“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
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: 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.
- Provide a variety of art projects that offer an opportunity to work on handwriting skills and that allow students to delve into the areas that motivate them. Collages, creating with cardboard, and Sticky Note Crafts all provide
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!
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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:
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
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.