National Handwriting Day is Here!

National Handwriting Day is Here!

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

 

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

 

January 23 is National Handwriting Day!

 

Some Discussion

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

 

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

 

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

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

– scanning, tracking, and accommodation.

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Some Suggestions

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

Most Important Thing About Handwriting

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

 

1.  Finger and Hand Strengthening:

10 Activities to Work on Hand Strengthening

2.  Creative Expression:

 Getting Kids to Love Writing

Picture Writing Prompts for Older Students

mailbox-jbom411 pixabay

 

3.  Communication:

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

 

 

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

Can we practice handwriting without a pencil, please?

5.  Community Involvement:

Write a letter to a Wounded Warrior

6.  Art:

Art Projects for Kids (all ages)

Observational Drawings (all ages)kitchen-scale srevepb pixabay

7.  Cooking:

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

Family Recipe Books (younger students)

8.  ‘Handy” Resources:

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

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

 

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

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

 

Katherine

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
 
 
 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.
 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Vision Skills: Can you see them?

 

Vision Skills: Can You See Them? www.handwritingwithkatherine.com
It is important to protect your child’s vision!

 

The next time you are sitting among a group of children, take a look around and see if you can pick out those who have a vision problem.  Now, setting aside eyesight, as it is only one of the 17 visual skills we use each day, don’t count those wearing glasses.  They are obviously living with a visual issue.  But, what about the others?
 
 
You may be surprised to learn that about 25% of children are experiencing a vision problem, with 11.5% of teenagers living with an undetected or untreated vision issue.   But, when you surveyed the group of children, were you able to tell which of them needed help?  Don’t feel badly.  I wouldn’t be able to pick them out that easily either.  Vision skills can be “invisible” and difficult to detect.  But, if you have just a small bit of information, you can uncover the behaviors that indicate that a vision problem may exit.  These are the “Vision Red Flags.”  And we are going to chat about them right now!

 

FIRST, THE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT VISION HEALTH!

 
Simply put, we should discuss vision health because approximately 80% of the learning that a child does occurs through his eyes.
1.  Reading
– plays a key role in learning through the gathering of information.
– requires efficient visual skills to see both near and far clearly, and to switch between the two effectively (e.g., copying from the board).
– demands efficient eye movements to follow a line of print or scan a page for information.
– demands that a reader interpret and accurately process the information he is seeing (visual perceptual skills).
2.  Handwriting

Basic Strokes - Universal Handwriting Program
Basic Strokes – Universal Handwriting Program
– plays a key role in learning through the communication of knowledge and ideas.
– requires efficient visual skills to learn and remember letter and word formations.
– demands accurate spatial awareness to produce a legible product.
– requires good posture to facilitate a fluid handwriting style.
3.  Everyday Activities
– require efficient coordinated eye movements for using our two hands together to tie our shoes or to write in a notebook.
– demand accurate tracking and scanning skills to play sports, video games, or work on the computer.
–  require good visual perceptual skills to help us navigate our environment, drive a car, or ride a bicycle.
– demand good visual attention skills for following a schedule, participating in school and work, or to remember information we have read.
 
Vision skills can work well only if we have taken the time to “see” if they are in good working order.

NEXT, THE WAYS THAT WE CAN SPOT VISION PROBLEMS!

Vision Red Flags Checklist
A free Vision Red Flags Checklist!

 

 

It is simple, really!  Spotting the red flags that indicate the possibility of a vision problem can be done just by watching a child “in action.”  Observe him as he participates in his normal activities:  eating, dressing, reading, writing, and playing.  As you do, note if you observe any of the following behaviors:

 
 
 
Does he:
– stumble or walk into walls as he explores familiar environments?
– appear awkward during running or climbing activities?
– have difficulty with coordinated movement sequences (e.g., Simon Says or playing soccer)?
– walk on his toes frequently?
– have difficulty recognizing right/left, up/down directions (on himself or in games)?
– hold a crayon or pencil awkwardly, at times switching hands?
– apply too much or too little pressure on a coloring or writing tool?
– lean on his hand, rest his head on the desk, or lean in close to his work?
– rub his eyes or forehead or put his hands over his eyes periodically during close work?
– appear to be looking through you or avoiding eye contact during activities he enjoys?
 
Also take a look at his eyes for these movement behaviors:
 – Does one or both of his eyes drift in or out, either consistently or inconsistently?
– Do you observe fast movements of his eyes, either with or without engagement in a movement activity?
– Is there tearing or redness of the eyes?
– Does he demonstrate excessive blinking or squinting?
 
If one or more of these behaviors exist, especially these last movement behaviors, it would be a good idea to have his vision assessed by a developmental optometrist to determine their source.
 
And just so you can record your observations, I’ve included a free download on my website, “Vision Red Flags Checklist,” that can be used by parents, teachers, and caregivers during everyday activities!
 
It is important to note that school vision screenings routinely check children’s distance vision – what we refer to as 20/20 on the eye chart.  This exam is used to refer children for glasses if they complain of blurry far-away vision and/or can’t eye-charts All About Visionsee the board from the back of the room.   For most pediatricians, this is the same situation. 
Children’s vision, to be accurately assessed, should have the attention of a developmental optometrist.
 
For more information about the importance of vision assessments, when your child should receive them, and the free vision assessment available to ALL children ages 6-12 months, please click here:  InfantSee.
 
Well, folks, I hope that this information has helped you to SEE the hidden value of efficient vision skills!
 
As always, thanks for reading!  I look forward to your comments and hope to see you 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.

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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.


 

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