Floating Fingers: Allowing Fingers to Hover Above Home Row

Feb 4, 2015 | | 6 comments

Many teachers, including myself, have been guilty of not allowing students’ fingers to float above the home row keys.  We may have insisted on making students keep all the fingers on home row and touching the keys, even during bottom row lessons.  I understand why we do this, because many times students use the wrong fingers to type with and we believe forcing the fingers down will cause students to learn the correct way to type.  The problem with this method is that it is unnatural, uncomfortable, and causes strain in the fingers, which may lead to health issues down the road.  Humor me, and try hitting the bottom row with one finger at a time while keeping all the others stuck on home row.  Most people would agree that typing this way is very uncomfortable.  My solution to balancing the need for students to use the correct fingers with being able to hit the bottom row keys comfortably has been to insist that they keep their hands on home row for the first few lessons, and then before they move to bottom row I explain that they should let their hands float above the keys instead and use the bumps to find their way back when needed.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.  How do you teach your students to type, or how did you learn to type?  Please check out the attached video and let me know what you think.

Type on!

Paul Schorey


Posted in: Teaching Typing | Tags: , , , , , , ,

6 Responses

  1. Anyone can learn typing by themselves but without proper guidance he might develop a bad habit such as typing using the wrong finger instead of the supposedly assigned finger to a key. Having the correct tutorials is the proper way to learn typing in a safe way. You can learn to efficiently and as fast as you like to be.

  2. I don’t know what to do about this. I think that I’m a relatively fast typer, but there are problems. I use my own system, which is not a system at all actually, and is, I presume, what is called “hunt and peck”. When I try to use the home-row technique, it feels so uncomfortable. It’s as if my fingers are in a spasm, and I really have problems hitting the keys, I think especially in the top row or the pinky-finger keys. Recent Finnish study says that one’s own system is not that much worse than touch-typing, but I’d still like to learn a system, and not rely on the chaotic one I am using. I don’t know if the problem is the size of my fingers, that it’s a laptop keyboard, that the keys are relatively low, flattish, that I need the sensation that I’ve actually hit something… Every time I tried home-row, it felt very uncomfortable and as if it went nowhere regarding progress. I think I could learn this, if only the initial position didn’t feel so awkward and uncomfortable. I’m doing something wrong, and I don’t know what.

    1. Thanks for your comment, I can really understand your frustration. As a teacher, I do believe the home row method is the best for teaching the masses. With that said, I’ve had some extremely fast students in my classes (one typed 116 wpm on his typing test) and he would use the wrong fingers. I also currently have a few kids who have “learned” to type and they are around 70 wpm with using a ton of wrong fingers, it looks really wonky to watch them type, I have no idea how they learned that way. So should I “force” a kid to change how he/she types when they can already type really fast without looking even though it’s not the conventional way? I personally don’t think that it would be in the best interest of the kid so I just roll with what they’re doing as long as they can type very fast, and they don’t need to look at the keys…There’s probably some typing teachers who wouldn’t like me saying this, but oh well. A good example of someone typing “wrong” is Sean Wrona (check out his typing video on youtube.com or google for his website). He is an ultra fast typist like around 200 wpm and he doesn’t use the home row technique, in fact he says that sometimes he’ll use two different fingers to hit the same key depending on the word.

      So would I advise you to switch to home row, or continue to type as you are, I’m not sure. From what I understand handwriting is typically around 15 wpm and typing speeds of around 35 wpm tend to show that you are developing decent proficiency at typing. I would suggest if you are close to 35 wpm or faster and can type without looking you may as well continue as you’re doing. However, if your speed is much slower it may not be a bad idea to try to switch to home row. The problem with switching is as most people would attest, breaking a habit is so much more difficult than starting out with a correct habit (hence why most programs teach the home row method at an early age). So as long as you can see your method getting you to around 70 wpm some day I don’t think there’s any harm in doing it that way, but I can say that given time and using the home row method most people should be able to hit 70+ if they practice a bunch, and by practice I mean use the computer daily for work or something else that results in a lot of typing (I’ve also had a few MMORPG players in class that type pretty fast…)

      Whatever you choose I wish you the best. I hope my answer / non-answer has been of some assistance. Thanks for using the site and posting!

  3. Thank you so much for such a detailed reply! I’m just frustrated that it is so uncomfortable for me and I can’t find the reason. Yesterday when I saw a video on the basics of fast typing, I thought that it might be because of the height of the table the laptop is on and thus the inadequate height of the keyboard in relation to the whole body. My fingers just tend to slip on the wrong key or hit the wrong key accidentally while aiming for the right one and when I try some online exercises, it obviously ends up being an error and I have to go through all that again. It hampers progress and doesn’t really work motivationally. When I fly over the keyboard in my own non-method, it’s much easier. I also feel like perhaps there something about finger size, because sometimes when I put them on the home row, it all looks so tight. Another example is that it seems so wrong to hit e.g. C with the middle finer – I literally have to slide it under the index. I have decided that I will probably try some typing programs out there, to if they lead me somewhere in a reasonable amount of time.

  4. It may be stupid question , I hear d the term floating or hovering over the keyboard but not a clear explanation. Could you explain to me what does it mean in simple terms because forcing my hands to stay on home row in so uncomfortable to me.

    1. Thanks for the good question. When some teachers have students place their fingers on home row they make all 8 fingers touch the keys. So in those cases if you needed to hit the ‘z’ key every finger but your left pinky would still be touching the home row keys. I believe the better way to type would be to allow your fingers to not physically rest on home row all the time because this allows you to reach up and down easier without causing strain. When you see people typing fast if you look closely you’ll notice they don’t really rest their fingers on home row very often. So when I teach, while students are learning home row I have them rest their fingers right on the keys, but then I allow them to let their fingers hover instead. Hope that helps. Good luck!

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