A Second Look at Kinesthetic Learning for Pre-Handwriting Skills

 

Summer Series

 

Purple Flowers Property of Katherine J. CollmerDuring the past two whirlwind years spent dedicated to writing my book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, some of my gifted and experienced peers had graciously stepped in to help me share information and creative ideas with you, my readers, on  the “Handwriting is Fun! Blog.”   Needless to say, I am more than thankful for their dedication to my work.  Their support of me and the profession played a major role in keeping the blog in the news and in your tool kit.   As the project is nearing the final publishing date, I am going to take a writing break and set my sights on a few months of traveling and exploring with my patient and supportive husband. During that time, I am going to select some of the best-loved blogs from the past and roll them into a series designed to share therapy tips and research data with you.  Here is the first in the Summer Series:

 

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

When I came into the profession, I brought with me the knowledge and experience I gained from my background in teaching.  I am an avid follower of blogs and research sites that share information about teaching strategies and learning styles.  I feel that the understanding of learning and teaching principles provides an occupational therapist with an enhanced ability to present an environment that encourages and motivates a person to work toward success.  Kinesthetic learning begins naturally in infancy and, for some, becomes their preferred learning style.  In my blog, Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills, I present information that helps us to understand the importance of including tactile exploration in our therapy sessions and shares activities that can promote kinesthetic learning in the toddler and preschool years.

 

 

Photo credit: renaln
Photo credit: renaln

 

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Hardwriting Skills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.  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.
 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.

Pictures are the property of the author and their use must provide a link back to this article or her website.

The Handwriting Book revealed!

Well, folks, today is the big day!  My new work, Handwriting Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, will be officially launched at the #AOTA16 Convention in Chicago!  I am honored to have worked with Universal Publishing toward sharing my book with you and look forward to chatting with my peers at Booth #5015 in the Expo Hall!    This is a very exciting time for me and, as always, I think you for reading and sharing my work.

If you could not make it to the convention this year, you can still pre-order my book by clicking on the picture below!

 

The NEW Handwriting Book from Handwriting With Katherine

 

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

On my way to #AOTA16!

I’ll be boarding the plane bright and early today heading for Chicago and the 2016 AOTA Convention!  This will be a very exciting journey for me as I share my new book with my peers.  It will be an honor to discuss handwriting assessment and remediation and chat about the concerns and challenges we have all faced in this area of occupational therapy.  I look forward to meeting many of you at the Universal Publishing Booth #5015.  Please join me there!

 

Please stop by Booth 5015, AOTA in Chicago, to chat about my new book!

 

 

 

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.

Ordering the New Handwriting Book!

order button ArtsyBee pixabayMy new book, The Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, will be offered for the first time in Chicago at the 2016 AOTA Conference.  It’s very exciting to be sharing my work with my peers!  But, I know that many of you will not be able to attend the conference, so I wanted to let you know that the book will be offered through a link here and on my website after the conference.  Please look for it!  And, as always, thank you for reading and sharing my work.

 

 

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.

National Handwriting Week! How Does Vision Fit In?

IMG_5430National Handwriting Day is celebrated each year on January 23, John Hancock’s birthday (according to the Gregorian calendar), an American Revolutionary leader and first signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association started this holiday in 1977 to acknowledge the history and influence of penmanship.  And we carry on this tradition today to increase awareness of the literacy benefits of mastering handwriting skills.

 

One of the most overlooked skills in the assessment of handwriting problems is the visual component.  Vision (which is comprised of 17 skills, only one of which is eyesight) can hinder a child’s educational progress by robbing him or her of the opportunity to form accurate perceptions of himself, the environment around him, and letter and numbers.  These misperceptions can lead to reading and writing challenges as well as problems with sports and activities of daily living.

With vision in mind, I am re-sharing this post that explains the vital need for having a child’s vision assessed and the important role vision has in learning.  And that includes handwriting.

 

Anatomy of the Eye Hot Air BalooningIn”sight” Into Handwriting Struggles

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

An OT Advocate for Change: Handwriting gets the help it deserves.

For the month of September, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog will be sharing insights about the role of Occupational Therapy in the classroom.  In recent years, the role of OT, in general, has been changing with the waves of healthcare and education reforms.  Despite a certain amount of turmoil and confusion where those changes may have thrown us a curve ball, most often they have provided us with an opportunity to make a difference in an area in which we’ve longed to see an improvement.  For me, that has been handwriting mastery.  For others, it has been the role of OT in the educational system as a whole.  This second article in our “OT in the Classroom” series addresses the role of OT as an vehicle for guiding teachers, educational staff, and administrative leaders in striving for and achieving handwriting mastery for their students.  Marie Toole, OTR/L, shares the amazing work that she and the OT staff in her district are doing to Advocate for Change.

An Advocate for Change

by Marie Toole, OTR/L

time for change door geralt pixabayMany years ago, as a new school-based occupational therapist, I was ready to conquer the world. That first year was a blur of referrals and therapy and meetings and learning. The OT staff sat down at the end of that first school year and — after counting up how many referrals we got for handwriting — decided to do something different.

We had to figure out how to handle all these referrals and distinguish between those students who really needed occupational therapy intervention and those who would benefit from good instruction in handwriting from the teacher.  We needed to be agents of change or we were going to be burned out.

Over the last 20 years we have seen a significant drop in our referrals for strictly handwriting.  The referrals we get now are for a myriad of reasons and almost all of them end up with us servicing the child for direct OT interventions.  How did we cut our referrals in half, meet the concerns of the classroom teachers and yet still make sure students have legible handwriting?  Over the years we have employed a number of strategies.  Let me share them with you.

coaching geralt pixabayEducation/Inservices:

Teachers told us they either did not feel comfortable teaching handwriting in the classroom or felt like they were not doing a good job. So we helped.

  • We gave workshops to teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents about hand skills, handwriting, and posture. Building on our handwriting curriculum, we wrote out each letter description, which showed them how to form the letters and gave them the language and developmental order in which to teach letters. Everybody is now using the same language to teach in a consistent manner.
  • Partnering with the physical therapist, we gave an inservice to local preschools on the typical development of the 2- to 6-year old. This helped those teachers to have realistic expectations for hand skill development.
  • With our physical education teachers we developed Classroom Rechargers. These are 20 movement-based activities per grade level that teachers can perform right in their classroom with little-to-no equipment or space.  We put together handwriting warm-ups, exercises, and activities to be done just prior to teaching letter instruction.
  • We showed kindergarten teachers the importance of building the base of hand skills before adding on the challenge of handwriting.
  • We continually give workshops once or twice per year on various topics.  Information, tips, or skills teachers can use the next day in their classroom are the most valuable to them.  We generally have a large audience.
  • When new teachers join our buildings or teachers switch grades, we always make sure to touch base with them and help them navigate the teaching of the handwriting process. Checking in periodically to see how letter instruction is going is always helpful, too.

5 Reasons Why Handwriting Needs a Good SeatErgonomics

Seating and posture were important areas where teachers needed assistance.

  • At the beginning of each school year, we go in and check the desk and chair height for every student on our caseload.  We make sure students fit their work space.
  • We send an email to remind staff how to check for proper desk and chair height and will help any teachers struggling with this. The custodian is our friend, helping us find the right furniture or to adjust desk height.
  • We have also advocated for stand up desks and several of our classrooms now sport at least one stand up desk.  We add sensory equipment — seat cushions, bicycle tubing around the chair legs, and hand tools — for those students who move and fidget.  When students are comfortable and in a good place for learning, it makes handwriting instruction so much easier.     

Pre-referral process

We use a pre-referral process to keep track of teacher requests and to address needs in a timely manner.  

  • Teachers must fill out a basic form telling us their concerns and what they have tried already.
  • The pre-referral forms help us fine tune our classroom observations to an area in which the student may be having challenges, such as math, writing, or organization.
  • We then tailor our classroom observation to those specific areas.  

planning dates condesign pixabayIn the classroom

Planning and coordination are important first steps.

  • At the beginning of each school year we discuss with the classroom teacher and special educator the most convenient time when writing is being taught and we plan our schedules around it. Most of our teachers have been with us long enough to understand the limitations in our schedule and will cooperate to make this work. When we show up for our therapy time, the teachers welcome the extra pair of hands to help with letter instruction, the writing process, typing on Google Docs, or writing poetry.
  • We know the curriculum.  The students do not get pulled from instruction and we get to work in the moment with the students on meaningful work.  We also get to put our eyes on all the students in that classroom and may help other struggling writers as well.
  • We co-teach cursive letter instruction in most of our third grade classrooms as part of our third-graders’ therapy time.  It gives us in-class time and we get to work with the whole class by showing them some multisensory ways to learn letters using sand, chalkboards, or kin-tac cards.
  • We are lucky that we are district employees and have the luxury of having an occasional block of time to observe students in class, on the playground, or in the gym.  We also use our therapy time to work in the classrooms with students on their OT goals.

Early Intervention and Response to Intervention (RtI):

In our district we are lucky to have an administration that support us.  

  • This allows us to go into each kindergarten classroom under regular education for one half hour per week to “SPOT” children who might need help with hand skills.
  • SPOT stands for Speech and OT.  Our “SPOT” time is available to assist the teacher with activities that may be challenging for 5- and 6-year olds. In our OT sessions we might be working on scissor skills, gluing, coloring, and eventually, after months of hand skills training, handwriting.
  • As the year progresses we generally have a small group of students that  we focus on during SPOT.  We do the same activity that the whole class is doing but those students may need more assistance.  These students become our “watch” students in first grade and then we have our entry into the first grade classrooms under RtI.
  •   This took many years of “selling” to our principal. We argued that we could ward off some referrals by giving a little help early rather than a lot of help later. The administration agreed to a trial. After seeing the results, the program stuck.
  • One way we have cemented that progress in our administrators’ minds is to have them conduct their yearly observations of us when we work in the classrooms.  We love to have them come observe us working with a group in the fall, again in January, and later in May.  To see that transformation is like gold in the bank.

Winning over skeptics

Patience and respect guide us in the classroom.

  • It is not always easy and there are some teachers who do not appreciate us coming into their classrooms. In those cases, we take it slow and become a guest in that teacher’s classroom. When they see the intrinsic value that we bring to the table as occupational therapists, most teachers come around.
  • Generally we have found that teachers can’t wait for us to work in their classroom and are bummed when they do not have students who receive OT in their classroom that year. It takes time, sometimes lots of years of trying. But working together as a team shows the student that everyone is on the same page and you have the same expectations for him or her.


teamwork zipnon pixabayTeamwork

Having a strong special education team is helpful as well.  

  • Working with the classroom teacher, special educator, and the rest of the special education team has helped us to fine tune our occupational therapy process.  
  • Often it is the special education teacher who brings concerns or referrals to the occupational therapy staff.

Advocating at the administrative level

Becoming visible is essential.

  • We knew we needed to get good at this or we would continue to struggle year after year.  Our principal, assistant principal, and even the superintendent know who we are.
  • We consistently advocate for what is right for children.  In our 20 plus years, there have been many principals and superintendents at the helm.  We had to get to know them, their goals, and how they liked to work.
  • We asked for OT be represented on the curriculum committee for language arts when administrators revised it many years ago.  We ended up putting a handwriting strand into the curriculum with expectations developmentally appropriate for kindergarten through fourth grade.
  • When the district was thinking of cutting out cursive instruction, we took this on as our mission to research it and make informed decisions.  We took our time, and over the course of three years, we read many research articles and spoke with many other local districts to see what they were doing.  We ultimately decided to keep cursive instruction as an integral part of our third grade curriculum.  
  • When advocating for the SPOT time in kindergarten, we came armed with data to show that it was beneficial.  We constantly print out articles about teaching handwriting and give them to our principal.
  • Being relentless in the pursuit of continually advocating for what is right for children can be tiring.  It is not something that happens overnight.  Looking ahead and looking towards the big picture has helped us to maintain our vision.  Continually putting it in front of administrators keeps it fresh and does not allow stagnation or somebody to forget how important handwriting is in the curriculum.

important note clkerfreevectorimages pixabayOur role

An important point to remember:

  • We cannot become the “handwriting teacher.”  That’s the job of the classroom teacher. We are occupational therapists who look at functional skills and participation in the school curriculum and environment.
  • By empowering teachers to actually teach handwriting before they expect children to write, we advocate for what our students need. Ongoing support and advocacy will encourage teachers to keep teaching proper letter formation. This in turn will allow our OT interventions to remain focused on the functional skills students need to navigate the complex world of school.

Marie Toole, MS, OTR/L Marie L. Toole, MS, OTR/ L, is a pediatric occupational therapist with over 28 years experience in NICU, Early Intervention, and private practice with the last 21 years spent working in public schools. She is NBCOT and SIPT certified as well as a member of AOTA and NHOTA.  Follow her on Twitter @MarieTooleOTNH, on Pinterest marietooleNHOT, and on School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists  where she tweets, pins, and posts about OT, education, autism, and sensory integration, as well as other school related topics.

 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 Handwriting With Katherine and are not to be used in any fashion except as links to the appropriate blog or the Handwriting With Katherine website without the expressed, written permission of Katherine Collmer.

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

Handwriting and a Healthy Diet Pair Up!

baby-pixabay-84686_1280

Handwriting and a Healthy Diet Pair Up!

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

 

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

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

What are eating habits?

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

Eating habits simply include:

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

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

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

Learning healthy eating habits allows children to:

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

Where does handwriting fit in?

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

learn-geralt- pixabay -586409_1280

Handwriting development skills are primarily those included in:

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

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

 

How do we teach healthy eating habits?

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

Here we go:

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

 

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

 

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

Healthy eating and handwriting certainly DO go well together!

 

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

As always, thanks for reading!

Katherine

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

 

 

 

10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness

cartoon girl public domain pictures pixabay

10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

Kindergarten has become the new first grade.  Yes, I am from the “old school” where free play, guided activities, and milk and cookies gave Kindergarten it’s role and purpose.  I know they included nap time in there, as well, but I was never a napper.  So, I spent that quiet time day dreaming and cooking up story ideas in my head!  Kindergarten was a place to dream, grow, and get to know all about yourself.  But all that has been designated as preschool activities and Kindergarteners are expected to have certain skills at the “ready” when they come to school.  So, let’s take a look at some Kindergarten Readiness Skills, shall we?

 

 

First Some Research

  • A 2004 study conducted by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, (2) looked at the factors and components that account for differences in children’s skills and performance in Kindergarten.  They found that “the cognitive and social skills with which young children enter kindergarten make a difference in their achievement in kindergarten.”  Findings indicated that a child’s family experiences and interactions “strongly correlated with their relative skills and abilities upon entry to kindergarten.”
  • The authors of a 2002 National Center for Early Learning and Development study (1) found that “school readiness is not defined as a trait of a child but rather as a product of interactions in terms of the settings in which the child participates.”  Family, social, and educational environments prior to Kindergarten provide youngsters with opportunities to learn behaviors, language and communication skills, and problem solving strategies.
  • A 2000 longitudinal study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, (3) determined that “the foundation of cognitive skills and knowledge that children build in kindergarten will influence children’s experience in school and their cognitive growth in later school years.”

 

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve selected 3 studies that are not current.  I’ve done that to emphasize that Kindergarten readiness has been known to be an important factor in a child’s educational success for some time.  Even us stick-in-the-muds have to admit that!  There is a great deal of effort in the communities to get children, their parents, and the schools together early to foster the development of children’s skills during the critical first 5 years.  Knowledge is the most important tool we can give parents in their quest for educational success for their children.  And it all needs to start before they enter the door to their Kindergarten classroom.puzzle family cartoon geralt pixabay-210786_1280

 

What are Kindergarten Readiness Skills?

Children who come to Kindergarten are expected to have a wide range of skills that will help them to learn and grown in school.

  • Enthusiasm toward learning.   A child should be excited about exploring new activities, comfortable with asking questions, and diligent enough to persevere with challenging tasks.
  • Language skills.  He should be able to communicate his needs and express his feelings in an appropriate manner.  He should have an accurate sense of body awareness with an understanding of directional terms such as around, under, over, and through.
  • Ability to listen.  A child should be able to follow simple instructions and listen to an entire story without interrupting.
  • Desire to be independent.  She should be able to separate from her parents for the length of the school day, be able to use the bathroom by herself, and be starting to take responsibility for her personal belongings.
  • Ability to interact with children and adults.  A child should be able to follow a simple two-step task and independently problem solve.  He should be willing to share, compromise, and take turns with his classmates and teachers.  It helps if he remembers to say “please, thank you, and excuse me,” as well!
  • Strong fine-motor skills.  A child should be able to hold and use a pencil, cut with scissors, and be learning to write her name.  It is important that she be able to carefully turn the pages of a book, pack and unpack her backpack, and fasten snaps and buttons on her clothing.  (Zippers are nice but not an essential just yet!)
  • Basic letter and number awareness.  A child should be able to sing and recite the alphabet and to recognize some letters   He should be able to count to 10 and identify numbers one to five.  Teachers would also like him to be able to recognize his name printed in in upper and lower case letters (James).  It is also helpful if he knows the basic colors and shapes.

 

Despite my stick-in-the-mud viewpoint, I have come up with 10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness!  These are the very skills that eventually, when the time is right, will help children to master their handwriting skills!  So, let’s go and discover just what they are, shall we?

 

10 Handy Helpers That You Can Do At Home!

Have fun with learning by having your children include these activities in your daily routines:

1.  Count the number of steps from the bedroom to the bathroom, to the bath to the kitchen, and from the door to the mailbox. (visual-motor and visual perceptual skills)

2.  Shout out directional terms as he sets the table (left for the fork, right for the knife and spoon) or when you go for a walk (up for the sky, down for the sidewalk, and over for the bridge).  (body and spatial awareness)

3.  Find book titles in the library that begin with each letter of the alphabet in order.  (sequencing, visual memory, letter recognition)

4.  Sort and match the laundry when it’s dry and deliver it to the owners.  (visual discrimination)  Use clothespins to dry them outside on the line! (fine-motor)

peas and carrots condesign pixabay5.  Cut out pictures of grocery items from the newspaper and locate them in the store.  (visual discrimination, visual scanning, visual recognition)

6.  Draw a picture of something he did that day and verbally describe it.  (language, fine motor, visualization)

7.  Count out small snacks as she puts them into a bowl.  (fine motor, sequencing, visual-motor)

8.  Prepare a simple recipe by measuring, pouring, mixing, and stirring the ingredients.  (fine motor, visual-motor, sequencing, following directions)

9.  Dictate a letter for you to write for him to grandmother, sister, or friend.  (visualization, language)

10. Unpack the groceries and help to put them away.  (visual scanning, fine- and gross-motor, visual discrimination)

 

Of course, there’s always puzzles, board games, books, and crafts to help your child get ready for school!  So much fun, so little time!

 

As always, thanks for reading!  I hope you will honor me with your comments, feedback, and suggestions for more ways to include Kindergarten readiness in a child’s daily routine!

Katherine

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Pictures that are the property of the photographers at Pixabay and their use should include the link provided with the photo to give proper credit to their owners.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

 

 

(1) Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. (2002).  Early Childhood Research and Policy Briefs; Transition to Kindergarten.  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:  National Center for Early Development & Learning.

(2)  Boethel, M. (2004).  Readiness: School, Family, and Community.  Southwest Educational Development Laboratory
(3)  U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics.  America’s Kindergarteners, NCES 2000-070, by Kristin Denton, Elvira Germino-Hausken. Project Officer, Jerry West, Washington, DC: 2000.

Top 10 Handwriting Blog Posts for 2014!

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

Drum Roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

9.   10 Secret Places to Practice Handwriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

7.  Handwriting Warm-ups to Writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

5.  My Handy Handwriting Tool Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

4.  5 Easy Fine Motor Warm-ups for Handwriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND NUMBER 1:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Happy New Year!

 

Katherine

 

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

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