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Alternative Keyboard


  • For learners with fine motor difficulties
  • Simple strategy for spelling words in the early stages of learning phonics
  • Preparing to use a keyboard and typing


These resources enable you to provide a strategy for learners with fine motor skill difficulties to spell words and write during the early stages of phonics instruction, whilst at the same time supporting the development of touch-typing skills.


The materials and activities mesh specifically with the Phonics for Pupils with SEN programme teaching scope and sequence but could be used alongside any phonics programme.


For pupils who are unable to handwrite, access to a computer or tablet with a physical or on-screen keyboard enables them to record their work for spelling and sentence writing and even worksheet completion. However, for some pupils, presenting them with a conventional keyboard may be overwhelming as there are around 80+ keys on the average keyboard, yet we are only interested in the 26 letter keys! The resources in this pack provide simplified versions of a keyboard and enable instruction to marry phonics and the position of letters on the keyboard. In this way keyboard work can be incorporated within early phonics sessions.

Access to a good quality touch-typing programme will be vital to support the development of touch typing skills.


There is an inherent problem with all touch-typing programmes in that the teaching order of letters is determined by their position on the QWERTY keyboard rather than on phonics so they will be out of step with phonics instruction. It may be necessary to delay beginning touch-typing instruction until the pupils have completed basic code (Book 1 of Phonics for SEN).


In this set of paper-based resources, a picture of a keyboard is made available for the pupil to use to spell and write with adult assistance, acting as a scribe. The keyboards change as the pupil works through the sets. For example, when working on Set 1, the keys for s a t p are highlighted in bright yellow. When working on Set 2 the matching keyboard has the new letters highlighted in bright yellow with the letters previously learnt in pale yellow. This rationale continues through all 7 sets. There are two versions of the keyboard. The first is super simplified and only has the letters on. This limits the amount of information the pupil has to process so they can focus on the task at hand. Version 2 is still simplified but includes the space bar, shift key and full stop. Teachers and TAs can decide which version is appropriate for which pupil and at what point to transition from 1 to 2 and on to a physical keyboard.


There is also an infographic on decision-making and the pathway for pupils with fine motor difficulties.

Alternative Keyboard Developing Spelling, Writing and Keyboard Skills

  • Copyright © Ann Sullivan Phonics for Pupils with Special Educational Needs. All rights reserved.

    May be printed for use by purchasing individual or school. This pdf may not be shared to other individuals, schools or organisations.

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