SRU graduate using “Kritters” to help kids learn keyboarding
SRU alumna and author Bobbi Jo Callis created "Keyboard Kritters" to help elementary students become familiar with the letters on the keyboard while also learning lessons about accepting others and being good neighbors.
July 13, 2018
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Since the birth of the typewriter, animals have been helping people learn to type, starting with that quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dog exercise. As technology evolves and advances, so to must the way we teach typing to future generations: that's where "Keyboard Kritters" come in, says Bobbi Jo Callis.
Callis, a 1993 Slippery Rock University graduate with a bachelor's degree in elementary education, has written a new book featuring "Kritters" that is designed to help young readers learn to type while also teaching a positive lesson about acceptance.
"Keyboarding is the No. 1 skill for children to know," Callis said. "By the time they get to middle school, they've already developed terrible habits like two-finger typing and it's very hard to break those habits once they've started."
After graduating from SRU, Callis taught first grade at Newport News Public School in Newport News, Virginia until 1999 and at Kutztown School District in Kutztown until 2001. She then relocated to Camden, Maryland to work as an elementary technology education teacher at Dorchester County Public Schools.
"I was able to teach in three states and without question, I can say I got those opportunities because my degree is from SRU," Callis said. "The University really prepared me for all aspects of my teaching career and made me a well-rounded educator. I think it's also because SRU has such a good name when it comes to quality teachers."
In 2009, the mother of five received her master's degree in reading and literacy from Walden University, and in 2017, began her journey to creating the world of "Keyboard Kritters".
" Keyboard Kritters" uses two different types of memory aides to help students learn letter placement on the keyboard. Students learn to associate where each "Kritter" lives on Keyboard Street to help them first master a keyboard's home row. Then by recalling details from a story identifying what gift and food each "Kritter" takes to Lyle Lion's house warming party, keyboarding is reinforced.
For example, "Alligator" is the first house on keyboard street. She takes a "Quilt" from the upstairs and "Zucchini" Bread from her kitchen downstairs.
Eventually this information correlates with what finger is used to strike them on the keyboard.
Callis said her goal was to get children to know the story well enough that, when tasked with blind typing or filling in blank keyboard charts, they can simply recite the story and find success.
Along with the familiarization of the keyboard, children also learn a lesson about accepting others and being good neighbors from the "Kritters" and their story. Due to Lyle Lion being, well, a lion, the other "Kritters" are afraid of how scary he looks. Aunt Alligator, who used to deal with the same problem, hopes to change the minds of the other "Kritters" by showing them that "you can't always tell what someone is like based on their looks," Callis said.
During the year-long process of developing and writing the story, Callis used her time in her classroom as a technology educator to try out the different possibilities on her students, including what worked well and what didn't. Her students also had innovative ideas about the plot and characters. "(The students) were instrumental in perfecting the story," Callis said.
"Keyboard Kritters" isn't the first time Callis has stepped into the shoes of an author.
"I am almost finished with an adult thriller/mystery novel, which I would be done with were it not for 'Keyboard Kritters,'" Callis said with a laugh. "It's okay, though, because it's really exciting watching the kids read and learn."
While her interests lie more in writing adult novels, Callis feels she's simply better suited for children's books due to her education and passion.
Currently, "Keyboard Kritters" also comes with hundreds of printables, including blank keyboard and letter charts for students to learn how to write the letters they're typing. Callis also developed more than 50 online games related to the book, as well as lesson plans for classrooms up to grade five.
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