Handwriting: You can take it personal.

Betty Edwards Quote Handwriting
Quote from Betty Edwards: http://drawright.com

 

Handwriting:  You can take it personal.

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

 

 

 

 

The goal of a handwriting instruction program is to guide the writer toward an efficient handwriting style that is both fluid and legible.  Good penmanship is often defined by the level of proficiency the writer has achieved with the formations of letters, their proper placement on the lines and the paper, and the ability of the reader to interpret the intended message.  But how important is good penmanship?

 

From One Perspective

In a review of Tamara Plakins Thornton’s book, Handwriting in America:  A Cultural History, Dyas Lawson reveals the author’s interesting perspective of good penmanship.  It seems that Ms. Thornton had a “secret conviction that good penmanship does not matter, that if anything it Handwriting in America Thorntondenotes a person who is fearful or incapable of being in any way unusual.”  She goes on to say that the belief that one’s personality is reflected in his or her handwriting leads us to consider that a penmanship style that conflicts with the impression of “what teachers would call good handwriting,” one that conforms to the rules and looks like the formations printed in the instruction workbooks, would be the “mark of individuality” (as cited in Lawson, n.d., para. 3).  Yes, conformity is the standard of proficiency.   An effective handwriting instruction program demands a regimented curriculum and can indeed appear to be conducted in a “militaristic” fashion, as Lawson described the A. N. Palmer methods teachers used in their classes.  Lawson concedes, however, that although their practice began with the “issuing [of] commands: ‘Pens. Position. Circles’,” the teacher did “get results” (Lawson, n.d., para. 5).  I have always considered the process of learning and mastering the skill to write letters to lead to the discovery of a comfortable and personalized handwriting style with which to convey thoughts, feelings, and knowledge efficiently.  It seems strange somehow that an adult’s use of an individualized, nonconforming form of expression should be considered a weakness when it should be treated as a strength, a culmination of the years of practice and use of a handwriting style. If it’s legible, I consider it to be good penmanship.  Why are we still judged by our handwriting?   Perhaps the evolution of handwriting, the various places it has held in society, and its transition into a formal mode of communication has set the stage for this all-or-nothing standard for proficiency.

 

Some (a lot of) History

The birth of writing.  Not long ago, formal penmanship instruction was considered to be a valuable school subject, one that was taught with as much rigor as reading, math, and science.  But long before the introduction of standardized forms of handwriting that would serve as communication tools in every facet of life, cultures were concerned more about the basic need to exchange information to document their norms and histories. The earliest known form of communication presented in what we now call writing may have been cave paintings called pictographs and petroglyphs (paintings and incised pictures on stone, respectively) (Introduction to the History, n.d.).   Sumerian cuneiform, written with a reed stylus, and Egyptian hieroglyphics, carved in stone or painted on papyrus, as well as early Kanji Chinese letter forms, are considered to be the origins of writing, providing people with “a codified system of standard symbols:  the repetition of agreed-upon simple shapes to represent ideas” (History of Handwriting, n.d., p. 1).  The pictographs and ideographs (a combination of pictographs used to represent ideas) used in these methods of writing provided people within those cultures an opportunity to record their thoughts and creative ideas, as well as document their histories, discoveries, and theories (History of Handwriting, n.d.  p. 1) But not just any people.

 

These methods were specialized tools for communication comprised of many signs that took scribes years to master.  Originally, hieroglyphics were used to present religious writings and scribes were valued and highly respected, ranking at the top of the social chart.  Only those families with money could send their boys to school to learn this skill and those who were chosen to perform this task did not pay taxes, have to perform any military hieroglyphs pcdazero pixabayduties, or do manual labor.  (Egyptian Scribes, n.d., para. 2)  During the period before the invention of the printing press, handwriting skills were considered valuable rights that could enhance your life and prevent you from being “sent out into the fields to mow hay or to plow” (Saba, 2011, para. 6).  Scribes dedicated their lives to produce books and manuscripts in monasteries and it is thought that each monastery had its own style of handwriting (Saba, 2011).   Arnie Sanders, an associate professor of English at Goucher College in Baltimore, reveals that “The real purpose of writing was to propagate the word of God, and to regulate the worship of God.  That’s what kept handwriting alive, and why it was taught as a vocation” (as cited in Saba, 2011, para. 8).  As writing continued to maintain its status as an important religious documentation tool, it is felt that the demand of a more expeditious and legible script most likely led to the creation of the alphabet (Introduction to the History, n.d.).

 

The journey of the alphabet.  The Phoenicians developed a 22-letter phonetically-based alphabet that translated “ideographic writing to phonetic writing” (Introduction to the History, n.d., p. 8).  This spread to Greece, where it was transformed into an alphabet using 24 letters, including vowels.   This was later adopted by the Romans, who used 23 letter forms and additional consonants.  This alphabet consisted of only capital letters, with a more informal script developed later that “was the earliest sign of lowercase letter forms, with ascenders, descenders and ligatures between the letters” (History of Handwriting, n.d., p. 3) and would be used to record transactions and conduct correspondence.

The invention of the printing press and the creation of the “very delicate type faces with many flourishes and curliques in [their] script-like letters” (History of Handwriting, n.d., p. 4) resulted in the production of aesthetic looking documents.  The desire to emulate this style of print elevated the advantages of having an elegant handwriting style.  Those who possessed one enjoyed a higher social status.  It is felt that “it took the printing press to create a notion of handwriting as a sign of self,” (Atrubek, 2009, p. 3) slowly becoming a “form of self-expression when it ceased to be the primary mode of written communication.” (p. 4).

 

You are your handwriting.  At this point, handwriting had remained a somewhat personal skill, following prescribed alphabets but allowing for its presentation to be more class-based rather than conforming to a standardized format.  Clerks, engravers, ladies, and gentlemen all produced handwriting The Fountain Pen Network handwritingstyles that pointed to their individual stations in life.  During Colonial times, a handwritten document could readily identify the writer’s “social status, educational level, and relative importance in society” (Lawson, n.d., para. 8)  And although prominent figures in society, such as Benjamin Franklin, strongly supported good penmanship, only wealthy men were afforded the opportunity to learn it.  Encyclopedias and books included entries to illustrate appropriate writing equipment and grip, as well as the proper seated posture for writing (Makala, 2013, p. 8), and reference volumes were printed to educate clerks or tradesmen on the written transactions used in business (p. 10).   When training was finally offered to educate teachers as well as the general public on handwriting styles, it is evident that penmanship was considered a valuable and economically viable skill to sell.  Documentation recorded in 1849 indicates that “100 writing academies [were registered] in New Hampshire and 272 in Rhode Island” (Kaminski, n.d., (section “Understanding Edison’s Writing”).

During this time, penmanship instruction books for students were being developed to encourage the advancement of specific handwriting styles.  And handwriting styles became a topic of discussion among educators.  When public education was established and formal methods of handwriting instruction were being developed during the early 19th century, the leaders in handwriting instruction began to consideration the relative benefits of a “synthetic method [of] teaching” versus a “muscular-movement” method (Doughtery, 1917, p. 281).  This led to the debate over the importance of learning the individual stokes that formed a letter (synthetic) versus understanding the influence of the arms, hands, and fingers in the process of writing (muscular-movement). During the later years of that century, the elements of handwriting instruction that sparked concern in the minds of educators were not only the style of handwriting to teach and the method of instruction, but also the question of paper positioning and the desks that would facilitate its mastery.  (Doughtery, 1917)

 

Enter Mr. Spencer.  By the mid-19th century, those interested in developing an efficient handwriting system turned to a combination of the methods described above, with an emphasis on forearm movement included in the teaching of letter formations.  Platt Rogers Spencer, considered by some to be “the father of American handwriting,” (Atrubek, 2009, p. 3) designed what would become “the first accepted American standard for learningSpencerian Penmanship TheoryAndCopyBookSet Mott Media penmanship” (Introduction to the History, n.d., p. 22).  He built a chain of business schools to teach his script, believing that its mastery would “make someone refined, genteel, upstanding” (Handwriting is History, p. 3).  The Spencerian method was a form of cursive that included “ornate and sinuous” strokes (Cohen, 2012, para. 3) and was quickly adopted by schools and businesses.  Spencerian script was introduced and taught in schools from the 1860s to the 1920s (Handwriting is History, n.d.).  Also during this time, the creation of a public school grading system led to the creation of handwriting books designed to fit the developmental needs of the students in each grade (Doughtery, 1917).

 

At this time, some handwriting masters thought that “vertical writing,” or one produced without a slant, would be a preferable style “based on superior hygienic conditions” (Doughtery, 1917, p. 283).  I’m not quite clear about what Doughtery was referring to here; but I’m assuming that vertical writing produced in conjunction with vertical paper placement may have been felt to be more conducive to maintaining an upright body position to facilitate posture and to reduce eyestrain, for the author notes that neither of these were remedied by this handwriting practice.  She further notes that vertical writing “was found to be inefficient from the viewpoint of speed and legibility and so was abandoned” (p. 283) at the end of the 19th century.

 

Here comes the point!  The 20th century brought with it once again the demand for a style of writing that was more efficient in terms of speed and formation.   The Spencerian method was thought to be “too slow, ornamental, and inefficient,” (Makala, 2013, p. 14) requiring the writer to lift the pen off the page, sacrificing legibility for speed.  A. N. Palmer considered the Spencerian script to be less suited to the industrial age and created a “plain and rapid style” (Artubek, 2009, p. 3), the Palmer Method.   In the late 19th century, educators adopted his regimented program that utilized his strategy for teaching letter formations first on a chalk board using large arm movements and then gradually reducing the size of the letter formations until the appropriate size was achieved on paper (Lawson, n.d.).  (Sound familiar, OTs?)  Dyas Lawson sums up the significance of the implementation of this regimented format for handwriting instruction succinctly:

 

“As typewriting had mechanized office communication, Palmer turned individual writers into machines – the social importance ascribed to handwriting had again transmogrified from an integral indicator of character to a disconnected musculoskeletal function” (p. 5).

 

Lawson does concede, however, that Palmer did provide an efficient handwriting style that was uniform and legible.  The Palmer method was the “dominant tradition in American handwriting instruction from the 1890’s,” (Makala, 2013, p. 14) finally being unseated as the favored program in the mid-twentieth century.  At that time, educators felt it was more advantageous to teach manuscript first to initiate children into writing instruction sooner, followed by cursive when manuscript was mastered (Atrubek, 2009; Makala, 2013).

 

Penmanship Folder
Photo property of Handwriting With Katherine
----------------My dad's!---------------
———————–My dad’s!———————- Photo property of Handwriting With Katherine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what does all of this history tell us about the relative importance of good penmanship and the relevance of an individual style of handwriting that defines us as a person and conveys our message in a way that no one else can?  What does Thornton’s conviction in her 1996 book say about the insidious decline of handwriting instruction – or the importance of it – in our schools, where once it was considered so very important that children stood at chalkboards day after day learning to master Palmer’s plain and rapid strokes?  What does the need for constant reaffirmation about the influence of learning handwriting formations on literacy development say about a culture that has prided itself as a leader in education, job growth, and innovation?  When at one point, we felt handwriting proficiency was so important that scribes dedicated their lives to learning it, when only the wealthy were afforded the skill, and when your handwriting could identify your station in society.  When, at a time not so long ago, those who valued handwriting feared that the typewriter threatened to take away the intimacy of self-expression that a handwritten document represented.  Was Thornton correct?  Is handwriting proficiency simply a way to shackle us to conformity?  Or is it a learning tool that guides us to literacy?  And a personalized mark that we leave as our legacy?

 

 

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 forCollmer Book addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures that are marked the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.  All others must provide a link to the originating source.
 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.

 

References:
Atrubek. (2009, December 16). Handwriting is History. Pacific Standard. https://psmag.com/handwriting-is-history-9312bc557e07#.lwcwre79l
Cohen, J. (2012). A Brief History of Penmanship on National Handwriting Day [PDF]. New York: A&E Networks. http://www.history.com/news/a-brief-history-of-penmanship-on- national-handwriting-day
Dougherty, M. L. (1917). History of the Teaching of Handwriting in America. The Elementary School Journal, 18(4), 280-286. doi:10.1086/454610
Egyptian Scribes [HTML]. (n.d.). Dublin: History for Kids: Free history network for kids. http://www.historyforkids.net/egyptian-scribes.html
History of Handwriting: The development of handwriting and the modern alphabet [HTL]. (n.d.). Hood River: Letter. https://www.vletter.com/help/font-faq/history-of-handwriting.html
Introduction to the History of Handwriting Guideline for SAFDE Mambers [PDF]. (n.d.). Southeastern Association of Forensic Document Examiners. http://www.safde.org/hwhistory.pdf
Kaminski, D. (n.d.). The Varieties and Complexities of American Handwriting and Penmanship: Library Hand. David Kaminsky. retrieved on 27 July 2016 at http://scalar.usc.edu/works/handwriting/index
Lawson, D. A. (n.d.). Handwriting in America a cultural history, book review [HTML]. PaperPenalia. http://www.paperpenalia.com/history.html
Makala, J. (2013, October 13). “Born to please”: The Art of Handwriting Instruction [PDF]. Columbia: Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina. library.sc.edu/spcoll/_current/Handwriting.pdf
Saba, M. (2011, August 26). Handwriting through the ages: An abridged history of English script [IRPT]. Atlanta: Cable News Network. http://www.cnn.com/2011/IREPORT/08/26/handwriting.history.irpt/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another look at Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

Photo credit: renaln
Photo credit: renaln

Each year, as I work with students in elementary school, I continue to worry about their needs being the result of inadequate pre-handwriting skill training.  In short, that really simply means how well they learned to use their hands in play activities and kinesthetic learning.  Children learn to use their hands as tools to help them learn and grow from the moment they are born.  However, sometimes in this accelerated learning environment the we seem to be in now, children are being asked to attempt to learn skills that are far beyond their developmental capabilities.  With this in mind, I offer again my work to draw attention to the learning brain of the child.

 

 

 

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

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

 

Jean Piaget introduced the world to the learning brain of the child.  Through his systematic study of cognitive development, he discovered that children simply do not learn in the same way as adults.  According to his theory of cognitive child development, “children are born with a very basic mental structure … on which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based.

To read the entire article, click here.

 

 

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 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.
All photos are property of the owner of the site they are liked to and their use should always provide that link.

Handwriting and the non-dominant hand

hand sketch AlexandruPetre Pixabay

Handwriting and the non-dominant hand

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

Frank R. Wilson, in his renowned discussion of the evolution of the hand, poses the suggestion that bimanual tasks result in the development of a visual vocabulary.  He defines a “visual vocabulary” as one that is established as a result of a mysterious, nonverbal language.  This language can be witnessed in the arts, from jewelry making to writing, as each creator uses “internalized rules for combining materials and structural elements” to produce unique patterns of work.   These works of art take on a meaning for both the designer and viewer and become the personal stamp of the creator. (1)  In this sense, handwriting can be defined as a nonverbal language that results from the production of lines and shapes that are placed within spatial constraints according to predetermined directional and alignment rules.  They become words and sentences that take on a meaning that the writer conjures up in our minds to share thoughts, feelings, information, and knowledge.  Although Wilson describes handwriting as a task commonly considered to be a unilateral hand skill, (1) one that is considered by researchers to require only the “specific coordination between the finger and wrist movements” of one hand, (2) it appears that handwriting under the label of a visual vocabulary would then be considered a bimanual task.

The production of a visual vocabulary, in the arts and handwriting, depends on the ability of the hands to form a complementary partnership in their role as a vehicle for expression.  This partnership consists of a dominant and non-dominant hand that become one unit in the completion of bimanual tasks. Brain lateralization and the intercommunication between the two sides of the brain have been considered the foundational requisites that facilitate the establishment of a dominant hand and determine handedness in humans. However, the establishment of hand dominance remains a confusing and baffling human trait that scientists admit there is little known about its history or neurologic foundations.  The study of the evolution of handedness has taken anthropologists back to an examination of how the hands were used by our Stone Age predecessors to wield stones as hammers to create tools for building or cooking or to design weapons intended to kill game or to act as protection against predators.  Their studies revealed that the tool users would have divided the tasks of hammering or throwing into two distinct parts, utilizing one hand to steady the object to be hammered or to balance two hands machines pashminu Pixabaythe body against gravity in throwing and the other hand to perform the precise movements necessary to direct the stone toward a target with accuracy.  This division of labor has been labeled as the dominant and non-dominant hand movements.

Hand dominance** has been suggested to have been a “critical survival advantage” to hunters and gatherers as they engaged precision tasks within their competitive environments.  (1)  Given that precision tasks demand practice for mastery, their consistent use of one hand to perform and perfect an accurate aim-and-throw movement may have organized the brain-hand pathways and established a hand dominance.  Again, the baffling question remains:   Why did these early humans select the right versus the left hand for precision tasks?  While scientists have yet to uncover the answer to this conundrum, they have turned with equal wonder at the mystery of the perceived underdevelopment of the non-dominant hand.  Some ask the question, “Did it stagnate?  Was it ‘dumbed down’ somehow, in order to guarantee the emergence of a manual performance asymmetry?”  Or was the non-dominant upper limb intended to become specialized in a different way?  (1)   This latter view of the non-dominant hand suggests that the two hands are complementary, forming a whole that is dependent on the accurate production of the specified movements of both sides.  This is an enlightening perspective on the role of the non-dominant hand, for sure.

Dominant and non-dominant hands were once referred to as the “good” and “bad” hands, with the non-dominant hand being labeled as the “somewhat disabled one.” (1) The right hand was viewed as the “good” hand despite the occurrence of left-handedness in some children.  Left-handedness, in fact, was considered to be a deficit and children were strongly encouraged, sometimes forced, to ignore their tendency to use their left hand and to switch Left-Hand-vs-Right-Handinstead to their right hand for writing and drawing.  The argument and prejudice against left-handedness was promoted by the confusing fact that an overwhelming number of people were right-hand dominant.  In the end, regardless which hand became dominant, the non-dominant hand was believed to be an unequal force in the production of bimanual tasks.  It was considered to be inferior to the more precise hand.  As researchers began to investigate more closely the interaction of the hands in bimanual skills, they questioned this idea and considered instead the likelihood that they were interdependent.  Bimanual tasks, by definition, involve the use of both hands.  While some bimanual tasks can be accomplished with the use of one hand (as evidenced by the rehabilitation efforts of persons who have suffered from a stroke), most often the speed, fluidity, and accuracy of their production are compromised by the lack of a supporting hand.  In general, then, bimanual tasks demand the use of both hands for efficiency, as is seen in activities such as playing a musical instrument, golfing, tying our shoes, cutting our food, and handwriting.

Wilson describes handwriting as a task commonly considered to be unilateral hand skill, (1) one that is considered by researchers to require only the “specific coordination between the finger and wrist movements.” (2)  However, in light of the research that considers the two hands as partners in a task, an analysis of the the non-dominant hand in handwriting has revealed it to play “a complementary, though largely covert, role by continuously repositioning the paper in anticipation of pen movements.”  (3, qtd in 1)  In 1987, French psychologist Yves Guiard studied the complementary hand movements in handwriting relative to the idea that the physical characteristics of the movements of each hand,  as well as the sensory control mechanisms that supported those movements, were significantly different.  He proposed that their scaled movements were spatially and temporally divided into two categories.  In Guiard’s theory, the scale of the dominant hand’s movements is considered to be “micrometric,” or produced within a smaller space with slower speeds relative to the supporting hand.  Its performance is rehearsed and mostly internally driven or pre-programmed, directed by the development of motor patterns and the automatic reproduction of those patterns.  (1)   In contrast the movements of the non-

Photo: Property of Handwriting With Katherine
Photo: Property of Handwriting With Katherine

dominant hand in its role as the paper positioner are “macrometric.”   They are conducted to facilitate improvised adjustments using faster speeds within a larger context.  They are externally driven, being directed by the writing hand to set the spatial boundaries within which it can perform its skilled movements.  In effect, the non-dominant hand is supporting the precise movements of the dominant one by providing a stabilizing environment that allows for frequent alterations that are responsive to the movements of the skilled hand.  This perspective of the non-dominant hand elevates its significance in the production of handwritten work.  The actions of the supporting hand require controlled motor movements that can transition within a diverse range of “improvised hold and move sequences” that do not follow strict rules for patterns or rhythm.  These movements require sensory control mechanisms that can detect, analyze, and integrate visual perceptual information, such as spatial boundaries or paper angles, relative to the movements of the dominant hand.  The supporting role of the non-dominant hand demands flexibility to “conform its movements both to the behavior of an external object and to the actions of the other hand, to ensure that the object and the handheld tool will intercept at the intended time and place.”  (1)  Guiard discovered that these alterations are anticipated and initiated before the movements of the skilled hand take place, leading to his proposition that “there is a logical division of labor between the two hands that appears to govern the entire range of human bimanual activities.”  (1)

The precise, rehearsed, and preprogrammed facets of handwriting rely on the supportive role of the less-precise hand to guide the dominant one in producing the “collection of identical hash marks” (1) that create an individual penmanship style and comprise the visual vocabulary that delivers each writer’s personal message.  The supporting role of the non-dominant hand places handwriting among our most creative bimanual tasks.  In this light, an assessment of handwriting development skills would warrant an evaluation of the behaviors demonstrated by the supporting hand and rehabilitative efforts designed to develop it to its highest skill level.

**For more information about the developmental stages of hand dominance and the it plays in handwriting mastery, please read my article, “Hand Dominance – a key factor in handwriting success,” and my book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists,” which can be purchased on my website.

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 author of the book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists.  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.
Photos are the property of online sites or the photographers at Pixabay.    Their use should include the link provided with the pictures.  All other photographs are property of the author and are not to be used without her written permission.
(1) Wilson, Frank R. The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. New York: Pantheon, 1998. Print.
(2) H. Reinders-Messelink, M. Schoemaker, and L. Goeken, Kamps, W. “Handwriting and Fine Motor Problems After Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.” Handwriting and Drawing Research: Basic and Applied Issues. Amsterdam: IOS, 1996. 215-25. Print.
(3) Guiard, Yves. “Asymmetric Division of Labor in Human Skilled Bimanual Action.” Journal of Motor Behavior 19.4 (1987): 486-517. Web.

Help With Handwriting: A Screening Activity

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 third article in our series is presented by Lyn Armstrong, OTR/L, and will explore the the process of identifying handwriting struggles early to prevent our students from falling behind in their handwritten work.  I know that you will find her strategy easy to use and an asset to your OT Tool Box!

 

Help With Handwriting:  A Screening Activity for All Ages

            by Lyn Armstrong, OTR

 

Handwriting is a very complex task at any age!

 

If you can picture in your mind a ladder, let’s look at each major rung!  The top rungs of this handwriting ladder are composed of written expression items (spelling, thought organization, punctuation, and sentence/paragraph development).  The middle rungs may be composed of sensory motor items such as visual perception, tactile/proprioception.  The bottom rungs handle fine and gross motor skills.

A student with handwriting difficulties may have problems related to each rung, particular rungs, or multiple rungs in each area.  For example a child with Dyslexia may have different issues affecting the quality of writing than a student with “just fine motor skills” (rare these days).  Illegible handwriting is sometimes called “Dysgraphia”.

Dysgraphia Subtypes (Deuel. Journal of Child Neurology 1995)

Spontaneous written text Oral Spelling Copying Drawing Finger tapping(fine motor)
Dyslexic Dysgraphia Poorly legible with textural complexity influencing legibility Severely abnormal Relatively preserved Relativelypreserved Normal
Dysgraphia due to Motor Clumsiness Poorly legible Relatively preserved Legible or if neat extremely slowly produced compromised abnormal
Dysgraphia due to defect in understanding space Poorly legible preserved Poorly legible abnormal normal

 

In this chart, you can see that a Dyslexic student’s difficulties center on spelling and textural complexity rather than fine motor skills.  For the observer of a Dyslexic student, the handwriting puzzle may be confusing as one may see the following:

  1. Legible letter formations in handwriting workbooks or sheets
  2. Legible writing with short sentences that are composed of familiar words
  3. Decreased legibility as spelling demands increase
  4. Decreased legibility as spelling, time restraints, reading comprehension, and/or organization is required

If we go back to look at the handwriting ladder, we see that the majority of handwriting issues with a Dyslexic student center in the upper rungs of written expression and not in the lower rungs of fine motor or visual perception.  Therefore it is critical to work on the upper rungs of written expression not necessarily the lower rungs of perception and motor which generally are intact. An occupational therapist though specializing in handwriting may not be as helpful for a Dyslexic student as a Language therapist or a Dyslexic tutor who is more specialized in reading and spelling.

Knowing where the difficulties lie, help determines which professional is needed and which classroom modifications are appropriate.

 

The first thing to consider with a student who is having writing difficulties is whether or not the student knows the letter names, has attached the letter names to a symbol, and can write that letter (symbol) without thinking about it.  If he can do this, it frees up the mind to concentrate on the aspects of writing sentences, spelling, etc.

A simple screening exercise for grades 1 and higher is mentioned below.  Please remember that this is a screening only!  It should help you determine if the child is visualizing the letters correctly, transitioning quickly from one thought to another (cognitive associative shift), and receiving good input through the sense of touch (tactile) and body movement (proprioceptive).

 

Screening Procedure: Choose a time when the student is not tired.  Place a piece of blank paper long wise in front of the student.  Have the student write the upper case alphabet in his/her choice of print or cursive with his eyes closed.   Have the student open his eyes to check his work.  Then repeat with the lower case alphabet.  Always praise the student even if done poorly.

As the student writes, make notes of the following:Poor Handwriting Example2

  1. Hesitation on a letter
  2. Difficulty sequencing the alphabet: you may help by giving a letter
  3. Talking out loud as he writes a letter or the sequence

Once finished note the following:

  1. Are the letters placed on an imaginary line? If so, it appears the student knows where his hand is as it moves across the page.  If not, you may want to work on sensory items with the student to help with better sensory input in the hand. Check for pressure: are the letters made very lightly or can you read them from the other side of the page (engraving). Extra pressure can result from poor sensory input or from over concentration on the activity.

Also draw a line across the top of the letters and one under the letters.  The space between these two lines (height of the letters) may be the comfort level of the moving fingers.  Adjust the writing spaces on other papers to be equal to this space. For example, if the letters of a third grade are large like a kindergartener, the student may have trouble writing in the small spaces on a fourth grade workbook or college rule notebook paper.

  1. Are there hesitations with certain letters? We picture the letters as we write in our minds.  The letter as it is being written matches or does not match a letter in our minds.  If a student has trouble visualizing a letter, he will hesitate or say “I don’t remember”. Work on that particular letter.
  2. Can the student write the alphabet sequence without help? This requires writing a letter, remembering where the letter is in the alphabet sequence, picturing the next letter, writing it on the paper and repeating this process.  This takes memory, visual recall, visualization and motor production.  Shifting from one skill to another may be difficult and need extra help.  Processing speed may be slow as well.
  3. Are the letters made top to bottom or bottom to top? If the letters are legible and made bottom to top, this may not need to be corrected.

 

Lyn Exercise PhotorThe following may be helpful as you scan the student’s papers after you have noted motor, perceptual or sensory issues:

  1. Look at the student’s writing in all subjects. Just because a student has good grades in spelling, one needs to look at the spelling in the context of writing sentences and paragraphs.  One may be able to remember the spelling words in isolation but not when thinking about what to write.  Even look at math papers for number formations, sizes of numbers, ability to write in smaller spaces and written words in word problem solutions.
  2. Look at the spaces the child must write in on the various pages. Some students have a need to completely fill up a space even when writing their name on the top line of the paper. Others who may be insecure with their writing may choose to write very small to disguise errors. Others may have visual perceptual issues!
  3. Check the consistency of line size in various subjects. A child with motor planning difficulties may have difficulty adjusting his motor movements for writing to different sized spaces.  Look for consistency of letter size.  Size can Lyn Poor Handwriting Example1affect in legibility.
  4. Look at where the lines of writing move to across the page: Some prefer to start on the left and move to middle of paper. They slowly pull away from the left side of the paper and start their sentences in the middle of the page indented to almost the middle of the line spaces, making a diagonal pull from the left side.  Modify by moving the left side of the writing page to the body’s midline as it appears these students are more comfortable with their right body space.
  5. Check the color of the paper. Some students with visual perceptual or sensitivity problems write better if the paper is colored which seems to reduce the black/white contrast. Look also at overhead lights to see if they are causing a glare on the paper.
  6. Check the furniture. A too high desk will result in the student laying his head down.  Same for a too low desk.
  7. Check computer skills: Note taking may be faster on a computer.

 

Truly, handwriting is a complex task!

 

Lyn Armstrong is a pediatric occupational therapist with 35 plus years of experience living in the Houston area. Her primary focus has been on handwriting which has led to authoring several articles in The International Dyslexic Association Resource Directory and to her book “Alphabet Soup: Stirring Your Child’s Interest in Letters”.  She can be contacted through her website, lynaot.com.

 

Weeks 1 and 2 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
Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on he Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on he Handwriting is Fun! Blog

Low Tech Assistive Technology: MacGyver Inspired

This month, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog is proud to host another guest author series.  In July we will be sharing information on the topic of Technology and OT.  Our series will stray from our typical course and discuss non-handwriting related topics, except for the one that was presented the first week.  I know you will enjoy what our guests will be sharing and will learn a great deal from their expertise.

This week, we are proud to have Rebecca Klockars, the OT Mommy, join us again to share her “OT-made AT for success!”  She truly demonstrates the ingenuity and creativity that occupational therapy is based upon.  If you enjoy her post as much as I did, please be sure to stop by her site and let her know!

OT Mommy, you’re on!

 

toolbox clkerfreevectorimages pixabayLow Tech AT:  MacGyver Inspired

 

One of the things I love about Assistive Technology is that it does not have to be high tech.  Some of my favorite MacGyver-inspired modifications came from searching the plethora of stuff I have in my OT room.

 

When adapting materials for writing, I like to scour my surroundings and look for ways I can reuse materials.  I am sure many of you can relate to the hoarder tendencies in your own therapy room.

 

For example, the art teacher was throwing away “broken” brushes, so I grabbed them.  Like many occupational therapists and special educators, I had a box of unused pegs from peg boards activities.  Through trial and error, I discovered that a peg fit into the handle’s old spot, creating a short paintbrush with a convenient form to enhance the grasp of a developing writer.

From broken...
From broken…
Brush
…to functional!

 

 

If you have a child struggling to keep the pencil resting in the webspace, two elastic bands can provide a handy support.  Just overlap the bands and pull through.  This is great for tablet styluses too.

 

Two elastic bands
From two…

 

Overlapped elastic bands
…to one…

 

Help for Webspace
…to functional!

 

If you have a student with significant grasp difficulties, sometimes for just a few cents worth of PVC piping found in the plumbing section of your local hardware store, a T-shaped crayon holder can be built.   Depending on the size of the tool you are using, you will want to grab a PVC tee connector and two pieces of PVC piping cut approximately 2-3” in length each.  Place the two lengths of piping in each end of the top of the T; the writing implement is placed in the open end.  If needed, thread a strap of One-Wrap through the top to help support the grip.  Here’s an example from Therapy Fun 4 Kids!

PVC Crayon Adaptor from Therapy Fun 4 Kids
PVC Crayon Adaptor from Therapy Fun 4 Kids

 

 

 

Need to build up diameter of pencil but don’t have any foam tubing? Head to the dollar store and get a package of curlers.  These can be used for tactile feedback as well as a build-up material.

 

Curler
From foam…

 

Curler Pencil Grip
…to functional!

 

I’ve gone as far as the gym teacher’s closet to find broken jump rope handles.  Sometimes a marker fits perfectly in the handle, creating a makeshift universal cuff for writing.

 

Positioning materials are just as important for grasp development and writing readiness.  If a student needs a more angled surface than you can achieve with a three-ring binder, make your own. Get an old political sign made of corrugated plastic, some Velcro, and wallpaper corners (found at the local paint and decorating store).  With strategic cutting, bending and velcroing, a slanted surface for either writing or reading is easily achieved.

Book Positioning
From corrugated plastic…to functional!

 

For a great how-to video, visit University of New Hampshire You Tube Channel ATinNH – right here!

 

IPad Stand YouTube from ATinNH
IPad Stand YouTube

 

 

So the next time you are struggling to find the perfect pencil grip for a student, look around the classroom, in the art room, or in the aisles of the local hardware store.  You never know what you will find.  You may even become inspired to be your own AT hacker.

 

 

 

Rebecca Klockars is a mom, occupational therapist, RESNA certified assistive technology professional and author of the blog OTMommy Needs Her Coffee.  When not ranting and raving about things to do with her children (her own and the school-based kids too) she enjoys cooking, reading and building things with PVC, duct tape and velcro.  For more information, visit her site dedicated to Assistive Technology Consideration in Transition Assessment and her blog at www.otmommy.blogspot.com

 

 

Handwriting: is an app applicable? by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting: is an app applicable? by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology by Eleanor Cawley, MS, OTR/L
The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology by Eleanor Cawley, MS, OTR/L
Switch Use: A Success Story in Progress a Guest Blog by Cheryl from OT Notes
Switch Use: A Success Story in Progress a Guest Blog by Cheryl from OT Notes

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.
 

IS Summer Handwriting Fun?

Welcome back to our Summer Handwriting Fun series!  This week we are sharing some very creative ideas that will spark your children’s interest in building handwriting development skills!  Our guest blogger is Stacy Turke, OTR/L, an Occupational Therapist from Michigan!  I think you will find her suggestions helpful and easy to do.  If you think so, too, drop her a note and let her know how much you’ve appreciated them.  Okay, Stacy, you’re on!

 

 

Summer Handwriting Homework

Summer Handwriting Practice

Summer Handwriting Fun!

 

sad student clikerfreevectorimages pixabayFor many kids, this statement is an oxymoron:  how can ANYTHING related to Handwriting be fun?  Good handwriting takes practice, lots and lots of it, and practice of almost any kind is boring.  Plus, kids want to be outside playing in the summer, or inside creating, and just generally having fun with their families and friends.  So a Summer Handwriting Program is a waste of time, right?

 

Not if it’s done well!

 

For kids with handwriting challenges, the writing itself is rarely the whole picture.  Handwriting is a very complex process, combining

  • motor planning,
  • postural control,
  • muscle strength and endurance,
  • joint stability,
  • bilateral coordination/control,
  • attention and focus,
  • visual processing,
  • fine motor skills,
  • eye hand coordination,  PLUS
  • visual and auditory memory

…and all that comes before the child begins to put pencil to paper to write down the language in their mind’s eye.  Practice the skills in these areas, and you’ll help your child maintain and strengthen their ability to write while having fun, without the feel of homework or practice. Who wouldn’t want that?!

 

So what EXACTLY do you do to practice?

There is no concrete, universal “Practice THIS List” because every child’s needs are unique and individual.   So instead of a “prescription,” consider these general areas and suggested activities to create a strong foundation for handwriting, and then get creative!

 

For tons of ideas, visit these Internet spots for ideas:

  • Blogs, such as Handwriting with Katherine (you’re there now!).  Also Google “handwriting,” or any of the skills listed above for more blogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Pinterest:  Search for “fine-motor skills, handwriting, eye-hand coordination, muscle strengthening for children” – or any of the skills listed above for many “boards” where people have collected activities.  These will also lead you to new sites to explore!   ——–|

 

 

  • Facebook:  In the “Search” block at the top,

——–>

type in “key words” such as, “children, occupational therapy, or education.”  If you have a favorite Facebook page that discusses children’s activities, click on its “Likes” section and browse through the sites there.

 

 

  • Twitter:  In the top right-hand block, search  for hastags (#) such as “#pediOT,  #occupationaltherapy,  and  #handwriting”  —————————————–|
Again, if you have favorite Tweeters that you enjoy, take a look at their profiles and click on their “Follows” and “Followers” ———-> for more suggestions.

 

 

You will find more activities that you have summer-time for!

 

So how EXACTLY do you get creative?

Consider the things your child likes to do, and then expand or adapt to allow for greater targeted practice and skill development.

  1. exercise_girl_pushups_word classroom clipart comWith my students, I typically begin with a whole body task or activity, something that will get all the muscles and joints working.
  2. Next, I will try to use an activity that engages the shoulders, and
  3. then, we will move on to an activity that uses the small muscles of the hand and fingers.
  4. After all that, we get a little actual penmanship practice in, once the body is ready for that level of focus.

 

 

 

Strengthening both the core and fine-motor muscles helps to build the foundation for handwriting skill development.

 

Let’s see if this strategy will work for your child!

Let me share some movement activities that Engage and Strengthen the whole body and follow the strategy I described above.  (Who couldn’t benefit from these activities?)

First, A Word About Strengthening:

As with any strengthening program, begin with very small expectations, and slowly build the amount of time your child engages in these tasks or with these materials.

 

Here we go!

1.  First, try these activities to help to wake up and strengthen all of the muscles, including core muscles and the muscles of the arms and legs, all at the same time.

-Practice Simple Calisthenics (sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.).

-Ride a bike.

-Climb a tree.

-Visit the local park and climb/slide/swing on the playground equipment.

5 Kid-Friendly Yoga Poses From Mind-Body-Green.com

-Swim.

-Walk or run.  Bonus points for walking the dog!

-Learn Kids’ Yoga.

-Play soccer.

-Roll down a grassy hill.  (Be careful if, like me, you have a dog in your yard…)

-Include some Screen Time (believe it or not): Websites like GoNoOdle offer fun, brief “brain breaks” that involve movement and music. Many kids will be familiar with GoNoOdle because their teachers use it in their classrooms!

Looking for more activities?

Search all of the Internet sites listed above with keywords or hashtags: #grossmotor   #proprioception   #heavywork   #kidsexercise   #kidsyoga

 

2.  Next, try these to Engage the Shoulders and Arms.

These activities will help strengthen the larger muscles of the shoulder and arm, while still being fun and engaging, and will also help support bilateral coordination (using both sides of the body together).

-Play T-ball.

-Play tennis.

-Play on the floor on the tummy, propped up on elbows.

-Push-ups on the floor if your child can manage this, or against the wall:  Place arms shoulder height on a wall, approximately shoulder width apart. Take a step back from the wall.  SLOWLY bend the elbows, bringing the face close to the wall, then SLOWLY push the body back to the starting position.

-Rake the yard.

-Shovel Snow.  (Hey, it’s snowy in the Southern Hemisphere in June-August!)

-Carry bags with groceries from the car.

-Help carry laundry.

-Use a spray bottle with water and “wash” the windows using big arm movements.

-Play in a sandbox or on the beach with shovels, buckets, trucks, etc.

Making Bread Dough With “My Small Potatoes.com”

-Sweep the sidewalk or the house.

-Vacuum.   (Hey, some kids LOVE using the vacuum!)

-Knead bread dough.

-Create artwork with sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk or vertical chalkboard.

-“Paint” (using simply water and a 1-2″ paintbrush) on the garage door or sidewalk.

-Use the water and paintbrush idea to “erase” a picture drawn with sidewalk chalk outside.

For more activities, try these suggested searches or hashtags:   #bilateralcoordination   #shoulderstability   #shouldercoordination.

 

3.  Then, move on to Engage the Hands and Fingers.

These activities will support and strengthen the muscles and joints of the wrist, fingers, and thumb.  Bonus points if you combine several together creatively!

 

Turke 2-Play with playdough: roll it; pinch it; hide small objects within it and find them by pinching or twisting; cut rolls using scissors.

-Play with Silly Putty:  Use in the same activities as with the playdough.  Or create design “transfers” by pressing silly putty onto a newspaper comic or simple pencil drawing and peel away to reveal a picture.

Insert Q-tips into the holes in the tops of cleaned out spice containers.
Insert Q-tips into the holes in the tops of cleaned out spice containers.

-Insert Q-tips into the holes in the tops of cleaned out spice containers.

-Use small tongs or tweezers to pick up mini erasers or other small objects.

 

 

Push small pompoms into parmesan cheese containers.
Push small pompoms into parmesan cheese containers.

         Push small pompoms into parmesan cheese containers.

-Build with Duplo or Lego bricks.

-Rip up strips of paper, then use a mini “broom” and dustpan to sweep up the pieces.

-String fruit-loop type cereal onto yarn to make a necklace.

Create a bracelet using a rubber band loom.
Create a bracelet using a rubber band loom.

-Create a bracelet using a rubber band loom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here some suggested searches/hashtags  for more activities like these:

#finemotorskills   #eyehandcoordination   #graspingskills

 

4.  Now it’s time to write.

After all the above preparation, your child is ready for a little handwriting practice.  My recommendation is that, whatever process your child is using, whether it’s a structured, formal handwriting curriculum or if it’s something that is more teacher created, it is important to offer opportunities to practice each letter, numeral, or word repeatedly. After all, one time through a workbook is rarely enough for kids to demonstrate mastery of a skill.   If you don’t have a writing program provided by your child’s teacher or OT, you can easily find some type of handwriting practice workbook at your local Target, Walmart, or similar store.  You can also Google #freehandwritingworksheets  (or similar key words) and you will be able to choose from all sorts of free resources online.

 

What about those kids who HATE to practice?

Girl Writing Notebook raphaeljeanneret pixabaySome of my students hate to simply practice letters and numbers because they see no purpose in it. So we try these ideas:

  • We write notes to ourselves.
  • We send letters to their parents, grandparents, or friends.
  • My students make lists of the movies they want to see or of their favorite foods.
  • One student who was really into one particular online game spent a couple of weeks writing a tutorial of sorts for me, so that I could understand all the characters and powers. (Full disclosure: I still don’t understand much about the game, but I do have handwritten instructions prepared by a student who would have otherwise balked at writing!)

 

Mix it up!

Keep a box of different types of writing tools and materials readily available for your child.

  • Crayons, both primary sized and the more traditional sized.
  • Pencils, both traditional and mechanical, and pencil grips.
  • Water-color markers.
  • And papers, to include lined, unlined, and construction.

 

My favorite writing practice tip?

Take that workbook you’ve purchased or been given and either tear the pages out and place them into clear plastic page protectors in a binder, or use a clear plastic overlay on each page. Using a dry-erase marker, you’ve created reusable practice pages, and your child can practice over and over until letters and numbers are legible and written with ease.

 

My next best tip?

Aim for about 5-10 minutes of writing practice after the warm ups (above), several times per week in the summer.   If you can.   If you can’t…just make sure your child is playing, creating, and helping around the house.  Keep your approach light and playful, and you will have your child working on improving their handwriting all summer long…and he or she might not even know it’s work!

 

 

I have been employed in my dream job as an Occupational Therapist at a county-level intermediate school district for almost 30 years. My career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including rural, suburban, and urban schools. I have been blessed to have been able to work with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and learning disabilities (plus many more). More recently, OT within the school district has broadened somewhat, giving me access to working with all students and their teachers, focusing on self-regulation, classroom design to enhance learning, and handwriting support. This career has been fulfilling, always presents new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!  If you want to get in touch, you can reach me at sturke@inghamisd.org

 

 

Links to the rest of the series:

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
5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers
5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers

 

Stay tuned!  Next week, we will begin our Techie Series.  Hope to see you then!

Tips for Getting Away From Table-Top Activities
Tips for Getting Away From Table-Top Activities

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

5 Handwriting Helpers For Older Students

 

5 Handwriting Helpers for Older Students

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

Three boys playing tug-of-war

To describe the challenge of teaching (or reteaching) handwriting to older children as a tug-of-war is an understatement! 

 

Unfortunately, they have learned so many ineffective habits that their motor memory for handwriting resists any changes.  When a young guy or gal resists a try at slanting the paper and says, “But, I write better with my paper straight up and down” when, in fact, his or her handwriting is illegible…well, that’s just a natural response to the pull on an ingrained motor memory.  And messy, unreadable handwriting may appear to be simply the result of a student’s rushing through his work; but, in fact, it can be due to handwriting skills that have not been fully developed and the inability of the writer to produce fluent and automatic letter formations.

 

Steve Graham, during his tenure as a Curry Ingram Professor of Special Education and Literacy at Vanderbuilt University, authored an enlightening article,  “Want to Improve Children’s Writing?  Don’t Neglect Their Handwriting.”  In this report, he shares research that indicates that while most people’s handwriting becomes fluid and automatic, “researchers do not yet know when most youngsters reach this point, but it does not appear to be during the early elementary years.  In grades 4 to 6, handwriting fluency still accounts for 42 percent of the variability in the quality of children’s writing and students’ handwriting speed continues to increase at least until grade 9.”  With that said, it is definitely not too late to tug on the motor memories of older students!

 

So, how do we do that, you say?  I’ve put together 5 starting points to lay the groundwork for improving handwriting skills of older children. 

It’s important to remember one very significant point here:  If a child is struggling with handwriting in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade, then chances are that there is an underlying cause that has more to do with vision or cognitive skills than with sitting down at a desk and reproducing the letter “c” 4-5 times per line!  Hence, it is important to seek some advice from your child’s doctor, as well as an occupational therapist who is trained in handwriting skill assessment and remediation. 

OK, NOW THAT WE HAVE THAT OUT OF THE WAY…

 

1.  First, I cannot stress enough the importance of appropriate body and paper positioning!

 As we age, we develop our own “style” of sitting posture.  This is actually a result of the seating arrangements we’ve been exposed to, as well as the physical strengths that we have acquired, throughout the first years of our lives.  Posture – “shoulders back, back straight, and eyes forward” – is not a luxury and should be taught early in a child’s educational experience.  Good posture provides students with the tools they need to utilize rhythm and movement to produce fluid handwritng strokes.  We can only help them to learn the correct posture if we provide them with the appropriate chair and desk heights that address their individual needs. 

Once we have positioned the body effectively, we need to align the writing surface efficiently to allow for a smooth, legible handwriting style.  A slightly slanted paper provides right-handed writers with the ease of gliding across the paper, while it also lessens the chance for left-handed writers to smudge their work.

2.  Now we can focus on the “reinvention of the pencil grip!”

 Children with weak muscles in their upper extremities have often adapted to that by grabbing hold of the pencil for dear life and pushing it into the paper!  Some have no idea that their grip is too loose and are frequently having to pick the pencil up off the  floor as it “seems to fall out of my hand all of the time!”  I’d like to say that all you need to do is to find the right adaptive pencil grip.  HOWEVER,  I’m not going to say that because then we would be jumping to a Bandaid fix before we address the underlying cause of the problem.

Learning a new hobby is fun, too!

Learning a new hobby is fun, too!

 

Learning a new hobby is fun, too!

As with any other muscle development program, exercises that are designed to address specific muscle groups are the foundational elements of a fitness plan.   I’ve learned over the years that older students tend to follow through on a program if it interests them!  A fine-motor exercise program can include art projects, music practice, gardening tasks, and sports practice.  Once you have their interest, then you can offer strengthening activities such as modeling clay, finger strengthening exercises for guitar skills, arm and hand exercises to enhance their baseball game, or hand strengthening activities for gardening tasks.  They won’t even know they are working on grip strength!

 

3.  But what about those “gross” ways that some children hold their pencils? 

The Cool Cotton Ball Trick!
The Cool Cotton Ball Trick!

It is important to look at the practical side of things.  Not all pencil grasping patterns are created equal.  Some are efficient even if they are, well, ugly!  So, as they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  However, if the students are experiencing handwriting challenges, and their preferred grip appears to be one of the culprits, then it is definitely important to address it.

A tripod grasp is reasonably comfortable for most writers.  The pencil is held between the thumb and index finger, resting on the middle finger about an inch from the pencil point.  (Left-handed writers should hold their pencil back a bit further from the tip to encourage an appropriate wrist position.)  One of the ways that I encourage the switch to this grip is by challenging my older students to tuck a cotton ball into the palm of their hand and to hold it there with their ring and little fingers.  This reminds them to keep those fingers OUT OF THE WAY while it strengthens the motor memory for a tripod grasp.  They can use a penny or small eraser, too.

 

4.  Give them lots of movement and sensory experiences

Get their eyes moving with challenging games like tether ball.   Hang a soft ball from the ceiling on a string, any size from 5-10″ around, positioned at eye level.  They can practice precision eye movements by “keeping their eye on the ball” while tapping it up or sideways in controlled patterns.

The Vision Tracking Tube is a fun challenge for older students!
The Vision Tracking Tube is a fun challenge for older students!

The Vision Tracking Tube is a fun challenge for older students!

Sensory activities, such as kneading bread dough, planting in the garden, jumping and reaching in basketball, or running and reaching in tennis, combine movement, vision, and proprioception to enhance fine motor skills. 

Visualization is an essential skill for the automatic reproduction of letters and words.  Drawing letter formations in the air, identifying those that are “written” on your back, or “blind writing” (drawing letters, numbers, or pictures with your eyes closed) are fun visualization activities.  And even older students can enjoy using finger paints to practice letter formations, drawing letters in shaving cream, or finding the hidden beads in putty!  Believe me, even the adults enjoy that!

 

5.  Finally, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! 

No, not by pulling out a worksheet and attempting to reproduce a perfect letter time after time.   (I’m not sure any of us can actually do that!)  But, encourage creative writing with ideas that also practice their handwriting.  Journals, poems, stories, newspaper articles, and letters to relatives are wonderful (and useful) ways to provide meaningful opportunities for older students to practice and hone their handwriting skills.  And Cursive Clubs have begun to spring up all over as fun ways to turn handwriting skills from Practiced to Functional!

Cursive Clubs are great ways to help older children gain confidence in their handwriting skills!
Click here for free Cursive Club Downloadables!

 

 

So, what do you think?  Willing to give it a try?  I would love to hear your tricks for older students and your feedback! 

As always, thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!

Katherine

 

(1) Graham, Steve. “Want To Improve Children’s Writing? Don’t Neglect Their Handwriting.” American Educator 2009-2010 Winter (2010): 20+. Http://orbida.org/resources/events/GRAHAMHANDWRITING.PDF. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://orbida.org/resources/events/GRAHAMHANDWRITING.PDF>.

 

 

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

http://www.handwritingwithkatherine.com/handwriting-development-assessment-and-remediation-book.html

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

 

1 Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice or the professional judgement of health care professionals in evaluating and treating patients. The author encourages the reader to review and verify the timeliness of information found on supporting links before it is used to make professional decisions. The author also encourages practitioners to check their state OT regulatory board/agency for the latest information about regulatory requirements regarding the provision of occupational therapy via telehealth.

 

 

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: