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

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.

Learning needs to be fun to be effective!

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Over the past 18+ years of working and studying in education I have had a keen interest on learning styles.
The one thing that continually emerges is that learning needs to be both fun and varied.

Why does learning need to be fun?

Human behaviour has evolved over time. When we are suffering from stress or a fear of something the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in.

It can be recognised as your heartbeat racing faster, a tight sensation in your chest. Your senses also become more heightened to what is happening around you.

The reason behind this is because in prehistoric times our ancestors may have found themselves in situations which required a rapid response; such as coming face to face with a wolf, bear or other threat.

They needed to be able to respond quickly so that they stayed alive. Therefore, they instinctively took flight or stayed to fight.

Although we don’t have such threats in the modern world, a fear of something will still create this same response from us.

For a child or anyone who struggles with learning there is a heightened sense of fear when face to face with something unfamiliar to them or something that they have previously struggled with.

As parents or educators, I feel it is our responsibility to remove that sense of fear.

As parents or educators, I feel it is our responsibility to remove that sense of fear. blog insert

 

How can we reduce / remove the sense of fear?

This is quite simple.

We teach through the use of enjoyable resources so that the focus is aimed not only on the end result but also the journey there.

Teach through the use of enjoyable resources so that the focus is aimed not only on the end result but also the journey there. Post insert

The more enjoyable we can make the journey, the less inclined the child will be to want to flee the situation. This is in part why young children are encouraged to learn through play.

Why can’t older children learn like this as well?
The children I work with at Starr Tutoring are aged between 5 and 16 years old. We also work with adults who are returning to education.

We always play a variety of games in our learning such as:

Hangman, creating word searches or playing battleships for learning new terminology or spellings.
These ideas can also be used to stimulate ideas before writing a story, piece of persuasive writing or other piece of extended writing.
Lily pads, snakes and ladders and pairs are frequently used for ideas that need definitions or specific answers (such as in maths).
Drawing pictures to illustrate what a scene in a book describes rather than writing it down.
Annotating pictures of characters with key quotes that they use and the relevance of these quotes.
Use colour and reward every small step that is achieved.

By doing this you are also building confidence in the child that they can succeed.
The more confident the child is feeling the more likely they are to want to participate as the fight or flight mode is removed.

The more they participate the more practice they gain.

More practice means the better they become.

The spiral of success grows and so does the self-fulfilling philosophy of achievement and success.

The spiral of success grows and so does the self-fulfilling philosophy of achievement and success. post insert

Making learning an enjoyable experience, has got to be beneficial. Leaving them inspired and feeling good about themselves will also positively affect them in other areas of their life as well.

If you are looking to support your child with learning their times tables this summer and are keen to make it fun, why not click here and find out more about “The 1 Million Times Tables Challenge”

Or if you want to have weekly emails offering techniques you can use to support your child with their maths or English drop me an email and I will make sure you get them.

Either way, I would love to hear your comments below and please do share this post with the people you care about on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

The 1 Million Times Table Challenge

 

Do you want to make a genuine difference in the world?

I do.

This is my goal, and I need your help.

 

Conversation is increasingly “exams are getting harder”. The children who struggled before, now struggle even more, and expectations of success are becoming more prevalent from an earlier age.

Parents want to help their children but are often unsure how or where to start.

 

My goal is to support 1,000,000 children to become confident with their times tables.
It’s a huge goal and I can’t do it alone.

That is why I have created the ‘1 Million Times Table Challenge’.

 

 

I have created an online course to demonstrate to parents, carers, educators that the games I use at Starr Tutoring to teach the times tables are accessible, easy to understand and enjoyable.

(I have used these games with children from 5 to 16 years and also with adults returning to education).

mini template

 

For someone who hated maths with a passion these games have been amazing, giving her confidence and understanding!
Janet

Thanks to Dawn, our daughter has started enjoying her maths again!
Anna

“He [our son] used to hate maths but his confidence has grown so much and he is really enjoying it”
Elaine

 

The course consists of a series of videos which are backed up by the templates you would need to create the games and an e-book which explains the importance of making learning a positive and varied experience for both the student and teacher.

 

You can read an extract from the e-book here which explains this in more detail.

Read the extract by clicking here

The course will be just £12!

 

I have kept the price low, not because I question the value it will offer. I believe it will offer you amazing value for money. I have kept it low because I want it to be as accessible to as many people as possible.

The 1 million times tables challenge button

 

In addition, every time one person invests in the course another person will receive access to the course for free.

This person can be nominated by yourself or someone else.

They may be:

  • A child with special educational needs
  • A parent on a low income
  • A child in foster care
  • A young carer
  • An adult returning to education

 

If that sounds like someone you know please do email me with a nomination at dawnstrachan725@btinternet.com with the subject line “nomination”.

If you feel you want to make the investment in the course so that both your child and someone else’s child can benefit, more details can be found here:

The 1 million times tables challenge button

 

Please, share this post and help me spread the word so that I can help that 1 million target and help as many children as possible gain their confidence.

The times tables are a key factor being a confident mathematician and I am sure that with self-assurance in your child’s times tables, their confidence and ability will grow in many other aspects of maths and their education as well.

If you do purchase the course and decide the games aren’t suitable for your child, let me know within 90 days and I will refund your money; no questions asked.

So, with the increase of children in education on the rise and expectations getting higher, please help me to offer that all important foundation of understanding.

The 1 million times tables challenge button
The better support the child has at the initial levels the greater the impact it will have on them and society.
Join me in providing that support and giving 1 million children confidence in their times tables.

Help make a difference.

 

The 1 million times tables challenge button

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