Handwriting Tips

Copywork pages

Revisiting earlier posts ~

Teaching and practicing handwriting can be simple and free, and lessons are relevant and short.  Here are some handwriting tips from our early homeschooling days ~

Our free handwriting program is simple laminated charts.  You can use your own fonts and make your own charts.

When my children start learning their letter formation, they trace over the letter with a whiteboard marker. Later, when they practice handwriting, they use the chart for reference while they are copying.  They prop the chart up in a paper holder, which is very helpful in saving space on the table while we all work.)

Handwriting arrowsMy 9-year-old has already learnt her print and has recently mastered her cursive chart.  She now practices her cursive handwriting daily on copywork pages I have made. She uses famous quotes from the history time period we are studying, or she writes the Bible memory verses for that week.  All dictation work  is an opportunity to practice handwriting skills.

The children first used pencil for all written work, but after their confidence grew, they received  their “pen licence“. I have found the best results when my children use mechanical pencils.  These pencils usually have lovely soft plastic grips and their points never become dull and blunt, causing fat, smudgy writing.  My youngest child uses a very light hand pressure and so she needs to work with a soft 2B pencil lead.  My middle child presses harder and so she works best with normal HB pencil leads.

I recommend that children only use pens once they very seldom make mistakes as they all hate using Tipex.  My kids try very hard not to make mistakes, but if there is too much stress over mistakes, I recommend they continue with pencil work.  It is quite acceptable in homeschool, and with a little more practice, it will ease the transition.  Each child has their favourite pen.  One enjoys gel pens that flow smoothly, while the other prefers a light, very thin blue line and favors a specific brand ball point pen. I allow the older girls use glitter pens for copywork if they want to make it look special.

Children sometimes find purchased handwriting programs very boring and repetitive (endless rows of lines, curves or letters), but with copywork, they are writing “real writing“.  They enjoy recognizing excerpts from their read alouds, or quotations from their core readers.  Copying memory verses is an excellent way to learn the scripture verse.GradeOneLowerAndUppercaseChart

Copywork presents the need to know both the upper and lower case forms of each letter. This is handwriting practice in context.  First practice lower case, then upper case, and then the paired letters on the next chart.

Pop over to my Homeschool Tab for your handwriting lessons, tips and charts, and Free Pages Tab for  your copywork pages.  

Hope that these tips help you and your children enjoy short, sweet handwriting lessons!

Blessings,

Print Handwriting Tip #3 Gross Motor Before Fine Motor

Here’s some important early and pre-writing activities and/ or good remedial exercises to help improve your child’s print handwriting ~

Develop your child’s gross motor skills.                                                      

Children must develop their gross motor (larger trunk and limb) muscles before they can control their fine motor (finger) muscles. Core, shoulder and arm strength will directly affect the hand and finger strength. Good muscle tone will give strength and support to the body that supports the hand and fine muscles.

Any child who lacks good muscle tone will tire easily, wriggle and move a lot, or try to avoid doing fine motor work. A child that battles to write may benefit from improving his gross muscle and core strength.

Strong core muscles are vital!

The entire body is connected to the spine – shoulders to arms, pelvis to legs.  The abdominal muscles hold and protect the body  and internal organs and keep the spine in alignment.  These muscles are the core strength of the body.  Strong stomach muscles help a child maintain good posture, cope with gross and fine motor activities and assist in balance,

Children with poor core strength will slump in their seats, lean against the table, or lie on their arms. They battle to maintain good posture.  They tire easily and become grumpy, listless, avoid strenuous activities, will appear bored, uninterested in doing activities.

Here are a few activities that encourage strong core (abdominal) muscles:

  • Mom and dad  ‘blow raspberries’  (press lips and blow noisy air) onto their children’s tummies and encourage kids make their tummies hard/ taut. This starts when they are very young babies!  Giggles and laughter works those tummy muscles too!
  • Play see-saw – sit on the floor facing each other and feet pressed to the opposite person, hold hands and lean back and forward singing and rocking.
  • Do mini crunches,  sit-ups on a large exercise balls. Mom holds the ball steady and the child lies on his back with his feet touching the ground and hands behind his head.  He lifts his shoulders up and crunches his stomach muscles.
  • Lie on the ground and hold a inflatable ball between his feet, legs lifted, hands pressed under his bottom on the floor. Slowly lower the legs until the stomach engages, but do not let the small of the back lift off the ground.
  • Do the “plank” - lie face down on the ground and place the elbows below the shoulders and hands together under the face in an upside-down “V” position. Lift the body off the ground and balance on the toes and elbows.  Hold for 10, then 20 and work till 30 seconds.

Exercises and games that encourage shoulder, arm and hand strength:

  • Play on the jungle gym – especially swinging from monkey bars, climbing ladders, climbing rope ladders
  • Walk on hands doing “wheel barrows” on their hands – with mom or dad holding their feet to go down the passage each night to go to brush teeth! Weight bearing into the shoulders is excellent and the core (abdominals) are activated by holding the torso in line.
  • Hang from ropes, rails, ladders and trees
  • Play on large exercise balls (with mom) lunging forward while lying on their tummy on the ball to touch the ground with both hands, onto 1 hand and hold the other arm extended out forward (swing back and repeat with alternate hands), lunge forward on 1 hand and use the other to pick up a bean bag and throw it to a target/ into a basket/ into a hoop
  • Throw and catch large balls and throw into a basket/ against a wall.  Use a big inflatable ball, then a large soft rubber ball, then a heavy leather ball.  Do this standing up, sitting cross-legged or standing on their knees.

Remember though, that your child may need a few moments to relax and settle down after strenuous gross motor activities before doing fine motor work.  Wait until he has regained his breath and he no longer trembles.

Also, make sure of your child’s safety!  Stay ready to catch, hold, stabilize or monitor your child’s posture, momentum or lunge. Work in a large, clear area.  Teach your child how to do the activities on the ball correctly and only under supervision.

Keep your child’s interest and break the boredom by mixing a few of these activities in between lessons, or during breaks.  A few minutes of core work and jungle gym play helps your child let off some steam, stimulates his brain, encourages him to breathe and improve his circulation, as well as have FUN!  And, he will become stronger as his muscles improve!

Blessings as you encourage good handwriting skills.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions in the comments below.

Here are my previous handwriting posts:

Much grace,

Print Handwriting Tip#2 – 3D Before 2D

Last week I started my first handwriting tip post ~ Tip #1 ~ Teach Large Letters Before Small

Today’s post is aimed for very young children, pre-writing activities, early primary school and remedial activities.

Think of how a baby learns by putting everything into its mouth, feeling it and turning it to look at the object.  Young children need to feel, see, taste, hear and smell a new object in real life before they can truly relate to images, written forms and shapes of the object.  Using many senses heightens their learning experience and increases their connection to the object they are studying.

We learn best when we think, feel and do.  That’s the message of Dr. Adele Diamond, a cognitive developmental neuroscientist who currently teaches at the University of British Columbia in Canada.  “We might refer to this as “whole body learning.”  According to Dr. Diamond, the executive function of the brain — the prefrontal cortex — works best when we go beyond the rational mind by also involving emotions and physical behaviors.  That makes sense since the more we involve other parts of the brain, the more neural connections we make that reinforce learning.”  (http://www.michaelleestallard.com/brain-research-to-improve-learning-use-whole-mind)

In the same way, when exploring abstract concepts like maths, map work, and letter shapes, children need to connect to the concept and object in real life, or at least, with some of their senses.

3D stands for 3 Dimensions = length, width & height = a physical shape that has height/ mass/ or shape that stands out.

2D stands for 2 Dimensions = length & width = a flat picture or image or drawing

So, when teaching a young child his print letters, you want to teach the letter’s name, its sound (phonics), what it stands for (represents) and how to make that shape … first 3D and then 2D.  Quite a number of things to learn!

Only teach 1 new letter!  Our pre-school homeschool co-op sang the alphabet song every day and then we taught 1 new letter each month.  Actually we stayed with ‘a’ for ages, probably for 3 weeks, doing ‘a’ for ‘angel’ Bible stories, angel songs, “a for apple/ ant/ acorn/ antenna stories, pictures, crafts. In a whole year, we only got to about ‘h’!

Revise the letter daily, adding a new letter if the child is absolutely certain of the letter or is really keen and ready to learn more.

Here are some simple, fun activities that help the young child learn the letter shapes, letter formation, directions and positions:

  •  Make letters out of play dough – rolling sausages, pinching dough, squeezing dough balls  – all these activities helps develop finger muscles!                                                      
  • Use a hula hoop, stick and skipping rope to make letters shapes on the ground.
  • Use their bodies lying on the ground to make letter shapes using skipping ropes or hula hoops or sticks – left and right up and down relates to spatial awareness.
  • Build letters out of Lego blocks.
  • Use cheap plastic/ wooden letters to match picture cards –  [Tip: a good self-correcting letter recognition game: Use index cards and stick pictures from magazines to identify each letter of the alphabet (e.g.: ‘a’ for apple, ant, avocado; ‘b’ for ball, baby, bell, butterfly etc.) Put a dot on the top right hand corner the back of each card and draw the outline of the magnetic letter on the back of the card. Now the child can match the letter to the pictures and check to see if the magnet letter fits in the outline on the back. Siblings enjoy helping find pictures to stick on each card!]
  • Use wooden/ plastic letters - hide a few of them in a little cloth bag and let the child feel the letter shape without looking and identify the letter.
  • Make cookie dough and fashion letter shapes out of the dough and decorate them, bake and eat and enjoy!

And remember, that many letter shapes look similar, so the child needs to recognise how they differ.  This requires spatial awareness.  Here are some more activities that your child can do to reinforce direction and position of the letters.  Also these are good exercises for children who struggle with reversals or are simply unsure.

  • Use the arrow chart  (Free Download: Arrow Chart)  It is an incredible tool.Arrow ChartUse in random orientation (hang it differently each time you use it) and simply point to the first arrow in any row (start at one end and move across the row to the end) and the child must quickly move into the correct position (place the bean bag/ step out the hoop/ move in relation to a chair/ move both arms straight up or down or left or right).  You must keep quiet.  Don’t speak. Let the child recognise the direction.  They can call out the direction as they move.  Train them to do it quickly and promptly.  If you are working with more than 1 child, train them to move once you tap on the arrow.  Not before, not long after.  Turn the chart if they are ‘reading ahead’ or start a new random row.  You can work vertically too! Use the whole body, find actions that are fun.
  • Use a hoop and pool noodle or long stick – point to similar letters on a chart and ask the child to move the noodle/ stick to form the letter on the ground.  (b, d, p & q)                                                      
  • Use a hoop and rope to form letters that have curved lines joined to the round shape (g, f, t, j, y)
  • You can call out the letters, or make letter dice and throw the dice to play letter recognition games.
  • Use play dough to roll sausages and form letters.  Let them learn all the letters that are round (a, c, e, o) then letters that are simple straight (l, i, k)
  • Use pipe cleaners to make letter shapes.
  • Use clear descriptive words to describe the letter: “a” (say the phonic name)  “for apple is like a round apple with a straight stick on the right side”
  • Describe an object that it resembles: “ef” (for the letter ‘f’) looks like a tall sun flower with its head looped over the top …” and let them draw the flower over the letter f and turn the cross line into 2 little leaves.
  • Reinforce concept with the correct phonic sound especially the vowels.
  • Use fun physical ball and bean bag games to show positions: above, below, right, left, inside, under, on top, next to, touching.  Let the child sit inside a hoop and place the bean bag outside the hoop in the correct position.
  • Draw a large chalk circle on a wall and let the child throw a beach ball according the position words you call out.
  • Use foam letters (from a craft store) and arrange a few similar letters in a row.  Ask your child to find the specific letter/ the odd letter/ the letter with a straight side on the left or right.

Have fun and keep these activities short and sweet.  If something doesn’t “stick” find other creative ways to teach your child!  Hope that these ideas help.

Blessings,

Print Handwriting Tip #1

At the end of 2013 my top 5 Practical Pages posts for the year were:

It seems that most readers search for handwriting tips and Google leads them here!  With this in mind, I thought I would share some practical handwriting tips.

Some important free handwriting downloads:

Tip #1

Teach Large Letters Before Small

Handwriting is a fine motor activity.  Young children need to be able to control large movements before they can control fine movements. Start your lessons with really big shapes before taking up a pencil and writing on paper.

Some simple physical pre-writing activities: (Make sure you have a clear, large handwriting chart available ~ download your free charts: Print Handwriting Charts):

  • Ask your child to form letter shapes using ropes, hula hoops and rods on the ground.
  • Let your children form the letter shape while lying on the ground using a hula hoop or skipping rope.
  • Get 2 or more children to form letter shapes while standing up or lying down.  This is a fun, physical exercise!
  • Draw letters and shapes large in the air.  Kids love to use pool noodles and make the letters huge!
  • Draw letters in sand with a stick – outside in the sandbox, or inside on a sand table, or on a baking tray with sand/ flour/ rice and a stick or drinking straw. 
  • Draw letters on glass windows in shaving cream. This is FUN!  Let them first cover the window and smear the shaving cream, then do the writing activity, then wipe it off with a towel.
  • Draw white board markers on a big white board.  Use thick markers on a large board before using a thinner marker on a smaller board.

Use clear, descriptive auditory commands for these exercises:

  • Use the words up, down, left, right
  • Make sure the shapes just touch, cross through, reach down, curl around, curl under
  • Use words such as first …, then …, now …
  • Use descriptive comparisons such as as round as a ball, as tall as 2 balls stacked on top, curled like an umbrella handle, hanging like a happy monkey on a branch, like a top hat on a head

 

  • Make very WIDE lines on blank paper. Divide a jotter page into half lengthways and divide into 3rds across.  Now use each block to draw the letter/ shape so it touches top, sides and bottom of each block.
  • Fold blank paper into quarters and mark the lines. Teach patterns on these wide lines.
  • Next use 17mm lined books (order yours at your local stationery shop)

 

Use a picture reminder in the margin:

  • Use 3 lines for each letter –draw a “man” or a cat in the margin with a circle touching the top and bottom of the head lines, the body in the body line and legs or a tail in the tail line.  In all your lessons refer to where each shape or letter starts, touches, and ends.
  • After sufficient practice and mastery, your child can graduate to ordinary feint and margin lined pages, still using 3 lines for each letter. Draw a man/ cat in the margin as above.
  • Finally, towards 3rd grade, you can use Irish lined paper (these are the narrow lined pages) for written work, still using 3 lines for each letter. To save time, teach your child to draw a dot for the head (●) and a dash (/) for the body and blank for the legs in the margin.

 Hope these tips help! 

Blessings as you teach your children to write! Please share or ask questions in the comments below.

Much grace,

Fresh New Handwriting Charts!

Some time ago, a fellow South African teacher, now living and working in New Zealand visited my blog and then emailed me and offered to make me new handwriting charts for my blog.

I was stunned. 

My old teaching-days-photocopied-and-tipexed-charts I had uploaded to my blog were fuzzy, smudged and unclear.  Of course I said, “YES!”

Within weeks she popped these gorgeous fresh new charts into my Dropbox

I was delighted.  But then my laptop crashed … and it has taken me months absolutely ages to reorganize myself and upload all these lovely clear charts and refresh my Handwriting Pages

Do you want to pop over and take a look? 

May I introduce you to my cyber-fairy Veronica?

She works as a Special Needs Teacher in Auckland, New Zealand.  She describes how she felt the Lord lead her to take up a position in the school: 

“I emigrated to New Zealand in 1997. I could not find a post at a normal primary school in Auckland and then I got an interview at a special school in the south of Auckland. I wasn’t trained for special education and wondered whether I would be able to do this.

I was pretty nervous as I arrived at the school for the interview, but when I put my hand on the door handle at this Special School, I made eye contact with the students who were waiting for their taxis, and I was sold.

I soon found out that there were no resources available for the low functioning students at that school. I wasn’t very computer literate, but had to learn fast, as I had to make worksheets etc to suit their learning levels and abilities.

When I wanted to write a series of books (resources) and needed a font, and I had to learn how to make fonts.   This would also help other teachers if they wanted to make their own worksheets.

I am also making font pages for a friend who is teaching at a Distance Education School in the South of Brisbane as she has one student who is autistic.

Children need resources to make their education fun and worthwhile.  It doesn’t matter how disabled they are, they can still learn and have a fruitful education!

I don’t want to make a difference in the lives of just the 6 students I teach, but I want to make a difference in 6 million or more other children’s lives!”

How inspiring!  I trust that the Lord blesses and rewards you for  your compassion and love and practical ministry.

And may I say again, “Thank you so much Veronica.”

Blessings,

Celebrate Handwriting ~ National Handwriting Day!

Why is National Handwriting Day held on this day?

On January 23, 1737 John Hancock was born in Braintree, Mass.  He was the first person to sign the United States of America’s Declaration of Independence with a large flourishing display!

This is his famous signature.

These days, we use cellphones and computers to text, phone, email, Twitter, update … we communicate. But handwriting is fast becoming a lost art.

Handwriting is personal, unique, stylish, expressive, individual and artistic!

“Though computers and e-mail play an important role in our lives, nothing will ever replace the sincerity and individualism expressed through the handwritten word,” said David H. Baker, WIMA’s Executive Director.

How can you take part on this day?

Heart of the Matter Online suggests American children write handwritten letters thanking troops overseas for their sacrifice and to let them know how appreciated they are.  Read more about the contest here: Pentel National Handwriting day.

(Perhaps National Handwriting day began to sell more pens and pencils? :)  )
At teachhandwriting.com they give these suggestions:
  • Write a letter to a friend, family, the President, a soldier, or someone you admire.
  • Decorate a cake and have everyone sign their name with frosting.
  • Write a poem
  • Learn about handwriting analysis
  • Check out the books on handwriting at the local library
  • Create an autograph book and have people sign it.
  • Start a journal or diary
  • Give the gift of a pen as appreciation

Some other fun handwriting activities:

  • Make quill pen and write letters/ lists/ journal entries on tea-stained paper.
  • Practice your own signature!
  • Use a calligraphy pen for handwriting today
  • Decorate a pen with ribbons or wrapping paper covered with layers of modge podge.
  • Start an evening journal with your children and write a special personal note to each other.
  • For young children, write in shaving cream on a window

And certainly, practice makes perfect – practice handwriting!

Teach handwriting with ease!  Use my laminated charts – it’s quick, easy and it works!

Print chart with starting dots

Blessings,

PS: We don’t have an official National Handwriting Day here in South Africa, but I found this on my CurrClick monthly Teachable Moments newsletter and thought it would be a great day to celebrate throughout the world!

Strengthening Handwriting Muscles

Some children really battle to control the pressure while they write and weak fine motor muscles lead to fine or dark and irregular writing.

Play some pressure games to strengthen the finger fine motor muscles:

playdough pile

Image by jimmiehomeschoolmom via Flickr

Play dough is soft and easy to press and mould.

plasticine is denser and tough. Warm it up by rolling and stretching a ball.

Then…

Roll play dough sausages.

Stick fingers and make holes in little sausages they have rolled.

Make pinch pots.

Use a pizza cutter and cut long strips pressing down hard with forefinger.

Press toothpicks and prick patterns in the strips they cut with the pizza cutter.

Playing with Playdough

Image by wickenden via Flickr

Make zigzags with a pencil in a tile they have rolled.

Use play dough knife to cut deep and shallow grooves.

Make balls, flatten and press cuts all around the edge of the circles.

Pull out little beads/ Lego pieces buried in play dough balls.

Roll and press patterns in the play dough using a piece of rope.  Then let them cut along the rope imprint using a play knife or pizza cutter.

Use plastic clothes pegs to practice pinching with the thumb and forefinger.

Clothes pegs

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s some ziplock bag / workbox ideas:

Place mixed coloured pegs and plastic rulers of the same colours in the bag.  Let the child match the colour peg to the ruler and peg all of those colours along the ruler.

Put different coloured stacking cups in a bag with an assortment of pegs. The child sorts and then places the pegs along the rim of each cup.

Make number dot and peg cards.  The child counts and places a peg over each dot on each cards. (On the card with 1  and 1 dot, place the peg over the 1 dot.)

Place alphabet/number cards and pegs in a bag.  The child pegs the cards on a wash line in order.

Tearing and crunching paper, tissue paper or foil:

Tissue collage

Image by StarWatcher307 via Flickr

Tear tissue paper and create a colourful collage.

Use tissue paper and tear, then crunch little balls of paper to use in art – as flowers on a tree/ snow/hail in a picture/ flowers in a field.

Colour in a square of paper and then tear it into little blocks with both hands using the thumbs and forefingers in opposite directions.  Then paste the squares as a collage.

Tin Foil

Image by pasukaru76 via Flickr


Use tinfoil and mould the foil in shapes.

Crunch foil in balls and paste on a collage.

Create a 3D foil model/mobile/abstract art.

As you can see, there are endless activities that strengthen fine motor muscles required for handwriting.

These exercises are fun!  The child has no idea that he/ she is doing therapy.

So, if handwriting books frustrate, or if your child is not ready for handwriting, put the books aside and PLAY! :)