7 brilliant techniques to support handwriting

What does a pig have in common with handwriting practice?

 

I’ve had a few conversations with people recently who have said how their child is struggling with handwriting.
I must admit when my 3 were young I did buy a lot of the pre-school/ early years books that support your child with creating various letter shapes. But they often just sat on the shelf after a few days and were money down the drain.
I bought them because I thought that was the best way to help your child learn to write. I had no other suggestions to hand.
With the benefit of experience as a parent, in educational settings, reading, learning and experimenting(!) I now have many other / better suggestions to offer.
Here are a few of my favourites. I hope there is something amongst them that inspires you too.

1

1. Colouring in

There is a huge craze at the moment for adults to take up colouring. It’s relaxing and helps you to unwind.
In addition, it’s also a great way for children to practice the fine motor skills needed to create legible handwriting. (I appreciate for a child with dyslexia or other similar SLD, there is more to it than just improving those fine motor skills).
But colouring is fun. It’s not patronising if presented properly and will no doubt be happily embraced.

2

2. Cutting, sewing, threading and popping bubble wrap!

Again, these are great ways to practice/ strengthen the fine motor skills needed to improve your writing skills.
A task I do with a lad I go to (he is dyslexic and autistic so talking and communication are 2 things we often focus on) is:
a) Colour in a range of pictures that all start with the same sound. All the while chatting about what we are colouring and the colours we are using.
b) Colour in a range of pictures that start with the same sound. The labels for the pictures have all been muddled up. Once we have finished colouring the pictures, we cut the words and the pictures out and glue them back down so that the words and pictures relate.
c) Finally, we colour the picture (all starting with the same sound) then write the word (free-hand) next to it.
All of these activities are purely focused on idle chatter, colouring and building confidence. Once we have these in place, we can then move onto putting the words into sentences, etc.

3

3. Gloop

I love gloop. Many people don’t love gloop because it’s messy!
Gloop is baking powder and water. It turns to a cold, smooth slime on the bottom of the container you are using. You can then trace the letters/ words into the gloop. The sensory experience is great. Even better, if you make a mistake, the evidence has vanished within seconds and it smooths itself away and becomes smooth again.

I often mention how learning is more productive if we use a range of sensory experiences and activities to help us learn. Each different activity helps us to create a new memory in our mind. This makes it easier for our brain to find this information when needed. (I won’t dwell on this too much as I have mentioned it many times in the past, but if you do want more information on it, please do ask in the comments below).

Therefore, Gloop is amazing because it is tactile and it is, so completely different to using a pen and writing in a text book.

4

4. Clay, plasticine and pipe cleaners

These are also fantastic methods of manipulating something so that you are left with a visual and sensory image of the letter/ word that you are trying to create.
It might take some practice to get the letters to look as you wish them to look. Always remember, that learning is more productive if it’s fun. Do these tasks together, enjoy the experience and watch the child’s confidence grow.

5

5. Using a variety of resources

Handwriting practice doesn’t need to be done with a pen and paper sat at a desk.
A couple of years back I worked with a couple of lads (both individually and completely unconnected) to improve their handwriting. The weather was nice so we made the most of the situation. Using large paint brushes and water we set about writing words and letters outside on the wall of the house and the patio. The letters could be as big as they liked as they would have evaporated within moments and would leave no last effects.
We also used large scraps of wall paper and chalks and other forms of resources needed to create marks.
Removing ourselves from the confines of the house and into the garden made it so much more enjoyable and memorable. We could “go large” initially to practice the shapes,/ sequence of letters, then as we perfected the skill, we could start to downsize and make the marks more and more precise.

6

6. Drawing letter pictures

A final idea that came to me as I’ve been writing this is a suggestion my mum gave to me many years back.
Pictures can easily be made from letters:

pig

This pig has been drawn from a large “O” for the body, a “w” for each leg, an “m” for the ears and an “e” for his tail.
A swan can also be drawn by using 2 “2’s”.
Waves of the ocean can be created by using cursive “w’s” or flying birds can be drawn by adding a beak to an M.
By using the letters to create pictures, it’s far more entertaining than repeatedly writing a letter symbol for the sake of it.

 

Each week I send out an email, offering suggestions to parents on how they can use simple techniques to support their children at home.
If you would like to receive the email, just fill in the box below and let me know and I will happily send it to you as well.

 
Final suggestion that has just occurred to me.
Noughts and Crosses (Tic Tac Toe)!

letters for noughts and crosses
Instead of taking it in turns to draw a nought or a cross in the grid, pick a letter and use that to represent your square instead.
Enjoy the games and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

Enjoy

5 things to consider when choosing a tutor

 

We are all individuals and our reasons for needing a tutor will vary widely.
Regardless of your reasoning for seeking out a tutor, here are 10 points you might want to consider:

1. Where will the lessons take place?

Are you willing to travel to a central location for the lessons or the tutor’s home? There are obvious advantages to this including the tutor will have all their resources on hand to easily adapt the lesson if necessary. However, if you hold a busy schedule and have other children that you would need to take with you to drop your child off, is it easier to try and find a tutor who is able to come to your house.

 

2. What would you expect to pay for a tutor?

The price charged by tutor’s varies widely. Some tutors will charge as little as £10/ hour. These are often online lessons carried out by students. If you travel to a tutoring centre/ a tutor’s home where the tutor is physically present you will expect to pay more. However, the range of resources available will be greater and the because the tutor is present it is often easier to hold the student’s attention. These are often group lessons. Another alternative, is to pay a premium and have the tutor travel to your home so you are relieved of the need to travel and possibly hang around somewhere whilst the lesson takes place. It also means that because the lesson is taking place in your home you are better placed to see what is happening in the lessons.

 

3. Do you want your child to have one to one tutoring?

Very often when children are struggling, they feel unable to ask questions in front of their peers. It’s hard to put your hand up and admit that you don’t understand what is been explained. One to one tutoring offers the child an hour of the tutor’s undivided attention. They can focus purely on what the child needs to find confidence in. They can pay attention to the areas where your child needs to grow. Everything has a consequence and here you would expect to pay slightly more for the lessons.
The advantage of group lessons is that your child will also have support of peer learning.

 

4. How does your child learn best?

When I was young, I used to love reading books, making notes and writing essays. I know for many people this would be their worst nightmare!
When we tutor, we always use a range of activities: games, worksheets, code breaking, discussion, mind maps.
You need to find a tutor that has a similar teaching style to your child’s learning style. We need to acknowledge that we are all individuals and as such we all teach and learn differently. Find a tutor that will embrace your child’s individual needs and requirements.

5. What experience and qualifications do you want your tutor to have?

To some people this won’t be of importance, they will be more concerned with the rapport of the tutor and their ability to pass their knowledge onto their child. I have met very intelligent tutors who have no ability to teach. I’m not a qualified teacher but I have a degree in childcare and education.

I have nearly 20 years of experience working in a huge variety of educational settings, but I’m not a qualified teacher. I have had tutors working for me, freshly out of A’ Levels that have had amazing feedback and I regularly get asked if they are likely to come back. I have tutors whose experience is working one to one with special needs children in a private schools, those whose background is accountancy, business growth, teachers. They are all amazing but without being qualified teachers some people will have their doubts to their abilities.
When I started tutoring, I had my own doubts but it was explained to me that teachers are taught to teach one way. If the child does not grasp this method at school will they grasp it at home?
Another lesson I have learned that reinforces this was when I was at school. My dad was an accountant. He lectured occasionally at the local college to help pay for our family holidays but he wasn’t a teacher. We had been learning solving equations at school and I couldn’t get it. The teacher had gone over it so many times and she was clearly getting fed up with me.
At home that night Dad spent an hour or two going over it with me in his words, using his own techniques, and I got it. It was crystal clear. I still use his explanation when I explain it to people today.

Like I say, we are all different and have our own learning /teaching style. What suits one person will not always suit another.
I hoped this has given you food for thought if you are considering getting a tutor.
If we can be of any further help, please do get in touch here

Your best effort is all that can be expected

 

Through out the year children are given tests: spelling tests, maths tests, school entrance exams, SATs, GCSEs, mocks, A’ Levels, end of term tests, end of subject tests and the list goes on…
Each of these tests will carry a different amount of weight depending on the situation and the pressure the child feels they’re under from themselves, the school, their family.
But speaking to so many parents there seems to be a universal agreement. If the child has tried their best that is all that can be asked.
It doesn’t matter what the final results are if that child can hold their head high and know that there was nothing more they could do.
But the parent’s role and that of the tutor/ teacher is to ensure that the child knows this.
The child has to know that regardless of the outcome if they have tried their hardest, they can be as proud of themselves as everyone else will be.
I think I take it to extremes, I tell my three all the time that I love them and I’m proud of them. They are three completely unique individuals, but I am so proud of them all. I know their dad is too as he tells the world about what they have achieved.
As a parent, I, like everyone else will have many mistakes but not letting my kids know that the effort they make is what’s important is one I don’t think I’m guilty of.
On the sports field, in school tests, in life, it is the effort that you put in that will help you to come out on top. Your pride at knowing you did the best you could will stay with you a lot longer than the results.
For some people a high achievement will be full marks, for others it will be considerably less. That doesn’t matter we are all individuals. We all have our own levels of success. But regardless of what they are, let your child that it’s the effort that you are proud of.

How can word searches help with comprehension skills?

Comprehension is the ability to read a piece of text and then answer relevant questions on it.
Word searches are a block of random letters with words hidden within.
How can a word search complement something that is so totally different?

When carrying out a comprehension task you generally read the piece of text through before completing any questions so that you don’t respond to something out of context.
Having read the text through the first time, it is often necessary to scan the text again to relocate the information to a specific question.

It is this scanning which is complemented by carrying our word searches.
Word searches train the eye to look for specific key words and ignore those that are not relevant.

Word searches can be used for other benefits as well such as assisting with spellings, finding a term that relates to a definition instead of a prescribed word or simply as an enjoyable past time.

I hope this very short note, proves inspiring.

Learning is Not Just Measurable. It’s Emotional

Starr Tutoring Guest Blog.
Lois Letchford
www.loisletchford.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nF-H07Ct7R0
I’ve written a book Reversed: A Memoir mostly my son Nicholas Letchford and his learning journey.

Today his title is Dr. Nicholas Letchford, D.Phil. (Oxf) BSc (Hons) BEng (Hons) (UTas).

 

Indie Author News - Lois Letchford - Reversed A Memoir - NR

But, he was once the “worst child seen in 20 years of teaching.” The school diagnostician branded him with this label…at seven years old.

Nicholas, now thirty, is a confident, delightful, knowledgeable man, and married to an equally wonderful woman, Lakshmi. He talks with passion about mathematics, engineering, and the challenges of the modern world.
It is only when I ask him about his early schooling education that he shut down.
In 1994, Nicholas learning, as a first grader hit rock bottom. He withdrew in class, a place where his teacher shouted at him. He stared into space, which earned him even more shouting, and by the end of the year, he could only read ten words. In hindsight, his teacher destroyed him.
Finally, there was a turning point. In 1995, my husband had study leave in Oxford. Our family joined in, leaving our home in Australia. I decided to teach Nicholas at home. Of course, my initial efforts at teaching regular phonics instruction ended in failure—abject failure. I was no different than his classroom teacher.
It was at this point—the turning point—when my mother-in-law said to me,

“Lois, make learning fun.”

Her words caused me to re-evaluate what I was doing. I began writing poems; simple rhyming poetry which Nicholas and his grandmother then illustrated. My teaching transformed as we investigated simple poems, then expanding to follow more complex ideas, like the changing map of the world. He was beginning to make different connections while appreciating maps and world history. This became our inquiry project. By tapping into Nicholas’s curiosity, immersing him in language and learning, as well as providing meaningful experiences through seeing various museums, artifacts, and libraries, his love of learning grew.
I found a series of books which helped me teach him to decode words: Hear it, See it, Say it, Do it! by Mary Atkinson. The books were brilliant, and Nicholas and I were finally able to connect through the multi-sensory word games.
Nicholas and I enjoyed this learning—both in the short and, amazingly, the long term.
Yet, long-term—like today—still brings up painful memories. I recently asked Nicholas about his early learning experiences and he dissolved into tears.

Twenty three years after his poor schooling, he still could not talk about the pain or the scars left from those years.

When I asked about his reading teacher, he responded with a quick, “I don’t remember her!”
“Nicholas,” I said, “You visited her four days a week, for 30 mins a day…for four years!”
“Ahh,” he said, searching for this memory. “Yes…she was a witch.”
Recalling his early learning from living in Oxford in 1995, Nicholas talked about a growing passion for knowledge, a lifetime love of mapping, and relishing poetry. He remembered some of the poems, the fun he had illustrating, and thinking beyond the poetry. He even remembered that he wrote ingredients for a witches spell!
With this type of education, he became emotionally involved, and this time in our lives determined the trajectory for his future.

So, when we have these young lives in our hands, we know what has to be completed in terms of learning. But how are we doing to do it? What memories are we creating today for our students to recall tomorrow?

Learning the 9 times table

The 9 times table is one of my favourite times tables because there are so many tricks to help you to learn it.

The most commonly known one is that, when written down the units decrease by one each time and the tens increase by one.

When you write out the 9x table the tens will increase by 1 and the units will decrease by 1 each time.png
But there is also the fact that if a number is devisable by 9 the digits that make it up will add together to make 9.

3x9 = 272+7 = 9 shocking fact

Examples of this are:

10 x 9= 90
9+0 =9

2×9= 18
1+8 = 9

12×9 = 108
1+0+8= 9

Then there’s this one and I think this is the cleverest trick of all:

 

Hold your 2 hands out in front of you, palms down.

Imagine you want to work out what 3 times 9 is.

Put down the middle finger of your right hand.
Imagine all the fingers of the left of that middle finger are worth 10. All the fingers to the right are worth 1 (they’re your units).

That means to the left of my middle finger I have 20. To the right I have 7.
3 x9 = 27
It works for each of the questions in the 9 times table from 1 to 10.

 

Imagine I want to work out what 7×9 is.

Put the finger next to the thumb on your right hand down. (This is your 7th finger)
Everything to the left is once again worth 10. Everything to the right is worth 1 (a unit).

This time I have 6 tens and 3 units.
7×9=63.

I can check this is right because 6+3 =9

I’ve found one of the best ways to teach the times tables is through the use of games. At Starr Tutoring we use pairs games, snakes and ladders, fishing games (probably my favourite) bingo etc.

The repetition of playing the games helps to reinforce the times tables facts.

Games are also a great way to make learning fun and to help a child relax. Everyone will learn better when they relax and are enjoying themselves as that is when the brain is more susceptible to learning.

Twitter heading
I have set myself the challenge that in my life time I will help 1 million children find confidence in their times tables through the use of games.

To help me to achieve this you can download all the templates that we use at Starr Tutoring to create these games so that you can play them yourself at home.
You will also gain the link to my e-book: Teach your child their times tables – the fun way!

This e-book goes into more detail explaining how we learn and the importance of using a wide range of resources.

cover

I can have kept the price down to just £12. Not because I question the value you will receive from it, because I think you will receive great value from it if you play the games with your child, but so that it is accessible to as many people as possible.
If £12 is too much for you though, or you have a child with special needs, your child is a young carer, a foster child, etc. let me know. For every course that is paid for another person will receive it for FREE.

For more information on the 1 Million Times Tables Challenge, click here

If you have found this post interesting or you think someone else may benefit from it, please do like and share it.

Any questions, do ask and I will do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading

Dawn