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4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard


4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
What do you recommend for teaching the mouse and keyboard? This question comes up the first half of every school year, and with good reason. Not being able to efficiently use a mouse and keyboard really holds our youngest students back from being able to use devices.

They can't show us what they know because their technology literacy is usually limited to touchscreens and video games. Luckily, we can catch them up with a routine and consistent practice.

Tip #1: Start Early and Practice Often

Tip #1: Start Early and Practice Often

It is never too early to introduce children to the keyboard or mouse (I'm going to use mouse and trackpad interchangeably in this blog post). As soon as the child is beginning to identify letters, it is time. The mouse can be introduced even sooner!

You don't need fancy equipment or programs either. I recommend using old broken keyboards and mice as playroom toys for children to become accustomed to them. 

Tip #2: Use Unplugged Activities First

Tip #2: Use Unplugged Activities First

The last thing you want is the headache of running around from computer to computer fixing what inexperienced students just messed up. I learned this the hard way. It is amazing how fast a 6 year old can open 300 tabs or close out of everything you had prepared for their lesson. 

First, students need to learn the lingo for using a mouse and keyboard. We accomplish this by practicing on paper and talking about the vocabulary related to each. 

For example, a student needs to know all of these terms to use a mouse:
  • Hover
  • Click
  • Click and Drag
  • Double click
  • Right-click
  • Scroll
We can't expect a student to come to us knowing what these mean or how to do each of them. This is where Mouse Practice Mats come in. Click on either of these images to purchase the resource from my shop. 
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

Whether you use a mouse or trackpad, these unplugged printable activities will help your students learn the vocabulary and practice the skills before they ever get on a device. 

Use the work mats for a few practice sessions. They make a great station activity at the beginning of the school year. Check in with your students to see if they are understanding how to hold their hands and how to do each action with the mouse or trackpad. 

For the Keyboard, we do something similar. Students need to know all of these terms just to get started:
  • Key
  • Home row (though I don't ask them to use the home row until 2nd grade)
  • Caps Lock
  • Enter or Return
  • Delete or Backspace
  • Spacebar
  • Shift and what it does
No wonder a kindergarten student can't log in right away. There are some foreign terms to learn and there are SO many keys on a keyboard that it takes a long time to master. 

Again we start on paper with a variety of activities. 
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
We color a printable keyboard first. There are many different ways to color code a keyboard and I'm not sure I have a favorite. I usually start with color coding rows in PreK and Kindergarten before switching to having each finger color coded separately.
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
Here is an example of what I mean by each row is color coded. Check out the bonus section below for ideas for using this color coding to help students learn to log in. 

Here are the paper activities I use to teach the keyboard:

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

These photos are some of the activities in use in the classroom. They all make great station activities. Introduce them to students as a whole group and then have them rotate through the activities for how much time you have available. 
Tip #3 Use Educational Learning Games

Tip #3 Use Educational Learning Games

Once your students are ready to use the computers, it is time to practice their new skills for real! 

Here is a list of my favorite mouse practice websites:
Here's a list of my favorite beginner keyboarding websites:

Tip #4: Spiral Review Mouse and Keyboard Skills

Tip #4: Spiral Review Mouse and Keyboard Skills

This can't be a once and done activity. Students need consistent practice in order to use the mouse and keyboard efficiently. 

I like to make about 10 minutes per day skill review time. I give students options for what to do during the 10 minutes and just let them get to it. By consistently practicing, they continue building their skills over time. 

Bonus Tip: Logging In with Paper Practice Sheets

Bonus Tip: Logging In with Paper Practice Sheets

The goal of teaching students to use the mouse and keyboard is really that they can log in independently and access the day's activity, right?
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
You can get this login practice page to send home with your students Free in my Resource Library by clicking on the image. 

Whatever color coding you choose for your paper keyboards, you can also color your actual keyboards the same way. I use a sharpie paint marker to make a line and a dot on each key. The paint marker lasts about half of the school year before it needs to be touched up. 
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
If you create login cards for students, have them color code each letter of their username and password with the corresponding color on the keyboard row. 

By sending home the login practice pages with students, they will pick it up much faster. 

Now you know how I teach the mouse and keyboard to my youngest students. Do you have any other methods that work particularly well? I'd love to hear from you!

    4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

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    Brittany Washburn
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    Teaching the 4 C's with Robots in the Elementary Classroom

    Teaching the 4 C's with Robots in the Elementary Classroom


    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.
    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

    An Explanation of the 4 C's

    Critical Thinking - this one is all about finding solutions to problems. Can students conceptualize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information for the purpose of problem solving?

    Collaboration - working with others (includes social emotional learning). Collaboration requires learning and working in groups or teams to achieve a goal. 

    Creativity - thinking outside the box. Creativity requires the use of imagination and original ideas to solve problems. 

    Communication - conveying ideas. Communication as a skill requires students to be able to use different mediums to show what they know. 
    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

    An Explanation of Unplugged Coding

    Coding is really trendy right now in education and that makes my tech-heart so happy! 

    Coding concepts can be taught in so many different ways. A lot of us are using programs like Scratch and Code dot org to teach students the fundamentals. These programs are very effective, but are lacking the collaborative nature of group work in the classroom. 

    Using robots like the Code and Go Mouse, Bee Bots, Sphero, and Dash and Dot are what I mean when I say Unplugged Coding. Using these robots still works on coding fundamentals, but it takes us away from the computer screen (though some of these Bots still have a user interface on a screen). 

    Learning coding concepts in this way is great for all ages, and particularly effective for beginners. You see, coding is mostly done in the mind anyway. We just put the code into the computer to test what we planned out and see if it works. If it does work, then we have a computer program that can do the thing we want. If it doesn't work, we have to troubleshoot it and think of a different solution. It is happening in our minds. 

    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

    I like to give the example of sending a Kindergarten student out on an errand at school. Let's say we need the student to take a message to the school secretary, get a response, and bring it back to the classroom. We have to give the student all of the directions before the student leaves the classroom. The student then needs to follow the directions exactly in order to make it back to the classroom with the return message. We only get one chance to get it right. Well, coding is like that too. We come up with the entire program and then run it to test the whole thing. If any part is incorrect then we won't have the intended outcome and we have to make an adjustment and try again. 

    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

    Combining the 4 C's with Unplugged Coding using VoCode

    Nearly any academic topic can be integrated with coding. I've created tons of activity card sets that work with any coding robot so that we can bring these great skills into the computer lab or classroom. 
    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

    How to Use:
    • The most straightforward way to use these activities is to have students program their bot to go to one term at a time.
    • To add a challenge, give students multiple stopping points for their path.
    • This might mean choosing 5 cards from the pile and that is the order in which they need to write their program.
    • Add levels of complexity by requiring students to program in “jumping over” pieces or spaces, and “collecting” and “discarding” the pieces they picked from the pile.
    • Due to the factor of choice in these activities, there are no answer keys. Have students check each other.

    By completing these activities in small groups of 2-4 students, they will be incorporating the 4 C's every step of the way. 

    I love listening in to their conversations as they discuss how to program the robot to go to the correct spot(s) on the grid. There is almost always more than one path they could take, so students in the group all have to agree before they can proceed. 
    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

    Students fill out the recording sheet as a group to show their thought process along the way. This makes a great assessment piece if you need it. I usually just look it over for completeness. This might not be popular opinion, but I don't think coding should be graded on anything except completeness. Did it do the intended thing? Because there are so many ways to accomplish the end result and I wouldn't want to limit students by a rubric or expected process. 
    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

    Even if you don't have robots, you can still use these activities! Each set comes with a "No Bots" option. Students use a paper grid and mini pieces to map out their own plan. 
    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.
    How about getting the PE teacher involved? The Life-Size option would be great at recess or during PE or for students who need to physically move through the activity in order to understand it. There really is an option for everyone!
    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

    Now that you see how VoCode activities work, here is how they tie into the 4 C's: 
    Critical Thinking - students need to consider all possible solutions and create one path that will get the right result.

    Collaboration - students work together to solve the problem.

    Creativity - there might be multiple right answers so students have to think outside the box to solve the problem.

    Communication - once students have the solution, they still need to communicate it with each other and onto the recording sheet. 

    Ready to try some of these activities with your students? Click on the images below to check out all of the topics





    When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C's are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C's stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C's at once - Unplugged Coding.

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    Brittany Washburn
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    Teaching Soft Skills in the Computer Lab using Digital Breakout Challenges

    Teaching Soft Skills in the Computer Lab using Digital Breakout Challenges


    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.
    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

    What is Social Emotional Learning?

    When I say Social Emotional Learning, I'm talking about Soft Skills. Things like communication, collaboration, perseverance, and problem solving. 

    There is a major trend in education now to bring Social Emotional Learning (SEL) back into the classroom. I'm not sure if it always was there and we were just calling it something else, but it is here in a big way now. 

    Everywhere you turn, people are talking about Character Education. How this generation of kids don't know how to get along. How kids can't communicate anymore. How they give up easily and don't persevere. How they can't solve their own problems. 

    Have you noticed this, too?
    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

    Bringing SEL into the Classroom

    Soft Skills might seem like a task for the School Counselor. Let him/her come in and teach a lesson once a month, right? Wrong! 

    SEL is something that we need to work on every day in order for it to stick. 

    Luckily, it can be integrated into pretty much any subject area. There are even a few common core standards that have wording to encourage soft skills. 

    BUT, when we put students on a "program" on the computer, they aren't working on any of these skills (maybe perseverance, but the program probably avoids frustrating students for logical reasons). 

    Things are about to change, friends. 

    Digital Breakouts

    You may be asking what a Digital Breakout is, and what is has to do with computer lab time and soft skills. Keep reading. 

    If you've use any interactive notebooking concepts, you can do a digital breakout. It is an easy transition of skills. 

    Interactive notebook to Digital interactive notebook to Digital Breakout. Let me break it down for you. 

    Interactive notebooks have pieces to cut and paste, things to write or draw, and it is all done in a notebook on paper. 
    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

    Digital interactive notebooks have these things in digital format. For example, cut and paste becomes click and drag. Write becomes Type. Draw becomes Use the Shape Tools to create a graphic. 
    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.


    Digital Breakouts (the way I make them) are basically a Digital Interactive Notebook with one additional layer - the codes. 
    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.
    The Hint for this one says "How many parts are included in the citation of an online article?" So, students complete the digital activity, but the code could be related or something completely different. It requires students to practice problem solving and perseverance. 

    Each slide has a placeholder for the Code and when students are ready, they enter the codes into a locked Google Form. 
    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.
    The form only allows correct answers, so it is self-checking. Once students input all correct answers, they can submit it and get their certificate. 
    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

    Soft Skills and Digital Breakouts

    What do these things have in common? They require students to work together.

    I almost never have students do a Digital Breakout independently. Groups of 2-3 students is ideal. 

    This makes them collaborate, communicate, persevere, and problem solve together. 

    Collaborate - small groups can divide up the puzzles and codes or choose to work through them together. 

    Communicate - students have the opportunity to talk. I know, I know, how dare I let my students talk in class! haha I take this time as the teacher to facilitate their communication and work on skills with them if I need to step in. 

    Persevere - these puzzles are going to challenge them. They have to keep at it even if the group is arguing or frustrated about something. 

    Problem Solving - they can't complete the digital breakout until all of the answers are correct. Not all of the puzzles are straightforward. Some have multiple layers to solve, kind of like a word problem. There is extra info, missing info, they have to work across slides (pages) to find the answers.

    My brother is a Computer Engineer. He spends his day staring at a computer screen. Yet, he has to work with others at almost every step of every project. 

    When he was interviewing for the position, most of the questions they asked of him were about his ability to communicate and work with a team. It is unavoidable! 

    So, it has become my mission to get students talking and working together in the computer lab. Gone are the days where they plug in their headphones and work independently the entire time. 
    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.


    Are you ready to dive in and try a Digital Breakout?
    I have tons of topics already. Click on a link to see the options.
    Internet Safety
    Online Research
    Online Test Taking Tools
    Coding Vocabulary
    Keyboards
    Computer Parts
    Computer Lab Rules K-2
    Computer Lab Rules 3-5

    Or would you like to learn to build your own Digital Breakouts?
    Make Your Own Digital Breakouts

    As always, I want to hear from you! What are you doing to encourage students to work on SEL in the computer lab or any time they are using technology? Fill me in!

    It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

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    Brittany Washburn
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    How to Engage Introverts Using Technology

    How to Engage Introverts Using Technology


    Technology is a great way to engage more introverted students in the classroom. No matter what you teach, differentiated learning with technology is a great way to get those more shy and introverted kids involved in classroom activities and responses. Technology can also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and proficiency without putting them on the spot.
    How To Use Technology In The Classroom To Engage Introverts

    Technology is a great way to engage more introverted students in the classroom. No matter what you teach, differentiated learning with technology is a great way to get those more shy and introverted kids involved in classroom activities and responses. Technology can also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and proficiency without putting them on the spot. 

    So, what exactly is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert? Well, it depends on who you talk to, but there are a few different ways that you can define the difference. One definition of an introvert is that they are recharged when they are by themselves, while an extrovert prefers groups and can gain momentum and energy with groups. When I teach students the difference between the two, some kids will say that introverts hate people, but really, introverts just prefer a few close friends and small groups, while extroverts have a lot of friends and prefer large groups. At the same time, a person can be an outgoing introvert or a shy extrovert. The more out there with a lot of connections you have, the more successful you may be. So how do we as teachers support and engage more shy students and introverts in the classroom to help them be more successful? 

    Technology is a great way to engage more introverted students in the classroom. No matter what you teach, differentiated learning with technology is a great way to get those more shy and introverted kids involved in classroom activities and responses. Technology can also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and proficiency without putting them on the spot.

    Using Polling Applications For Q&A 

    There are so many applications that give teachers new ways to engage students in the classroom. Here is a link to a list of some of the best survey and polling technology for the classroom!  With this type of tech, the teachers and the students benefit. You can ask questions and get answers in real time to see how well students are understanding the lesson. 

    Piazza is an application that allows students to ask questions anonymously so they may feel more free to express themselves and their questions without being put on the spot during class.  

    PollEverywhere, in addition to allowing multiple choice questions, you can brainstorm ideas and see the most popular rise to the top. You can have students ask questions and then vote on which question is the most relevant or popular with the students. 

    Sli.do Is one of the best sources out there for crowdsourcing questions. 
    Differentiated Learning With Technology
    Another thing to be aware of with introverted students is to give more varied options for participation in class as well as how they may present their projects. Here are some ideas different ways an introverted student could present

    A presentation could be pre-recorded as a video or a voice-over. 

    Students could use Glogster to create a poster. 

    Build relationships and communities with students through technology. If a student is painfully shy or can’t work in a group, then make the group smaller, use different ways to communicate online. Make fun activities with technology like a meme-making-project. 

    What kinds of ways do you try and engage introverted students? How do you build a better classroom community with technology?




    Technology is a great way to engage more introverted students in the classroom. No matter what you teach, differentiated learning with technology is a great way to get those more shy and introverted kids involved in classroom activities and responses. Technology can also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and proficiency without putting them on the spot.
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    Brittany Washburn
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    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom

    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom

    Glogster EDU is a great way for teachers and students alike to creatively express knowledge and skills. The platform can be used to design online media posters for all sorts of presentations - whether teaching a lesson or sharing what they've learned. They can be shared in various formats - on LCD projectors, interactive whiteboards, and even on websites. They can be worked on at school and at home. And teachers can even use Glogster to teach “How To Use Glogster”.

    If you’re looking for a really cool and easy way to integrate technology into your classroom, Glogster is a very intuitive way to do it. Instead of the hassle of building dioramas or tri-fold posters, Glogster allows students create online posters with pictures, videos, text, GIFs, links, and citations. Glogster gives any subject a reason to use technology, here are a few innovative ways that you can use it in your classroom.

    Rainforest or ocean dioramas…

    I know, dioramas are like very exciting and cool in elementary. But they are also very labor intensive and require a lot of physical resources and parent help. Glogster is a way to give diverse learners, or students with less resources another way to show what they’ve learned while simultaneously integrated technology.

    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom



    Posters on influential people…

    Every year, and often in multiple classes, students are given the assignment to create some sort of presentation on a person. With Glogster, students can blend videos, pictures, and information in a way they could never on a tri-fold.




    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom



    Integrating Math and Science and Art and Technology…

    Glogster is naturally a amalgamate of multiple subjects. By simply adding it to your class projects you’re integrating technology, and if you make it a group project or cooperate with another subject, then Glogster becomes an incredibly powerful learning tool for students.



    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


    Presentations on different countries and cultures…



    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


    Lessons on different types of careers…



    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


    Glogster Is Also A Teaching Tool!!

    Another way you can use Glogster is to teach! This application isn’t just for students, but there are tons of resources and lessons already built in Glogpedia, and it’s open for you to create your own Glogster to teach and demo to your students how to use it.



    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


    The list for how to use Glogster goes on and on. With all these incredible options, it is a great option for diverse learners and an amazing way to fully integrate technology in the classroom.
    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


    What kind of cool ways have you used Glogster in the classroom? Share some of the amazing work of your students in the comments below!




    6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom

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    Brittany Washburn
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