Modern Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Are they simply DRAWING? (Part 1)

Is the hand ready for handwriting?
Is the hand ready for handwriting?

 

“Is writing really for the eye, at the expense of the hands?”

 

 

 

 

 

If you find that question intriguing, you must pick up Dr. Mark Changizi’s, equally intriguing book, The Vision Revolution.

As an evolutionary neurobiologist, he sparks this thought and

reveals that it is fortunate for the eye that

“writing has been culturally selected to look like nature….”

with its tendency “… to use the fundamental structural shapes in nature.”

That is good because the eye has evolved to see nature….”

It is unfortunate for “the hand, however, (which) has not evolved to draw nature.”  (1. p. 170)

 The Eye Versus The Hand

"Human sight is a complex sense composed of many complementary elements that work together.  The miraculous human eye, elegant in its detail and design, represents a gateway to vision."
“Human sight is a complex sense composed of many complementary elements that work together. The miraculous human eye, elegant in its detail and design, represents a gateway to vision.”

Our Eyes:

  • Our eyes have developed to recognize and interpret the foundational shapes and contours of nature – gradual and smooth deviations much like gentle movements with few angles to mark boundaries or beginnings and endings.
  • Our writing processes have changed over time, using nature as its guide, to meet the needs of our eyes.
  • Our ability to “see the natural shapes around us and…put those shapes to paper” to produce “thousands of tiny shapes” we call letters, and THEN to be able to use our rapid visual processing skills to interpret them is what Dr. Changizi calls “our greatest superpower of all!
  • This power provides us with literacy…which IS power in itself.  And he credits this superpower to the evolution of our eyes to record and analyze information for writing. (1. p. 167)

 

Our Hands:

Our hands did not evolve to reproduce nature's shapes naturally.
Our hands did not evolve to reproduce nature’s shapes naturally.
  • The hand, however, did not evolve to reproduce nature’s shapes naturally.  It was required to adapt to a handwriting process that was developed to use the fundamental shapes and contours of nature – lines and curves – to accommodate our visual system. 
  • Fine motor skill development is focused upon the need to use our hands in all of the required tasks of life – including handwriting. 
  • And the development of handwriting skills begins as soon as a child uses his visual system for the first time – at birth – before he ever puts a writing instrument to paper (or the wall) and makes a mark.
  • As soon as he does “make his mark,” he begins to understand the connection between the use of his hand and his ability to communicate with others.**

 

Scribbling, as pointless as it may appear, is the foundation for handwriting skills.

Scribbling is the foundation for handwriting skills.
Scribbling is the foundation for handwriting skills.
  • Scribbling is a natural developmental process that children worldwide develop following a similar process while using similar shapes.

 

  • Dr. Changizi urges us to look at children’s scribblings and understand that they are “objects – not necessarily realistic ones – (used) to convey a message…each culture using its own conventions to depict different objects.” (1. p. 177)  He suggests that if we “read” children’s drawings from a country that does not represent animals or people in art in the same manner as we do, their “objects” would most likely be difficult for us to interpret, as they are using their experiences to define them.  They are not pieces of lines and circles that have been placed next to each other to copy the object; but a visual image of what the object “looks” like to them in their “mind’s eye.”  Much like hieroglyphics, wouldn’t you say?

 

Hieroglyphics Fun Facts

  • Each character represented a common object in Egypt and could represent the sound of the object or simply an idea associated with it.
  • Of course, Egyptian hieroglyphics were based upon the conventions of the time and would be difficult for us to read anywhere outside of ancient Egypt without an interpreter.

 

My point here is that the pictures told the story – pictures of objects drawn from the “mind’s eye” – using mostly lines and strokes.   The readers “spoke” the same written language and understood the meaning of the representations.    The need for a written language that could be produced fluidly by hand and understood by those outside of one’s culture, however, demanded the need for structured handwriting instruction – one that would meet the demands of both the eyes and the hand.   This is where handwriting strokes came in.

 

Harnessing Scribbling to Mimic Nature

It appears that strokes are “fairly easy to see by the visual system, and are much easier for the hand to produce” than the shapes and contours in nature. (p. 171) 

Basic Strokes - Universal Handwriting Program
Basic Strokes – Universal Handwriting Program

Without the hand adapting to the needs of the eye, “the visual system couldn’t be harnessed for reading.”  Our “Literacy Superpower” would not be available to us.  Natural handwriting strokes, the precursors to handwriting skills, are all created through the scribbling of squiggles and doodles.  A crayon in a child’s fist is the first step in producing a message for the reader.  As children begin to gain muscular control over that crayon, they begin to realize that they can control which direction those scribbles take and the number of ways they can use them to create repeated patterns.  The first time they draw a dog that someone actually recognizes without translation, they collect that motor pattern and store it for future use, refining and modifying it until it is the best dog they’ve ever drawn.

 

Modern handwriting instruction is (and should be) taught in much the same way. 

  • First we harness those squiggles and scribbles as children learn to draw some vertical and horizontal lines, then some circles. 
  • As they gain control over the motor movements, we move them on to crossed lines and a square, finally going beyond and producing triangles and diamonds. 
  • As a more mature grasping pattern develops, as well as their visual perceptual skills, we provide practice designed to refine their burgeoning handwriting style.  
  • When they begin to master the chosen handwriting program,  they are in fact developing their own personal style.  In the end, they will produce a fluid, smooth, and legible handwriting that reflects their own perspective – how they see the words in their “mind’s eye.” 

 

This harnessing of scribbling forces us to follow convention and learn the strokes and forms that society can read and interpret.  But the seed for our personal handwriting style… our creative interpretations for the message that we want to convey…remains in our scribbling memories.  Hence, if a child is struggling with the mastery of the strokes that his hands have been adapted to produce, wouldn’t a bit of drawing practice help him to find his way naturally toward handwriting success?

"Open the doors to learning for children through the visual arts." (Art In The School.Org)
“Open the doors to learning for children through the visual arts.” (Art In The School.Org)

 

In Part 2 in our “Modern Handwriting or Hieroglyphics” series, I will “draw” upon the elements of art that suggest that drawing would be the perfect medium for handwriting instruction and remediation.  I certainly hope that you will join me – and share your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

(1)  The Vision Revolution:  Dr. Mark Changizi
**Interesting Note:  Dr. Changizi reveals on page 170 of his book, The Vision Revolution, that data he has collected from children’s scribbles (has) shown that “the fundamental structures occurring in scribbles are unlike those found in writing and in nature.”

 
Katherine Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L
Katherine Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who owns and operates a clinic that specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
 

 

 

 

 

 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; the Wellness For Life:  Cape Cod blog; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

 

 

Handwriting Tips: Getting It Right The First Time (using the lessons in life)

Handwriting Tips:  Getting It Right The First Time (using the lessons in life)

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

I have always been one to say, “Well, that was nice but next time….!”  I am never quite satisfied with the status quo.  If something didn’t happen quite the way I’d expected, I went on the hunt for a different way to approach it.  That’s not to say that I always found a better way – simply a different one.  Today I’d like to take some of those lessons learned and turn them into Handwriting Tips for Getting It Right the first Time!  Let’s go, shall we?

 

 

Tip 1: Never buy a house with a wet basement.
Tip 1: Never buy a house with a wet basement.

Tip #1:  Never buy a house with a wet basement.

Wet basements are the ultimate turn-off for me when I’m looking for a new home.  A soggy bottom means a weak foundation.  This hold true for handwriting skills, as well.  The early learning stages MUST be built soundly in order for a young writer to develop the appropriate skills for pencil grasp, letter formation and recognition, and fluid handwriting.  A weak foundation will result in lots of expensive “remodeling” later on!

 

 

Tip #2:  Birds do not nest in painted birdhouses.

Tip 2: Birds do not nest in painted birdhouses.
Tip 2: Birds do not nest in painted birdhouses.

Yes, that’s true!  When we purchased our nifty birdhouse a few years back, I asked the builder why he didn’t paint them?  He told me they were “put off” by the paint.  Voila!  A new fun fact is learned!  The same truth can be applied to handwriting practice.  If students who are struggling with handwriting skills are discouraged and put off by desk work and pencil-and-paper activities, then it is certainly counterproductive to ask them to spend time on them.  Handwriting practice and remediation can be accomplished with plenty of activities that get them up and moving, that provide them with opportunities for art work, or simply look like child’s play!  Painted birdhouses mean they will be empty.  No sense in that, eh?

 

 

Tip 3: Less is more!
Tip 3: Less is more!

Tip #3:  Less is more.

As my hubby and I are downsizing and getting ready to move to Arizona, we have come to realize that this saying has enormous value!  Phew!  Who knew that two people could accumulate so many useless things?  They must have been useless because some of them I haven’t even touched in the past 10 years!  Having “more” certainly didn’t make our life any better.  This same truth is a vital link for handwriting mastery.  Practicing letters or words over and over, whether they be on a chalkboard, paper, or in sand, can become tedious and boring.  Again, working on the fine and visual motor skills that lay the foundation is more fun and will enhance handwriting skills without your child even knowing he is practicing handwriting!  Less boring = more learning!

 

 

Tip  #4:  Don’t believe in coincidences.

Tip 4: Don't believe in coincidences.
Tip 4: Don’t believe in coincidences.

The old saying “It was meant to happen” is one that allows us to believe in coincidences.  If an event occurs, we can accept it without complaint and step away from the challenge of changing it.  Coincidences in handwriting are events that make it easy to accept sloppy and illegible skills.  They are the times when we say, “Well, we won’t need handwriting soon because technology will replace it.”  Or, “Why would I waste time on handwriting skills when he only needs to learn keyboarding?”  The increased use of technology and its capabilities is only a coincidence.  Handwriting skills have been and continue to be an important facet of learning – ones that continue to need instruction and remediation when they fall short.  Believing in coincidences can stand in the way of a child’s educational success.  Now was THAT meant to be?

 

 

Tip 5: Money doesn't grow on trees.
Tip 5: Money doesn’t grow on trees.

Tip #5:  Money doesn’t grow on trees.

It doesn’t?  Man, don’t dash my dreams just yet!  Funny, but I think I’ve heard just about every parent I’ve met say that to their child at least once in my presence!  Having money is a good thing, of course; but, as we’ve all learned in the end, it needs to be earned and saved.  Handwriting mastery works the same way.   The skills a child needs for fluid and legible handwriting must be taught using a STRUCTURED PROGRAM, with CONSISTENT PRACTICE, and with GUIDANCE.   They don’t simply grow on trees naturally where they can be plucked off when we need them.  They grow with practice and remediation.

 

 

 

 

 
The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published by and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine. 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author and link to an attachment page must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Pictures that are the property of an outside site should include the link provided with the photo to give proper credit to their owners.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

 

 

Failed at Handwriting: Collateral Damage From Poor Vision Skills

Education News
Education News
Collateral damage is the damage caused to people as a result of incidents occurring around them in which they are not necessarily involved.  Despite their lack of participation, the injuries or harm that are inflicted on them are real, nonetheless.  At times, people can be aware of the impending danger; but the occurrence can also come at them from out of the blue.  The danger was there all of the time but their awareness of it comes only after it has made itself visible.

 

Visible…that’s the key word in the discussion about collateral damage and handwriting skills. 

 

The impending danger – the underlying cause that can result in handwriting struggles – will sometimes only show itself when a child begins to USE his vision-related skills in kindergarten.

The signs may be there prior to kindergarten and first grade; but they are subtle and lurk behind our reluctance to push children past their developmental skill level.

If a preschooler is having some difficulties with pre-handwriting skills, it is natural and correct for us to consider that he may be developing at his own rate and that he will catch up with experience.

Only when he fails to do that do we begin to suspect that there may be another cause for his struggles.

By the time we sidle up to the problem, our little kindergarten student is struggling with reading, writing, and arithmetic expectations.

 

How do we prevent our children from collateral damage resulting from poor vision skills? Prevention is best achieved by “getting smart” on vision wellness strategies and the outward symptoms of visual skill impairments.  Let’s

A child's vision is the gateway to her world.
A child’s vision is the gateway to her world.

review those here.

 

  • Vision Assessments

1.  Over 60% of what a child learns, from the day he is born, is learned through his vision.  Fifty percent of what he needs to know will be obtained in his first year of life.

2.  The most critical stages of vision development occur during that first year.  Hence, undetected vision problems can lead to permanent vision impairment.

3.  Babies can develop amblyopia, strabismus, eye diseases, and refractive error without detection.

4.  It is recommended that babies receive their first vision assessment by a developmental optometrist

between the ages of 6-12 months,

at the age of 3,

as they enter kindergarten, and

every year thereafter, unless otherwise specified by their developmental optometrist.

5.  InfantSEE provides free vision assessments for babies between the ages of 6-12 months, regardless of their access to insurance benefits or their parents’ financial status.

Outward Symptoms

1.  Visual Red Flags* are behaviors that may indicate possible difficulties in visual functions.

2.  They can be observed during a child’s every day activities, such as dressing, playground exploration, and fine-motor arts and crafts.

Eyes that drift inward or outward, consistently or inconsistently, warrant assessment by a developmental optometrist.
Eyes that drift inward or outward, consistently or inconsistently, warrant assessment by a developmental optometrist.

3.  Some symptoms are quite visible, such as stumbling or walking into walls, awkward movements with running and climbing, difficulty with movement sequences (Simon Says), or rubbing the eyes or squinting.

4.  Other symptoms include inappropriate social behaviors such as grabbing at items presented to him, giving the appearance of staring at or ignoring someone speaking to him, too much/too little pressure on his pencil.

5.  Eyes that drift in or out, consistently or inconsistently, can indicate a visual impairment and should be brought to the attention of a pediatrician and developmental optometrist.

 

In order for a child to master the skills necessary for kindergarten readiness…and ultimately reading, handwriting, and math success…he needs to be able to see clearly.

Sometimes, all a child needs for success, are a pair of glasses!
Sometimes, all a child needs for success, are a pair of glasses!

Seeing clearly means that his eyes are working together to form one image, an accurate perception of himself and his world, for an adequate length of time.

He needs to be able to manipulate letters and numbers on a page, locate and identify errors, understand the boundaries of his working space, and write for comprehension – both his and his reader’s.

He must be able to “learn to read and read to learn.”

These skills are built upon strong and solid vision skills.  And vision skills are built from birth.

 

As always, thanks for reading!  “See” you next time!
 
Katherine
 
 
 
 *A Vision Red Flags Checklist can be obtained on Handwriting With Katherine’s Resources Page.
 
 
The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published by and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine.

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

All other pictures should provide a link back to their source.

 

 

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.