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!
Some children find it difficult to space their letters in words correctly and to show spacing between words. There can be a number of reasons for this:
- They may not understand the concept or conventions of spacing words and letters and this needs to be explained.
- Other Physical Skills such as poor spatial awareness skills, eye tracking or general eyesight.
- Poor Key Strengths and/or Key Abilities elements, required for handwriting, such as sitting position, paper position, pencil grip, hand position and letter formation knowledge may also be hindering them.
‘Tips to support letter and word spacing’ will help you to identify if your child is having difficulty in understanding the spacing conventions and how to support them: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/letter-and-word-formation-difficulties.html
Our ‘Other Physical Skills’ assessment will help you to identify if your child’s spatial awareness or eye tracking skills may be affecting their spacing skills: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/other-physical-skills-assessment.html
If you are not sure then book an eye test for your child, just to be on the safe side, it could be they need glasses.
Our step by step ‘Overcoming Handwriting Difficulties’ guide will support you in identifying other possible reasons for your child’s letter and spacing issues: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/overcoming-handwriting-difficulties.html
Hand Swapping is a normal developmental stage in infants and young children and therefore, at this stage, not a sign that a child is uncertain of their dominant hand. However, this is not ideal for a child who has started school.
Hand swapping throughout a task is not necessarily a sign that a child is uncertain of their dominant hand.
There are two routes to tackling the hand swapping issue, the one to use depends on your answers to the following questions.
1. Does the child usually start with the one hand and then swap when that hand gets tired?
You can usually tell if this is the case because they may shake out or rub the tired hand and once it is rested go back to using it again. This is probably because their fine motor skills are weak. Through focused games and activities (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/gross-and-fine-motor-skills-games.html#hand-finger), the muscle strength and dexterity can be gradually built up in the dominant hand, which in turn will build their stamina so that the hand swapping will reduce until they stop it altogether.
Once you are sure of dominance gently discourage swapping hands by taking a break from the activity and coming back to it a couple of minutes later using the preferred hand.
2. Does the child use their left hand if items are presented on their left-hand side and their right hand if they are presented on the right-hand side?
In toddlers and young children this is expected. In older children however it could mean that they have developed a delay in their skill to cross the mid-line point. This developmental bilateral coordination skill is vital to develop and can be addresses through a range of simple games and activities (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/gross-and-fine-motor-skills-games.html#bilateral-coordination).
You can check a child’s hand and finger strengths (fine motor skills) and their bilateral coordination (gross motor skills) using our Key Strengths Assessment (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/the-four-essential-strengths.html).
As with learning any new skill the right tool at the right time can make a real difference to the whole learning experience as well as the outcome. Learning to handwrite is no different.
Young children due to their gross and fine motor skills ability require chunky shafted tools so that they can grip them effectively. This means they have a greater control over the tool and can achieve a more satisfactory outcome. If they are using a tool that is too thin they will find gripping it difficult and have to keep changing their grip. They will have less control of the tool making the experience disappointing at best and discouraging at worst.
To help young children to store patterns and letter shapes formation into their motor memory it is important that the tools used provide a resistance rather than one that flows effortlessly over the writing/drawing surface. The greater the resistance the more the body can neurologically acknowledge (feel) the movement and help to send appropriate information to the brain.
Some of the best tools for young children to begin learning to draw patterns, shapes and correctly write letters:
- Chalk on boards, walls or paths
- Flip chart pens or large felt tips on course paper such as sugar paper
- Using appropriately sized paint brushes on course paper or surfaces
- Finger painting or finger drawing in sand, paint or cornflour mix
- Finger tracing and then trying to draw the pattern, shape or letter straight afterwards.
- Try chalking the shape or letter onto a blackboard and have the child use a damp sponge to wipe it off again (make sure the child starts in the correct place and moves correctly around the shape or letter to the correct finish point).
- Appropriately sized crayons and pencils on course paper or card (non-shiny side of cereal boxes and corrugated card can be good fun and different to use).
As children begin a more formal approach to learning to form their letters correctly then appropriately sized and lead grade pencils are the best tool for the job. Pencil come in all widths, lengths and shapes. The key is to find the style of pencil which best suits the child and their stage of pencil grip development. Remember one size doesn’t fit all!
When a child has learnt to join their letters and has a good and consistent letter size and places all their letters on the writing line correctly in relation to each other, then it maybe they are ready to be moved to pen. It is important before moving t child to pen that they are writing with speed (appropriate for their age) and fluidity (comfortable writing all the letters of the alphabet lower and upper case correctly). A child whose handwriting is slow and laboured may need additional support and time before being moved on to pen.