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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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