Dear Teacher


“Dear Teacher” is a monthly education column written by experienced educators and parents.

Ways to Acquire Typing Skills

Question: Our private school is giving absolutely no instruction in typing. Children are expected to pick up this vital skill during the summer by using one of the many keyboarding programs that are available online. My children in grades 3 and 4 made little progress last summer. How can I help them do better this summer?

Answer: As we all know, today’s children spend a lot of time on the computer. What we really want is for them to learn to keyboard before they develop their own hunt and peck system.

There are a great number of keyboarding programs that are free online. Many include games that can motivate children to learn to keyboard. You can use a search engine to investigate these programs and choose one that offers a sound educational approach. You might also ask your children’s teachers for names of keyboard instruction programs that they like. Then, to ensure that your children learn to keyboard this summer, plan to set aside a certain time each day in which they concentrate on learning keyboarding skills.

Do not expect your young children to become expert at keyboarding overnight. Remember how long it took you to learn to type. If you took a typing class in high school, it probably lasted a semester. Rather than relying on online programs, think about the possibility of finding a keyboarding course in a summer school or learning center.

How soon children need to become proficient at keyboarding depends greatly on their individual schools. Why don’t you have your children’s teachers spell out exactly what skills they will need to have now and next year? You can get a general idea of the computer skills children need at each level in grades K-8 by visiting the website www.hw21summit.com and looking for “The New Proposed PreK-8 Written-Language Production Standard.” This list was developed in 2012 by educators and researchers at an Educational Summit in Handwriting in the 21st Century.


Helping a Middle-Schooler Get Writing Skills

Question: My middle-schooler son is a terrible writer. With all of today’s technology, is it really important for him to become a good writer when he is able to express himself so well orally?

Answer: Even today, with all our advanced technology, it remains necessary to express one’s thoughts in writing. For example, think of the importance of email in so many professional fields and the need to write memos, reports and instructions.

Unfortunately, for most children, writing is the weakest skill of the traditional 3R’s. This is not good news, because with each year in school, children’s skill in putting words down on paper plays a larger role in the grades they receive.

Since you say that your son expresses himself well orally, have him try using a computer program that turns speech into writing. First, he needs to think of what he wants to say. After he has finished, he can then edit his work.

Practice makes perfect holds true in becoming a good writer. The more your son writes, the better writer he will become. This summer have him write 100 words every day at the same time in a journal for practice. Because reading and writing are tied closely together, do encourage him to become an avid reader.

Simple Ways to Improve Math Grades

Question: While my children do all right in math in elementary school, they usually get just B’s. I wonder if you have some tips that might help them get A grades.

Answer: What you do to sharpen your children’s math skills will depend on what grade they are in school. Since your children are already receiving good grades, slight tweaks could result in even better grades.


Our number one suggestion for helping children in elementary school is for them to neaten up their work if it is sloppy and causing errors to be made. Young children may need to work on the correct formation of numbers, while older students should make sure the numbers in problems are properly aligned. It also helps at this level to make manipulatives to use at home to reinforce basic concepts and to sing the basic math facts to make recalling them easier. In addition, there are a great number of websites that let children drill on the basic facts if that is part of the basic problem.

Students in middle school may find it easier to solve word problems if they use smaller numbers in place of the actual numbers in a problem. It also helps if they underline the key facts in a problem and cross out unnecessary ones. They should also circle the question that they need to answer. And sometimes drawing a picture can help in solving problems.

There is an old adage that math teachers use: The more problems you do, the better you will become at doing them. Try this approach. If only the odd problems are assigned, ask your children to also do the even ones.

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About Author

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts have taught at every level from kindergarten through college and have co-authored more than 100 books. They have also been in the trenches getting six children through school. Their children have run the gamut, from being in gifted and talented programs to special education resource rooms. Because of their experiences, they see themselves as interpreters between parents and schools as they have been on both sides.

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