The key to learning morse code is practice, practice, practice. Obviously copying is the focus for most people as it is very challenging. Any time I find a few minutes I throw the earbuds in and practice copying. I definitely exceed the suggested one hour practice time per day.
What I did not do very well for the first three lessons was practice sending. During the three days prior to Lesson 4 I started adding sending practice to the mix. Morse Trainer not only has the copy content in it but it also provides words for sending. You play the word and then you try to emulate it exactly as you key it. I thought I would show you what I use.
This setup is extremely easy to transport everywhere I go which allows me to practice just about anywhere. The paddles are a kit from American Morse Equipment and are called DCP (Dirt Cheap Paddles). The kit is $49 US shipped to your door (domestic). I built the kit at work one day over lunch and it is very simple to do. The keyer is a kit from HamGadgets and is called the Ultra PicoKeyer. Be sure to read up on this because it packs alot of features for what you pay for it including memories to store those repetitive transmissions for field day or contesting. It is $34.95 and shipping needs to be added. It was my first attempt at kit building and I found that I extremely enjoy soldering kits up and hoping they work at the end, Hi Hi. I recommend both of these products, not only for practice but for use anytime. Both companies provided me with excellent customer service as well.
So, this is what I looked like for much of our class Monday night. I felt comfortable going into class as I did not have much trouble with the lesson while studying in Morse Trainer since class 4 ended on Thursday but somewhere between 5 and 7:30 Monday my brain turned to mush. This lesson introduced M,W, 3, 6, and our first punctuation mark, ?. At the beginning of class we started with me, one of the NC guys, and the instructor. We had one at a JOTA meeting, one absent for work, and the other Hoosier out for an unknown reason. We gained one after the Jota meeting. We started out with words and we did not have too much problem. We did have a faux pas here and there with a and n and the other struggled with d and w, but not too terrible. We then worked on call signs. I am still breaking the habit of expecting a call sign to be in a US format but I have made progress here. We moved along to copying phrases sent by the instructor. This is where I started to go downhill. I have not overcome my bad habit of dwelling on a letter that does not immediately register. I spend too much time thinking on that letter and BAM!, (No that is not an Emeril Lagasse Kick It Up A Notch BAM) I have missed the next three.
After this we were asked to send our call sign and a phrase and I was tasked to go first. Sending came a little easier but still not smooth or worthy of being on the air in my opinion. Our fellow students had to copy what we were sending. Once we completed that our instructor, Dennis, had one of us ask a question and the others had to copy. It, like most items, had to be repeated 2 to 3 times in hopes that the students copying had it complete. By this time the third student had shown up and we had to, in turn, answer the question by returning code. Two of us had some struggles during this back and forth and the third, who I believe is the most advanced in the class, seemed to do fairly well. Our time drawing to a close Dennis told us to brush up on call signs as next week we were going to work on the Morse Trainer lesson plan and we were going to do mock qso's so that we can start learning the format. Time to go study up on sending RST's and QTH's! See you closer to the end of the week.