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 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?

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