10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness

cartoon girl public domain pictures pixabay

10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

Kindergarten has become the new first grade.  Yes, I am from the “old school” where free play, guided activities, and milk and cookies gave Kindergarten it’s role and purpose.  I know they included nap time in there, as well, but I was never a napper.  So, I spent that quiet time day dreaming and cooking up story ideas in my head!  Kindergarten was a place to dream, grow, and get to know all about yourself.  But all that has been designated as preschool activities and Kindergarteners are expected to have certain skills at the “ready” when they come to school.  So, let’s take a look at some Kindergarten Readiness Skills, shall we?

 

 

First Some Research

  • A 2004 study conducted by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, (2) looked at the factors and components that account for differences in children’s skills and performance in Kindergarten.  They found that “the cognitive and social skills with which young children enter kindergarten make a difference in their achievement in kindergarten.”  Findings indicated that a child’s family experiences and interactions “strongly correlated with their relative skills and abilities upon entry to kindergarten.”
  • The authors of a 2002 National Center for Early Learning and Development study (1) found that “school readiness is not defined as a trait of a child but rather as a product of interactions in terms of the settings in which the child participates.”  Family, social, and educational environments prior to Kindergarten provide youngsters with opportunities to learn behaviors, language and communication skills, and problem solving strategies.
  • A 2000 longitudinal study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, (3) determined that “the foundation of cognitive skills and knowledge that children build in kindergarten will influence children’s experience in school and their cognitive growth in later school years.”

 

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve selected 3 studies that are not current.  I’ve done that to emphasize that Kindergarten readiness has been known to be an important factor in a child’s educational success for some time.  Even us stick-in-the-muds have to admit that!  There is a great deal of effort in the communities to get children, their parents, and the schools together early to foster the development of children’s skills during the critical first 5 years.  Knowledge is the most important tool we can give parents in their quest for educational success for their children.  And it all needs to start before they enter the door to their Kindergarten classroom.puzzle family cartoon geralt pixabay-210786_1280

 

What are Kindergarten Readiness Skills?

Children who come to Kindergarten are expected to have a wide range of skills that will help them to learn and grown in school.

  • Enthusiasm toward learning.   A child should be excited about exploring new activities, comfortable with asking questions, and diligent enough to persevere with challenging tasks.
  • Language skills.  He should be able to communicate his needs and express his feelings in an appropriate manner.  He should have an accurate sense of body awareness with an understanding of directional terms such as around, under, over, and through.
  • Ability to listen.  A child should be able to follow simple instructions and listen to an entire story without interrupting.
  • Desire to be independent.  She should be able to separate from her parents for the length of the school day, be able to use the bathroom by herself, and be starting to take responsibility for her personal belongings.
  • Ability to interact with children and adults.  A child should be able to follow a simple two-step task and independently problem solve.  He should be willing to share, compromise, and take turns with his classmates and teachers.  It helps if he remembers to say “please, thank you, and excuse me,” as well!
  • Strong fine-motor skills.  A child should be able to hold and use a pencil, cut with scissors, and be learning to write her name.  It is important that she be able to carefully turn the pages of a book, pack and unpack her backpack, and fasten snaps and buttons on her clothing.  (Zippers are nice but not an essential just yet!)
  • Basic letter and number awareness.  A child should be able to sing and recite the alphabet and to recognize some letters   He should be able to count to 10 and identify numbers one to five.  Teachers would also like him to be able to recognize his name printed in in upper and lower case letters (James).  It is also helpful if he knows the basic colors and shapes.

 

Despite my stick-in-the-mud viewpoint, I have come up with 10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness!  These are the very skills that eventually, when the time is right, will help children to master their handwriting skills!  So, let’s go and discover just what they are, shall we?

 

10 Handy Helpers That You Can Do At Home!

Have fun with learning by having your children include these activities in your daily routines:

1.  Count the number of steps from the bedroom to the bathroom, to the bath to the kitchen, and from the door to the mailbox. (visual-motor and visual perceptual skills)

2.  Shout out directional terms as he sets the table (left for the fork, right for the knife and spoon) or when you go for a walk (up for the sky, down for the sidewalk, and over for the bridge).  (body and spatial awareness)

3.  Find book titles in the library that begin with each letter of the alphabet in order.  (sequencing, visual memory, letter recognition)

4.  Sort and match the laundry when it’s dry and deliver it to the owners.  (visual discrimination)  Use clothespins to dry them outside on the line! (fine-motor)

peas and carrots condesign pixabay5.  Cut out pictures of grocery items from the newspaper and locate them in the store.  (visual discrimination, visual scanning, visual recognition)

6.  Draw a picture of something he did that day and verbally describe it.  (language, fine motor, visualization)

7.  Count out small snacks as she puts them into a bowl.  (fine motor, sequencing, visual-motor)

8.  Prepare a simple recipe by measuring, pouring, mixing, and stirring the ingredients.  (fine motor, visual-motor, sequencing, following directions)

9.  Dictate a letter for you to write for him to grandmother, sister, or friend.  (visualization, language)

10. Unpack the groceries and help to put them away.  (visual scanning, fine- and gross-motor, visual discrimination)

 

Of course, there’s always puzzles, board games, books, and crafts to help your child get ready for school!  So much fun, so little time!

 

As always, thanks for reading!  I hope you will honor me with your comments, feedback, and suggestions for more ways to include Kindergarten readiness in a child’s daily routine!

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. 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.

Pictures that are the property of the photographers at Pixabay and their use 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.

 

 

(1) Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. (2002).  Early Childhood Research and Policy Briefs; Transition to Kindergarten.  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:  National Center for Early Development & Learning.

(2)  Boethel, M. (2004).  Readiness: School, Family, and Community.  Southwest Educational Development Laboratory
(3)  U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics.  America’s Kindergarteners, NCES 2000-070, by Kristin Denton, Elvira Germino-Hausken. Project Officer, Jerry West, Washington, DC: 2000.

Handwriting challenges ARE learning difficulties!

paper and pen condesign pixabay

Handwriting challenges ARE learning difficulties!

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

 

 

 

Handwriting challenges can create havoc with a student’s educational success.  They present themselves through a wide array of signs and symptoms that for the most part are caused by hidden sources.    Quite frequently, the very signs that should put up a red flag (1) that a student is experiencing handwriting problems are incorrectly identified as laziness, lack of motivation, and behavioral issues.

 

As a consequence, handwriting challenges have been ignored and overlooked as a valid learning difficulty.

 

When does handwriting receive a fair shake?

Poor handwriting does receive attention when it is associated with Dysgraphia, (2) as it is a symptom of that specific learning disability.   Dysgraphia is a processing disorder that affects one’s ability “to write coherently, regardless of reading ability or intellectual impairment.”  One of the symptoms of Dysgrapha can be poor handwriting skills.

 

For purposes of clarity, it is important to recognize the difference between handwriting and writing skills.

Handwriting is defined as “the activity of writing by hand.”

In contrast, writing is defined as the activity of “marking coherent words on paper and composing text.”

 

Dysgraphia interferes with these processes partly due to visual-spatial and language processing difficulties.eye drawing nemo pixabay

“Visual-spatial difficulties (are) trouble processing what the eye sees,”

while “Language processing difficulties (are) trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears.” (3)

 

It is Important to note here that students who demonstrate symptoms of Dysgraphia most likely suffer from handwriting challenges, however, the presence of handwriting difficulties does not necessarily mean there is the presence of Dysgraphia.

 

Handwriting and Writing are Team Players

Handwriting and writing are developmental processes that are learned as a team, where children learn the motor skills needed (for handwriting) while learning the thinking skills needed to communicate on paper (writing).  (3)  Hence, challenges in handwriting skills can affect writing development due to slow, laborious fine- and visual-motor skills that interfere with composition.  But these symptoms do not necessarily lead to the diagnosis of Dysgraphia.  Generally, they do not lead to much more than a push for additional handwriting practice, an increase in frustration for the teacher and the student, and a diminished level of educational success.  Handwriting challenges are indeed a learning difficulty.  And it’s time that we recognized them as one.

 

What do good handwriting skills look like?

In order to accurately identify the presence of handwriting difficulties, we must be aware of the characteristics of efficient handwriting versus poor handwriting skills.

On the surface, good penmanship is identified by legible handwriting that is produced in a timely manner.  The objective of good penmanship is to allow the writer to create and produce written material in such a way that it develops an effective line of communication between him and the reader.  In order for communication to conclude in the desired result, it must be coherent and be completed with sufficient speed.  Good penmanship can be presented as manuscript, cursive, or a variety of alternative handwriting styles.

Penmanship, simply stated, is the art of writing by hand.  Efficient penmanship is not so simply defined, however, once the first layer of skin is pulled back to reveal the myriad of veins and arteries that feed its success…or failure.

 

What are the obvious signs of inefficient handwriting?

poor pencil grip paper positioning sharpemtbr pixabayThe outward appearance of poor penmanship becomes very obvious to a student as his teacher begins to point out that his work is messy, difficult to read, and incomplete.  If a handwriting program is presented in a structured and guided manner, the student will be alerted to his errors during practice sessions and assisted in editing and correcting his work.  The signs that a learning difficulty exists, however, come to light when the teacher and the student recognize that extra attention and additional practice have not made a significant difference in the quality of the penmanship.  Usually the student’s written work habits consistently display:

 

  • poor letter formation – open letters or reversals; varying letter sizes;
  • inadequate spacing – either too little or too much space between letters and/or words;
  • inappropriate spatial alignment – letters placed above or below the lines;
  • slow, laborious speed – resulting in incomplete work or needing extra time;
  • loss of place when copying from the board or a book – with omitted and/or misspelled words;
  • and poor posture – with his head on his arm/desk or slouching in his seat.

These signs should alert educators and parents that the student’s difficulties lie below the surface and require additional guided instruction and remedial strategies, and possibly an assessment by an occupational therapist.

 

What are the underlying causes of inefficient handwriting?

As was discussed earlier, efficient handwriting is a developmental skill.  It is such an important skill that it begins at birth and continues to develop throughout the toddler and preschool years.  Those are the years for reaching, grasping, scribbling, and manipulating.  These are the essential handwriting skills that are considered to be “child’s play” and should be encouraged throughout a child’s early life.  Sometimes inefficient handwriting skills are the product of “too little play and too much instruction” during these early years.  As children are rushed into the introduction of handwriting before their hands, eyes, and cognitive skills are ready, they develop poor habits that result in handwriting difficulties in kindergarten and beyond.

These difficulties can present themselves as:

 

  • an inefficient pencil grasping pattern – resulting in an immature or deviant grasp;
  • hand and/or finger fatigue – causing pain or resulting in a loose or too tight grasp;
  • inappropriate letter formations – most likely letters starting from the bottom or reversals resulting from poor instruction; and
  • insufficient automatic letter recognition – causing slow, laborious written work.

In addition to the development of these poor habits, the underlying causes of inefficient handwriting can be the result of inadequately developed:

 

  • Motor Planning Skills – necessary for planning and carrying out automatic movements of the shoulder, hand, and fingers;
  • Visual Skills extending beyond 20/20 eyesight – needed for visual attention, discrimination of details, line and space positioning, and visual memory;
  • Gross Motor Skills – necessary for efficient posture, appropriate eye alignment, and fluid arm and hand movements;
  • Cognitive Skills – Visual Memory in particular – required for automatic production of letters, words, and sentences to facilitate the creation of independent thought in writing.

 

 

Handwriting is a complex skill, built upon the foundation of these underlying skills; and it is only as solid as their efficiency.   Ignoring handwriting difficulties results in

poorer grades, frustration, diminished learning, and a lower self-esteem.

 

Handwriting difficulties have not received a label; but that does not discount their importance in a child’s educational success.  Handwriting may have taken second stage to other school subjects; however, handwriting difficulties should not.  The success of a student’s educational experience depends upon addressing them.

 

As always, thanks for reading!  I hope you will share this important information with those who work with children and their handwriting skills!

 

Katherine

 

(1) http://www.childsupport.in/html/ourservices_handwritingskills.html

(2) Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, Katherine J. “Taking The Mystery Out of Dysgraphia.” Special-ism. Special-ism, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

(3) “What Is Dysgraphia?” National Center for Learning Disabilities. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia/what-is-dysgraphia>.

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine 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 for Older Students – Posters!

Handwriting Tips for Older Students – Posters!

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

This birdhouse became the centerpiece of visual book report!
This birdhouse became the centerpiece of visual book report!

 

 

One summer, I came across a remarkable fourth-grade student who desperately wanted to increase her speed with cursive.  We’ll call her Mary.  When I assessed her handwriting skills, I discovered that her letter formations were superb, but she certainly attained that perfection at the expense of speed.  We spent the summer building that skill and we were both thrilled with her progress.

 

But, the next summer, her parents came to me with their concern that, although she could produce legible and speedy handwriting, she was unable to construct a book report independently.  It was evident to me that my work had not ended with handwriting skills.  Functionality depended upon her ability to convey her knowledge through a handwritten product.  After years of struggling with speed, my little gal had not achieved the requisite skills for creating content with her brain while she was using her hands to write.  That summer turned my business focus from practice to function!

 

A strategy to move from practice to function

Book reports have been a part of students’ education since the beginning of time!  Well, it seems that way, doesn’t it?  Mary shied away from them not because they required handwriting but because they demanded her to use her handwriting and creativity together to develop a story of her own.   As I reviewed her needs, I focused upon the fact that handwriting and writing are both complex skills that rely heavily upon gross-motor, fine-motor, visual perceptual, and cognitive skills.  It was important to understand that older students who are continuing to master their use of handwriting to create written work do not benefit from simply having to write more book reports!  So, I decided to address her parents’ concerns, while adding a little zing to her sessions, with a mix of creativity that included movement, fine motor, and visual perceptual skills!

 

As Mary and I chatted over the past summer about her joy of outdoor activities, I discovered that she had not developed a fine-motor hobby.  I introduced her to my cross stitch and she was excited about trying it.  Bingo!  Right there I got the creative bug and began to develop our summer sessions!  Here’s what I came up with:

 

A Visual Book Report Plan

1.  First, I asked Mary to select and read a short-story from a list I provided.  The story she chose was about a boy who helps his granddad build birdhouses.

2.  Then, I collected my supplies:

(a) a beginner’s cross stitch pattern of a bird and a birdhouse to tie a fine-motor craft with our handwriting/writing project (above).  My goal was to encourage critical thinking that linked the use of her hands

A graphic organizer links visual and fine-motor skills!
A graphic organizer links visual and fine-motor skills!

to the book report ideas that she was developing in her thoughts.  (linking fine-motor and visual perceptual skills)

(b) a graphic organizer with the “bubbles” labeled as:  main idea, characters, struggles, lessons learned, and impressions.

(c) a 3-fold poster board and art supplies for the completion of a visual book report.

3.  As I suspected, Mary found the graphic organizer difficult to complete independently.  So, we used her cross stitch learning experience as an opportunity to fill in a graphic organizer to outline the process.   This exercise provided her with a way to refresh her memory as she worked on the project at home, while it mimicked the process we would use next time to complete her book report graphic organizer task. (linking fine-motor to both handwriting and creativity)

4.  I took our next attempt at the book report graphic organizer to the chalkboard.  I found that the move from chair to standing did wonders for her thought process, as well as the tactile experience she received from writing on the board.  I introduced Mary to visualization, asking her to think of the story in her “mind’s eye,” visualizing what she had read and how the story flowed.

Visualization skills can help to "see" what's behind without having to look!
Visualization skills can help to “see” what’s behind without having to look!

We practiced this skill with her cross stitch, transferring the skill to “see” the hole behind the fabric with her eye and her touch, without turning the fabric over. Then we brainstormed the “character bubble” as she wrote on the board, subsequently transferring the information to her graphic organizer.  (linking fine-motor with visual perception; transferring visual perceptual skills)

5.  Mary began to transfer her visualization skills independently at the board and with her cross stitch.  At her seventh session she announced that while she was working on her cross stitch at home, she began to think about her story and remembered something that she’d left out of the “lessons learned bubble!”  (Remember:  The cross stitch was a bird and birdhouse!)

communication poster board 2 calvary science6.  When the graphic organizer was nearly complete, we turned our attentions to the creation of a visual book report.  The poster board caused a panic, as Mary stated that she was “not good at those” and found herself back at the beginning of the summer without tools to help her to succeed.  I used the last “bubble – impressions” to regain her confidence and to encourage her to transfer her visualization and organizational skills to the design of the board.  She suggested we use another graphic organizer to plan her design.  Great thinking!

7.  We got very creative with brainstorming about the poster, including her cross stitch, her written book report, and pictures of birds and birdhouses in the layout.    The purpose of the craft activity was to encourage creativity and visual perception and to link what she had read to a visual presentation of the book.  Mary’s choices for the poster layout indicated that she understood the part that each played in her book report.

And how did we do?

(1)  Mary’s final handwritten book report at the end of the summer was an improvement over her initial work.  She continued to require quite a bit of encouragement and brainstorming to turn her poster profesales pixabayobservations on the graphic organizer into an age-appropriate handwritten book report.  It was apparent that she would continue to need practice on the processes we had utilized in our sessions.

(2)  Mary advanced her skill for thinking creatively with the use of a graphic organizer during the design of her poster.   She needed a bit of help with the physical presentation in order to display a pleasant and organized visual representation of her book.  Again, her confidence and creative ability were improvements from the beginning of the summer; but she would continue to need guidance and encouragement to continue to explore her creative and informative writing skills.

And what did we gain?

After 12 weeks (2 sessions per week), Mary was exposed to a set of skills that she would be able to transfer to her classroom assignments:

(1)  visualization

(2)  graphic organization

(3)  use of handwriting for creative expression.

 

And the best part?  Mary helped my occupational therapy practice turn the corner from practice to functional!  And, that is the level of competence that older students need to achieve as well!

 

 

As always, thank you for reading!  I would love to hear your impressions about our poster board book report idea, as well as any ideas you have used to turn practice into functional!

 

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. 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.

Pictures that are the property of the photographers at Pixabay 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.

 

: 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.