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!

Easter Drawing Ideas – Support Pre-handwriting Patterns

Easter chick & egg  Easter lamb  Easter bunny 2

The Easter weekend as usual promises a mixed bag of weather and so if you are likely to have a wet soggy one, we have put together some quick step by step Easter drawing ideas for you to try, using basic shapes such as circles, rectangles and triangles.

Drawing pictures is a great way to help your child develop their pre-handwriting strokes and shape forming skills. It is amazing how, by using these simple shapes, you and your child can create fantastic Easter cards, pictures or gift tags.

We hope you find them useful: http://bit.ly/19OJ4WO

Easter Egg Hunt to Help Teach Handwriting

Easter egg Hunt

The Easter Holidays will soon be upon us, so here are some fun activities to keep children of all ages entertained whether we have rain or sunshine.

An Easter egg, or treasure, hunt is a great way to teach children directional language. Being able to understand directional and placement (prepositions) vocabulary is important for understanding everyday instructions such as ‘put your cup on the table’; ‘go along the hall and stop at the door in front of you’.

We also use this directional language to explain how to draw patterns and write letters, which is another reason why it is important for young children to be introduced to, and have a good understanding of, this kind of vocabulary.

Through Easter egg, or treasure, hunts you can introduce new directional and placement language in a fun and exciting way. There are a number of different ways to approach this:

  • You can give verbal instructions to the hidden egg/treasure.
  • You could create a map for them to follow and ask them to talk you through the map, supporting them with new language as necessary.
  • You could use a mixture of verbal and map clues.
  • For older children get them to hide the egg/treasure and give you instructions, or draw a map.
  • If you have more than one egg/treasure and they are of different sizes make the larger ones more difficult to find.

The important thing is the language shared. Words and phrases to use are: left, right, straight on, forward, backwards, about turn, turn around, up, down, higher, lower, stop, next to, in front, beside, underneath, on top of, behind, on the left of, on the right of, outside, and inside.

Easter egg, or treasure, hunts are a great whole family activity and you are never too young or too old to join in!

Why it is Important to Teach Correct Letter Formation

 

It can often be assumed children will pick up how to write letters if they see them often enough (by osmosis). This is just not the case.  Correct letter formation has to be taught. Seeing a completed letter or word or watching it be typed up and appear on a screen does not show children how to form the letters.

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.

Letters are created through joining lines and curve shapes in a particular way. They have a designated start point and set directional pushes and pulls of the pencil to reach the designated finish point. This is why at Teach Handwriting we teach letter formation in groups/families rather than in alphabetical order. Certain groups use the same, or similar, shape and directional push and pulls of the pencil to form the letter, for instance the letter c has the same start point and anti-clockwise directional movement shape that is needed to create the letters a, d, g, o and, though a little more complicated, the letters s and e. Teaching letters in groups and families can also help to limit letter reversals such as b and d.

Due to how handwriting has or hasn’t been taught over the generations means that we all have our own way of handwriting. When supporting and teaching young children we need to develop a consistent approach so that they do not get confused or frustrated by adults giving them conflicting information.

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.

Does Your Child Have Weak Hands?

mass of handsEarlier this week we highlighted a few of the articles that reported on the fact that children struggle to hold pencils correctly for handwriting and drawing. The reason for this is based on our children’s use of technology and the effect this has on their hand strength and finger dexterity (Fine Motor Skills). Here at Teach Children we have been warning of this for some years now.

Poor fine motor skills and hand strength not only affects a child’s ability to learn and develop a good handwriting style it can make other grip patterns difficult to master as well. Power, precision, stability or a combination of all three are needed by children to compete everyday tasks, such as dressing, picking up and carrying objects (especially small items), using a knife & fork, other tools and scissor skills.

To assess your child’s hand, finger strength and dexterity check out our assessment page: http://bit.ly/1xDGECK

To improve their overall hand and finger strength check out our hand and finger strength and dexterity games:  http://bit.ly/2FejIVy

Learning to hold a pencil in an appropriate grip is not the only grip style your child needs to develop, especially once they have started school. They will need to develop those which enable them to effectively use scissors as well as a knife and fork. If your child struggles with these activities it may be that they need to be taught how to form the grips correctly (as bad habits develop quickly and are difficult to change) or develop the appropriate hand and finger skills.

How to Hold Scissors

IMG_9147

The tip of the thumb is in the top hole of the scissor handle while the tip of the middle finger is in the bottom hole. The index finger is on the bottom edge of the lower handle supporting and stabilising the scissors. The ring and little finger are curled into the palm (except if you are using large scissors as then they will fit in the bottom hole of the handle with the middle finger, to help create the cutting action).

The non-cutting hand should support the paper or item being cut; the thumb is on top of the paper and the fingers underneath, steadying and moving the paper.

How to Hold a Knife & Fork

The handle of the knife or fork lies diagonally across the top section of the palm. The ring and little finger wrap around the handle, the thumb sits on the side of the handle, while the index finger sits flat and straight on the back of the handle. The middle finger curls slightly around the handle so that when the wrist twists round, so that the knife blade edge or prongs of the fork are facing down towards the plate, the handle rests on the top middle finger joint area.

The Five Common Stages of Play Development

Kids Playing

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:

Watching – A child watches what others are doing but does not join in, they are purely an onlooker.

Solitary Play – They play on their own without regard, or need for others, and enjoy independent activities that do not require others to participate.

Parallel Play– This is when they play near others but do not interact with them, even if they are using the same play materials.

Associative Play – When children play in small groups with no defined rules or assigned roles.

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

The physical strengths and skills developed through different play experiences build the key strengths, flexibility, co-ordination and dexterity skills that children need as they grow.  All these strengths are required to perform everyday activities such as eating, washing and getting dressed. As your child starts school these skill levels need to be supported and refined even further as they face new challenges such as learning to handwrite.

Through play children continue to develop key communication skills including turn taking. There are a whole new set of facial expressions, body language and spoken vocabulary to be learnt and understood as part of play and learning the social conventions of turn taking. For tips and ideas for developing Turn Taking skills follow this link and then click on the light bulb: bit.ly/1STTKY5

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

There has been a lot in the press recently about the changes the Government are looking to make to the Early Years curriculum, such as a greater influence on teaching phonics, reading and maths skills (Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings Report). It feels as if they are pushing quite advanced skill sets down in to the Early Years. This seems to be going against the ethos of other countries that are often quoted to us as having exemplary Early Years curriculums. These are using and developing more play structured curriculum approaches; such as Finland (children start school at 7 years old).

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).

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. 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 experience, 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.

(Dr.D Whitebread, 2012)

Here are some articles from home and around the world I thought you may find interesting that support and highlight the importance of play in learning:

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

 

The Advantages of Handwritten Notes

 

Making NotesBack in December 2014 we wrote about some research by the psychologists Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer that investigated the effect of using laptops for taking notes in classrooms.

The findings of the research are interesting, they found that students who handwrote their notes, rather than just typed them into a laptop, in the class learned and retained more information.

Their conclusion was that because handwriting notes was slower, this accelerated the learning process.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Because you cannot handwrite every word that is being said in a lesson, you have to decide what notes to take. So you highlight what is important, make links/connections and note anything not really understood (questions). To do this we use critical thinking, engaging the brain with the material. However, if you touch type everything that is being said you do not have to engage or think about what you are typing.
  • Handwriting notes take more effort, this effort is what helps you to commit the material to the memory.
  • These findings are in line with research by other psychologists that state that handwriting engages different parts of the brain which typing doesn’t.

Yesterday I can across this article (http://on.inc.com/2nsDkKu) by Marla Tabaka (Jan 29 2018) which further highlighted the importance of handwritten notes. She writes about Richard Branson’s habit of always using his notebook in meeting and carrying it around with him. This enables him to jot down all the ideas that materialize in a meeting or just random thoughts, whether they are big and complex or small and simple. How often have you forgot what at the time seemed a brilliant idea if you didn’t write it down? It is usually the small ideas that can have the biggest impact.

Bibliography

Marla Tabaka Jan 29th 2018: Richard Branson Says You’ll Be More Successful if You Develop This Daily Habit: https://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/richard-branson-wont-leave-home-without-this-productivity-tool-and-he-says-you-shouldnt-either.html

Mueller P. A., Oppenheimer D. M.: First Published April 23, 2014: The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking: Phycological Science; http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614524581

 

Did you miss out on the National Handwriting Day opportunity?

Joins syle sentences

The 23rd January was National Handwriting Day. Looking at our web site visitor numbers and quantity of social media posts there doesn’t seem to have been much support for the day. What a difference to World Book Day!

Was it because we don’t think we can make handwriting exciting and fun? Was it because children, and ourselves for that matter, don’t see the point in handwriting as most communication now involves touching a screen?

Did you know handwriting allows children to do so much more than just record information with paper and pen?

Gentry & Graham (2010) explain in their white paper how handwriting impacts on other important learning processes such as storage and retrieval of information to and from the memory, as well as reinforcing the link between letters and sounds (phonics). The learning of the letters of the alphabet is done through a visual system in the brain which aids letter recognition, the most reliable predictor of future reading success.

Neurological research (Karin James, 2012) has found that young children who learn their letters through visual practice, typing or hearing alone do not show the same benefits in pre-reading skills as those who have handwritten the single letter forms.

Therefore, developing handwriting skills is a key part of learning to read as it helps a child to understand that letters stand for sounds and that sounds are put together to make words. Learning to write letters is an important part of this understanding.

Research has found that those children without an automotive recall (instant, subconscious) of the letter shapes and their formation have their composition restricted (Gathercole, Pickering, Knight & Stegmann 2004, cited Medwell et al. 2007).

There are lots of ways of supporting handwriting, not all of them linked to pen and paper, and so everyday can be a handwriting day if you and the children believe it is important. You don’t have wait until next year!

Bibliography

Gentry.J.R, Graham.S, Fall 2010: Creating Better Readers and Writers: The Importance of Direct Systematic Spelling and Handwriting Instruction in Improving Academic Performance. White Paper-Sapertein Associates.

James T, January 2012, http://homepages.indiana.edu/web/page/normal/20986.html

Medwell. J, Wary. D: Handwriting: what do we know and what do we need to know, Literacy Vol. 41, No 1, April 2007.