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.

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

How to improve your child’s handwriting

School Reports – Handwriting Improvements Needed!

So, the school report has been received and you have been told that your child needs to improve their handwriting.

This is all well and good, but what exactly needs improving?

CC Z 1

 

What are they finding difficult and how on earth do you write a continuous cursive z?

 

So, you eventually get some handwriting practice sheets home or off the web. But no amount of time spent doing them seems to make much difference. It seemed to take longer to get them started than they spent practising handwriting. In fact they seemed worse because they were unhappy and frustrated with their own progress, so the more you try to push them the more resistant they become. Eventually you think there has to be a better way than this?

Doing more of what you are already struggling with is not always the answer. Handwriting is a complex skill to learn and there are a number of reasons why a child may be struggling.

To check that your child’s handwriting skill base is appropriate for their age, and/or to find where you are best focusing support at home, check out the parent section of our website, I would suggest looking at the following section first:

Supporting your child’s handwriting development can be fun using physical games and activities. To check if your child needs extra physical strength support or has other specific learning needs check out these areas in the parent section of our website:

With the summer holidays coming up it is a great time for you to be able to observe and assess your child’s key physical strengths and skills. Armed with this knowledge you can play games and do activities which then help them to develop the strengths and skills which may be holding them back and making handwriting a difficult task to master.

warning signIt is important to check and know which letter formations are being taught in school and that this is what you teach at home. Otherwise you will only be causing more frustration and stress for your child.

Poor Bilateral Coordination Skills Affects more than Handwriting

Bilateral skills 1

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

Good Handwriting is …

join sentences

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).

Making it Easier to Copy from the Board

Copy 1.jpg

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!

Half-term Fun – Clothes Peg Games

Clothes peg games 2

Some fun indoor activities may be the order of the day if the half term weather proves not to be so hot.

This is a very simple idea which children love because they can take greater ownership of it. The aim of the activity is to help build up hand and finger strength through using the pegs; however it can have a dual purpose, helping to keep track of the week by using it as a timetable or for learning spellings or maths activities, as well as supporting the development of language skills.

You do not need anything fancy, just some string (for the washing line), clothes pegs and pieces of paper or card to peg onto the washing line. The washing line can be a permanent fixture or you can just pop it up when you need to use it.

The clothes line needs to be at a height suitable for your child to peg things on to (placed against a wall is a safe option so that no-one can walk into it by accident and hurt themselves).

There are a whole range of games that can be played using this simple washing line and pegs concept:

  1. Memory games – Get your child to peg up 5 to 10 different pictures or items on the line. Then give them 1 minute to remember the items. Once the time is up ask them to look away, or close their eyes, and then you remove one or more of the items. Get them to look back at the line. Can they work out what is missing?
  • You could try just moving one or two of the items around. Can they figure out which ones are in the wrong place and put them back in their correct place?
  • Try swapping an item for something new, which your child did not hang up on the line. Can they work out which is the new item on the line?
  1. Odd One Out – Hang pictures on the line that belong together. Can they pick out the odd item on the line and explain why it is the odd one out.
  • They could all be pictures of fruit with a picture of some clothing
  • They could be shapes with straight sides and one with curves
  • They could all be animals but all are wild with only one being domestic
  1. Sorting – Ask your child to sort all the pictures or items from a selection and to hang all the identical things on the washing line. They could all be the same;
  • Colour
  • Shape
  • Type
  1. Pattern Work – Using pictures, different colour and shaped paper or items create different patterns. The patterns can be based on colour, size or type of object. You can create a pattern sequence on the washing line and then ask your child to try and copy the sequence. Can they explain the pattern and create their own for you to copy and explain?
  2. Pairing or What is the Same? – Hang a range of pictures or items on the line, making sure that some of the items can be paired together because they are exactly the same. They could match because;
  • They are exactly the same e.g. a pair of socks
  • Match numbers to a picture with the same number of items on
  • Match capital to lower-case letters
  • Or have items that can be put together because they are both from the same set, for example they are types of fruit or are the same colour.

Handwriting Half-term Fun!

Water fun 2

Next week is half-term for many of us and The SUN should be out which makes it time for the water fights and games to begin.

How can water fights and games, where you can get wet, be handwriting homework?

It will soon be June, the weather should be perfect, so why not set up water squirting games in the garden. The kids are waterproof and everything else will dry out, eventually!

You will be encouraging your child to develop their hand strength, co-ordination and eye tracking skills (all handwriting skills), while increasing your cool adult status.

Some fun water games:

  • Try setting up a target wall, using chalk to draw the targets.
    • How many of the targets can you hit with water squirted from a water pistol or squeeze bottle in a set time.
    • How many targets can be washed off.
  • Set up a skittles range.
    • Each skittle hit with water can be worth a certain number of points, or the distance of the skittles may affect their value.
    • A time trial game to hit all the skittles. If you are using plastic bottles as skittles try making some of them a little heavier by putting sand or dirt in them to make it a bit harder to knock them over.
  • Move the object race games.
    • A light toy/ball has to be moved by squirts of water over a distance.
    • A range of objects moved in to target areas to gain points.

The only limitation is you and your child’s imagination and trust me kids never tire of finding new ways to play with water (but then again neither do many adults)!

Homework has never been so much FUN!