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?
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.
It 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.
In last months Teach Primary’s Teach Reading & Writing magazine Kathryn Priddey, Head of Launde Primary School in Leicestershire, explained why they love the Teach Handwriting Scheme, course options and free Teach Handwriting website (page 51, published 06/05/19 Maze Media (2000) Ltd).
Kathryn’s article focuses on why she loves the Teach Handwriting Scheme and the three key elements that are important to her school and the learning outcomes for her pupils:
“A clear teaching pathway from Foundation through to Year 6”
“An engaging scheme with children at the heart of it”
“Bespoke training opportunities for staff and parents”
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:
- 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?
- 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
- 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;
- 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?
- 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.
It can be difficult to identify why a child is having trouble learning to handwrite fluidly and with speed. This is because handwriting is a complex skill, requiring both physical skills (Key Strengths) and the knowledge (Key Abilities) of how to form and join letters correctly.
Where do you start?
Follow our step by step guide to identify where the problem may lie and then work with the child using our suggested solutions: http://bit.ly/2uFcUJF
Don’t miss the early steps, even though you think they may not be relevant to an older learner, as the child may be struggling because they have either missed an earlier stage of physical development or teaching.
Sometimes children need to be taken back before they can move forward.
Well the festive holidays are over and many of us are back at work and school. So it is time to get back into good habits for the New Year!
So, before you try to encourage your little darlings to sit and write, get them to do a few physical handwriting ‘Warm Up Exercises’. Not only do they help to prepare the hands and fingers for the task ahead, they also help to release any tension that has built up. They are fun to do, which usually brings a smile and often laughter, an added tonic to any learning experience.
The warm up exercises can be accessed through a number of ways:
- Teachers through the content section for the Key Stage you are teaching by clicking on the Handwriting warm up activities button.
- Parents through the getting the most from our website section by clicking on the picture under the Taking the tension out of handwriting title.
- Resources in the How to Teach Handwriting section by clicking on the Handwriting warm up activities button.
- Follow this link: https://www.teachhandwriting.co.uk/handwriting-warm-up-exercises.html
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.
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.
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
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!
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