The 12 students I teach at the end of every day have just returned from PE, sweaty and ready to go home. I have the pleasure of teaching them touch typing at just those moments. In my 4 years of teaching, this is universally the students’ least favorite class.

Forget the bad timing, that’s not why they generally hate this class. It turns out that overcoming several years of hunt-and-peck technique is incredibly difficult.

The black keyboards were my first experiment. I had a bunch of spare keyboards that I painted black to permanently cover the letters. Every day, I plug in the blanked-out keyboards before the students arrive.

Usually, the students balked, then attempted their old ways, then started guessing at the letters. In the past, they’ve not gotten very far towards learning the positions of the keys without looking.

This class is different. I try not to jinx it by asking a bunch of questions, but here are my suspicions of why it’s working:

  • Don’t drag it out. My schedule covers the entire touch typing course in Typing Master in about 5 weeks. I’m fortunate to get a different batch of students every 6 weeks (we’ve implemented a mini-mester elective program where students rotate regularly).
  • Constantly roam the room to correct technique. If a student reaches for the “r” with the wrong finger more than a few times, it’ll become ingrained incorrectly. Correct those mistakes early!
  • Build in friendly competition to inject a little fun. The picture above is from a weekly head-to-head competition where students cheer each other on. However, I’ve discovered that, like in golf, I need to apply a handicapping system so that every student has a chance of winning.
  • Play techno music. The thumpa-thumpa beat adds a rhythm to the keying. My students now ask for the music! I use an iTunes radio station from either the Dance or Electronic category.

If you’re inclined to, keep your fingers crossed for me that I continue having success with the young keyboarders in my charge!