have you type it for him, secretary style. Or keep going as you are if he's not frustrated. My son lacked the patience at that age to bother typing it. Now, at 16, he types faster than I can, has written a few good stories that I think can be polished a bit and published, and has me working on a TV series with him.

Enjoy the stories! I bet we see his name in print somewhere someday!
post #3 of 6

Yeah, my kids learned to type organically. It was too much at that age to learn systematically. Although I offered fun touch-typing software, the learning curve is just so darned long, and it requires such self-discipline to keep looking at the screen and not your fingers. They had only very passing interest such software. 


By age 8 or so they were developing a more intuitive feel for the keyboard and getting much faster. By age 10-12 they were more ready for a systematic approach to improve their speed and accuracy. Ds never did anything systematic, and uses some fairly unconventional technique, but he's fast, keyboarding is easy for him, and doesn't have to look at is hands very often.


I think it's just one of the realities of childhood that stories come out of one's head a lot faster than they can be transcribed. If it's interfering with his flow, you could record his dictation electronically (on the computer, eg.) and let him transcribe from that. Or come to it later and transcribe for him. If you want to spend a chunk of money, you could buy Dragon Naturally Speaking which will do voice recognition on the computer. But most kids struggle with output speed for a few years, and cope one way or another. If you're willing to take dictation occasionally, that's wonderful, and I'm sure that, combined with his own tediously slow work at the computer, will keep his interest in story-writing well-nurtured.



post #4 of 6

It sounds like he's enjoying keyboarding. Is that correct? And you just want him to build his skills so he will be able to go faster and be more pleased with his output?


Check out the Dance Mat program on the BBC website. It's designed for little kids. I don't think you need to buy him anything special. My kids are not great typists — they lacked the persistance that your little guy is showing — but at 8 my dd2 is perfectly comfortable with a regular sized keyboard and has been for quite some time. That's just a few years away for your guy. I suppose you could get him an old NetBook if you wanted him to have a smaller keyboard, but I don't think that's really necessary.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

beanma, what a fun resource! I enjoyed trying it out myself - only as English is not our first language, it won't work properly with our keyboard. I googled for some similar local resources and have found one that I am sure he will enjoy as soon as he's a bit older but after trying these programs out I have to conclude, regretfully, that DS, right now, really is not old enough to learn systematically - I think I'd rather introduce frustration than ward it off. But that's already one question answered - touch typing isn't the solution at this point, but as soon as he expresses an interest in learning it, I can introduce these resources to him and let him go to town, or not.


Miranda, thanks for your long thoughtful post. I think I will back off for now and just be around as a resource to help with troubleshooting and let his typing grow "organically" (love that image!). So far, his typing isn't all that much slower than his inventing, he thinks a long time about every sentence (which made the scribing very slow, too, at least for me). And he still spends a lot of time struggling with getting the cursor where he wants it to be, and with paragraphs and pagebreaks and so on. Right now he is enjoying the independence though, too! Reminds me of how he taught himself how to read, asking lots of phonics questions, but working things out for himself from there, and not showing how well he could read until he had it down. 


I think it is good advice to occasionally scribe for him to help him over frustrating phases, but I will type for him - I think it may work better than the scribing, because he cannot read my cursive (um, he's not the only one - I have terrible handwriting, even though I struggled to write very nicely for his sake) but he could read what I am typing on the screen which might help with the creative flow.  I do not think recording is the right tool for him either - he needs to see what is happening on the page or screen and enjoys watching the project grow.


I just love what he's doing, and love watching how proud he is about it, I do hope I can sustain and nurture this interest. He will probably have to take a creative break anyway when school starts in 10 days, because his energy will be absorbed by all the new challenges. But right now it seems to perfect project - he wants to sit down and write right after breakfast!

post #6 of 6

I was a young writer.  I was a couple years older than your son when my parents got me a copy of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, and I learned to type pretty quickly from that.  Not super well, but well enough.  I didn't become a really fast touch typer until I was a teenager and talking to friends online on a BBS.  I think having the motivation to type faster and better (in my case, my friends) really helps, and it sounds like your son has a great motivation at the moment, so he might figure a lot out on his own.  But a typing program with games could help him not develop bad habits if he really takes off with it.


My 2 1/2 year old just came up and appropriately shouted, "Type letters!  Type letters!"  :-)  I'm predicting we'll be thinking about the same thing in a few years, since he's another motivated storyteller.

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