February 28, 2007

Handwriting and typing help

My son has been enjoying learning how to type with the SpongeBob Typing CD. I bought this several months ago and he liked it, but then found it frustrating. Now he is motivated to learn how to type because he is using the computer more at home and school, so he wants to use the keyboard. And he has better hand-eye coordination after piano lessons. So much seems to be having things in the house ready for him when he's ready...and I'm not always sure when that is.

He is quite intrigued by anything SpongeBob and this CD is very much in the upbeat, slightly silly SpongeBob style. There's a keyboard on the screen that he uses to help him find the keys as he types the words on the screen. He is up to 8 words a minute. (Edited later: He eventually clocked in at 11 words at minute and now must type even faster on his own while typing on Club Penguin.) We have tried other typing programs for younger kids, but this one seems both better and more sophisticated. Definitely worth checking out for a high tech parent.

(Additional: Check out this review chart of Top Ten Typing Programs for Kids: http://typing-for-kids-software-review.toptenreviews.com/ ) We use MacBooks at home, so our options were somewhat limited on which typing software to purchase. Still, I think that the SpongeBob works.

Another benefit to consider for those debating about their child learning to type: Typing using both hands. This is a good way to develop both sides of the brain and to get muscles going for playing the piano or other musical instruments. I am pretty sure that because I played the piano and learned to type in sixth grade, that I have more ambidextrous confidence.

After examining numerous workbooks and ideas on handwriting, we have found that the handwriting program that worked best for him is Handwriting without Tears. This program using an up-and-down, rather than slanted, style. The style is not filled with lavish curliques that make little sense for today's handwriters. Still, it flows together nicely and the results are pleasant and easy to read.

The workbooks are relatively inexpensive, nicely designed, and kid friendly. The program starts with activities for kindergartners and moves on up. I like that there are workbooks for printing and cursive improvement in fourth and fifth grade levels.

We found that going through the books was easily manageable in one to three pages at at time. We also bought the lined paper, which is different than the standard, three-lined learning tablets. The two-line paper is innovative but quite helpful. I would highly recommend the entire program.

Before we got into the HWT program, he practiced cursive handwriting using School-Rite's handwriting instruction guides. I bought these on sale at Kid's Palette (noted on side list) and was skeptical. But they seem to be working for him as he needs to feel the movement of cursive handwriting. The guides make letters that fit into paper lines that are about one inch, so this is large. Every letter has arrow directing the writer. We have both the uppercase and lowercase instruction guides, which I would recommend. The guides are heavy plastic that seem quite sturdy.

Edited in later: The guides don't follow the HWT modified style. In retrospect, the guides seemed like a good idea. But the HWT workbooks are the best and proved better in the long run.

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