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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
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


    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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