Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing

The month of August brings thoughts of the new school year and a fresh look at how children learn and grow.  With that focus in mind, the Handwriting is Fun! blog is proud to bring you a series of posts that will share insights from Occupational Therapists that reflect their views on and visions for our students’ learning experiences.  The second article in our series will explore the vital role that the process of learning to write by hand plays in our students’ ability to adequately present their knowledge and thoughts.  I look forward to your comments and feedback – in handwritten form, if possible!

 

Handwriting and Learning:  A Vital Link to Skilled Writing

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

Wrist & Hand anatomy clinic hq
Picture courtesy of Clinic.hq.co.uk

Frank R. Wilson writes in his book, The Hand:  how its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture,

 

“Where would we be without our hands?  Our lives are so full of commonplace experience in which the hands are so skillfully and silently involved that we rarely consider how dependent upon them we actually are.”

 

 

He goes on to say that “any theory of human intelligence which ignores the interdependence of hand and brain function, the historic origins of that relationship, or the impact of that history on developmental dynamics in modern humans, is grossly misleading and sterile.”  Studies have shown that the hand plays a major role in learning.  And research is uncovering the impact that it has on the process of reading and writing.  The hand, as it is utilized in the mastery of handwriting, is involved in the development of motor memory for letter recognition.  And letter recognition has been found to be the most reliable predictor of future reading success.

 

writing upsplash pixabayHandwriting, by definition, is writing done by the hand, in some cases that which characterizes a particular person.  The hand has been described as giving “the upper limb its importance and originality.” (1)  It is a complex unit comprised of intricate muscle, joint, and ligament components that create movements so flexible and dexterous they allow us to manipulate a grain of sand.  The inside of the hand is innervated with neurons that relay signals to the brain relative to contact with objects, while proprioceptive information relative to finger and thumb positioning is transmitted through the joints, muscles, and ligaments.  The tactile sensitivity of the fingertips (2) detects spatial differences allowing for receptive touch such as that used to read Braille characters.  The hand extends from the body to engage, react, and defend.  And, it is continuously working together with the other senses to enhance learning.

 

From birth, infants discover the world through their senses.  They move their head toward a sound.  Their vision guides their eyes toward movement or light.  They maintain life through their sense of taste.  As they grow, they begin to explore the world with the addition of their vestibular and proprioceptive systems – rolling over and pulling up to become active players in the world in which they live.  And from the moment that they discover their hands, they begin to stretch and reach to learn more about the objects around them.  From this time on, their hands provide the medium for manipulation, exploration, and expression.  Learning through the use of their hands, as well as their vision, opens the door to curiosity and creativity.

 

Learning through the use of our hands continues to be a vital link for educational success throughout life, with handwriting playing a major role.  Efficient fine motor writing skills in pre-kindergarten have been found to be indicators for higher academic scores in second grade.  (3)    Recent research has uncovered its role in the process of skilled writing, an additional predictor of educational success.  Handwriting, with its tactile and  visual-motor integration skills, (4) addresses the perceptual and sensorimotor (5) combination of the complex process of writing. (6)

 

It is important at this point to make the distinction between “handwriting” and “writing” skills:

  • Handwriting it the process through which the writer uses his hand to produce letters, words, and sentences on the page in order to convey knowledge or thoughts.
  • Writing, on the other hand, is the vehicle that transforms handwriting into a means of expression.

 

Skilled writing requires the writer to utilize three cognitive processes:

(1) Planning to generate ideas and set goals,

(2) Translation to turn ideas into written text, and

(3) Revision to recreate the text for improved clarity and idea expression.

In addition, children’s translation has spirit-geralt pixabayalso been found to require text generation and transcription, which includes handwriting (letter production) and spelling (word production). (7)

 

 

 

Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, in the Foreword of Writing Next:  Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School, (8) stresses the importance of skilled written expression:

 

“…it is obvious that if today’s youngsters cannot read with understanding, think about and analyze what they’ve read, and then write clearly and effectively about what they’ve learned and what they think, then they may never be able to do justice to their talents and their potential….Indeed, young people who do not have the ability to transform thoughts, experiences, and ideas into written words are in danger of losing touch with the joy in inquiry, the sense of intellectual curiosity, and the inestimable satisfaction of acquiring wisdom that are the touchstones of humanity.”

 

In that same report, Graham and Perin site statistics that reflect Mr. Gregorian’s reason for concern.

 

  • Seventy percent of students in grades 4-12 are low-achieving writers.
  • College instructors estimate that 50% of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level writing.
  • The knowledge and skills required for higher education and employment are now considered equivalent.

 

Writing, with its requirement that the “writers formulate their own thoughts, organize them, and create a written record of them using the conventions of spelling and grammar,” (8) demands certain efficient cognitive skills.   Information about letter formations and sounds, word and sentence structures, as well as the principles of grammar, must be accurately stored in memory, available for quick retrieval, and produced automatically in order to free up the cognitive skills needed for the writing process.  Considering the evidence that handwriting affects the grading of a student’s work, (9) legibility must be considered to be an equal partner in the development of skilled writing.

 

keyboard-geralt pixabayTechnology, keyboarding in particular, has been suggested by many to be a viable, more timely substitute for handwriting.  Computers are expected to replace the need for handwritten work in the educational system due to the increased demand for keyboarding skills in the workplace.  And typewriting has been perceived to be equally as effective in the development of writing skills.   Considering the research that strongly suggests a tie between writing movements and letter memorization and the relationship of cognition with perception and motor action, (6) as well as the link between automaticy in handwriting and skilled writing skills, (10) the substitution of typewriting for handwriting warrants research.   Mangen and Velay, in their article, Digitizing literacy:  reflections on the haptics of writing,  (6) reported upon the significant differences between the motor movements involved in handwriting and typewriting.  Handwriting produces a strict and unequivocal relationship between the visual shape (of the letter) and the motor program that is used to produce the shape, with each letter associated with a given, very specific movement.  They report that typing is a “form of spatial learning” that requires the writer to transform the visual form of each character into the position of a given key, turning the movement to create thoughts into a visuomotor association linked with pointing movements and characters on the keyboard.  In that light, they felt that the less specific typewriting movements should provide little in the way of visual recognition and memorization – Memorization that is required for automaticy and skilled writing skills.

 

“Writing is an immensely important and equally complex and sophisticated human skill commonly ascribed a fundamental role in children’s cognitive and language development, and a milestone on the path to literacy.” (6)

 

Handwriting cannot be ignored as an important step on that pathway.

 

To read Week 1’s Posting in the Series, please scroll down past the references!

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.  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; 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) Wilson, Frank R. The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. New York: Pantheon, 1998. Print.
(2) Johansson, Roland S., and J. Randall Flanagan. “Coding and Use of Tactile Signals from the Fingertips in Object Manipulation Tasks.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience Nat Rev Neurosci 10.5 (2009): 345-59. Web. 19 July 2015. <http://130.237.111.254/ehrsson/pdfs/Johansson&Flanagan-2009.pdf>.
(3) Renaud, Jean-Paul. “Good Handwriting and Good Grades: FIU Researcher Finds New Link.” News at FIU Florida International University. Florida International University, 08 Jan. 2012. Web. 19 July 2015. <http://news.fiu.edu/2012/01/good-handwriting-and-good-grades-fiu-researcher-finds-new-link/34934?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-handwriting-and-good-grades-fiu-researcher-finds-new-link>.(4) Daly, C. J., G. T. Kelley, and A. Krauss. “Relationship Between Visual-Motor Integration and Handwriting Skills of Children in Kindergarten: A Modified Replication Study.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 57.4 (2003): 459-62. Web. 19 July 2015.
(4) Daly, C. J., G. T. Kelley, and A. Krauss. “Relationship Between Visual-Motor Integration and Handwriting Skills of Children in Kindergarten: A Modified Replication Study.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 57.4 (2003): 459-62. Web. 19 July 2015.
(5) The University of Stavanger. “Better learning through handwriting.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119095458.htm>.
(6) Mangen, Anne, and Jean-Luc Velay. “Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing.” Advances in Haptics (2010): 385-401. Web. 26 June 2015.
(7) 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>.
(8) Graham, Steve, and Dolores Perin. Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School. Alliance for Excellent Education. Alliance for Excellent Education, Sept. 2006. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://all4ed.org>.
(9) Gentry, J. Richard, Ph.D., and Steve Graham, Ed.D. “Creating Better Readers and Writers: The Importance of Direct, Systematic Spelling and Handwriting Instruction in Improving Academic Performance.” Saperstein Associates. Saperstein Associates, n.d. Web. 07 July 2015. <http://www.sapersteinassociates.com/>.
(10) Graham, Steve. “Want to Improve Children’s Writing? Don’t Neglect Their Handwriting.” American Educator Winter.2009-2010 (n.d.): 20-25. Web. 26 June 2015.
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page, 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.

Week 1 in the Series:

Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

 

5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers Revisited

5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers Revisited

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

On June 16, 2015, I posted the original version of this blog, titled “Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers.”  (Don’t click yet, but you can find it here.)  Today, I am reposting it in a different format in an attempt to gather information about your reading preferences and learning styles.  The “Handwriting is Fun! Blog” runs for one purpose:  to share information.  If the information we share, however, does not meet your learning and reading needs, then we haven’t achieved our goal to provide our readers with pertinent and helpful information about handwriting development skills.

So, in the interest of bettering our blog and achieving our highest goals, I am asking you to read the first version (not yet!) and then to read this revised format.  After you have done that, I would be honored and thankful if you would share two pieces of information with me in the comment section of THIS BLOG VERSION:

  1. Which version did you prefer?
  2. Why did that version appeal to you?

Thank you in advance for participating in this informal research study!  I look forward to your feedback!  NOW YOU CAN CLICK ON THE FIRST VERSION!  (Don’t forget to return here to read the revised version!)

 

Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers

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

This month, I am sharing a “Summer Handwriting Fun” series chock-full of articles written by myself and other therapy bloggers who have so graciously offered to share their work on my site.  This is the third in our series.  I hope you will find it useful and return to read some more next week!

 

What do we need before we get “good” at handwriting?

Alphabet Written on NotepadHandwriting mastery is actually based upon 5 basic handwriting helper skills.  They are:

  1. Body Awareness;
  2. Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength;
  3. Vision and Sensory Skills;
  4. Posture; and
  5. Practice.

 

 

Although these five helpers are very important skills in handwriting development, they are not too be taken too seriously.  They can be developed during most play experiences all along a child’s developmental stages.  Today, we are going to take a look at the ways that we can engage our elementary school-aged “handwriters” in some “Summer Fun” that works on these skills!

 

The Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers!

  1. Body Awareness

This helper is

  • our “internal map” that lets us know where all of our body parts are – without our having to look at them to find out!
  • how we understand directional concepts, like up and down, left and right.
  • what gives us a perspective about navigating our environment.
  • the foundation that provides a child with the basic skills for learning letter formations, spacing, and fitting words and sentences on a line and a page.

 

Body Awareness can be developed through activities such as:

Yoga helps us with our body awareness!
Yoga helps us with our body awareness!

 

+  balance and coordination,

+  concentration, and

+  visual attention skills.

 

 

 

+  make left and right turns,

+  look up,

+  check on top or behind, and

+  look under.

 

Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!
Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!
  • Relay races, tug-of-war, musical chairs, or simply rolling down a hill provides children with opportunities to

+  use the left and right sides of their bodies,

+  manage their weight against gravity, and

+  determine the distance between themselves and other people or objects.

Skateboarding and roller skating will definitely do the trick!

 

 

 2.  Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength

This helper provides the foundation for

  • efficient pencil control skills, and
  • the ability to write for sustained periods of time with legibility and speed.

 

Fine-motor strengthening can be developed through activities such as:

 

  • Spending time on the playground.   Playground equipment offers children opportunities to use their fingers, hands, and wrists to

 

Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!
Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!

+  push,

+  pull,

+  grab ahold, and

+  hold on.

And, as an added bonus, playgrounds also help to build gross motor strength for posture!

 

 

 

+  use their two hands together for precision work;

+  manipulate different tools and textures; and

+  use their fingers, hands, and wrists for sustained periods of fine motor activity;

Art also allows older children to enhance their fine-motor strength as they develop their creativity and visual perceptual skills.

 

 

  • Gardening projects such as potted or plotted gardens for herbs, vegetables, or flowers, allow children to use their hands to

 

+  dig in the soil,vegetables-condesign-pixabay

+  plant seeds, and

+  pull weeds,

while they experience a sense of joy and accomplishment and build self-esteem.

Sewing, woodworking, and building model airplanes also work well for that!

 

 

3.  Vision and Sensory Skills

These helpers are those that allow children

 

They also provide children with an understanding of their environment through their senses of

  • sight,
  • hearing,
  • touch,
  • taste, and
  • smell.

 

Vision and Sensory Skills can be developed through activities such as:

  • board game dantetg pixabayBoard Games.  They offer opportunities for children of all ages to

+  maintain eye contact,

+  focus with near vision, and

+  use eye movements to follow the game.

If you add a bit of mystery, let’s say by hiding the pieces of a word game in a plastic bin filled with sand, then you are working on the sense of touch at the same time!

 

 

  • Music and dancing activities that ask children to learn new motor planning sequences, or practice previously learned routines, provide sight, hearing, and tactile experiences through dance-alexas fotos pixabay

+  movement and

+  imitation.

 

 

 

 

  • magic-cube-domenicblair pixabayPuzzles, both of the magic cube and interlocking type, provide visual skill enhancement as they demand

        +  visual attention,

        +  efficient scanning techniques, and

        +  visual perceptual skills to complete them.

 

 

4.  Posture

This helper allows children to learn using efficient

 

Postural skills can be developed through activities such as:

  • Walking, climbing, hiking, and biking, as well as exercises such wheelbarrow walks and races.  These activities enhance a child’shiking family-pezibear pixabay

+  Core Body Muscles

+  balance, and

+  coordination.

 

 

 

  • Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!
    Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!

    Sports that include visual attention skills, such as ball challenges for the younger children, or bike riding or skateboarding through an obstacle course for the older ones, provide opportunities for

 

        +  building core body muscles and

         +  vision skills.

 

Vision and Posture are developmental partners:  Vision skills enhance the development of the core body muscles – and the core body muscles enhance the development of vision skills.

 

 

+  understand what “posture” is,

+  develop good postural habits, and

+  appreciate the importance of having good posture.

 

 

5. Practice

This helper allows children to

  • master their handwriting skills and
  • understand and appreciate their functional use.

 

Functional Practice of handwriting skills can be accomplished through activities such as:

 

 

 

 

 

To-Do-List_PrintableMaking lists for groceries, to-do’s, and people to invite to their birthday party.

 

 

 

 

trip maps

Recording their creative thoughts or journey experiences using writing prompts or travel journals.

 

 

 

 

 

I hope I’ve shared some different and exciting ideas for including the 5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers in your child’s Summer Fun!

As always, thanks for reading!  And I look forward to your comments and feedback.

 

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; 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.
 

Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers

Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers

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

This month, I am sharing a “Summer Handwriting Fun” series chock-full of articles written by myself and other therapy bloggers who have so graciously offered to share their work on my site.  This is the next in our series.  I hope you will find it useful and return to read some more next week!

 

What do we need before we get “good” at handwriting?

Alphabet Written on NotepadHandwriting mastery is actually based upon 5 basic handwriting helper skills.  They are:

 

  1. Body Awareness;
  2. Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength;
  3. Vision and Sensory Skills;
  4. Posture; and
  5. Practice.

 

Although these five helpers are very important skills in handwriting development, they are not too be taken too seriously.  They can be developed during most play experiences all along a child’s developmental stages.  Today, we are going to take a look at the ways that we can engage our elementary school-aged “handwriters” in some “Summer Fun” that works on these skills!

 

The Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers!

  1. Body Awareness

    What is body awareness?  It’s simply our “internal map” that lets us know where all of our body parts are – without our having to look at them to find out!  It helps us to understand directional concepts, like up and down, left and right, and gives us a perspective about navigating our environment.  All of this provides a child with the basic skills for learning letter formations, spacing, and fitting words and sentences on a line and a page.

 

What are some fun body awareness activities?

Yoga has been shown to develop balance and coordination, concentration, and visual attention in children, as well as adults.

Yoga helps us with our body awareness!
Yoga helps us with our body awareness!

A fun yoga session can be as simple as including two or three “special for kids” poses outside on the lawn, just before bed, or during a quiet time in the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Treasure and Scavenger Hunts are excellent “follow directions” activities that encourage children to use their internal maps to locate and discover the hidden objects.  Be sure to provide written directions that ask them to

  • make left and right turns,
  • look up,
  • check on top or behind, and
  • look under.

 

Anything that produces movement enhances body awareness!

Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!
Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!

Relay races, tug-of-war, musical chairs, or simply rolling down a hill provide children with opportunities to use the left and right sides of their bodies, manage their weight against gravity, and determine the distance between themselves and other people or objects.  Skateboarding and roller skating will definitely do the trick!

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength

Why do we need this?  These three guys are vital components in efficient handwriting.  They provide children with pencil control and the ability to write for sustained periods of time with legibility and speed.

What are some fun fine-motor strengthening activities?

Art can enhance writing!
Art can enhance writing!

Art is simply the best way to introduce fine motor strengthening activities to children!    There are so many fun ways to develop these skills with sensory and creative components using simple paints, play dough, and putty.   Therapy Street for Kids offers a selection recipes for these supplies that I think you will find interesting, easy to make, and easy on the budget.

There’s even one for Pretzel Dough where you get the eat the final product!

 

 

Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!
Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!

The playground is an excellent place to build strength in the fingers, hands, and wrists.  Pushing, pulling, grabbing, and holding on are all fine-motor workouts.  And, as an added bonus, playgrounds also help to build gross motor strength for posture!

 

 

 

Gardening with children encourages lots and lots of fine-motor skill development.  Whether you choose potted or plotted gardens, herbs or

vegetables-condesign-pixabayvegetables, children can dig in and get their hands dirty as they work the soil, plant the seeds, and pull weeds!  The activity itself brings a sense of joy and accomplishment that builds self-esteem, too!  Sewing, woodworking, and building model airplanes also work well for that!

 

 

3.  Vision and Sensory Skills

 

Why do we need to worry about vision and sensory skills?

Efficient visual skills are essential toward the mastery of handwriting.  Seeing clearly, focusing effectively at near and far distances, and being able to remember what we see are necessary tools for learning and remembering letter formations. Since 75-90% of what a child learns in a classroom occurs though his vision, it is very important for us to care about his vision skills.    Sensory processing skills are those that allow us to experience and understand our environment through what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, as well as from how our bodies move.  Efficient sensory processing gives children the information they need to feel safe, learn without distraction, and remember what they’ve learned.

 

What are some fun vision and sensory processing activities?

board game dantetg pixabayJust about any Board Game will hit upon the visual skills.  They demand eye contact, focusing with near vision, and eye movement to follow the game.  If you add a bit of mystery, let’s say by hiding the pieces of a word game in a plastic bin filled with sand, then you are working on the sense of touch at the same time!

 

 

Music and dancing can work for just about any of these five nifty skills.  dance-alexas fotos pixabay

But the movement and imitation involved in learning a new dance enhances the senses of sight, hearing, and movement.

 

 

magic-cube-domenicblair pixabay

 

Puzzles, both of the magic cube and interlocking type, provide plenty of visual skill enhancement as they demand visual attention, efficient scanning techniques, and visual perceptual skills to complete them.

 

 

 

4.  Posture

Why should we care about posture?

Posture and head positioning play a big role in efficient handwriting.  We’ve all heard the commands “make sure your feet are flat on the floor” and “sit up straight.”  Appropriate table and chair heights are crucial to providing a child with the support he needs to maintain his head up, shoulders back and back straight.  But, if a child is experiencing difficulty keeping a good postural alignment despite having the correct measures in place, then chances are he has weak postural muscles.  But it can be so difficult at times to help children understand the importance of building those muscles and protecting their backs.  The Kids Health Network shares a “posture perfect poster” that helps us to explain this in a “kid-friendly” way.

 

What are some fun posture enhancing activities?

 

Attention paid to the Core Body Muscles is attention well spent!  Exercises, presented in activities such as wheelbarrow walks and races, are fun ways to encourage the strengthening of the postural muscles.  hiking family-pezibear pixabayClimbing, hiking, biking, and even just plain walking enhance balance and coordination while working on the legs, back, trunk, shoulders, and neck muscles.

 

 

 

 

Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!
Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!

What you see is what you get when it come to posture.  Vision skills enhance the development of the core body muscles – and the core body muscles enhance the development of vision skills!  So, it is important to incorporate visual attention within the gross motor activities that you choose to enhance postural skills.  Vision-enhanced gross motor activities range from playing fun ball challenges with the younger children to maneuvering a bicycle or scoreboard through an obstacle course with your older guys and gals.

 

5. Practice

Why do we need to practice even in the summer?

In order to learn a skill – any skill, we need to practice it in a functional manner.  If a child is interested in volleyball, then he must eventually get out onto the beach and kick up some sand by the net.  If he’s interested in skiing, he can watch all of the instructional videos, build his core muscle strength, and buy the best equipment.  But, in the end, he will only master the sport by slipping and sliding down the slope.  The same goes for mastering the handwriting skill.  Build the skills and then use them!


 

What are some fun handwriting practice activities?

 

Nothing beats writing a letter to a friend or family member.  Nothing.  elephant mosaic ben kerckx pixabayjpg

Have the children design their own cards with fun art projects and send them off with a message in their own handwriting.

 

 

 

 

To-Do-List_PrintableLists make great handwriting practice activities:  groceries, to-do’s, and people to invite to their birthday party.

 

 

 

 

trip maps

And there’s always the great writing prompts or travel journal.  This is my favorite way to encourage handwriting practice during the summer.

 

 

 

 

I hope I’ve shared some different and exciting ideas for including the Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers in your child’s Summer Fun!

 

As always, thanks for reading!  And I look forward to your comments and feedback.

 

And please return next week to discover some more Summer Handwriting Fun tips from our next Guest Blogger, Becca Klockars, an OT from Providence, RI!  Hope to see you there!

 

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; 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.
 
Summer Handwriting Fun Series #1            Summer Handwriting Fun Series #2
10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing From Miss Jaime OT
Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing From Miss Jaime OT

Handwriting Tips Revisited: 10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun!

Most Important Thing About Handwriting
———Property of Handwriting With Katherine———

10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun!

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

 

This month, I am sharing a “Summer Handwriting Fun” series chock-full of articles written by myself and other therapy bloggers who have so graciously offered to share their work on my site.  This is the first in our series.  I hope you will find it useful and return to read some more next week!

 

Note:  This original blog was posted on June 2, 2015, as part of the above series.  At that time, I was honored to be a guest blogger on Special-Ism where I’d shared the 10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun.  Their site and my article, however, are no longer available.   My article below, “10 Secret Places to Practice Handwriting,” shares interesting options to encourage school-aged children to use their handwriting skills in everyday activities – pairing practice with function.    I think that you will find it useful.

 

Introduction

smiling girl pixabay

Time spent at home on the weekends is an opportunity for children of all ages to spend more time on outdoor play and less time “hitting the books!”  Although learning does not end with the school day or week, desk work becomes less appealing as on option for practicing handwriting.  The neatest thing about handwriting practice, however, is that it does not need to be completed at a desk, or even sitting down!  Let’s explore some fun activities that help children maintain and increase their handwriting mastery skills.

BUT, before we begin our journey, let’s take a look at one important fact:  Handwriting mastery is not accomplished simply by practicing letters over and over to produce a legible word.  That is the final destination.  The road to legibility, however, is paved with many other skills.  To master handwriting skills children need to develop efficient:

  • visual-motor skills – that provide them with accurate and precise eye movements that range from near to far,
  • visual-perceptual skills –  that help them to process visual information,
  • gross-motor skills – that give them strong muscles to maintain their posture, and
  • fine-motor skills – that help them to produce precision movements with their hands.

And functional, everyday writing activities can enhance the development of these skills.

Click on the picture below to read my article, “10 Secret Places to Practice Handwriting.”

 

10 Secret Places to Practice Handwriting by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

 

 

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.

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.

Handwriting and a Healthy Diet Pair Up!

baby-pixabay-84686_1280

Handwriting and a Healthy Diet Pair Up!

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

 

Eating is an essential activity of daily living.  It is also considered to be an important family social event.  In these harried and hurried times, eating can become a “grab-and-go necessity” that gets shoved to the back of the line as we travel to and from school, sports, daycare, and dance lessons.  A baggie of gold-colored fish, a sack of dried apricots, some type of boxed drink, and away we go!  “Quick, get in the car.  We’re going to be late!” Sound familiar? Sometimes the amount of time between getting the packages opened and jumping back out of the car is not even long enough to finish the “healthy snack” we’ve substituted for dinner.  Then there are the times when the return trip home is far past any reasonable dinner time, leaving only enough room in the schedule for homework or a bath – and perhaps some more “fish.”

Healthy eating is a key facet in a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development.  Research study results have shown that better nutrition builds strong bodies, but they also suggest that it has a positive effect on academic performance and school behaviors.  It appears that students who eat a healthy diet are not only better able to learn but will attend school more consistently and demonstrate improved classroom behaviors. (1)   Eating a well-balanced diet provides oxygen, minerals, and nutrients that enhance cognitive skills, develop and maintain muscle strength, and allow students to manage the educational and social demands of the school environment.  Learning is a demanding “occupation” for our young learners.  It only makes sense, then, to educate them on healthy eating habits.

What are eating habits?

I read a quote the other day that may not be the result of long and technical research studies but speaks to common sense:    “The eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.”   No, not a new revelation.  But it is certainly one that bears discussing as we and our children plough into our schedules each day.

Eating habits simply include:

  1. Meal Plans,
  2. Eating Times, and
  3. Eating Environments.

Healthy eating habits, on the other hand, require:family-eating-at-the-table-skeeze-pixabay-619142_1280

  1. Nutritious Meal Plans,
  2. Consistent Eating Times, and
  3. Stress-free Eating Environments.

Learning healthy eating habits allows children to:

  1. consider healthy food choices over those that have little nutritional value,
  2. manage their snack choices, and
  3. recognize the difference between hunger-related and stress- or boredom-related eating.

Where does handwriting fit in?

You may be asking at this point, “What does all of this have to do with handwriting?”

learn-geralt- pixabay -586409_1280

Handwriting development skills are primarily those included in:

  • our ability to understand how our bodies move and what we can do with that movement (body awareness, directional concepts, and spatial relations);
  • our visual processing skills that allow us to gather data through our senses, understand what the data is telling us, and make modifications if needed to our movements; and
  • our attention skills as we focus on a task, ignore distractions that do not relate to the task, and maintain our attention on it until it is completed.

The same facets of a healthy diet that I mentioned above –  oxygen, minerals, and nutrients – also provide students with the ability to develop those body awareness, visual processing, and attention skills they’ll need for handwriting mastery.  A healthy diet pairs up very well with a healthy mind!

 

How do we teach healthy eating habits?

If we are going to attempt to teach children, or anyone for that matter, about an important topic, it’s always a smart choice to “make if fun!”  From preschoolers to middle schoolers, children can benefit from learning to think healthy when it comes to food and eating.   Cooking or kitchen activities provide excellent opportunities for hands-on learning that combine healthy eating habits with fine and visual motor development.  So, with all of that in mind, I’m offering some functional activities that can turn “teaching into learning” at home, in school, or in a therapy session.  And to add a handwriting twist to the learning, I’ve added some ways to turn handwriting from “practice into functional.”  (You know that I can pair up handwriting with just about any learning activity!)

Here we go:

  • PLAN cooking lessons! Select a healthy recipe that’s easy and quick for preschoolers to “learn to cook” or simple to make in a classroom or therapy session with elementary and middle school children.  Banana Smoothies are always fun and so nutritious.  All you need are recipe card open clips pixabaysome bananas, a few extras to add inside, and a blender.  I found the “Sandwich-on-a-Stick” to be a very creative idea for involving a child in making lunch.  And Homemade Applesauce is a delicious and nutritious snack that can be made on the stove or in the microwave.  Preschoolers can practice their pre-handwriting skills by drawing a picture of their finished product, while elementary and middler schoolers can write down the recipe in their very own Healthy Food Journal.

 

  • Grocery Shopping is a TEAM Sport! After you select a fun recipe to try, have the elementary and middle schoolers write a list of ingredients that you will need (the preschoolers can draw them!) and take a trip down the grocery aisles looking and touching and selecting the “just right stuff.”  (PS:  A Hint:  Avoid the inner aisles of super markets because “that’s where all the junk lies.”)
  • Browse and Ponder. It’s so important to take your time and discuss the different choices available in the grocery store.  A smoothie can contain any number and variety of fruits and yogurts.  A sandwich can have vegetables, healthy cheese and meat, and as much or as littleMother And Daughter At Fruit Counter In Supermarket With List bread as you’d like.  This is a nice time to talk about how foods can be eaten both as a meal and as snacks and how they keep us healthy.  When you get home, have the children jot down (or draw) those healthy foods or ways to use them in their Healthy Food Journal.
  • Get your hands dirty!  Infants learn to accept foods by touching them, squishing them between their fingers, and rubbing them all over their faces.  They feel them, smell them, and taste them.  Give the children a chance to do the same when you are cooking your meal.  Experimenting with an unfamiliar vegetable by getting up close and smelling it, licking it, or breaking it into pieces can give the child a chance to feel “safe” with it.  Let’s face it, some vegetables can look pretty intimidating to them.  Let’s take broccoli, for instance.  What ARE all of those little bumps on the ends?  They can then record their very favorites in the Journal, as well as those that they may be willing try at a later date.
  • Creativity rules! Colors play a major role in a child’s life.  We are always asking them what the color of something is!  They even choose their crayons based upon their favorite colors.  And the same can be said for food.  Select some reds and oranges when you are picking peas and carrots condesign pixabayout peppers.  Add carrots to the celery and yogurt snack. Adding pimentos on your eggs for eyes, a nose, and a mouth is a fun way to introduce them.  Have all the children draw their favorite food or snack in their Journal using only their favorite colors.  That should make for some interesting food colors!

 

  • Seated and Slow. After the final product is ready for consumption, have the children help you set the table and learn to enjoy the “ritual” of eating together at the table.  TV, video games, and other forms of technology should be set aside and attention should be focused upon the wonderful meal that you’ve created together.  Just for fun, have the children make a few notes about what they ate, talked about, and felt during their sit-down lunch or dinner.  (Note:  Food and eating should be considered fun (and essential) activities and are not recommended to be used as rewards or punishments.)
  • Snacks and Treats:  Oh, yes!  There’s no reason to exclude in-between meal snacks for your children.  We all get the “munchies” outside of meal times, especially if we are being very active – like children!  And, although healthy snacks are the preferred choice, treats are still an acceptable way to curb the midday stomach growls.  Baking homemade treats can help you to maintain a higher level of “healthy” than store-bought items.  But, don’t restrict your child totally from those (or candy) because, let’s face it, they will be out in the “real world” soon and those choices will be there for the taking.  Learning to eat them in moderation is a more realistic tool than trying to avoid them altogether.  Discuss this concept with them and have them write their ideas for controlling the amount of snacks they eat in their Healthy Eating Journals.

Healthy eating and handwriting certainly DO go well together!

 

Do you have any creative ways in which you teach healthy eating habits to your children, students, or clients?  We’d love to hear about them!  Please share!

As always, thanks for reading!

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.

 

 

 

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.

Top 10 Handwriting Blog Posts for 2014!

Hello, to all my dedicated and loyal readers – and to each and every new follower that comes my way!  I am so excited this year to bring you the great news that the Handwriting is Fun! Blog has been a hit!  Let me take a moment of your “last day of the year” to share our Top 10 (all thanks to you!)

Drum Roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!

 

Part 2:  Problems with balance can sometimes signal poor body awareness skills.
Part 2: Problems with balance can sometimes signal poor body awareness skills.

10.  Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 2 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Secret Places to Practice Handwriting Handwriting With Katherine
Writing on the wall is okay!

9.   10 Secret Places to Practice Handwriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is writing just "too much" for the hand?"
Is writing just “too much” for the hand?”

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

 

 

 

 

 

Handwriting practice warms up the brain for writing activities!
Handwriting practice warms up the brain for writing activities!

7.  Handwriting Warm-ups to Writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pencil stylus - now there's an idea!
Pencil stylus – now there’s an idea!

6.  Handwriting Skills:  Thinking of an app to help with that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A q-tip helps develop the fine motor muscles of the hand for handwriting.
A q-tip helps develop the fine motor muscles of the hand for handwriting.

5.  My Handy Handwriting Tool Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fine-motor exercises that use everything in your pencil case!
Fine-motor exercises that use everything in your pencil case!

4.  5 Easy Fine Motor Warm-ups for Handwriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3:  Sometimes children will appear bored when they are struggling with poor memory skills.
Part 3: Sometimes children will appear bored when they are struggling with poor memory skills.

3.  Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning
Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning

 2.  Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND NUMBER 1:

Slanted paper and a 3-ring binder can facilitate a fluid handwriting style.
Slanted paper and a 3-ring binder can facilitate a fluid handwriting style.

Posture, Paper Placement, & Pencil Grip:  3 Links to Handwriting Success

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you AGAIN to all of my blog and Facebook followers, sharers, pinners, and tweeters!  I could not have done it without you!

 

Happy New Year!

 

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.  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.

Handwriting Warm-ups to Writing

Handwriting practice warms up the brain for writing activities!
Handwriting practice warms up the brain for writing activities!

In March, 2013, Virginia Berninger, one of the nation’s leading researchers on handwriting development and effective handwriting instruction, wrote an informative and enlightening paper titled, “Educating Students in the Computer Age to be Multilingual by Hand.” (1)  If you are as interested in handwriting as I am, it is definitely worth reading.

 

I was impressed by what I learned there, reinforcing the foundations upon which I’ve based my handwriting practice.  My commitment to connecting handwriting with writing skills has been a well-founded undertaking, as well.  Berninger writes that the automatic formation of letters by hand “is the best unique predictor of composition length – how many words written within a constant time limit.”  She adds that research supports the practice of using handwriting instruction as a “warm-up” to any writing activity, just as athletes and musicians warm-up before games and concerts.  Both the instruction and reinforcement of handwriting skills can enhance spelling and composition activities written by hand.

In every handwriting session, my students begin their work with gross motor, vision, and sensory warm-ups.  It is important to “get the body ready” to work on the precise fine-motor handwriting skills.  In much the same way, handwriting warm-ups get the brain ready to work on the cognitive skill of writing.  Berninger states that “Handwriting instruction does not have to take up valuable time for meeting other Common Core standards.  Less is more, especially if handwriting is taught as a tool for ideas expression.”  Now, while I don’t agree with her inference that handwriting isn’t as important as other educational goals (Is it okay to disagree with a professional of her stature?), I do resoundingly agree on turning handwriting “from practice to functional!”  With that said, let’s take a look at 5 Fun Activities that can put handwriting practice in the warm-up line-up!

Before spelling, note-taking, and written expression tasks, spend 5 minutes prepping the hand and brain for writing with some of these activities.  Be sure that each activity includes a writing utensil!  You will find that they are many of the familiar instructional activities that you use in your handwriting class.*

 

For the Young Ones (K-2nd Grade)

1.  Visual Motor Mania

Purpose:  Assists the writer with efficient pencil control, letter alignment, and spacing.
Activities:

– Mazes, word finds, or hidden pictures that include pencil use.

Sandpaper provides tactile input to help with pencil pressure!
Sandpaper provides tactile input to help with pencil pressure!

 

2.  Tactile Challenges

Purpose:  Prepares the hand and fingers for appropriate pressure on the pencil and to the paper.
Activities:

– Tracing letter formations with index finger, chalk, or a q-tip on a chalk board or construction paper.
– Tracing or forming letters with a tissue paper overlay or sandpaper underneath.

 

3.  Memory Makers

Purpose:  Enhances motor memory skills for the automatic recall of letter formations.
Activities:

– Writing letters or words they hear through dictation.
– Writing dictated letters or words on the chalkboard or paper with their eyes closed.

4.  Mix and Match

Purpose:  Enhances the ability to recognize a letter in both upper and lower case.
Activities:

– Race to write the upper and lower case versions of letters that are dictated.
– Write words that use an upper case (e.g., name) and lower case (e.g., verb) version of a letter that has been dictated.

5.  Make Space for Me

Purpose:  Prepares the eyes to manage spacing and letter alignment.
Activities:

– Fit letters or words demonstrated on the board into the correct boxes drawn on a worksheet.
– Fit letters or words onto various sized lines on a worksheet.

 

For the Older Ones (3-5th grade)

1.  Motor Memory Mixers

Purpose:  Enhances automatic recall of letter formations and words.
Activities:

– Write down the letters of a word that have been dictated out of order, then rearrange them to create a word.
– Write letters that are dictated and cross out the ones that do not belong in the word (e.g., morening for morning).

2.  Visualization Without Peeking

Purpose:  Enhances motor memory for automatic recall of letter formations and words.
Activities:

– Write dictated letters or words on a paper with eyes closed.
– Write the alphabet in order with eyes closed.

3.  Close It Up

Purpose:  Enhances automatic recall of letters and copying speed.
Activities:

– Complete an incomplete letter demonstrated on the board.
– Decipher and complete words written on the board with the top half erased.

4.  Space Attack

Graph paper provides visual cues for letter spacing and alignment.
Graph paper provides visual cues for letter spacing and alignment.

Purpose:  Prepares the eyes to manage spacing.
Activities:

– Write dictated words in the appropriate boxes on a worksheet or graph paper.
– Copy short sentences into appropriate boxes provided on a worksheet or using graph paper.

5.  Line It Up

Purpose:  Prepares the eyes to manage letter alignment.
Activities:

– Write upper and lower case versions of each letter of the alphabet side-by-side independently.
– Write dictated words that begin with an upper-case letter.

 

It is true that “less is more,” or as my mantra goes:  “Quality versus Quantity.”  Just a few minutes of warm-up can help students to master both their handwriting and writing skills!

 

 

*Important Note:  These warm-ups are not intended to be a substitute for structured, guided handwriting instruction.  There simply is no substitute for that!

 

 

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. 

 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.

 

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.