It sounds like there’s a shortage of ideas to work with students with or without disabilities, especially students who don’t work well online, or need a break from it. So, I am starting this page and will add to it, if there’s interest, in days to come.
I welcome teachers and parents to add whatever they’d like to share, what works for you, or special resource pages or links.
Teachers don’t always focus on handwriting because of other skills they are made to address. The focus on technology has sometimes pushed handwriting out of the picture. So, helping students, especially students with reading or writing (dysgraphia) disabilities, become better at handwriting at home, might be a beneficial exercise at this time.
Teachers struggle to understand what students mean when they turn in sloppy papers. Even if students misspell words, it’s much easier to see the breakdown of their errors and help them correct their papers, when letters are neatly printed or written in cursive.
***Don’t push a child to write if they have difficulty holding a pencil or if they are too young.
Holding a pencil.
This may seem strange, but many students don’t know how to hold a pencil! My husband teaches college students and remarks about the many strange ways he has observed students holding pencils and pens in a cramped and uncomfortable manner.
The pencil should be held between the thumb and middle finger with the index finger riding the pencil. The pencil should be grasped above the sharpened point. Pencil grippers are helpful, or some tape or a rubber band wrapped around the pencil can help with gripping.
Younger children work better with larger pencils.
Paper isn’t usually slanted for printing. Tilt writing paper at an angle about 60 degrees from vertical, to the left for right-handed children, and the right, for left-handed children (Lerner, p. 192-193). Children should hold paper with their free hand. Hold paper in place with tape if necessary.
Schools don’t always teach cursive, but it could be helpful for children, but especially for children with dyslexia or reading disabilities. Some children might find copying cursive letters relaxing. Practicing can be quieting and give parents a needed break.
It has been known for years that cursive might be easier than print for children with learning disabilities because of the rhythmic continuity. It helps students who make reversals, which are common for students who print. (Lerner, p. 190).
Start with capitals and move to small letters and then connect letters to words. Give the child some sample letters to copy. Once they master some letters, add short words.
- Tracing paper or plastic overlay can help children practice writing.
- Copying partial letters for children to complete can help children copy.
If a child is better at printing, and they don’t like cursive, or it’s too difficult, help them practice spacing and making neat letters.
Look for ways to work with children on handwriting at home. Encourage them to use what they learn every day. If they are unable to use handwriting, the computer keyboard is acceptable.
Studies by Gene Ouellette, an associate professor of psychology at Mount Allison University, and Monique Sénéchal, a psychology professor at Carleton University, found that invented spelling is important for reading. They call it the “missing piece.” With writing practice spelling slowly improves.
- Encourage children to write for fifteen or twenty minutes every day. Don’t judge.
- If a child is too young for writing, let them dictate a story.
- Make available old magazines, colored pencils, markers, so students can illustrate their stories.
- Help them with topics if they ask.
- Choose a writing piece they’re proud of, correct it. Let them rewrite the piece correctly knowing how proud you are of their work. Show it off. Make a book!
Handwriting works on fine motor skills, visual-motor coordination, visual memory, spatial relationship, focusing, reading, spelling, self-confidence and, of course, writing letters and words. Helping children with or without disabilities improve their handwriting is a worthy goal during this difficult time. It will help when they return to school and forever.
Lerner, J.W. (1971). Children with Learning Disabilities: Theories, Diagnosis, and Teaching Strategies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.