How Fast Should a Student Be Able to Type?

 How fast should students be able to type? 

There is no universal answer to this question, but it is a question that we have to start addressing in elementary school. We don't want keyboarding fluency to get in the way of students sharing what they know. We want them to have transcription efficiency with keyboarding so working memory and cognitive resources are freed up for ideas. This is especially important when they are taking a test on the computer. In my district, every student beginning in kindergarten has to take a test on the computer within the first 30 days of school to determine if they need to be put on a READ plan. But then we have to wonder; are we putting some students on a READ plan simply because they don't know how to type/navigate a computer? The high stakes testing that begins in 3rd grade is also done on the computer, so keyboarding fluency is an issue that we have to start addressing in elementary school.

Unfortunately, there is no exact word-per-minute count that everyone agrees upon. Most keyboarding research is focused on middle school, and it's more than 10 years old. Technology has changed a lot in the last 10 years! If you check the Common Core State Standards, the expectation for typing begins in 4th grade, but there is no exact number attached to it:

With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.

The CCSS do not become more specific for older students. Here is the standard for 11th - 12th grade:

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

So how do we know if our students are college and career ready with the fundamental concepts of technology operations and troubleshooting skills they will need to be successful? 

That's a tough question to answer.  It's a question that we have been wrestling with at my school for years, so we decided to do our own action research. We started with the end in mind. We began with this question:

How fast should an adult be able to type? 

If you check the internet you'll see claims that the average typing speed for an adult is anywhere between 40 - 65 wpm. I did find some recent research called Observations on Typing from 136 Million Keystrokes that states, "Typing speed of an average professional typist is usually from 50 to 90 wpm, and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120 wpm." 

If we want our high school graduates to be equipped for a job as a typing professional, they should be able to type at least 50 - 60 wpm with 80% accuracy or better, so we made that our goal for a 12th grader. We worked backwards from there creating a reasonable expectation for each grade level, then we monitored our students to see if this fit our expectation for students in the classroom. We are continuing to monitor our students keyboarding progress, but so far, the rate on this chart seems like a good measure of their success. 

Testing season is upon us, and we monitoring whether or not we think our students are ready for that high stakes test online. Based on our action research so far, we found that if 3rd graders' typing fluency is at least 10 wpm with 80% accuracy or better by March/April, they're going to be in a good place to focus on the content of the test, and not the typing. The same has been true for 4th grade (15 wpm with at least 80% accuracy) and 5th grade (20 wpm with at least 80% accuracy). 

The reason I shared this process of identifying typing speed with you is because THESE NUMBERS ARE NOT AN OFFICIAL KEYBOARDING FLUENCY RATE. There is no official keyboarding fluency rate at this time, but this is a reasonable guideline based on what we know and what we see in the classroom. I created the keyboarding fluency infographic, graph, and SMART goal page that you can download here on Teacher Sherpa. I also like to use these pages in SeeSaw so students can upload their progress and record their goals.

How fast should students and adults be able to type in your experience? Do you know how fast you type? If you check out this research page, it has a place where you can take a test to see how fast you type! Observations on Typing from 136 Million Keystrokes Let us know your score!

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