Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Handwriting Without a Pencil

I never did any pre-writing skills with Builder Boy; I just gave him the pencil with a pencil grip to help and we started in the book. In hindsight, I'm not sure that was the best approach for him. Handwriting has been a tough subject for him, and we've been sadly inconsistent with it. I am happy with the handwriting curriculum I chose; I just think I should have prepared him better.

With Early Bird learning to read early, he was also interested in making letters much earlier than was a developmentally appropriate time to start writing. Handing him a pencil with a grip was not an option. And, while he would ask me how to write a letter, handwriting was the one subject he actively fought me on teaching him. When he was 3 1/2 he received a Leapfrog Scribble & Write . (Click here for my review on it.) It was his favorite present for several weeks, and he played with it a ton. And then he lost interest, and only went back to it from time to time. This past year, when Builder Boy was working on his handwriting workbook, Early Bird begged for his own book. But he didn't want me to show him how to do it. So I gave him a crayon and a cheap workbook with arrows near the letters to show which way to go. That kept him happy for a while. Builder Boy finished the 1st grade workbook (in his 2nd grade year) and I was tired of dealing with it so we dropped handwriting for the rest of the year. (He was doing some writing every day at that point with Writing With Ease.)

Now in the summer before Builder Boy's 3rd grade year and Early Bird's K-5 year, and continuing on through their new school year, I wanted to do some pre-writing skills with both boys; introduction for Early Bird and review/practice for Builder Boy. But I wanted it to be pencil free. I wanted them thinking about the shapes of the letters and the way we make them. And I wanted it to be more kinetic and multisensory than just writing on lined paper with a pencil. (Don't get me wrong; there's a proper time for writing with a pencil on paper.)

And as I thought about it more, it seems like having to learn too many new things at the same time; holding a pencil, moving it the way you want it to, all the while having to also learn and remember how to form letters! Breaking it up, teaching first the way to form the letter shapes so that when they finally do work again with a pencil they only have to think about the pencil and are confident with the letter shape.

I love what Dusty at To the Moon and Back did with her pre-schooler; they did a letter a week and built the letters with various art medium, and made a large tape letter on the floor for her daughter to move along. But my kids need to go at a faster pace; they're older, and already reading.

So I re/introduced the first group of letters in the ZB workbook, l, L, t, T, i, and I to them with finger paint.

And then shaving cream on bright dishes (4/$2 at Wal-Mart.) With the shaving cream I didn't realize before hand what a mess it would be. Builder Boy was going to the bathroom and washing his hands a lot. And Early Bird wouldn't touch it, but opted to use a popsicle stick instead. Next time we do it this way, we're going to use whipping cream; much easier to get off your hands, if you know what I mean. Edited later to add: use a large table spoon to smooth it back so you can write again! So much better than using your hand!

Then we did made letters in dry rice. Next with paint and a paintbrush. Then we made the letters with playdough, and then with strips of paper with arrows. Once we had done the letters many times over in all the various mediums, I "tested" them by asking them to do it with markers on plain paper. Once I was confident that they were making these letters the way I want them to, we moved on to the next group of letters in the Zaner-Bloser workbook.  
We will continue doing each set of letters in all the various mediums until we have finished all the letters. Once we have finished, then we will go back to the workbooks with pencils. I can see from watching that this review and reinforcement was necessary for Builder Boy. And I think this is a better way to introduce letter making to kids. Even, or maybe especially, for early learners like my Early Bird.

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