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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 activities to make comprehension more enjoyable

 

5 activities to make comprehension more enjoyable pinterest

Following on from the blog I wrote the other day about the board game you can when doing comprehension with your child, here are 5 activities you can carry out to establish your child’s understanding.

Illustrate the information

Very often a child will be asked to describe the character or the scene they have just read about. Instead of doing this as a written piece of work, why not ask the child to draw what they have learn. Why not draw a picture of the setting and label it with quotes/ words from the extract? A character can also be drawn and annotated rather than just written and talked about.
In “Skellig” (Marc Almond) there is a description of a derelict garage. A description like this is perfect for drawing/ annotating.
The other advantage of interpreting what you have learned like this is that you are creating a visual image. Visual images are not only great for finding the information at a glance at a later date, they also provide an alternative learning technique. The more learning techniques we use the more likely we are to (a) be able to retrieve the information from our memories when needed. (b) Find a learning style that is appropriate your child.

Unscramble the letters

In “The Twits” (Roald Dahl) it explains the different food that Mr Twit has stuck in his beard. Instead of asking the child to recall what Mr Twit had in his beard, why not list the items but scramble the letters.
Scrambled eggs becomes: Smadbrcel gegs

 

Rewrite the scene

Why not ask the child to rewrite the scene from someone else’s perspective? An example could be to write an extract as a diary entry. Ask them to write about their feelings alongside what happened.

 

Word search

Make a word search
Many chapters within a book will focus on a theme: someone’s feelings, an event, an atmosphere, etc. Pick something of relevance from the chapter and ask the other person to create a word search using relevant words from the chapter (or synonyms for those used in the chapter). You can also create a word search for the child to solve. Then once both are prepared, swap and solve the other person’s. You can also use verbs, adjectives, etc. found in the chapter as your theme.

A to Z

A to Z icon
In David Walliams’ book “Billionaire Boy” he describes all the amazing things Jo has in his mansion.
Why not create an A to Z of all the things you can think of that you would have in your billionaires’ mansion?
Examples might be:
A: Aeroplane landing strip
B: Butler
C: Chef
And so on…

To make it slightly harder you can state you need to state an adjective (describing word) before each noun (object) that also starts with that letter.
Examples now might be:
A: Alien’s Aeroplane landing strip
B: Bald butler
C: Caring chef
And so on….

Click here to download the PDF that I use for this game

I hope you like the ideas. No doubt you will think of many more of your own and I would love to hear them. I you have found the ideas here useful or you think someone else would find them useful, please do like and share below.

 

Enjoy

 

Many thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please do ask.

 

Make Spelling Fun!

Learning needs to be an enjoyable past time because it is something that we will inevitably do through out our entire lives!

3 varied games to help your child learn to spell

For some people an ability to spell correctly seems to be instinctive. For others spelling seems to be an uphill struggle.

We can all try and encourage our children to find a love for books and reading but for some parents you might as well just bang your head against a brick wall!

There are other ways to help your child’s confidence boost when it comes to spelling and that’s through playing spelling games with them.
In the following lines / video I will show you 3 of my favourite games that I use as a tutor to help children improve their spellings.

 

Before we get onto that though, I’d like to quickly explain how games can be so important when it comes to helping your child learn.

Firstly, when we need to retain some information there will inevitably be a certain amount of repetition involved. This can be boring and a lot of children will lose interest at this point.
However, if you are able to make the learning activities enjoyable the child will be less resistant. The less resistant the child is the more susceptible they will be to taking and retaining new information.

 

The other benefit of playing games is that through playing a range of games we create a wider variety of memories. That means that when we need to recall the information, our brain has more places to find it. This makes it more likely that we will get the spelling that we need correct.

These 3 games range from taking no preparation, from costing nothing more than a piece of paper and a pen/ pencil to purchasing a truly addictive word game.

I hope they inspire you, I’d love to hear your comments below or for you to share it with a friend if you think they would benefit from the ideas.

Pairs:

make learning fun
This can be played in a few ways depending on the age/ability of your child and the words that you are focusing on.

The first method is to create two sets of cards.
The first set of cards will clearly have the word displayed. For this version it will probably be a noun (person, place or thing).
The second set of cards will have images of the words used in set one.
Lay all the cards face down on the table.
Then take it in turns to pick up two cards. If they are a corresponding picture and word, keep the pair and have another go.
If they don’t match, place them back down and the other person has a turn.
It is the person with the most pairs at the end of the game that is considered the winner.

The other version of the game involves writing the words out in fairly big text. Then cut each word in half.
These will be your playing cards.
Place each of these “cards” face down on the table.
The first person will turn over 2 cards. If they choose a corresponding beginning and end to a word, they win the pair. They then have another go.
If the 2 parts of the word don’t belong together, lay them back on the table and the other person has a go.

Once again, the person with the most pairs at the end is the winner.

 

Rummikub Word

This game is addictive. I was first introduced to Rummikub by my daughter a couple of years ago as a suggestion to take on holiday. By the time we came home I was 100% hooked.
I then discovered the game “Rummikub Word” which is equally addictive!
I can’t show you a picture of the one I own personally as it is so bashed and battered from the amount of use it gets.
The purpose of the game is to create words out of the 14 letters you choose at random. The winner is the first person to use all of their counters. You can manipulate the other persons words by adding or subtracting letters from it to create new words.
This game also seems to be seriously enjoyed by dyslexic learners. The ability to physically move the letters around to create new words seems to make the creation of words considerably easier than when they are fixed to a piece of paper. (I have found many times over the years with various games the ability to move the letters makes spelling words significantly easier).
If you have the ability to buy a game that will support your child with both spelling and vocabulary, I strongly suggest you make it this one.

Funny Pictures

Funny pictures mini

I’ve saved my best to last. I love this game!
Fortunately, the ability to draw well is not a priority. Nothing more than a stick person is really necessary though if you can go slightly beyond that it will help.
In the video I will explain to you how to make the game.

 


The purpose behind Funny Pictures
Once you have drawn your image and stuck it on to a piece of paper you need to think of as many words as you can to describe him.
So, for example for the image above I might state:
Long neck,
Round body,
Stick arms
Knobbly knees, etc
Spiky hair, etc

For older children or more capable children you may make it more challenging. You can do this by writing the letters A to Z down the side of the picture.
The aim is then to think of a word starting with each letter of the alphabet to describe the funny picture.
In this instance you might go:
Angular nose
Big feet
Curved body
Delightfully big eyes

In order to achieve all the letters, the level of the vocabulary you use, really has to go up a level. It will stretch your abilities to think of various adjectives and stretch your vocabulary.

I’ve put together a great course demonstrating 6 more of my favourite games that support spellings including which witch, lily pads and my own take on battleships. You will be able to download an updated version of the book I had published a couple of years ago. The e-book goes into far more depth of the importance of using a range of learning styles, the need to reinforce your child’s learning with praise and how we all learn differently.

If you want more details when they are available, fill in the box below and I’ll keep you posted:

 

 

 

Please don’t forget to share and comment on this blog if you have found the ideas beneficial to you and you think someone else might benefit from them as well.

 

Enjoy

3 simple games to help your child with spelling

A lot of people struggle with spelling for many reasons.

 

3 simple games to help your child with spelling linked in
As a person who struggles to spell, it can be frustrating. As a poor speller it can be even more frustrating….

Below are 3 games which I often play at Starr Tutoring to help children/ adults become more confident with:
Words they regularly spell wrongly
Their weekly spellings
High frequency words
Terminology

I’ve played these games with children who are as young as 5 or 6 right up to 16-year olds sitting their GCSE’s. I’ve also played them with adults. Providing you are willing to accept that learning can be fun, these games will work.

The 3 games I chosen to show you here I’ve chosen because they’re so easy to make and fun to play.

The first game I will share with you to support spellings is:

Battleships

battleships mini
I love this game. I can take about half an hour to play but if your child is learning fairly short words you could make the grid smaller and the game will finish more quickly.
I think every person I have ever played the game with has also found it to be a firm favourite!
To play the game you will need to draw (print) out 2 grids on 2 pieces of paper.
The grids need to be 10 squares by 10 squares.
Miss the first square on the left of the bottom row. On the following squares write the numbers from 1 to 9.
Then in the left-hand column miss the bottom left square. In the squares above it write the letters from A to I.

Watch the following video to learn how to play the game.

 

Make a word search

Make a word search

This game is great.

It not only helps with spellings but can also help with hand writing.
When I first started attending courses on dyslexia it was suggested not to do word searches with dyslexic children. However, over the past six years since I started Starr Tutoring I have used them a lot. I generally find that as long as you keep them appropriate to the age and the ability of the child they will be enjoyed.
In fact, very often the dyslexic children I work with are far better at word searches than non-dyslexics! Coincidence? I don’t know….
There are 2 ways to do this activity.

One:

You create a word search containing the words you are working on and the child endeavours to find them.
If you make the grid approximately 10 squares by 10.
List the hidden words underneath
Write in lower case as these are the symbols your child will be more familiar with when reading.

 

Two:

The second method (and my preferred method) is to print out 2 grids which are 10 squares each.

On a separate sheet have the words that you are focusing on correctly spelt and available for the child to copy from.
Choose between 6 and 10 of these words each and put them into the word search.
One letter per square.
The words can go: forwards, backwards, up, down or diagonally but they must go in a straight line.
As before list the hidden words underneath and fill in all the remaining squares with random letters.
The benefit of this method is that the child must present each letter so that it is possible for the other person to recognise what it says.
They get to focus on each letter and its position in the word as they create the word search and then again as they try to solve it.
For children who do struggle more, you may choose to use a smaller grid and larger squares.

Anagrams

anagrams
This final game will involve a small investment.
I use bananagrams but scrabble letters are pretty much the same thing.
Again, you will need the list of words that you are focusing on to hand.
Both players choose a word but doesn’t tell the other person what that word is.
Find the letters you will need to create that word and give them a shake to muddle them up.
Pass the letters to the other player.
The goal now is to try and work out the word that those letters form. You can either keep the list face up to make the task easier; or cover it to make the game more of a challenge.
This game was suggested to me by a boy I used to work with. It’s been played many times since and everyone seems to enjoy it.

Enjoy

Enjoy the games and I hope you see a difference in your child’s confidence and ability to spell.
As with everything a certain amount of repetition is required. When the repetition comes in the form of a game, most people are generally fairly obliging to participate.

In the coming couple of weeks, I will be putting together a course to help children become more confident at spelling. If you would like more details when it is completed, just drop me a message below.

Enjoy the summer holidays and have fun spending time with your children.

Homophones and Homographs

More and more emphasis is being put learning different grammatical terms.

Here are two which you’ve possibly heard of, but not sure what the difference is; homophones and homographs.

Here’s what they both mean:

Homophones: words that sound like another word, but has a different spelling and meaning.

Homographs: One of two or more words that have the same spelling but differ in origin, meaning, and sometimes pronunciation.

 

This is a really simple game that I often play in the lessons with children who are learning about these. It also helps with the spelling of these words as you are creating a visual image to associate with each individual spelling.

I bring with me a list of homophones/homographs. The list might include:

 

  1. Witch / which
  2. Hour / our
  3. Bear / bare
  4. Here / hear
  5. Eight / ate
  6. Ant / aunt
  7. Piece / peace
  8. Flour / Flower
  9. Bow / bow
  10. Meet / meat
  11. Four / for
  12. Tail / tale
  13. Berry / bury
  14. See /sea
  15. Knight / night
  16. Knew / new
  17. Sale /sail
  18. Eye/ I
  19. Deer / dear
  20. Write / right / white
  21. Blue/ blew

 

Take it in turns to choose a word from the list.

Don’t tell the other person which word you’ve chosen.

Now cover the list up and try to draw your chosen word.

The other person has to try and guess what the word is that you’re (attempting) drawing.

Once they have correctly guessed, you need to write the word next to your picture, making sure you choose the correct spelling / version.

Some of the words will obviously be easier than others to draw but that just adds to the challenge of the game.

Don’t forget this is a game and games should be fun, so remember; if your child makes a mistake, mistakes happen. Ask them if they’re sure they’ve written the correct word (they’ll normally spot it themselves once pointed out), ask them to change it and move on to the next person’s go.

Most importantly, enjoy sharing the time together.

 

If your child is struggling at school and you are thinking about getting a tutor, we can probably help. Click here to find out more details.

 

 

5 ways to, creatively support your child with extending their descriptive vocabulary.

Does your child struggle to make their writing interesting due to a lack of descriptive vocabulary making it all seem a bit flat?

If you have read any of my other blogs you will know that I am a firm believer that a child will be more responsive to learning if they are enjoying themselves.

In order to learn a child also needs to repeatedly try several different ways of doing things in order to create a range of memories and make it easier to recall the information (words) when needed. However, if these techniques are enjoyable, they will hopefully be more willing to participate…

These are some of my favourite methods of extending vocabulary that I use for tutoring.

  • Funny pictures

This may be a game you may be familiar with.

You start by folding the top of the paper over and drawing a face (a fairly unusual one) so that the neck sits at the fold of the paper.  You then hand the piece of paper to the other person so that they can’t see the face.

This person then draws the body starting at the fold at the top of the paper. They fold the paper over and hand it over to the other person so that what has been drawn previously can not be seen.

This person then draws a pair of legs and feet.

Open the piece of paper out so that the entire image is revealed.

You now need to try and think of as many words as you can to describe this picture alternatively write down the alphabet and try to think of a word starting with each letter to describe it.

(The more detail each section is given, the easier the task is).

 

Scrabble letters

 

This game is simple.

Take a bag of scrabble letters and divide them equally between the 2 of you. You then have to use all of these letters to create a variety of words. You can’t use the names of people; the words must be at least 3 letters long and spelt correctly.

It sounds very easy, which initially it is, however, as you are left with fewer and fewer letters it gets more and more challenging making you think hard about the words you know that could be used.

 

Describe the picture

This is similar to the first activity except this time the picture can be one from a magazine, from Google, a book or any other source that you have available. Again you need to think of as many words as you can to describe the picture.

 

A to Z of…

Think of a theme. Anything you like: countries, animals, colours, places, synonyms, antonyms, etc.(I often blend this with the; describe the picture and the funny pictures tasks so that you have to think of a word starting with every letter of the alphabet to describe the picture).

You now have to think of a word starting with every letter of the alphabet associated with that theme.

 

Extend the sentence

Finally this can be used with quite young children. You now have to think of as many descriptive words as possible to extend the sentence.

Start with a very simple sentence such as: “The cat sat on the mat.”

You may then choose to add brown resulting in: ”The brown cat sat on the mat”.

The next person may add to it and say: The tired brown cat sat on the mat”.

Keep going thinking of as many adjectives as you can that make the sentence more interesting.

Please don’t discard these ideas as being “too young” for your child.

I have played them with children aged from 5 to 16 and with adults. I suspect there is no upper limit to the age they are relevant to if you/your child are willing to adapt a range of creative resources into learning.

I hope these ideas have given you some food for thought for activities you can try with your own children. I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.

If you would like to sign up for the weekly free email offering ideas on how you can support your child in maths and English please drop me an email at:

info@starrtutoring.co.uk

If you think having a tutor is the way forward for you, please do get in touch and I will do my best to help.

Look forward to speaking to you soon

 

Warm wishes