It is my goal over the next few weeks to provide you with information concerning our curriculum and how we are preparing your child for kindergarten and beyond. The Director’s Corner will arrive via e-mail and hardcopy to ensure that all families have access to this information. Today’s topic will be handwriting.
Handwriting begins with the development of the child’s fine motor skills. When we speak of fine motor skills in the context of handwriting, we are referring to the small muscles in the hands and fingers used for writing. Today’s kindergarten, first and second grade students are asked to write for longer periods of time and to have more control of their writing skills. We as a staff are very much aware that children need strength and dexterity in their hands and fingers before being expected to master the task of handwriting. You child’s teacher provide authentic, fun and developmentally appropriate activities to build these fine motor skills on a daily basis. Here is a quick list of activities that you may have noticed in the classroom that are supporting the development of fine motor skills and handwriting:[list style=”star”]
- Eye dropper painting
- Manipulating objects with tweezers or tongs, such as pompoms
- Stringing necklaces
- Button puzzles
- Inserting feathers and golf tees into styrofoam or playdough
- Using chalk to draw and write
- Grasping the clips to hang the paper at the easel
- Finger plays that encourage the use of fingers such 5 Green and Speckled Frogs, 5 Little Pumpkins, etc…
- Providing paper punches in the writing centers
- Cookie cutters, roller pins and scissors with playdough, floam and moon sand
- Drawing and writing in shaving cream
- Painting at the easel, which is a vertical surface strengthens the musclesist item[/list]
The manner in which a child holds his/her pencil is called the pencil grasp. The correct position of the child’s fingers should be considered a tripod grasp, which requires the thumb, index and middle fingers to work together to move the pencil.
Many young children hold their writing utensil in a closed fist grasp. When using this grasp the child moves the writing tool by moving his or her shoulder and entire arm resulting in fatigue to the muscles in the arm and hand. Rather than forcing your child into the tripod grasp, which would be counterproductive, your child’s preschool day is filled with many opportunities to develop these small muscles. A few tricks that are employed in the classroom to encourage the tripod grasp are writing with chalk, broken crayons, working with playdough and believe it or not painting at the easel. The easel is a vertical surface that requires the child to use their shoulder, arm and wrist; thereby further strengthening the muscles needed for proper letter formation and the ability to write for longer periods of time.[label style=”default”]Proper Letter Formation and the Use of Lined Paper[/label]
When guiding your children with letters, we always begin with their name. The letters in their names are the most important letters in the entire alphabet! When guiding our students we remind them that all letter formation begins with the letter strokes at the top of the paper. All letters should start at the top and go down. The reasoning is simple, it is easier to go downward than to push the pencil upward. Moving the writing utensil upward not only uses more muscles, but the child then begins to struggle with the paper as well. Handwriting worksheets are not effective in the preschool classroom. The repetitive nature of handwriting worksheets are neither engaging or effective in a developmentally appropriate preschool program. Rather, we considered shared and interactive writing to be the best practice. The children and teachers together create the text, often based on a drawing the child has created. The art creates a memorable experience for the child enabling him/her to recreate the story later. In addition, the teacher is showing that the written word not only symbolizes language, but that their words have meaning. Often, when we ask young children to write on the lines they become more focused on the lines and less on the letter formation and pencil grasp and they are unsuccessful at all three tasks which then causes a negative attitude towards writing. A preschool child finds greater joy in writing when they are able to form letters in a size that fits their needs at that given moment. After all, it is are goal to create a sense of joy in all aspects of learning.
I hope you enjoyed reading about handwriting within our school and the practices we implement. Most importantly, the children enjoy school through a developmentally appropriate curriculum that provides a strong foundation for their entire school experience.