National Handwriting Day is Here!

National Handwriting Day is Here!

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

 

Today is National Handwriting Day!
Handwriting skills are LEARNING skills.

 

January 23 is National Handwriting Day!

 

Some Discussion

There’s been quite a bit of debate recently about the value of including a structured handwriting program, especially cursive, in our students’ daily schedule.  While cursive has been given the most attention, I have found, as an Occupational Therapist who specializes in handwriting skills, that handwriting instruction in general has taken a giant leap backward in importance relative to that of the other subject areas.  Yes, handwriting IS a subject area.  It is not an extracurricular activity.  While we might loudly discuss whether or not the mastery of cursive is necessary to be able to read a letter from grandmom, manuscript in general has been given a bad rap as keyboarding takes center stage in our children’s educational and social arenas.

 

Well, mastering the ability to write efficiently and effectively with a pen, pencil, crayon, or marker goes beyond caring whether or not Grandmom can be convinced to send National Handwriting Day is Here! via Handwriting is Fun! Bloge-cards.  It “speaks” to the important role that handwriting mastery plays in the development of young brains and the educational success of our children.  Printing practice improves automatic letter recognition, which has been noted as “a necessary prerequisite for later decoding of unfamiliar print.” (1)   Studies have shown that knowledge of the “alphabet at kindergarten entry is a strong predictor of reading during first grade.” (2)

 

The benefits of handwriting mastery extend past a pretty signature.  Hidden in the learning of printing or cursive are the underlying skills needed to read and write:

– recognizing letters, recalling them correctly and consistently, and connecting them efficiently in order to create a word.

– scanning, tracking, and accommodation.

Fluid handwriting is automatic, allowing the writer to push the pencil along and record thoughts without having to concentrate on the formation of letters, or words for that matter.  Writing is one of the primary ways that teachers evaluate a student’s learning.  And as he progresses through the grades, the volume and complexity of reading and writing gathers speed.  If he has poor reading and writing skills, he is most likely to be “left behind.”

 

The argument is being made, as we speak, that computers will fix all of this handwriting “mumbojumbo.”  Each student will receive an electronic device as they enter Kindergarten (preschool, maybe!) and then no one will ever have to utter the word “handwriting” again!  I think we’ve forgotten that handwriting is a cognitive, visual-motor, and sensory experience. (3)  It involves more areas of the brain than any other activity, barring speech.  

University of Washington professor, Virginia Berninger, (4) reported study results revealing that keyboarding isn’t as effective as handwriting in producing efficient “transcription” skills.  Transcription is a “basic cognitive process involved in writing that enables a writer to translate thoughts or ideas into written language.”  Handwriting, as well as spelling, is a transcription process.  Keyboarding doesn’t provide the essential visual-motor involvement that comes from engaging the hand in forming letters.  Berninger also reported that brain imaging showed that sequencing the fingers during handwriting may engage the thinking processes for children.

 

For some students, handwriting is a piece of cake.  It just “comes to them.”  For others, they require special accommodations in order make it happen.  And sometimes those accommodations come in the form of a computer.  Sandwiched in between these two groups are the children that need just a bit of help.  They don’t “just get it” but they don’t qualify for services, either.  But without some additional attention, they will find themselves falling further and further behind in their schoolwork because handwriting skills are utilized across the subject areas.  For those children, it is important to get a Handwriting Assessment to determine the level of remediation that he will need to master handwriting.

 

Some Suggestions

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So often, the children who are struggling with handwriting will try to tell us they need help by saying, “I don’t like handwriting!”

Most Important Thing About Handwriting

Instead, let’s take a look at some fun ideas for encouraging the development of handwriting skills that have been shared on the internet:

 

1.  Finger and Hand Strengthening:

10 Activities to Work on Hand Strengthening

2.  Creative Expression:

 Getting Kids to Love Writing

Picture Writing Prompts for Older Students

mailbox-jbom411 pixabay

 

3.  Communication:

Pen-Pal Writing Set for Kids (for younger students)
Pen Pal Kit (for older students)

 

 

4.  Visual-Motor, Visual-Perceptual, Core Strength:

Can we practice handwriting without a pencil, please?

5.  Community Involvement:

Write a letter to a Wounded Warrior

6.  Art:

Art Projects for Kids (all ages)

Observational Drawings (all ages)kitchen-scale srevepb pixabay

7.  Cooking:

Cookbooks for Kids:  Learn to Make Foods From Around The World

Family Recipe Books (younger students)

8.  ‘Handy” Resources:

Education.com provides free, downloadable worksheets that focus on letters (printed and cursive) with creative ideas for building hand strength, coordination, and cognitive skills.

Teachers Pay Teachers offers downloads, some for free and some for a fee, that span the subject areas.  They include creative writing activities that can enhance handwriting skills.

 

John Hancock would have been 272 years old this year.  His signature was so distinctive that we still say, “Put your John Hancock here.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if someday people were using your child’s name?  I have to admit, “Put your Katherine Collmer here” has a certain ring to it!

I hope you’ve found some useful information here that with help your children to enjoy handwriting for the rest of their lives!

 

Katherine

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  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; 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.
 

(1) “Domain 2: Literacy.”  The Head Start Leaders Guide to Positive Child Outcomes. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 2003. English.

(2)  Snow, Catherine E., M. Susan Burns, and Peg Griffin. “Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children.” Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. National Academy Press, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. <http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/reading/>.

(3) The University of Stavanger. “Better learning through handwriting.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119095458.htm>.

(4)   “The Pen May Be Mightier than the Keyboard.” EurekAlert! University of Washington, 16 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Jan. 2015. <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-09/uow-tpm091609.php>.

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Handwriting Needs a Good Seat

Good Posture

5 Reasons Why Handwriting Needs a Good Seat

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

Handwriting skills are developed over time with experiences that involve the eyes, hands, arms, and body. There are so many movements that build up to fine-motor efficiency!

www.handwritingwithkatherine.com
www.handwritingwithkatherine.com

These links involve visual, motor, and sensory skills in order to fine-tune each of their movements as they challenge the other parts to stay on the same course. So, when children are learning letter formations in kindergarten, their skills depend upon the ability of each of these parts to “do its own part!”

One of the most important facets of a child’s handwriting success is his chair. Yes, the chair plays a key role in placing the important parts of the body in the correct place for building handwriting skills. Here’s why!

Seating Tips

  1. An appropriately sized chair places a student’s feet flat on the floor, resting easily with a 90-degree angle at the ankles. This provides a stable foundation for sitting comfortably in the chair without slouching. This will place the knees into a 90-degree angle, as well, allowing the student to sit back in the chair with an erect posture.
  1. When a student is able to sit comfortably toward the back of his chair, his hips will naturally fall into a 90-degree angle and allow him to maintain an upright posture for fine-motor work.
  1. The back of the knees should not be more than 1” from the edge of the edge of the chair to avoid cutting into the student’s leg and to prevent slouching toward the front of the chair.

    Seating height is an important link to handwriting mastery!
    Seating height is an important link to handwriting mastery!
  1. When a student is seated comfortably using the “90-Degree Angle Rule,” the tops of his legs should not touch the bottom of the desk. If there is a tight fit between the tops of his legs and the bottom of the desk, then the desk is too low.
  1. When a chair provides a stable sitting posture, it is easier to adjust the desk height to fit each student’s handwriting needs. The desktop should be between 1 and 1-1/2” from the bottom of the student’s flexed elbow. This allows the student to rest his arm comfortably on the desk and to utilize smooth handwriting movements.

Now that we’ve determined the correct chair and desk heights for our young hand writers, let’s talk about 5 quick fixes that can help you get these parts into the right places!

5 Quick Fixes for Chairs and Desks

  1. If a child’s feet do not touch the floor, a book or small stool under his feet can place his ankles into a 90-degree angle and allow his feet to rest flat in a comfortable position.
  1. If a child’s chair is too low, he can sit on a book or cushion to raise him up and place his hips and knees into 90-degree angles.
  1. If a child’s desk is too low and cannot be adjusted, and his chair is at an appropriate height, books can be placed under the legs of the desk to raise it up. This is not an optimal solution but will do in a pinch!
  1. If a child’s desk is too high, and his chair is at appropriate height, a book under his feet and a cushion on his chair should bring him up to the correct elbow height for handwriting ease.
Writing on a vertical surface enhances handwriting mastery!
Writing on a vertical surface enhances handwriting mastery!
  1. If all else fails, then the best possible solution would be to allow the student to stand at a table or counter that is at elbow height to complete his handwriting work. If this is not available, then he can work on a vertical surface (taping his worksheet to the wall), which will also help him develop strength in his shoulder, arm, wrist, hand, and fingers!

By providing students with the appropriate chair and desk heights for handwriting skills, we are giving them the opportunity to learn correct posture for every time they are seated in a chair or at a desk!

Good posture is a life-long skill!

I hope that you have found this resource to be helpful.

If so, you can download a free printable on my website!

As always, thanks for reading! Hope to see you next time,

Katherine

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

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  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.
 
 
 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; 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.
 
(All photos are the property of Handwriting With Katherine and their use must include a link to this blog or the Handwriting With Katherine website.)
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