Monday, September 28, 2009

Handwriting Happenings at Home~

Handwriting used to be a big deal in our home. It meant a lot of moans and groans... working with two boys with graphomotor difficulties meant for some "trying" lessons.

One of the biggest difficulties I saw in the very beginning with their handwriting is their poor visual processing they had when trying to focus and write on the paper. It was very difficult and it could be very overwhelming for my boys. My youngest especially.

I started both children with a program called Handwriting Without Tears. The paper they used is what intrigued me the most. It seemed much easier for them to use and I really felt would help their visual problems they were having with spacing and letter size. We worked with Handwriting Without Tears for nearly two years. With great success. Both boys now do much better with their handwriting and our youngest enjoys his handwriting practice. So much, that he now is learning to use a more traditional style of cursive handwriting. (see picture above)

For new letters we use our wipe board that has the same line style that his paper has. He can feel free to try his "hand" at certain letters and once his confidence is there can go ahead and take his practice to paper at any time.

I didn't plan on starting a whole new handwriting program, however because we started this year with a literature based language arts program - ( Learning Language Arts Through Literature) it gently incorporates handwriting practice every so often so he wanted to try it and found he really enjoyed it. Now we practice the same letters each day very gently, perhaps 10 minutes and no longer that was introduced in the lesson until a new set of specific letters are introduced. As they are I bring the other letters into the new lessons for review, extra practice and consistency.
You will notice the circled letters on his board.. this is his critique of his work :) He likes to go back and circle his favorites. I have learned not to make any corrections on his work, I stay in the background and watch him and I can see he knows when he did something wrong and he will self correct and with that I leave his work alone. Afterall it is his work and can sometimes be much more particular about it than even I would be. :)

When I looked into problems with handwriting I found all kinds of information. I could never correctly put my finger on a particular article that helped explain our problems but through a combination of articles and programs I was able to find ways to help him.

I mention a combined effort because it was not just strategies and muscle strengthening exercises that helped, but actual programs that really were not meant to teach the mechanics of handwriting, but in their own way, played a huge part in helping my boys to become better and more consistent in writing.

Some programs I am referring to are: All About Spelling, a multi-sensory based spelling program that is used with letter tiles, a wipe board and paper/pencil activities. The daily lessons provided him with more confidence with trying out different spellings for words and for helping with letter reversals. Now, when he reverses a letter, he self corrects and mentions, "no this is the way it is supposed to be". Can't ask for more than that.

Another that helped tremendously is IEW: Institute for Excellence in Writing. A program that teaches writing through modeling. We began with me having to scribe for him in order to accomplish his work to him doing the KWO himself ( three words per sentence) and then to the sentences and then finally the full write up. He has gained confidence in his writing and writing ability not just in thinking of what to put on the paper but everything that goes into writing and bringing ALL the skills together; thinking of the words to writing, adjusting the paper to writing, holding the pencil correctly, writing the letters and sounding out the words while trying to remember what he wanted to add to his paper.

Here are some exercises we would work on in the very beginning: ( some of these may seem quite little but when trying to strengthen those little muscles it can really be very helpful and important to fine motor skills)


American Classroom Supply

The Nale Family

American Stroke Association

A few personal recommendations for handwriting practice:

a lined wipeboard to practice new letters on

clay or playdough for letters (especially helpful for new printers)

mechanical pencils to help a bit with pressure

golf pencils to help with placement

sand and tray for new letter practice or shaving cream

use multi-sensory approach by saying and writing what the letter is.. I have seen more children who write cursive very nicely but cannot read their writing or other cursive writing... now what good is that? :)

a small chalk board and sponge that you can wet write the letter and it disappears, no worries if something looked wrong it is gone! :) especially for our young learners. :) when my youngest would see it disappear he would quickly write it again and what great practice!

and lastly a patient heart and a quiet voice (it really helps them to focus on your words :) )

Looking back I am glad I took the time to do these things and not PUSH the handwriting too much. I did encourage the printing as we moved further along but always offered help when I saw his story was getting long and he needed a rest. I knew in time he would have built up his muscles and the stamina to go for longer periods of time and I was right. He now does all his own writing and has very little troubles with the mechanics of writing. What helped also is how we kept plugging away~ even though it was very hard some days we would just spend our short time and with patience, time and encouragement we started to see the progress. ~

Happy Handwriting!~


Mud Covered Teacups said...

I just found your blog recently and am very encouraged by all that you share. Two of my three kiddos are boys; 9 and 7. Teaching them is SO different than my older daughter (12) and this round of schooling is completely a new experience. I appreciate your wisdom and thank you for sharing.


Tracey said...

Adella, your very welcome :) All our children can be so different, especially when it comes to learning. They all have such different needs, abilities and gifts at times it is up to us to help encourage and nuture their true strengths so they can better learn and enjoy learning along their way :)

Cursive Writing said...

I love your son's idea of circling the letters that he feels he has written best. That's so much better for children than a parent or teacher telling them where their work is good and where it needs to improve as it gives them a sense of ownership.You have some great tips here for teaching cursive writing in a multi-sensory way.


Learners at Home said...

Louise, thank you ~ I am sure there are many, many others but I found these to help us the very most.
I also have found in the few years I have been teaching at home that practicing more autonomy really helps our learners experiences in the learning process. It gives them more control and can be much more satisifying. :) tracey

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