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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:
Typing Story Mats (in the free resource library)

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:
If you're looking for it all to be organized for you, then I'll recommend checking out my full year Kindergarten Tech Curriculum

Or try these web based digital activities to introduce students to the keyboard:



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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    Technology or Computer Lab Pacing Guide

    Technology or Computer Lab Pacing Guide


    Technology or Computer Lab Pacing Guide
    It can be challenging to know what to teach and when in the computer lab. Six different grade levels, rotating schedules, standards that are complex. No wonder many new tech teachers end up teaching the same lesson 6 different ways when they first get started. I was one of them.

    My goal with putting together this pacing guide is to give you an idea of how I choose to structure the year. Please know that there isn't really a wrong way to do this. If you want to start the year with internet safety, for example, do it. If you want to end every year with internet safety, for example, that is great too.

    It is probably also advisable to keep things flexible. Things come up. Snow days, field trips, testing, you get it. You won't be able to stick to the pacing most years (which is why you might notice that May on my guide is pretty vague).

    It can be challenging to know what to teach and when in the computer lab. Six different grade levels, rotating schedules, standards that are complex. No wonder many new tech teachers end up teaching the same lesson 6 different ways when they first get started. I was one of them.
     Let's jump right into it now. I've made this a PDF so that you can click the resources I curated. Click on the picture above to download this free file.

    Kindergarten Tech Lab Pacing 

    Kindergarten Tech Lab Pacing
    Kindergarten needs to master the mouse and keyboard before they can move efficiently on the computer. You'll see the beginning of the year dedicated to this. The awesome thing, though, is that there are great academic resources available to both practice the mouse and keyboard and reinforce what students are doing in the classroom. Score!
    Once these skills are mastered, it is time to move into internet safety, followed by some basic coding.
    The PDF version of the pacing guide has the list of resources I use to teach each of these topics. Check them out for more details.

    First Grade Tech Lab Pacing

    First Grade Tech Lab Pacing
    First grade starts with a solid review of the mouse and keyboard. I learned the hard way that it isn't possible to just jump into the content without making time for those foundational skills.
    Mid-fall it is time for Internet Safety. This is a unit that hits every skill set in the computer lab so I like to really dig in with 1st graders.
    December is a great time for some academic content (math and ELA) so that students are engaged but also preparing for the tougher skills to come in the next units.
    1st grade is when I introduce word processing and presentation software. We do really basic things with the software programs while learning to navigate.
    Then, it is time for coding! Such a fun unit as first graders explore coding robots while reinforcing some technology vocabulary.
    Something I think is really important for first grade is the ability to respond to reading using technology. We accomplish this through tech themed picture books and digital book companion activities.
    If there is any time left at the end of the year, we review all of the skills.

    Second Grade Tech Lab Pacing

    Second Grade Tech Lab Pacing
     Don't tell anyone, but I think 2nd graders are my favorite. They are just so sweet and eager to learn.
    Anyway, I like to start the year with a quick tech vocab review and then jump into a keyboarding unit that lasts about a month and a half (depending on schedule). Their hands are finally big enough to reach all the keys on the keyboard so I take this time to establish good habits and efficiency.
    After our typing unit, it is time for internet safety. I love these digital activities that reinforce the common sense media curriculum.
    December is Hour of Code, so we make it last the whole month!
    When students get back from break, we really dig into software programs with units on word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets. I'm always blown away by my 2nd graders abilities to learn these complex programs. I try to keep the lessons as simple as possible so that the academic content doesn't get in the way of learning technology literacy. So far so good.
    By April, students have regressed in their typing skills so we do a review unit again, this time including some advanced skills like learning some keyboard shortcuts.
    If there is any time left, we do some open ended technology projects that you could call STEM or Makerspace.

    Third Grade Tech Lab Pacing

    Third Grade Tech Lab Pacing
    Third grade jumps right into word processing after going over the lab rules and procedures. I love this unit. They come out the other side total pros because we spend about 8 weeks going through each skill in a structured but meaningful way.
    After our word processing unit we dig into digital citizenship with 4-5 weeks of lessons. Then, time for a typing bootcamp.
    You see, the 2nd grade unit we did won't retain the skills forever. Every year students need to keep working on keyboarding otherwise the bad habits will sneak back in. So, we do what we call typing olympics for 4 weeks using a variety of typing activities.
    Sometimes (depending on the schedule) we end up doing a week of Hour of Code in the middle of our typing unit, but its fine. It gets done.
    After break, we do units on presentation software and spreadsheets. Again keeping the academic content mild so that students can really understand the programs and not get bogged down with reading.
    Next comes some lessons on the basics of online search. Students are learning what search engines are and how to use them to find information. I make it engaging by using digital breakouts (it is like those escape rooms you've probably seen, but digital).
    By April we have to review keyboarding so I do it in a way that also prepares students for their standardized tests. The activities are similar to those found on computer based tests.
    If there is time left in May, we work on coding with robots and do some Makerspace time.

    Fourth Grade Tech Lab Pacing

    Fourth Grade Tech Lab Pacing
    The fourth grade year starts with tech vocab and technology troubleshooting. I think it is really important that students this age can successfully troubleshoot basic tech problems. We also take the time to make sure students understand the technology standards we use. I love that they get a deep dive into what each standard means, and I get materials for bulletin boards for the whole school year. It is a win-win!
    Then comes a unit on Internet Safety. I love Digital Passport by Common Sense Media for 4th graders. We reinforce the skills with some digital breakouts.
    4th grade is when students really learn the online research process. Everything from how to narrow down a search to taking notes to creating bibliographies. It is an intense unit but it thrills the 4th grade teachers to see how their students' skills develop.
    We slip in Hour of Code but don't worry, we do a full coding unit later. If there is time before winter break, I like to reinforce the online research skills with some digital breakouts. It is wild before Christmas!
    When they come back, they learn about spreadsheets, word processing, and creating presentations with engaging lessons.
    Before we know it it's April and time to prepare for online standardized testing. I try to keep this review engaging by using another digital breakout (can you tell my students love them? They don't even know they are learning).
    We end the year with an advanced coding unit using a variety of resources. You could hear a pin drop in the room while students are learning these skills. They take so much brain power.
    By the way, my 4th and 5th graders type for 10 minutes at the beginning of every session so that is why you don't see a dedicated typing unit.

    Fifth Grade Tech Lab Pacing

    Fifth Grade Tech Lab Pacing
    I really push my 5th graders to be as independent and responsible as possible on their devices. This starts with lessons on troubleshooting and they also learn the ins and outs of our technology standards the same way the 4th graders did.
    Then it is time to review online research. I keep this at about 3-4 lessons that go over narrowing down search results to find relevant information and evaluating websites. The skills they will need for our next units.
    We go further down the rabbit hole of tech vocab than any other grade level. Students learn even obscure terms while also reviewing their keyboarding skills.
    Once that is done, it is time for internet safety using a variety of resources.
    December is time for lots of coding activities and I try to use different coding languages than they have learned before. They love it.
    We spend the winter doing lessons on spreadsheets, word processing, and presentation software. I like to come back to these programs every year and go a bit more advanced each time. It really reinforces the skills.
    In April it is time to review TEI (technology enhanced items) for their online standardized testing. We do this with a digital breakout and some google slides activities.
    Just like in 4th grade we end the year with coding. We use a variety of resources and languages.

    Phew! Now you have my whole plan. If you're looking for any specific topics that aren't included, email me and I'll do my best to help you find resources.

    Technology or Computer Lab Pacing Guide

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    Brittany Washburn
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    Educational Games You Want Your Kids to Get Hooked On

    Educational Games You Want Your Kids to Get Hooked On


    Kids love technology - especially when it’s fun.

    Kids love technology - especially when it’s fun. There are so many options for various grades and subjects. You can set up apps on a laptop, desktop, tablet, or smart phone. You may even be required by school to do some kind of online game or practice with your kids at home via IXL.com or Starfall. As with any type of game or application, it’s import to monitor your kids games, because even though these are fun and educational, they may not always choose the most challenging educational game to get hooked on. Encourage your kids to be challenged, and maybe even compete with them to encourage all kinds of learning.

    Below I’ve arranged the websites and games by subject, grade, or type of educational website.

    First up, are the big major educational game websites.


    ABCya has games for math, reading, letters, strategy, and all kinds of random information. The games range from PreK-5th grade. The games can be played on a laptop or iPhone. Kids even in to middle school seem to enjoy beating these games when they can. The downside of ABCya is that it isn’t always the best match for other subjects like science or social studies, but kids have a ball with it.


    RoomRecess has similar games to ABCya for Kindergarten through 6th grade in math, reading, and technology. Some of the highlights are that they have mouse skills and typing games. It’s amazing how many kids have never used a mouse. RoomRecess does not have an iOS app, but they have a whole list of games that can be played on a mobile device here: http://www.roomrecess.com/pages/MobileGames.html


    Digipuzzle is another major educational game website. It covers a lot of different skills and subjects, mostly around math and reading, but they don’t really have the games arranged by age or grade, that could be frustrating for a kid and teacher.


    PBSkids has all kinds of apps, stories, and games for elementary aged kids. Their game section covers science, math, reading, creativity, literacy, music, AND social emotional! They have a TON of apps to choose from in the app store!


    Starfall is a popular website and application for very young children just learning to read and do math. It you’re a parent, there are a lot of free apps with games for younger kids to learn to read, recognize letters and sight words, as well as basic math skills.


    Brain Pop and BrainPop Jr. are again a conglomeration of games, but these range from Kindergarten to 12th grade and cover pretty much every subject. BrainPop has apps and games for every subject and uses Common Core Standards to create its games. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, BrainPop require a subscription to access everything, but the free stuff is still fun!  
    Kids love technology - especially when it’s fun.

    Okay! Now that I’ve covered some of the major educational games and applications, let me give you EVEN MORE! There are so many subject and age specific games that you can find, but let me help you a bit:

    For math:

    • Hoodamath.com has over 1000 free math games for Kindergarten through 12th grade. And, yep, there’s an app.
    • Practicalmoneyskills.com is a great source for middle school and high school math. It uses sport and practical skills to help kids understand money better.
    • Progidygame.com is for first through 8th grade, and has a free and paid versions. There also is an iOS application for the math games!
    • Geoboard is a cool application that helps kids understand shapes!

     For Technology/Coding

    Language/Social Studies

    • Seterra.com is great for geography tests and skills.
    • Duolingo is a great app for language.
    • Mindsnacks are even more fun than Duolingo for language, but costs about $4 per games.
    • Gus On the Go is a language application for young kids, but also costs to install on a tablet or smart device.

    Social emotional/mindfulness

    • Headspace is a great app that is subscription based, and they have mindfulness training for kids!
    • Three Good Things is a super easy app that help you to keep track of the good things that happen through the day. It’s less of a game, and more of a daily journal, but it’s great for helping kids be more aware of what good is happening around them.

    I hope that these games are what you’ve been looking for to get your kids learning all the time everywhere!




    Kids love technology - especially when it’s fun.


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    Brittany Washburn
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    Using Sphero BOLT In the Elementary Classroom

    Using Sphero BOLT In the Elementary Classroom


    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom.

    One of the coolest parts of the job as a tech teacher is getting to play with robots so naturally I was thrilled when Sphero offered to send me their newest robotic ball, BOLT to try out.

    After I made sure BOLT was charged, setting it up to use took less than 5 minutes. I downloaded the app, connected the bot, and tapped around to find the controls.

    I had never played with any Sphero bot before, so this was very fun for me. I was immediately impressed with how well BOLT moves. Not only is this bot fast, but the controls from the app are also more accurate than other bots I've used. I wanted to make sure that I had a solid understanding of what could be done with BOLT, so I headed to the Sphero website to find out.

    From the Sphero website:
    •  available for download on iOS. Works with the Sphero Arcade and Sphero Template playgrounds

    Tech Specs

    • Bluetooth Compatibility: Bluetooth Smart
    • Batteries: Rechargeable lithium-ion
    • Battery life: 2+ hours
    • Charge Time: 6 hours
    • Height: 73mm diameter sphere
    • Weight: 200g

    Video


    Features 

    • Learn to code by drawing, using Scratch blocks, or writing JavaScript text with the Sphero Edu app. 
    • The colorful LED matrix is fully programmable and easy on the eyes.

    • BOLT to BOLT infrared communication allows for new games and advanced movements.
    • Auto aim your robot thanks to the built-in compass.
    • An ambient light sensor allows you to program based on your room’s brightness.
    • A long battery life of 2+ hours per charge can handle even your biggest projects.
    • It’s fun to take for a spin. Simply drive BOLT and play games.
    • BOLT is approachable yet advanced with more features, more power, and more fun.
    • What's In The Box

      • Sphero BOLT
      • Inductive Charging Base with USB cable
      • Protractor with heading, directions, and clock
      • Sticker sheet
      • Quick Start Guide to get you rolling
      • Sphero Edu app available for download on iOS, Android, Kindle, Mac, Windows, and Chrome
      • Sphero Play app available for download on iOS, and Android
      • S
      • wift Playgrounds app available for download on iOS. Works with the Sphero Arcade and S
      • phero Template playgrounds

      Tech Specs

      • Bluetooth Compatibility: Bluetooth Smart
      • Batteries: Rechargeable lithium-ion
      • Battery life: 2+ hours
      • Charge Time: 6 hours
      • Height: 73mm diameter sphere
      • Weight: 200g

      Video


    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom.

    Using Sphero BOLT in the Elementary Classroom

    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom.

    The Sphero Edu app has everything you need to program your BOLT. I set mine up on my iPhone first to try it but I definitely recommend an iPad for using with students. 
    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom.
    This is what the "remote control" screen looks like, and it is even cuter on an iPad. It lets you choose the color of the display (which naturally I made coral) and then lets you drive BOLT around like a remote control car. Students will love exploring how BOLT moves using this screen. I recommend starting here with a guided activity so that students can learn what BOLT is capable of before using the bot to do learning activities. 


    Interested in 9 Digital STEM Challenges to go along with Sphero BOLT? There is a file in the TRY section of my Free Resource Library that you can use with students. Just sign up for a free account and then navigate to the "Activities to TRY" area and look for the picture of BOLT to find the activity. 
    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom.


    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom.
    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom. 

    Q: How do I aim BOLT?
    A: Unique to BOLT, this robot can be auto-aimed. Simply tap the aiming button within the app to get started. *It is really cute too. When I tested this out with my 4 year old nephew we joked that BOLT's butt needs to be facing us and we made it do a little dance with the aiming feature.*

    Q: How do I charge BOLT?
    A: Plug the charging cradle into a USB power adapter and directly into a wall outlet.

    Q: Is BOLT waterproof?
    A: Yes.

    Q: Where do I download the app?
    A: Search for "Sphero EDU” in iTunes or Google Play stores to download for free.

    Q: What is the battery life?
    A: BOLT has the long battery life of 2+ hours on full charge. *Keep this in mind if you plan to use it all day with students. You'll need to recharge a few times.*

    Q: What is the range on BOLT?
    A: BOLT has a 100 foot range.

    Q: Are there accessories available for BOLT?
    A: Each BOLT robot comes with a protractor, sticker sheet and a quick start guide to get you rolling

    Q: Will the app come in my language?
    A: BOLT is available in the following languages: English, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified to Traditional), French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish.

    BOLT uses Scratch Coding Blocks

    The block coding feels just like what we are already used to with Scratch, just laid out a bit differently. Everything is there that you would expect, from the motion to the sensing to the sounds blocks sections. It ends up being very meaningful for students to code something on the app and then physically see the result with BOLT. 
    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom.

    If your students are ready, you can even have them explore and contribute to the growing community files on the Sphero website. This makes it a collaborative experience because it gives students the ability to see and test other codes. 

    Are you starting to think about how you want to use BOLT in the classroom? 

    Take a moment to read through these Q&A directly from the Sphero team.

    Sphero Q&A

    Q: How does BOLT differ from SPRK+?
    A: BOLT is our most advanced robot to date. BOLT has seven sensors (motor, encoders, gyroscope, accelerometer, 8x8 matrix, infrared, magnetometer and light sensor), four of them being unique to BOLT (8x8 matrix, infrared, magnetometer and light sensor).


    Q: Are these products geared solely for the classroom?

    A: Our robots are designed to mirror life, both within and beyond the classroom. There are limitless opportunities to recreate, reinvent, and redefine. Our goal is to keep kids learning through the excitement of play.

    Q: What does the acquisition of Specdrums mean for Sphero?
    A: We’re thrilled to be bringing in the Specdrums team to tap into the “A” of STEAM learning. We’ll have more on this in November!

    Q: Will there be any future Disney products?
    A: Through our relationship with Disney we were able to learn from the best in the business in terms of making personalities come to life. Our goal with future products will be to draw on that, as well as continue to build on our successes, expand creative play and STEAM efforts, and keep products scalable for all ages.

    Q: Why education?
    A: In today’s tech-focused, hyper-changing world, STEAM education is more important than ever. But there is a crucial element missing in most curriculum - the fun. That’s where Sphero comes in. But it’s broader than that. We engage kids in meaningful journeys. We afford them the chance to create, to consider, to challenge. In short, we use coding to help kids decode lifelong skills and lessons. All so they can become the highly intelligent, emotionally-fluent creators of tomorrow.

    Q: What’s next for Sphero?
    A: In the coming months we’re going to be unveiling some new products that will embrace the knowledge that play is a powerful teacher while going even deeper into STEAM principles - but continuing to be seriously fun. We’ll continue to be exciting kids, and kids at heart, to play to learn and learn to play.


    Q: Will there be Power Pack options to purchase BOLT?

    A: Yes, BOLT will be available in a 15 pack Power Pack, ideal for classroom or group learning settings.

    Q: Where can you purchase BOLT?
    A: Sphero.com, Apple (exclusive 2 weeks), Best Buy, Amazon



    Once your students master the basics, the possibilities are truly endless for using BOLT in the classroom.

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    Brittany Washburn
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