Can You Type Faster than a Fifth Grader? Highlights of the 4th Annual Davis School District Keyboard Challenge 2014

08/21/2014  |  By Art Willer, M.Ed.

In Davis School District, Farmington, Utah, the ability to compete with a fifth grader at keyboarding skill depends on whether you can type at least 60 words per minute, after your speed has been adjusted downward for any errors.

It also depends on whether you can take the pressure of typing on a stage in front of over 400 on-looking parents and children, as you complete a grueling 2-minute timed typing test. If you can do all that, then you stand a chance of winning the fifth-grade title in Davis. But don’t count on it. And don’t even hope to beat the overall Davis champion!

Under the leadership of Holly Handy, coordinator for keyboarding skill development in Davis School District, the principals, teachers, parents and students take keyboarding skill very seriously -- which is why they celebrate its achievement and have an enormously great time at the Annual Davis School District Keyboard Challenge.

4:30 p.m. Each year, participating schools send one representative from each grade level, four through six.

School representatives and their parents arrive at the junior high school where they register and receive a certificate just for making it to the District level. Most of the 58 Davis elementary schools are represented by about 150 students.

5:00 p.m. The students are ready to compete. With practiced skill, keyboarding teachers lead the children to three computer labs, one for each grade level. By operating two shifts of students per lab, all competitors get an unpressured opportunity to do their best.

In the labs, teachers provide 5 minutes to warm up and prepare. Then the children perform three 2-minute timed tests using the keyboarding software UltraKey 6. Their best score is used to choose the competitors qualifying for the next round of competition.

“During our first competition in 2011, some of the children did not know what to expect,” explains Holly Handy. “This was an important lesson for our organizing team, and the students. Now the schools run competition-like activities right in their classes, and help their students prepare, so they are ready for what is coming.”

“Not only are they more prepared,” says Holly, “many of the classes hold their own mini-competitions that create fun and instill an attitude of excellence among all the students, not just the fast ones.”

Some competitors earn the opportunity to represent their school by winning a mini-challenge at the school. One school holds a “beat the principal” challenge that lets the winners identify themselves with the added fun of beating their mentor.  In other cases, the schools appoint students, and their teachers do their best to prepare them. How the children are selected is up to their schools.

While the children are in the labs doing their preliminary tests, Holly entertains the parents by challenging them to come up on stage and “type better than a fifth grader.” About thirty brave parents rise to the challenge and many of them do type as well as fifth graders, but none of them are at the standard of the fastest Davis champions.

The 2013 champion from grade six, blew away the competition with 109 wpm! Coincidentally, her mother won the adult championship with 89 wpm. She did beat the champion fifth grader who was in the high 70s.

6:00 p.m.The results of the preliminary lab tests have been compiled and the top ten typists from each grade level have been identified. These champions are immediately recognized so they can prepare for the final round of competition.

Then, the final “key-offs” begin. Five students at a time complete a 2-minute timed typing test on stage, as the audience watches. The pressure is great – but the audience is so quiet, you can hear the rapid tapping of keys at the back of the auditorium.

6:30 p.m. Holly Handy begins the exciting ceremony of recognizing the top ten children from each grade in order of their final scores. The last name announced is the champion of that grade. A fifth grader or fourth grader is yet to win the overall championship, but anything is possible at this competition. In 2014, the champion typist was from grade 6, rolling in at 89 wpm.

The two sponsors of this event, Bytes of Learning and the Horizon Credit Union, provide prizes to recognize all 30 top contenders. Horizon Credit Union gives a mini-scholarship of $200 to the top champion and smaller prizes of cash to second and first runners-up. The sponsorships are consistent with the enormously positive support the whole community and local media give to the promotion of keyboarding excellence.

A team award is also given to the school whose representatives have the highest total speed. This is a great way to distinguish those schools and teams who perform consistently across the board.

The speeds reported here are all net speeds, calculated by UltraKey using the Modified International Typing Contest Rules (MITCRs). For each single word error, a two-word speed penalty is applied. So 80 wpm with 40 word errors gives you a speed of zero!

7:00 p.m. The event is concluded. That is just 2 ½ hours from registration to program end!

Holly and her team of keyboarding specialists established this annual competition to celebrate the excellence taking place in their schools. The teachers develop a wide range of computer and technological skills among their children, including Internet research, how to correctly use email, and other important life skills. They teach mobile computing applications too, but they see keyboarding skill as a building block for the most efficient use of computers.

Holly remarks, “The Challenge has evolved as we learn different things from it and about it. We were concerned at first that children might not understand the idea of being penalized for word errors. Some of our first-year competitors actually did get zero speed scores and tears flowed. Now we use the MITCRS in our regular instruction, and the children have responded well. They have learned to pay more attention to accuracy and they understand that inaccuracy leads to lower productivity.”

“The Challenge underlines the importance of keyboarding skill and the prestige of having it. Where some students may be top athletes, others are top typists and they have the respect of fellow students.”

For more information, see our video Davis School District Keyboard Challange.


Art Willer has a Master of Education degree in curriculum from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto). He is the founding president of Bytes of Learning Incorporated.
Comments & Ratings

There is no comment.