Why Listening Skills are Important in Learning to Handwrite

Listening Games Scanning

A child with poor listening skills will find it difficult to complete tasks especially complex ones such as learning to handwrite. This is because they have not taken in all the information and so not understood the full extent of the task, or what was required of them. This can lead to a child flitting from one activity to another and never finishing anything, slowing down their learning. They also miss out on the sense of achievement and feeling of pride when a task is completed. This helps to build a child’s confidence, self-esteem and self-motivation to try again or attempt a more challenging task.

Listening is a complicated skill that requires children to learn how to pay attention – being able to focus on a particular voice or sound by filtering out other voices and ambient noises. They then have to concentrate on the voice or sounds to take in the information, building the stamina needed to listen for extended periods of time. Then they have to interpret that information to gain meaning – comprehension.

Listening is not a set of behaviours but a set of skills that need to be taught and developed, starting from birth.

For many children good listening skills do not develop naturally, they have to be taught!

Great Summer Fun Listening Games

These games are designed to help a child learn how to block out ambient noises so that they focus and concentrate on one particular sound.

Sound Scanning Games

The idea is to identify and talk about different sounds in different locations; in the park or at home in different rooms. Ask the child to listen for a moment (timed activity 30 seconds to start with then increase) and to pick out different sounds they can hear. Some will be close and easier to identify, other sounds may be further away and require more focused concentration to work out what they may be.

  • Sound Scanning Questions to help:
      • What can you hear that is far away?
      • What can you hear that is close by?
      • What can you hear that is loud?
      • What can you hear that is quiet?
      • What can you hear that makes a high pitched sound?
      • What can you hear that makes a low pitched sound?
      • What can you hear that sounds big?
      • What can you hear that sounds small?
  • Listening Walk Activities- You could record some of the sounds heard and talked about on the walk. Try changing the ‘What can you …?’ questions to ‘What did you…?’ Depending on your child’s age they may be able to draw a sound scape picture showing all the things they heard on the walk.
  • Where is the Sound? – The aim of the game is find out where the sound is coming from. Start by using something that makes a good clear sound. Ask your child to cover their eyes (can use a blindfold) and have them sit or stand in the middle of the room. Move around the room, starting not too far away from them and make the sound. Pause between each sound to give your child time to settle and focus on it before you make the next sound. Try to keep an even, slow pace. The aim is for your child to point in the direction they believe the sound is coming from. Gradually move further away, maintaining the same sound level. Swap places with your child, so you have to guess where the sound is coming from.

To make it more challenging:

  • Change the volume of the noise.
  • Change the object that is making the noise.
  • Change the speed (rhythm), as well as the location, at which the sounds are made.

Have Fun!

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.

CC z Cloud

This is all well and good, but what needs practicing?

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, so here is a checklist to help you:

Check their:

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 of our website:

Check their:

  • Physical Strengths, Skills and Dexterity (Assessment): ly/1Aibiie
  • Specific Handwriting Difficulties : ly/1CyFA7k
  • Other Barriers to Learning: ly/1fLavUz

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.

Identifying Poor Eye Tracking and Spatial Awareness Skills in Handwriting

Eyes

Eye tracking and spatial awareness difficulties can have a dramatic effect on a child’s handwriting ability.  Weak skills in these key areas make it difficult for children to form letters correctly (curves and lines often not joining to complete the letter shape), as well as being unable to appropriately space letters in words and words in sentences. Other poor presentation skills include being unable to write on lines and often missing lines out when following on with a sentence.

For more information on how to identify eye tracking and spatial awareness difficulties as well as activities to help support and develop these skills use these links:

 

Book an Eye Test

Optition

Children will often be unaware that what they see and experience may be different to what we or their friends are seeing. As parents it can be a real shock when your child says “isn’t that what you see?”, as unless the difference is extreme and has an obvious impact on them we can think everything is ok.

Visual difficulties not only affect a child’s ability to read but also their handwriting skills.

If you are not sure about your child’s vision then book an eyesight test, it could be your child is struggling because they need glasses, and they are now cool and don’t carry the stigma they used to.

For more Information check out our Eye Test info page:  bit.ly/1zLSfmv

 

Is your child finding it difficult to form their letters correctly?

letter size issues 8725

Our step by step flow chart will guide you through the possible causes. Start from the top and work through each stage, clicking on the boxes to take you to the relevant section of our website. Identify the possible reasons your child is finding it difficult to form their letters correctly and our suggestions on how to help them: http://bit.ly/2GoUBM9

For children to develop a good handwriting style it is important to learn how to form letters correctly to begin with as this makes the transition from single letter formation to joined letter handwriting much easier. This enables them to develop a speedy, fluid and legible handwriting style.

For parents this means finding out from your child’s school which letter font they are teaching so that you can support them more effectively at home. This may mean that you have to learn a new way of writing some letters. This also applies to teachers and teaching assistants. As the adults in the situation we have to accept that it is for us to make the changes. Just because something is different from the way we were taught, or do it, doesn’t mean it is wrong it is just different!

Our letter animations are not just to support children with their learning but also to provide parents and teachers (all adults really) with the knowledge and support to help children develop a consistent handwriting style.

Is your child reluctant to handwrite or has a poor writing speed?

pressure issues 8728

Our step by step flow chart will guide you through the possible causes. Start from the top and work through each stage, clicking on the boxes to take you to the relevant section of our website. Identify possible reasons for your child’s reluctance to handwrite or poor handwriting speed and our suggestions on how to help them: http://bit.ly/2K5kO4A

Tips for a Child who Actively Avoids, or is Reluctant, to do Writing or Drawing Activities

  • Best tip – Don’t force them, the more you push the more reluctant they will become.
  • Assess their physical ability.
  • If weaknesses are found play the games that will build the appropriate muscles groups.
  • Develop directional skills and shape formation through activities that don’t require a pencil so that they are still developing their motor memory skills which will help them later on when they do start to draw and write.
  • When ready, try timed drawing and writing activities after your child has had a good run around or physical activity (but not when they are tired).
  • Set up a good writing environment where they are sitting comfortably and without distractions, such as the TV.
  • Correct poor posture and keep the activity short. One minute of happy drawing is better than no minutes.
  • Try a ‘Playtime Drawing /Writing Session’ (see below).
  • End the sessions with a fun activity or treat.
  • This will take time, patience and encouragement, each improvement, no matter how small, needs to be recognised and positively praised.
  • Remember as your child’s skills develop so does their confidence to try, and their self-esteem, as they succeed where once they felt they failed.

How to Organise a Playtime Drawing/Writing Session

  • When ready, try timed drawing or writing activities after your child has had a good run around or other physical activity (but not when they are tired).
  • Set up a good writing environment where they are sitting comfortably and without distraction, such as having the TV on.
  • Correct poor posture and keep the activity short – up to 5 minutes initially. However, one minute of happy drawing/writing is better than no minutes.
  • After the drawing/writing play a non-drawing activity or game with your child. Make this break between 3 and 5 minutes long, ensuring your child knows when it will end (use a timer so they can see when they will need to stop)
  • Return to the original drawing/writing activity for up to another 5 minutes.
  • End the sessions with a fun activity or treat.

Tips on Running the Session

  • Start with 2 drawing/writing activities and then slowly increase the drawing/writing time and/or the number of activities and reduce the playtime slot times.
  • You could try to do a couple of these kind of sessions at different times during the day.
  • It may take time for your child to be comfortable with the sessions. You need to show a lot of patience and encouragement, each improvement no matter how small needs to be recognised and positively praised.
  • Remember as your child’s skills develop so does their confidence to try and their self-esteem grows as they succeed where once they felt they failed.

Tips on Sensory – Pressure Related Difficulties

Some children have a poor handwriting speed or just don’t want to try handwriting because of sensory pressure related difficulties and struggle to maintain and control the pressure required to handwrite.

Here are some additional tips to help support a child who is pressing down too hard with their pencil:

  • Focused games and activities can help to develop both the physical strength and sensory perception areas.
  • Make sure pencil grip is not too close to the tip of the pencil (check out our good grip section).
  • Play dough writing – flatten a large piece of play dough/clay on to a desk and using a pencil write or draw onto it. The idea is to create smooth lines, not torn ones, which pressing too hard will create. The advantage of this activity is it gives your child instant feedback on whether they are pressing too hard or not. When a good pressure has been found ask your child to try doing it with their eyes closed and talk through how their body feels when they are using the right amount of pressure.
  • Corrugated card – place some corrugated card under the writing paper – the aim is to try not to flatten the bumps in the card.
  • Tin foil writing board – wrap a piece of card in tin foil and place the paper on top, the aim is to not rip the foil when writing.
  • Carbon copies – use carbon paper to create an extra copy, start with two or three sheets of paper on top of the carbon paper then move to two and then one, so that your child starts developing an understanding of how much pressure is needed for a task and how that feels. Talk through with them how it feels as they need less pressure to create a copy.
  • Pattern work – look at and discuss light and dark line patterns and how to create them. Then using different writing tools ask your child to try and create their own. Talk through how it feels when they are making dark lines compared to faint/pale colour lines using the same pencil or crayon.

Here are some additional tips to help support a child who is Not pressing down hard enough with their pencil:

  • Focused games and activities can help to develop the physical strength and sensory perception areas.
  • Crayon rubbings – Place a piece of paper over the top of the object which is being used for the rubbing and then ask the child to rub the crayon on the paper to get a rubbing print; this will need the child to apply quite a lot of pressure. When a good pressure has been found ask your child to try doing it with their eyes closed and talk through how their body feels when they are using the right amount of pressure.
  • Wax drawings – rub a wax crayon all over a piece of paper then turn it over on to a plain piece of paper. Draw on the back of the wax crayoned paper and when finished lift and see another copy of the picture. The greater the pressure the more complete the hidden picture will appear.
  • Carbon copies – use carbon paper to create an extra copy, start with one sheet of paper on top of the carbon paper then move to two so that your child starts to develop an understanding of how much pressure is needed for a task and how that feels.
  • Use a softer pencil such as a B6 or B4 and slowly change the pencils so that they work up to a HB. Each pencil change will mean they have to exert a little more pressure to create the same line mark. B marked pencils are softer than H.
  • Pattern work – look at and discuss light and dark line patterns and how to create them. Then using different writing tools ask your child to try and create their own. Talk through how it feels when they are making dark lines compared to faint/pale colour lines using the same pencil or crayon.

Is Poor Body Posture or Pencil Grip Holding your Child Back?

Boy writng head leaning on hand

We expect our children to sit and write at a desk for longer periods of time at school and this can become very challenging for some children.  Handwriting is a very physical task requiring good gross and fine motor skills. A weakness in either, or both, of these areas can be the reason for a child to struggle with longer handwriting tasks.

Our step by step flow chart will guide you through the possible causes. Start from the top and work through each stage, clicking on the boxes to take you to the relevant section of our website. Identify possible reasons for your child’s poor body posture or pencil grip and our suggestions on how to help them: http://bit.ly/2JJpvRq

Why it is important to correct a poor body posture and/or pencil grip?

Children with a poor body posture often slouched over a desk, laying their head on the table or with their head propped up by their hand and arm, or pull their chair in so far that they can rest their tummy on the edge of the table to help them keep a more upright position. This can look as if they are bored and disinterested in what they are doing. However this is not generally the case.

A poor posture position is not always due to boredom or incorrect chair and table height. For many children it is a lack of body strength or core muscle tone (the large muscle groups that control shoulder stability and the trunk of the body that work to enable us to sit and stand upright for sustained periods of time).

This is bad for them, as it puts unnecessary strain on the body, causing neck or backache and discomfort, which in turn makes them fidget as they try to get comfortable. All this can distract them from the task in hand and limit their handwriting ability as it reduces their hand and finger movements.

Children with a poor pencil grip can find forming letters difficult and their handwriting can be slow or uncomfortable. We often talk about the most appropriate grip for handwriting being the tripod grip (if developmentally appropriate bit.ly/1s7XjNP); but this usually only refers to finger position. It is easy to forget the importance of the actual hand position in relation to the pencil and paper for handwriting.

The ideal position is for the hand, wrist and elbow to be below the tip of the pencil and under the writing line (this is roughly at 45 degrees to the table edge if the paper is tilted correctly: bit.ly/1GsZVJ6).

Some children will hold the pencil in a tripod grip but develop a hooked hand position (more commonly seen with left handed writers) or move the elbow too far up the table, causing the forearm and wrist to be nearly horizontal with the table edge, because they feel they can see what they are writing better.

A hooked grip puts unnecessary strain on the hand ligaments and forces the body into a poor sitting position, again putting extra strain on the body. This in turn makes handwriting a tiring and uncomfortable task, impacting on your child’s overall learning experience.

Handwriting Letter & Word Spacing Issues

letter spacing

Some children find it difficult to space their letters in words correctly and to show spacing between words. Our step by step flow diagram chart will guide you through. Start from the top and working through each stage, clicking on the boxes to take you to the relevant sections of our website. Identify possible reasons for your child’s letter and spacing issues and provides suggestions on how to help them: http://bit.ly/2HtASwa

General Tips on Improving Handwriting Letter & Word Spacing:

  • Using a piece of your child’s writing talk through it together, as this may help you to better understand what it is your child sees. Asking the following kind of questions and discussing the answers will help:
    • Can you read this to me?
    • Which letters do you think make the word/s?
    • Where does one-word end and another one start?
    • Can you show me the line you think the word should sit on?
    • Where would you start your next line of writing?
    • Which letters do you think are sitting on the line correctly?
    • What gap size between letters in a word looks best?
    • What gap size between words in a line of writing looks best?
  • It may help to have some other examples of writing (even some you have done yourself) so that different gap and spacing sizes can be compared. Ask your child to pick the piece of writing they think looks best and seems easier to read.
  • What they see and understand may be very different to what you are seeing and thought they understood.
  • An explanation of how letters sit, close together in a word, may need to be discussed with your child as they may not have understood this. It is often presumed they naturally pick up and understand this writing rule.
  • Once the understanding of letter spacing in words has been taught, the larger spacing between individual words is next. Often children are told to leave a finger space between each word, this is fine when a child is small and has little fingers but is not always the case. An alternative is to provide your child with an appropriate sized flat tool which they can place on the paper at the end of a word as a guide to how much space is to be left before writing the next word. Over time they will not need the tool as they have developed the spatial awareness skill for the distance needed to be left between words.
  • The ideal space size between words is the size of one of their lower case letters.
  • It is also useful to talk about the blank space between lines and on the page in general. Explain that these spaces and gaps help with presentation of the work so that it can be seen and read more easily.
  • The correct paper tilt can help a child who is finding it hard to start each line of writing at the margin.
  • Seeing the writing line properly over a whole page can be difficult for some children. Use paper with a different colour line such as red, green, blue or yellow or even black/blue lines on coloured paper.
  • Paper with raised lines may help others as they feel the slight raise in the paper as they write, guiding them as to the position of the line.
  • Coloured line grids and picture clues can help children learn to position letters correctly on the line and in relation to each other.

 

Helping to Overcome Handwriting Difficulties

Boy writing with head on table

It can be very difficult to understand why a child is struggling with their handwriting.

Where do you start?

We have designed four flow charts to help you. These flow charts take you logically through the key strengths and skill sets required for handwriting. This allows you to discount those areas in which the child is working well, so that you can work more specifically on the key areas in which the child really needs extra support.

By clicking on the flow chart boxes, you are taken to website pages that support that particular area so you can decide whether it is a skill set that needs to be worked on more or not.

The Handwriting Difficulties Page explains the four difficulty areas that our flow charts cover so that you can follow a chart that best suits your requirements: bit.ly/1CyFA7k

Making it Easier to Copy from the Board

Tips for copying from a board text

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!