Poor bilateral coordination skills not only have an impact on handwriting but also many other day to day tasks such as the ability to get dressed quickly, pick up and carry objects as well as the use of a knife and fork and scissors.
It can also affect a child’s sporting abilities, hindering their ability to run, skip, catch, throw and kick effectively. The consequence being that they are put off playing sport and participating in physical activities, which in turn hinders their bilateral coordination development, a kind of ‘Catch 22’ situation.
The impact of this is becoming more wide spread with the popularity of fun and engaging computer gaming and a greater use of touch screen devices as children may not be getting the opportunities they would have had in the past to fully develop their bilateral coordination skills.
Bilateral coordination refers to the use of the left and right sides of the body, needed for coordination and well-balanced movement, including those that require movements such as the left arm moving across the body to the right-hand side (crossing the mid-line point).
These skills are learnt and developed through everyday play and activities and need to be practised.
Learning to cross the mid-line point is one of the stages to developing handedness (hand dominance): http://bit.ly/2VlGfDH
To check your child’s bilateral skills and development try our quick and simple bilateral coordination assessment activities: http://bit.ly/2C7xYwq
For fun physical activities to help build and encourage your child’s bilateral coordination skills check out this section in our gross and fine motor skills page: http://bit.ly/2FhFkR7
Often good handwriting is associated with how neat and lovely it looks. Beautiful penmanship is not a guarantee of quality. Some children will spend ages forming their letters so that the piece looks great but have not produced a well composed piece of work.
So, what do we consider the important elements to a good handwriting style:
- a fluid hand movement that is comfortable;
- letters are of a consistent and appropriate size and positioned correctly;
- that the writer can produce and maintain a good handwriting speed;
- that it is completely legible to others.
Here at Teach Handwriting we believe that learning to join letters increases the accuracy, fluidity, speed and legibility of handwriting. However, we also recognise that for some SEND children learning to join their handwriting may not be a logical option. However, this does not mean that using a single letter font style stops them from handwriting with accuracy, fluidity, speed and legibility (though it may never be as fast as a joined font).
Copying accurately and quickly from a board at the front of a classroom can be a challenge at the best of times. For young children and those with specific learning difficulties it can be near on impossible. It is amazing how many children lose some, if not all, of a break time because they could not complete the copying task quickly enough in the lesson time.
The practise of taking information off the board has its uses and there are times when there is just no other alternative but it can be made more manageable, here are a few ideas which may help.
- Make sure the child is sitting facing the board.
- That they can see the board clearly.
- That light is not reflecting off the board so that the writing disappears.
- Try using a different colour marker pen for each line of writing (this way a child will be able to quickly locate the line they were copying from).
- Or try numbering the lines so the child can more effectively find their way around the text.
- Leave more of a gap between each line of writing so that each line is clearly visible from the back of the room.
- Ask those children, who struggle copying, to start the first line of writing as you transfer the text to a smaller board which can then be placed at a more appropriate distance and level for them to continue copying from.
- If you know the information that will need to be transferred to the child’s book then pre-prepare a text that can be given to the child to copy from. It may be in a different order or layout to that on the board; but it is the information and the child’s ability to access it, that is important.
- Is a full sentence explanation always required or could the information be presented in another way such as a mind map or diagram which would be equally, or even more, useful to the child.
It can be surprising how frustrating and upsetting being asked to copy from the board can be for many children. So anything that can help to alleviate these emotions and difficulties has got to be worth a try!
In last months Teach Primary’s Teach Reading & Writing magazine Kathryn Priddey, Head of Launde Primary School in Leicestershire, explained why they love the Teach Handwriting Scheme, course options and free Teach Handwriting website (page 51, published 06/05/19 Maze Media (2000) Ltd).
Kathryn’s article focuses on why she loves the Teach Handwriting Scheme and the three key elements that are important to her school and the learning outcomes for her pupils:
“A clear teaching pathway from Foundation through to Year 6”
“An engaging scheme with children at the heart of it”
“Bespoke training opportunities for staff and parents”