16 April 2014

Should Your Students Be Practicing Typing for CCSS Assessments?

The Problem Ahead
There is a lot of concern among a lot of elementary teachers I know about the younger kiddos' proficiency with computer skills necessary for completing Missouri's version of the Smarter Balanced Assessment field test later this spring.

I understand the concern. When we're trying to eek out every accreditation point we can, it would be a SHAME to miss the mark because our kiddos knew what they needed to know, but where unable to communicate their knowledge because they were uncomfortable with the interface, typing skills, or mouse skills that will be required of them on this web-based assessment.

So, to address the concerns, many of them have been discussing using the labs in their buildings to have kids practice typing on software or web-based typing games. There's irony here, right? Not only are we teaching to the test now, we're teaching to the skills for regurgitating the skills on the test. Forgive me if I'm out of place here - I have only a small amount of experience with elementary from my year subbing in 2007 and 2008 - but this doesn't seem rational. Elementary teachers are pulled a myriad of directions every day trying to fit in writer's workshops, reader's workshops, social studies, science, math, and specials, and already don't have enough time for their content, but we're going to advise they take time from content and relationship for kids to play typing games?

We don't need them to become home-row drones that crank out 80 wpm. We need kids that are comfortable typing real documents. We need kids that can take something they may have written down on a piece of paper and transfer it to a text-box in the testing environment. We need kids that know how to type out some math as simple even as 8+7=15 without searching for each symbol.

Are There Relevant Activities Can You Do To Practice Typing? (when all you have is lab)
Here's a quick list (this is one of things that are great for searching on Pinterest)

  1. Keep writer's workshop drafts or journals in a notebook, have students choose their best to type on lab day and publish to share online
  2. Pair students on a collaborative doc tool and take turns writing passages of a story
  3. Practice spelling words
  4. Choose an article or nonfiction passage in one of your content areas and write summary statements per paragraph.
  5. After a science experiment in the classroom, students write up a "report" detailing their hypothesis, method, results, and conclusion.
  6. Have students choose a recent leveled book they've read and write a review on Amazon or this site from Scholastic.
  7. Create a multiplication or factors table for personal use during math time.
Are "computer skills" important for our students? Absolutely. However, if we think about preparing them for CCSS assessments as another extra task, we miss the point. Skills practice and refinement can and should be integrated with content-specific activities - your students will be better equipped to transfer their skills when they've gained them within a "real" context.

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Thanks for sharing!