Behavior and Transitions in School Settings

For the month of September, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog will be sharing insights about the role of Occupational Therapy in the classroom.  In recent years, the role of OT, in general, has been changing with the waves of healthcare and education reforms.  Despite a certain amount of turmoil and confusion where those changes may have thrown us a curve ball, most often they have provided us with an opportunity to make a difference in an area in which we’ve longed to see an improvement.  Occupational Therapists have recently received an increasing number of referrals to consult with teachers and staff about the behavioral needs exhibited by their clients, as well as those displayed by other students in the school. In that light, this week’s article focuses upon techniques for becoming a “behavior detective” to guide us in uncovering the underlying causes for students’ behaviors in school and to offer tried-and-true strategies for helping them to manage their feelings and stresses.

No child wants to fail!Behavior and Transitions in School Settings

By:  Cara Koscinski MOT, OTR/L 

No child wants to misbehave.  Rules exist in homes, schools, and communities in attempt to maintain a peaceful and calm environment.  It’s important that children with and without special needs learn to follow the rules of the classroom setting.  As students grow into adulthood, their success is dependent on their own ability to adhere to rules while controlling impulsivity and behavior.

Children often exhibit behaviors when they are overwhelmed, confused, or asked to complete a non-preferred task.  The creation of rules is critical to helping students know exactly what to expect.  Therefore, rules should be consistent throughout all settings and consequences delivered.  It’s critical to remember that children with special needs often experience co-morbid conditions.  Examples include:  reflux and other gastro-intestinal disorders, sleep disturbances, and processing delays.  School settings themselves can be quite overwhelming for students with sensory processing disorders.  There’s so much to consider when working with children who exhibit difficult behaviors.

What’s our responsibility in the school setting?  As clinicians, we need to determine the root cause of the behavior. As a veteran clinician and parentOT Behavior Detective to two sons with autism and behavioral challenges, I consider myself to be a ‘behavior detective.’  Let’s look some critical steps therapists can take to help figure out the problem.  In my book, The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide, there is an entire chapter about behavior in school.  It offers a plethora of helpful techniques I’ve figure out over the years.  Here are five of the most important:

1)  Be objective.  Don’t form opinions of a child based on a specific diagnosis or from a written report.  There’s a saying I use often, “If you’ve seen one child with autism, you’ve seen ONE child with autism.”  It’s true for all children with special needs!  They are people first.

2) Consider the skill level of the child.  If a skill has not been learned and rehearsed, then the child will have difficulty generalizing the skill.  Perhaps, bad habits were formed in earlier years or grade levels.  Re-evaluate what’s already been done and rehearse again.  Remember that no child wants to fail.

3) Evaluate for receptive and/or expressive language delays.  Many children simply need more time to process a directive.  This is especially true in a busy classroom setting.  Ensure the instruction giver has the child’s full attention prior to giving a command.

4) Consider time of day. Often, my new OT students forget that everyone has a different time of day in which they function best.  We all experience different body rhythms in sleep/wake cycles, hunger/thirst/digestion, etc.  I’m a late morning person.  I am simply not at my best first thing in the morning.  No one can change that as it’s my body’s physiological condition (interoception).

5) How has the task been presented?  This is the ‘before’ or antecedent.  Antecedent information includes the tone of voice of the direction giver, visual vs. auditory command, child’s sensory arousal/state prior to the command, child’s attention to command and child’s underlying ability to actually follow commands.  Not many people consider the BEFORE…..in fact, it’s more common in the school setting to consider the RESULTING behavior.  It’s a veteran behavior detective who can form non-biased conclusions as to the events that occur prior to the child’s tantrum.

Success

BONUS tip…Does or has the child been given attention for the behavior?  Is he perhaps seeking a reaction from the teacher, clinician, or students?  If this is the case, keep an even tone when giving directions and choose your battles.  For example, I was called in to observe a third grader with lower-functioning autism.  She consistently threw her paper onto the floor when the teacher gave a writing assignment.  Upon observation, the teacher instructed her to ‘pick it up’ each time.  The teacher and other students were consistently distracted and frustrated.  I suggested the teacher simply ignore the behavior.  The student threw everything from her desk onto the floor and no one looked or responded.  After a week without attention, she stopped tossing paper onto the floor.  Yes, this is a simple example, but it’s applicable to many other situations.

I’d like to offer some advice to help children transition smoothly.  Review rules and consequences BEFORE a tantrum and when the child is quietly listening.  Remember that fight or flight reactions are CHEMICALLY driven and once the hormone (adrenaline) is released, it takes time for a child to calm and organize.  Please don’t attempt to teach a child who is in a tantrum.  I’d bet you do not want to learn a new skill or receive a lecture when you are upset and need to re-group.

Finally, utilize visual strategies for transitions.  Adults rely on the use of calendars, timers, and electronic devices for transitions and reminders.  In the school, provide a written or picture schedule of transition times.  Give verbal warnings or countdowns prior to changing activities.  It’s best to provide consistency and use the same strategies consistently throughout the day.  If the student prefers to learn visually, allow the use of a visual timer or schedule for transitions.  For others, provide verbal warnings at various intervals of time beginning at least ten minutes prior to transition time.

The most important takeaway from my post today is to remember that there is ALWAYS a reason for everyone’s behavior and it’s our job to investigate.  Being a behavior detective is not easy, but the rewards are well worth your effort.  Your students will thank you for it!

CaraKoscinskiHeadshot1Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L, is passionate and excited about providing quality treatment to children with special needs.  As a homeschooling mother to her own children born with autism, Cara co-founded Aspire Pediatric Therapy, LLC, to provide quality therapy for autism and Sensory Processing Disorder at schools, in homes, and in centers around the Pittsburg area.  Cara is the author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist, winner of the 2015 Family Choice Award and recommended in the Autism Spectrum Quarterly as a “Great Resource for Families and Professionals.”  In addition, she has authored her latest publication, The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide, and The Weighted Blanket Sensation (coming in Winter 2015).  Cara has served as an adjunct clinical instructor for the Duquesne University Occupational Therapy program and was the recipient of the Duquesne University’s Innovative Practice Entrepreneur Award.  For more information about Cara, or to contact her directly, please visit her website, The Pocket OT.

Photos are the property of Cara Koscinski and are not to be used in any fashion except as links to this blog post or the Pocket OT website without the expressed, written permission of the author.

 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.
 
 

Handwriting is a complex language.

Handwriting is a complex language.

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

Language is defined as a “communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures or written symbols.”  This system includes rules such as words and sentences and is shared by a specific group of people or a nation.  Language allows us to tell others what we know, ask questions about things we don’t understand, and to make our needs known.  Language is a living component of our lives.  We learn it, develop it, hone i,t and expand upon it.  It is complex.  And it comes in many forms.

As I conducted my research for this article, I came upon this interesting diagram that defines language as having five components:

The 5 Components of Language
The 5 Components of Language (Originally appeared in an article by Glenys Ross)

This clearly points out the myriad of connections that take place in communication.  But it also provides some insight into the complexity of handwriting mastery.  The author of the article, Glenys Ross, points out that

Handwriting is not an isolated activity; neither can it be seen solely as a motor activity (all about movement).  It is part of language activity.” 

Handwriting, as a task, utilizes information from our eyes, our mind, and our auditory, tactile, and proprioceptive systems.  It is a language that uses movement (fine motor), thinking, visual processing, and attention.  It has symbols, rules, and sounds.  And when we come across a child who struggles with the mastery of handwriting skills, these layers of complexity need to be investigated and assessed to determine which ones are hindering his progress.

 

As Occupational Therapists, we work to discover the underlying culprits that require remediation and begin the process of developing a plan that will attend to the development and/or adaptation of a handwriting program to meet the child’s needs. 

1.  We take into consideration how the child’s struggles with handwriting are affecting his educational success, as well as his self-esteem. 

2.  We look at the goals of his parents and his teachers. 

3.  And we must determine the child’s developmental, physical, and cognitive skill levels. 

4.  At times, the hurdle appears to be the very act of handwriting itself.  It’s laborious and time-consuming.  Perhaps the child’s pencil grasp is inefficient and his hand hurts. 

In many cases, the child has already been offered an adaptation that provides him with a keyboarding option.  For some, this appears to be the “just right” fit.  But is that truly the answer to solving a student’s handwriting problems?

 

But is keyboarding the answer?

Many of my clients’ parents are on the fence about this adaptation.  While they do see the benefits of having their children use a computer or iPad for schooltypewriter retro D Gabi pixabay-79025_1280 and homework, they continue to have concerns about the underlying reasons why they had difficulty with handwriting in the first place.  And they rightly should. 

The fact that handwriting is a complex language, and that it is one of our forms of communication,  indicates that the same facets that comprise it are also integral components of one or more of the other four languages identified above.

 

  • Reading is visual and cognitive. 
  • Listening utilizes cognitive and attention skills. 
  • Thinking requires movement and vision in order to access new information and to adapt stored information. 
  • Speaking requires thinking and listening skills. 

The languages we use do not stand alone.  They work together to provide a stage for learning and growth.  When the language of handwriting is deficient, it is most likely that another language area has been affected as well.

 

Removing the problem of handwriting with a keyboard does not address the underlying skills that stand in the way.  This strategy can certainly help a student over the immediate hurdle of completing class and homework in a timely and legible manner.  It can provide him with a means to keep up with his peers.  However, it does not work on the skills that he needs to address in order to solve his handwriting problems.

 

Why do we care if he can write by hand?

office building windows geralt pixabayIn a study headed by University of Washington professor of educational psychology, Virginia Berninger, (1) researchers found that children in the second, fourth, and sixth grades composed essays faster and more prolifically when using a pen versus a keyboard.  The fourth and fifth graders tested wrote more complete sentences using a pen.  Berninger found that the keyboard was better for writing the alphabet.  However, the results for composing sentences were mixed. 

Her research has shown that “forming letters by hand may engage our thinking brains differently than pressing down on a key.” She points out that written language in itself has “multiple levels like a tall building with a different floor plan for each story.”  For handwriting, the written language – letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs – comprise its set of complex levels.  She relates that although they appear independent of each other, they are actually related.  Spelling, words, sentences, and organizing sentences are located on different floors but can affect each other as a child begins to master handwriting and the written language.  Difficulty with spelling or composing text stems from skill proficiencies located on different levels resulting in transcription challenges.

 

Berninger stresses that transcription disability should not be ignored in children who struggle with the language of handwriting and that it is important to provide these children with the opportunity to form letters by hand.  She acknowledges that we still need more research to determine how forming letters by hand encourages learning differently than using a keyboard.  However, she points out that “Brain imaging studies with adults have shown an advantage for forming letters over selecting or viewing letters.”  The scientific reason behind this involves the reticular activating system (RAS) located at the base of the brain. 

  • As we perform any task, our brain is collecting information from our bodies, the environment, and from within the brain itself. 
  • Some of this information is essential to the task that we are engaged in.  Others are extraneous, such as the lawn mower in the neighbor’s yard, the student talking to the teacher, or our memory of yesterday’s events. 
  • In order for us to be able to effectively carry out the task at hand, the RAS filters the information we are receiving and places the most important to our task in the forefront.  It appears that the physical act of writing does just that. 

Berninger shares the thought that this physical act of writing – using your hand to form and connect letters – may provide the brain with a more active involvement in the process and brings the information being scribed to our attention.  Keyboarding is a passive activity where the “writer” touches keys and creates a letter or word with finger movement.  Handwriting provides the writer with the opportunity to “engage the hand” and the brain together in learning.

 

This is an exciting area of research into the areas of handwriting and learning. 

As we work toward developing handwriting mastery in children who struggle with it, it is important to remember the significance that handwriting plays in learning.  In a research study conducted by Laura Dinehart, an assistant professor at Florida International University’s College of Education, handwriting was shown to be a key indicator of academic success in elementary alphabet letters geralt pixabayschool.  Study results revealed that second-grade students who received good grades on fine motor writing tasks in pre-k had an average GPA of 3.02 in math and 2.84 in reading (B averages).  However, students who did poorly on pre-k fine motor writing tasks achieved an average GPA of 2.30 in math and 2.12 in reading (C averages) in second grade. 

 

Substituting keyboarding for handwriting can be a temporary accommodation for some children.  Let’s be sure to make that distinction as we assess and remediate a student’s handwriting needs in an effort to give each child the opportunity to use the language of handwriting effectively.

 

(1) Berninger, Virginia W., Robert D. Abbott, Amy Augsburger, and Noelia Garcia. “Comparison of Pen and Keyboard Transcription Modes in Children With and Without Learning Disabilities.” Learning Disability Quarterly 32.Summer 2009 (2009): 123-41. Sage Journals. Web. 6 July 2015. <http://ldq.sagepub.com/content/32/3/123.abstract>.

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting development skills.  Her book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, can be purchased on 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; 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) Berninger, Virginia W., Robert D. Abbott, Amy Augsburger, and Noelia Garcia. “Comparison of Pen and Keyboard Transcription Modes in Children With and Without Learning Disabilities.” Learning Disability Quarterly 32.Summer 2009 (2009): 123-41. Sage Journals. Web. 6 July 2015. <http://ldq.sagepub.com/content/32/3/123.abstract>.

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.

10 secret places to practice handwriting!

Chalkboard with words "back to school"

10 Secret Places to Practice Handwriting!

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L
on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
 
School is in!  And now the homework begins, sports start up again, and evenings become crammed with too many “to-do’s.”  You know why I am here, of course.  To remind you that handwriting should not take a backseat to soccer!  But, you are no doubt wondering, “When do I fit in handwriting practice?”   Well, I’m here to offer you 10 places you may not have thought about yet.  Those are the secret places where you can sneak in a bit of handwriting practice without anyone the wiser. 
And best yet, it won’t take up any time dedicated to other tasks. 
Let’s have a go at it, shall we?
As we all know, handwriting practice is more than worksheets, top-down lines, and paper positioning.  Yes, those are certainly important steps in its mastery.  And it is certainly essential to carve out 15 minutes of “sit-down” handwriting practice during the initial stages of instruction (K-4th grade).  But, in everyday life, handwriting practice should be a natural part of the daily routine.   Isn’t that the way we see it as adults?  Let’s take a look at 10 ways that your student can slip handwriting practice into his schedule without giving up even one video game!
Handwriting practice for the little tykes (5-7)
At the breakfast table:  This is the perfect place to provide a Write/Draw or Pencil Control Worksheet to occupy your young ones with entertainment and handwriting practice while you are prepping the meal.   The children are fresh and alert and full of energy.   You’ll have 5-10 minutes in which to get your work done and be able to sit and enjoy the meal with them!
After the bath:  Your little ones will be relaxed and ready for a nighttime story.  But, as you get them settled in with a book, take a moment to have them jot down words or drawings in their journals that  represent what they did that day.  Just a short list of 3-4 activities they enjoyed.  If they are motivated, have them write down why!
On the way to the grocery story:  Keep clipboards and pencils in your car and have them create some menu ideas using their favorite foods.  You can even ask them to write your list for you as you drive.  They won’t even know they are practicing handwriting!
Tape paper to the wall or on the door to give children a place to write their daily schedules or jot you a note!
Tape paper to the wall or on the door to give children a place to write their daily schedules or jot you a note! —————–(Photo property of Handwriting With Katherine)
On the wall:  No, not really!  Tape paper on the wall near the door and have them write their schedules for the day.   This is a quick way to get their racing minds organized and to structure their day.  If mornings are too rushed, this can be done the night before as an aid to help them fill their backpacks.
On the move:  Have your little ones select a small notebook that will fit into their pockets.  Encourage them to jot down their observations on your next walk or car ride. These observations can be journal prompts for extra handwriting practice!
 
 
 
 
Handwriting skill development for the older ones (8+)
In the library:  Libraries are chock full of new information and exciting stories.  I know that I’m always on the lookout for new authors and can’t always check out all my new discoveries.  Suggest that your children have a “Library Finds” notebook in which they can jot down new authors, book titles, areas of interest, and library rules.  This can be a valuable tool forever!
While watching TV:  Yes!  During the commercials, have your children write down the ideas and messages they’ve gotten from them into a journal.   All they need is just one line or two to record their thoughts.  This activity enhances their concentration skills, as it asks them to complete two tasks at once – listening and writing.  These notes could also be used as journal prompts for future writing activities!
Jot down your favorite words or sentences from the book you are reading!
Jot down your favorite words or sentences from the book you are reading!———————————————————–(Photo Property of Handwriting With Katherine)
 
Reading Time:  I love to jot down sentences or words that an author uses into a journal so that I can hone my writing skills.  Have your children do the same.  Each author uses the language in his own personal way.    Their journal recordings can be a valuable reference as they work on their writing skills.  They can look up definitions, antonyms, and synonyms for the words and analyze the ways the authors used them.
 
 
On the Computer:  Keyboarding does go hand-in-hand with handwriting!  As your children research a topic, have them take notes – by hand – and not cut and paste into a word document!  These can be short notes to remind them of an idea or to help draft a story.   Taking notes, when the pressure for speed is off (such as in class) helps to build a fluid and speedy handwriting style.
A Pen Pal Club: I love my pen pal!  She and I have only connected by email once.  That was simply to exchange addresses.  It is so much fun to go to the mailbox and find her letters.  Pen Pal Clubs can provide not only handwriting practice, but can be a valuable source for building communication, social, and community spirit skills.
 
Handwriting practice doesn’t have to be painful!  But let’s keep that a secret!
 
As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to your comments and hope to see you again next time!
 
Katherine
 
 
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.

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.

Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Are they simply DRAWING? (Part 3)

Art can enhance writing and handwriting!
Art can enhance writing!

 

 

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

                             Andy Warhol

 

 

 

Welcome back for Part 3 in our discussion about handwriting, our eyes and our hands, and drawing.  Last time, I promised that I would expand our art ideas for handwriting enhancement to include projects for motivation and success with our older students.

 

I’ve chosen these two quotes because they provide a vital link between handwriting struggles and the use of art to help students over the hurdles.  They express my own thoughts about the use of motivation and creativity to inspire children to strive for a higher peak, to reach toward a goal, or to be able to express themselves in many different mediums.  Words can, indeed, evade students who have not mastered handwriting, as we’ve discussed in a previous blog, “What do handwriting and optical illusions have in common?”  The automatic production of letters, the ability to maintain thoughts in short-term memory long enough to get them on paper, and the use of a fluid and fast handwriting style pave the way for writing skills.

And art can create a space for our older children to develop those essential skills.

Let’s find out how we can make that happen, shall we?

 

1.  Focus on handwriting foundational skills.

 
In our previous posts in this series, we have uncovered the underlying skills that link handwriting instruction with writing success.  I’ll take a moment to list them here:
Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning and Handwriting Mastery
Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning
 
1.  Visual Motor
2.  Visual Perception
3.  Fine Motor
4.  Trunk Control
5.  Shoulder Stability
 
 
For a review on these skills, you can check out Part 2 in our series, where we matched them up with art project for our little ones.  Work on these same skills can be included in many fun and creative art projects for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade and beyond!  Let’s go exploring!
 

2.  Create a space for independence and experimentation.

 
The use of art to enhance handwriting skills must not (I repeat) must not walk, talk, or look like handwriting practice!  Letter formation worksheets have no place in an art center.  The use of art for handwriting mastery should be presented as an opportunity to experiment with different mediums, to create without judgment (from within or without), and to express thoughts and ideas. 
 
Collages are great for fine motor skill development for handwriting!
Collages are great for fine motor skill development!

wrist, hand, and finger strengthening work.  They can open the door to creative thinking and expression if you allow the artists to “make it theirs” with adaptations!  The Sticky Note Crafts can provide further fine motor skill enhancement if you substitute light card stock and glue for the Sticky Notes.  (Lots less expensive, as well!)

 

 

 

  • Sneak in the handwriting practice with projects that link visual art creativity with writing skills.  The Dreaming Story is such a wonderful project, offering fine motor, visual motor, and handwriting practice – as well as writing skill development!  I wish I had created this one!
The Dreaming Story from Art Projects for Kids is great for developing handwriting skills!
The Dreaming Story from Art Projects for Kids

 

  • Visual Perceptual skills are quiet and elusive, needing a bit of a nudge to present themselves for enhancement.  Sketching, graphic design, and learn to draw books and activities utilize visual perceptual skills to the max!  It’s not cheating to have a bit of fun with art and handwriting.  And it’s definitely okay to have the students jot down some notes on how they felt about learning new art techniques, the steps they took to finish their project, and the story behind their creations.

 

Sketching can help develop handwriting skills.
Select a simple sketch and have students guide their classmates in drawing it…back-to-back!
  • Visualization plays a major role in the mastery of fluid and legible handwriting skills.  Seeing a letter formation in the “mind’s eye” allows for automatic handwriting and writing skills.  My favorite Cursive Club activity brought giggles and laughs throughout the room!  The students sat back-to-back, one student with a clipboard, pencil, and paper and the other with a copy of a picture.  The latter provided directions for drawing the picture.  Directional and spatial concepts were the link to conveying the right message to the artist, while visualization played a key role in the artist’s rendition!  Lots of fun!  The Artful Parent shares a similar idea that provides opportunities to use communication skills and visual motor skills together to create!

 

All of these wonderful ideas can bring forth enhanced trunk control and shoulder stability simply by adding a therapy ball, a vertical surface, or a prone position on the floor!

 

 

 

An art project, combined with a written story, can enhance handwriting skills.
An art show can be as simple as a display outside your room or a community-wide celebration!

3.  Provide the opportunity to share and feel pride.

The feeling of pride is a positive motivator that encourages students to strive for that next layer of excellence.  Art boards, shows, and auctions can open up your students’ world of art with a place to “show off” their accomplishments.  It doesn’t have to  about judgment or a contest.  Although, it is fun to find that your work has “won” you some recognition. 
 
 
Visual aids, hand-over-hand assistance, and auditory step-by-step directions can help students succeed with handwriting and art!
Visual aids, hand-over-hand assistance, and auditory step-by-step directions can help students succeed with art!

4.  Connect the dots that link handwriting with art.

It is not enough to simply USE art to enhance your students’ handwriting skills.  It is important to help them see the link between this creative channel and the fruition of their handwriting mastery.  We all need to know the WHY’s of doing something.  That helps us to be motivated and understand the value of it.  Talk about the fine motor and spatial skill development, as well as the hand strengthening benefits, that their art projects are giving them.
 
And every student deserves the opportunity to utilize art as a way to improve his handwriting skills.  Provide plenty of variety with lessons that incorporate the learning styles of all your students.  Students with special needs – as well as ALL students – can benefit from visual aids, step-by-step directions, some hand-over-hand assistance, and alternate ways of performing the task. 
 

 5.  Listen to the feedback.

Art, as well as handwriting, are very personal skills.  Although we teach both subjects using a structured program, the ultimate products are the result of a comfortable and confident style.  In the end, all handwriting skills culminate in a personal handwriting style.  Art is the same.  Ask your students about their art and creative preferences.  Have them share their hobbies – from skiing to video games and right on to reading.  Then use these areas to enhance your art project themes.  Here are some to try:
 
Graphic designs art projects can enhance handwriting skills.
Design your own skis with a graphic arts design!

 

Art and drawing can enhance handwriting skills.
Create a poster of your favorite video game character!

 

Efficient handwriting skills can enhance writing skills.
Design a new book cover for your favorite book!

 

After they’ve created their awesome boards, dynamic posters, or beautiful book covers, have them use their handwriting skills to tell the story of how they did it – from drawing board to final product!  Remind them that everything they worked on in their ART project helped them enhance their HANDWRITING skills!

 

 Well, there you have it!  All in an artistic nutshell!

 

I hope you have found some motivational ideas for both you and your students that will bring art into your handwriting sessions!
 
Be sure to keep us posted on which strategies worked the best and to share any inspirational ones of your own!
 
Thanks for stopping by!  As always, thanks for reading!   See you next time!
 
Katherine

 

 

Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Part 1
Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Part 1
"Open the doors to learning for children through the visual arts." (Art In The School.Org) Art can enhance handwriting skills.
Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.