The First Stage to Handwriting Success – Pre-handwriting Patterns

Pre-handwriting Patterns 1

Pre-handwriting patterns are the first stage in supporting a child to handwriting success. They help the child to learn the shapes and directional pushes and pulls required to form letters. All letters are a combination of these shapes and lines.

Young children can start to learn these patterns through their play, long before they are ready to pick up a pencil, moving toys back and forth across the floor or whirling them around in the air. To a child it is just play and fun, but you are doing something far more powerful and constructive by helping them to develop the motor memory patterns and directional movement skills they will need for handwriting.

Later, as their coordination and gross motor skills develop, they make more controlled and varied movement patterns in their play. Changing directions, speed and size are all prerequisite skills needed for learning pre-handwriting patterns.

These handwriting patterns do not need to be taught as worksheet activities (though they do help to perfect shape and pattern formation), drawing pictures and patterns in sand, paint and with other writing tools are all fun ways to practise.

Teaching the handwriting patterns in groups helps to further develop the specific movements (pushes and pulls) required to form them and help commit them to the motor memory. A child can then recall these motor memories to support them as they begin to form letters.

Pre-handwriting patterns that encourage a child to move their pencil from left to right are very important for left-handed writers. They need to be taught this so that they can make the cross motion in the H, T, J, G and I from left to right, as their natural instinct is to go from right to left. If this is not corrected when writing E and F the cross lines will not be “anchored” to the letter.

Once the handwriting patterns have been mastered a child will have the confidence and skills base necessary to start forming letters, numbers and symbols.

Have you got your Free Pre- handwriting Pattern Animations & Worksheets? http://bit.ly/1yibFhm

The Importance of Using Letter Names

Letter 1

On our Teach Handwriting website and Scheme, as well as on our Teach Phonics website, children are taught the letter names to begin with. Some schools, teacher and parents still seem to be concerned that this is not consistent with the teaching of phonics.

A myth which seems to have become popular, since the introduction of phonics into schools, is that children should not be taught the alphabet letter names as they find it too confusing. However, there is no evidence to suggest this is true. The Independent review of the teaching of early reading, final report, Jim Rose March 2006 states:

“The teaching of letter names is often left until after the sounds of the letters have been learned, in the belief that it can be confusing for children to have to learn both together. However, research indicates that children often learn letter names earlier than they learn letter sounds and that five year olds who know more letter names also know more letter sounds. The reasons for this are not fully understood by researchers’.

Given that children will meet many instances outside, as well as within, their settings and schools where letter names are used, it makes sense to teach them within the programme of early phonic work.

It appears that the distinction between a letter name and a letter sound is easily understood by the majority of children.” (Page 26)

Rose, cites Professor Morag Stuart who suggests that:

‘…children expect things to have names and are accustomed to rapidly acquiring the names of things.’ (Independent review of the teaching of early reading’ final report, Jim Rose March 2006, page 27.)

Learning the unique letter names of the alphabet is a pre-phonics skill; as well as an early learning goal. It has to be remembered that a letter is a shape which only represents a sound when it is placed within a word or sentence. Also a letter or combination of letters can represent more than one sound and so the only unique way of identifying alphabet letters when we talk about them is to use their names.

Learning the correct letter names helps to reinforce that when talking about the letter ‘a’ (ay) for example it has a set shape regardless of the sound that it will be representing in the word. This further supports children’s handwriting development as the communication of your requirements is unambiguous.

One of the first things we like a child to be able to write correctly is their name, however most names are impossible to spell using the simple phonics code taught to young children. A name does not have to be long in length to be phonetically difficult to spell such as Christopher or Charlotte. Shorter names such as Lucy or Liam also cause a problem.

The only logical answer I suggest is to use the letter names until a child has been introduced to the more complex phonics coding system.

Is your child’s handwriting good for their age?

Ch Handwriting 2

With more and more expected of our pre-school and 4 to 7 year old children it can be difficult to know what the realistic age appropriate skills for handwriting are.

So, to help, we have created our ‘Handwriting age related guide’ (https://www.teachhandwriting.co.uk/handwritiing-age.html)

You can find this by clicking on the ‘Parents’ section of our website and on the button for:

Is your child’s handwriting good for their age?

Just click on the appropriate age range group button to find useful information on the expected handwriting achievement levels. You will also find the appropriate resources, information and advice to support your child’s handwriting if they need it.

Back to School – Ways to Support Your Child’s Pencil Grip Development

pencil grip back to school 1

After the long school summer holiday it is always good to take some time to check your child has not slipped back into some old, poor pencil grip habits.

Here is a recap of the things which may help them if they are still finding it difficult to form and maintain an appropriate pencil grip.

Remember it is important that you do not force a child to use the tripod grip if they are not developmentally ready. Just because they are starting school doesn’t mean they are ready to hold a pencil in the tripod grip for handwriting.

Have they reached the appropriate stage in their pencil grip development?

Every child develops at a different time and pace; find out which stage of development your child is at: http://bit.ly/2YFfqMp

Are they left or right-handed?

If they are of school age and do not have a clear hand dominance this can make it difficult to develop a good pencil grip. Our hand dominance information may help you here: http://bit.ly/2YFfqMp

How do they hold a pencil for writing at the moment?

A poor pencil grip can make forming letters difficult and handwriting slow or uncomfortable. Check out our tips on how to correct a poor pencil grip in our pencil grip difficulties section: http://bit.ly/2T96KwK

Have they been taught, & do they understand, how to form a Tripod pencil grip?

It may have been explained to them, but that does not mean your child has understood. Our ‘Tommy Thumb’ and ‘Drawbridge Flip’ videos may help them to learn more easily how to form a tripod grip for handwriting: http://bit.ly/2XpuI8I

Do they have the physical hand and finger strength to form and maintain a tripod pencil grip?

Not all children have the appropriate hand and finger strength to hold a pencil in the tripod grip and need extra support to help them develop this. To find out if your child need’s extra support to develop their hand and finger strengths check out this section of our Key Strengths assessment page:  http://bit.ly/2C7xYwq

Do they swap hands when writing or drawing?

This is a normal developmental stage for many toddlers and young children, but it is not ideal for school age children. Check out our tips on tackling hand swapping issues: http://bit.ly/2VlGfDH

If you have any queries or questions you would like to ask us about handwriting or pencil grip feel free to contact us at enquires@teachchildren.co.uk or via this blog or Facebook.

Be School Ready – What Letter Font is Your Child’s School Teaching?

CC & Cursive 1

There is no standardized font style or teaching route stipulated in the National Curriculums for schools in the UK, only that it needs to be a consistent approach throughout the school.  So it is really important that you know which font and teaching route your child’s school is using.

There are a 4 teaching routes a school can choose from when teaching lower-case letters:

  1. Print, then Cursive; finally introduce Continuous Cursive to join the cursive letters.
  2. Print, then Continuous Cursive.
  3. Cursive and then Continuous Cursive to join the cursive letters.
  4. Continuous Cursive.

All the above are good teaching routes, the only difference is how many font styles a child has to learn and how long it takes before they learn how to join their letters.

The Difference between Print, Cursive and Continuous Cursive Handwriting Fonts

Print Font

  • The letters have different start points.
  • There are a number of different letter finish points.

Cursive or Continuous Cursive?

Be aware, some schools will say they are teaching Cursive when in fact they are teaching Continuous Cursive.

They are in fact 2 different handwriting fonts.

Cursive:

  • The letters start at different points (the same as print).
  • The finishing points for all the letters is the writing line; except for, o, r, v and w, which have a top exit stroke.
  • The single letter formations are taught with just the exit strokes.

 Continuous Cursive:

  • The starting point for all the letters is the same; on the writing line.
  • The finishing points for all the letters is also at the writing line; except for, o, r, v and w, which have a top exit stroke.
  • The single letter formations are taught with the entry and exit strokes, this makes the transition from single letter formation to joined handwriting very straightforward and allows it to occur sooner.

Check out our Letter Formation section of the website for more information, free animations and worksheets: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI

Summer Fun – Part 3 – Get Cooking!

Cooking is a great fun way to practise getting both hands to work together. This helps to develop coordination, hand and finger strength and dexterity skills; all skills required for handwriting. However, it is amazing how much talk can come from this as well, not just at the time with you, but when they share the day’s experience with others later on (developing their phonological awareness).

An added benefit at this time of year is that you can do ‘Pick Your Own’. Getting out and about and encouraging your child to pick their own fruit is not only great fun but another sneaky way of working on their hand and finger strength.

There are so many recipes, especially online, for making quick easy great tasting food.

So, if the sun is shining, or it is just not raining, get out there find your local ‘Pick Your Own’ and get cooking!

Summer Fun – Part 2 – Think more Play, Play and Play!!!

Summer Play B1

We are half way through the summer holidays, six weeks may have seemed like a long time but it is amazing how quickly it is passing.

The last thing you and your child probably want to think about right now is handwriting and getting ready for next term; and quite right too!

So, don’t think about it in the conventional way of practise, practise and practise.

Think more play, play and play!!!

Children learn so much through just playing; developing physical and mental strengths and skills, which all support them at school and with learning. Once introduced to a new game or activity children will very often take it and make it their own, making new rules and introducing extra characters or challenges.

The skill as a parent is remembering to let go of your preconceived ideas about how a game should be played and letting your child take the initiative.

If you provide the opportunities it is amazing how they will take on the challenge of inventing a new game or (in their eyes) improving an existing one.

This does not have to cost a penny; use the toys they already have or make games using empty plastic bottles or cardboard tubes.

The following types of play can support and develop the key strengths and skills your child needs for handwriting and you have not had to mention school or homework.

  • The local play park is a fantastic free resource; running, jumping, crawling and climbing can all be encouraged. If your child is a little reluctant then it may well be that they are unsure how to do some of these activities. Explain when jumping that they needed to land on their feet and bend their knees as they land. Start small and as their confidence grows so does the height or distance they jump. Climbing can be scary for some children so again explain how to climb, moving one hand or foot at a time so that there are always three other points of contact.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a garden then mud play is messy but so much fun, it can be contained in a small area and will not only make you a cool adult but, if you join in, it will knock years off you (have a go, it is a great free therapy session).
  • Skittle games are always fun, extend the activity by decorating the skittles (plastic bottles or cardboard tubes) using anything from crayons, paint or even dress them up as people or animals.

Summer Fun – Part 1 – Indoor/Outdoor Summer Circuits Ideas

Summer Play A 1

Well, true to form, the Summer Holiday weather is a mixed bag, sunny one minute then pouring with rain the next!

So, here are a couple of ideas to help your child burn off some of that pent-up energy. Best of all you can class it as handwriting homework (working on gross and fine motor skills).

An indoor/outdoor circuit training course does not have to take up much space or be messy (but it might be a good idea if indoors to move ornaments a little further out of the way).

Simple activities can be fun if they are done for short periods of time and children do love a time challenge. Make each activity last anything from 30 seconds to 1 minute.

You could record how many they did in the time and see if they have improved when you try it again.

Why not try:

  • Hopping on one leg and then the other (balance & coordination)
  • Use the bottom step of the stairs for step ups (bi-lateral coordination)
  • Curl ups (Core strength -see our games page)
  • With a cushion balanced on their head can they touch their toes without dropping the cushion (balance, coordination, bi-lateral coordination and core strength)
  • Star Jumps (balance & coordination)

For more fun, simple activity ideas check out our games pages, it is amazing how much fun you can have just hopping, jumping, skipping and dancing on the spot: http://bit.ly/2FhFkR7

If you are feeling really brave why not try building an obstacle course, a lot of the fun is in the designing and making.

Let go and have fun!!!

The Five Common Stages of Play Development

Stage of play 1

Last week we discussed the five types of play necessary to support your children’s physical, intellectual, social and emotional growth and well-being. Here we explain the five common stages of play so that you can better understand your child’s play development and how best to support them through play.

The Five Common Stages of Play:

  1. Watching – A child watches what others are doing but does not join in, they are purely an onlooker.
  2. Solitary Play – They play on their own without regard, or need for others, and enjoy independent activities that do not require others to participate.
  3. Parallel Play– This is when they play near others but do not interact with them, even if they are using the same play materials.
  4. Associative Play – When children play in small groups with no defined rules or assigned roles.
  5. Co-operative Play – Is when children work together in building projects, or pretend play, assigning roles for each member of the group.

Children are all so different and because of this the length of time they spend at each stage varies greatly; but they all find their way in time.

You are your child’s first, and most important, playmate. They just love it when you are silly and play games with them; become a pilot, rally car diver or fairy princess for 10 minutes. Can’t remember how? Then let your child show you!

To Play is to Learn

Play 1

The summer holidays are here!

So, it is the perfect time to go out and play or, as is often the case, stay indoors and play.

We are always being shown how important play is in the development of young animals’ survival and hunting skills. How many times have you thought how cute or lovely when watching kittens, puppies or polar bears playing.

Humans are also animals which thrive and develop through play; in fact, play is so important the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights state it as a right for every child (Ginsburg, 2013).

We often think of play as a frivolous pastime rather than a practical and meaningful one. However, here at Teach Children we see play as a vital part of a child’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and well-being.

There has been considerable research over the years on play, which supports our point of view, with the consensus being that children need to experience five different types of play (Dr.D Whitebread, 2012). These five types of play are roughly based on the developmental opportunities they provide, especially if it is child driven rather than adult lead:

Physical Play – active exercise (running, jumping, skipping etc..), rough & tumble and fine motor skills activities to develop whole body and hand and eye co-ordination strength and endurance. The outdoor element of such play develops independence, resourcefulness and self-regulation while the fine motor skills activities support the development of concentration and perseverance.

Play with Objects – starts as soon as a child can grasp and hold an object; mouthing, biting, turning, stroking, hitting and dropping. It’s how we all learn through the exploration of our senses (sensory-motor play). This type of play develops our abilities to; physically manipulate items, think, reason and problem solve, to set challenges and goals as well as to monitor our own progress.

Symbolic Play – refers to the development of spoken language, visual symbols such as letters and numbers, music, painting, drawing and other media used for communication of thought and ideas. This type of play allows children to develop the abilities to express and reflect on experiences, ideas and emotions. Sound and language play develops phonological awareness required for literacy, while number play that relates to real life situations supports numeracy skills.

Pretence/socio-dramatic Play – Pretend play provides the opportunity to develop cognitive, social, self-regulatory and academic skills. This kind of play means children have to learn and pick up on unspoken rules of interaction, taking on the role of a character and playing within the expected confines of that role.

Games with Rules – physical games such as chase, hide & seek, sport, board and computer games. Develop social skills and the emotional skills of taking turns, winning and losing as well as other people’s perspectives.

So, to play is to learn!

Bibliography

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, 25/07/2013; ‘The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds’: THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182.full

Dr.D. Whitebread, April 2012: ‘The Importance of Play’; Commissioned for the Toy Industries of Europe:  http://www.importanceofplay.eu/IMG/pdf/dr_david_whitebread_-_the_importance_of_play.pdf