It is a universally accepted truth that every classroom consists of students with varying intellectual abilities and so learn to write in different ways and patterns. Some students have an above average level of understanding while many are seen as just average. The problems faced in teaching kids to write are especially with those students who have a below average level of learning and are often classified as ‘slow learners’.
It is important for teachers to firstly understand the difference between the children with literacy difficulties and the intellectually disabled children. The intellectually disabled children usually have an IQ level below 70 and as a result they cannot perform even the easiest tasks properly, such as eating or dressing up. However, the children with literacy difficulties can perform most tasks as well as the average or even the above average students. They may even excel in certain areas such as sports or arts, but they face problems in some specific area of academics such as reading, writing or word recognition.
So it is important for teachers to understand these differences and realize the fact that the children with literacy difficulties are as intelligent and capable as the other children in class and so they should not be labelled as ‘slow learners’ and left behind. Teachers need to help these children learn in a way different from the rest and they may often need special attention but at the end of the day, it is the ability of the student that should matter, not the disability.
This is a goal-oriented post that aims at a large number of learning goals to be achieved by pre-school children and helping adults in teaching kids to write properly. If used properly, these guidelines would be effective to:
- Provide children with experiences that enable them to understand the value of writing and its use as an effective communication tool.
- Provide opportunities to children for development of the ability to assess and monitor their own handwriting progress.
- Allow students to develop a positive attitude towards themselves and their handwriting.
- Develop in the children a willingness to accept responsibility for their own written material.
- Raise awareness amongst the children about the handwriting technique and style that best suits them.
- Develop in children the abilities of hand control, relaxed techniques and legible handwriting.
1. Assist early handwriting development
In young children, the learning of handwriting skills is associated with early attempts to draw and say something with pictures. So at the beginner level teachers need to:
- Allow students to learn to fit signs, shapes, letters or words on the page, to put them in order, to make them clear and in the right proportion, and to go from left to right and down the page.
- Give maximum time to students to explore the tools of writing and let them play with pictures and scribbles as they develop their visual understandings and motor skills.
- Involve children in exercises that help in development of handwriting styles and techniques.
- Use drawing and painting activities to allow students to experience with lines and patterns.
- Help children in verbal learning of alphabets while practicing handwriting so they can remember the shape associated with letters.
- Use finger puppets and dramatic activities as ways to involve children and motivate them.
2. Identify the problem
When children begin learning to write, teachers are faced with a number of problems. There will be students with inconsistent writing, unfinished words or letters, irregularly spaced words and all sorts of problems. So the first and foremost task of the teacher should be to:
- Identify and make a record of the type of difficulty each student faces in writing.
Special assessment tools and a wide range of tests are available on-line that can help teachers identify the type of difficulty a student has in writing. Once the teacher identifies the problem, only then can he take appropriate steps for training the student and fixing the problem.
3. Identifying the best technique for every individual student
According to many researchers, the word technique encompasses several areas when it comes to writing such as the way the student holds the pen, position of the paper and the body and the hand movements. Teachers need to:
- Assess individually the level of performance of every student
- Identify the strengths and needs of every student
- Prioritize the needs as well as long-term learning goals for all students
- Identify realistic, achievable and observable short-term goals and techniques
- Help students in developing a relaxed technique that they feel comfortable with.
This would not only improve their writing but also the speed with which they write.
4. Incorporating the technique
After thoroughly observing the strengths and weaknesses of students, teachers need to determine the sequence in which sequence letters will be introduced. For example, if a child likes to start his letters from the bottom, the teacher may introduce letters in a way that incorporate this movement. The technique should then be incorporated not just in handwriting lessons but all other writing and art lessons as well
- Encourage the development of sound writing techniques in students.
- Teach children to hold the writing instruments gently between index finger and middle finger with the thumb on top. Distance should be kept between writing instruments tip and the fingers.
- Focus individually on any left-handed children and teach them to hold the instrument with greater distance from the tip so they can have a look at what’s being written.
- Help children adjust with the paper and body position they are most comfortable with.
5. Incorporating the style
Style refers to the way letters are written and linked together. This makes it important to:
- Help children learn the correct stroke for each letter.
- Teach students that all letters must be in proportion with consistent spacing.
- Promote natural pauses in pen lifts as they are the most relaxing and helpful but they should only be used when necessary.
- Encourage children to experience with different writing speeds and analyze how speed affects their writing.
6. Evaluation and assessment
- Keep records about the technique and style used by students for writing and sample products of their writing. These prove to be valuable resource for children, teachers and the parents throughout the year by providing evidence of progress made.
- Make the children a part of the evaluation process. Inform them how to assess their own hand writing as well as that of other class fellows.
- Record information from evaluations and assessments in a useful way so it can help in deciding on an appropriate action plan.
- Make checklists to monitor the strengths and weaknesses of students and also encourage students to make their own checklists. A sample checklist is given below
|Date||Performance||Word spacing||Line Spacing||Presentation||Spelling||Letter Formation||Additional comments|
7. Organizational Strategies
- Groups may be made according to the type of instructions each student needs.
- This grouping may be done during a specific lesson or activity or throughout the day. However, individual attention should also be given whenever required.
Depending on the progress of students, the handwriting practices may be scheduled as required. For example, short daily practice every day, two or three one hour sessions per week. Teachers must be able to adjust their time tables according to the needs of students.
9. Layout of the classroom
The organization within the classroom will not just help create healthy learning environment but also provide effective resources to the students. Movable resources allow for a flexible layout for example usage of projectors. If some children face difficulty in copying from boards, teachers can fix a copy of beginner’s alphabets to their tables.
It is important for teachers to give practice exercises to students on a regular basis so that those students who have managed to develop an acceptable level of writing are able to maintain it.
11. Collaborating with parents
If a child is constantly facing problems with writing it is important to inform the parents and have their cooperation. If parents wish to assist their child in the process, special parent workshops may be arranged.
12. Coping with children who have difficulty copying
- If a child has difficulty in copying from the board, then firstly make sure that the child is provided with a seat from where he can clearly see.
- Stand beside the child and explain the letter or word to him. Then ask him to revise the work in air or on the table using his finger.
- Hold the child’s hand and guide it so he can understand it properly.
- Avoid asking students to copy long texts
- Give reminders and cues in worksheets such as “start here ”
- Encourage students to check their own work or the work of a partner
- Clearly link every lesson with the previous one
13. Activities for hand writing development
A list of activities for children and the skills they develop are given below:
- Finger painting activities for motor control and hand-eye coordination
- Brush painting and drawing for muscular control, instrument hold and fine motor movement.
- Measuring and pouring water or sand as well as screwing and unscrewing activities for fine motor control.
- Modelling activities using sand, clay or play-dough for development of manipulative skills.
- Paper tearing and folding, pasting and cutting for fine motor control.
- Jigsaw puzzles for visual memory.
- Sorting, finding differences and matching activities for perceptual discrimination.
- Sewing, lacing, buttoning and tying laces for hand-eye coordination and fine motor control.
- Hand-clapping games with partners to develop coordination and rhythm.
- Writing cards or notes for parents to produce good hand writing.
- Investigating the history of hand writing with children to develop interest.
14. Assist children to overcome writing difficulties
- Use short but daily practice sessions.
- Allow children to work with pencils and erasers and encourage them to correct their mistakes by erasing.
- Experiment with different styles and techniques as well as instruments to find the best-suited one.
- Allow child to experiment with different instruments to develop interest.
- Introduce pen lifts naturally.
- Encourage children to write notes and letters in good handwriting for others, e.g. thank you notes for friends.