Pre-writing and early writing

There has been quite a focus on handwriting following the lovely Nancy Gedge’s videos on the TES. Many discussions have followed. I rarely work woth those actually writing these days but I do a lot of work on the skills needed before this developmental and physical leap. When I started in Special Ed I spent a LOT of time with OTs and Physios in class working alongside them with the pupils to create individual plans for their needs. Often this would include pre-writing skills. I thought I knew a lot. I didn’t, though some things I did know were and still are useful. However over the last 12 years NHS budgets have been cut and cut again and its so rare to see the OTs in school let.alone in class and the physios so busy they have no time to book regular slots in class. 

Thankfully I have a good memory (although currently being 36 weeks pregnant is testing it at times!) and doing activities over the yeats has led to plenty of knowledge stored up. 

I decided to add a couple of basics and some classroom ideas on here as Nancy said I should get on my blog! She was right. It’s 9 months since I blogged! So here we go in no particular order other than the order they pop out of my pregnancy fuelled brain!

1) Position, position, position! 

This may sound obvious but if you want someone to write or use their upper limbs effectively, they must be positioned well. I work a lot with children with very limited movement, many of them using wheelchairs. I spend a LOT of time ensuring they are in a good, comfortable working position. Think about sitting on that horrid waiting room chair or trying to sleep in that hotel bed where the matress is well past needing replacement. It’s uncomfortable, it’s distracting and it’s just not nice! Oh and you can move, lots of the kids I work with can’t! Well the same is true for children without physical difficulties. How often do you see them swinging their legs because they don’t reach the floor or the table is too high so you can barely see their eyes. All it takes is either the correct size table or chair or some kind of footrest/cushion to ensure a comfortable position! It’s all about stabilising the core of your body. Try it! See how your writing changes when you are not able to plant your feet flat on the floor and work on a table of incorrect height. The same thing applies to your office if you have one! 

2) Big movements first, small movements later! 

Children generally (obvious exceptions where a physical difficulty prevents independent gross motor movements) need to work on the big movements and get these right before you see refinement in small movements. Small children should be given LOTS of opportunities to do gross motor movements such as those reserved usually for PE only. Good early years provision should be able to provide these opportunities, especially outside. Ribbons, pom poms, strips of newspaper, sand and water play, play dough, mark making in glitter, sand, flour, anything in large trays, large paintbrushes and water on the wall, mega blocks/duplo etc are all great for getting that coordination built up. Working towards the midline and then crossing the midline are also important at these early stages. You or I will simply reach with our domiment hand to get something we want, children often reach with the nearest even if the likelyhood is they will drop if. Sometimes children need to work on these skills that we just aqquire. Don’t jump to a child using a tiny paint brush, crayon or pencil if they are no good with bigger movements. It’s often futile! 

3) A few tips for lefties

Ok so this is quite specific but it is a subject very close to my heart. I am a lefty and so is my son. Often teachers really don’t think that us lefties need any extra help. They would be wrong! So here are my top tips for helping them. 

  • Position. As well as the stuff I said above, once they do get to writing, consideration really needs to be given to where the lefties in your class sit! Noone wants to spend time bashing arms with the pupil to their left as their elbows stick out! Simple problem easily solved! Furthermore with regards to position, paper position is important. It should be tilted slightly clockwise so that it is at an angle and the point of the paper is central rather than to their left (hope that makes sense!). This allows them to see what they have written already more clearly. Remember, unlike right-handers they can’t see anything other than what they are writing!  This is why you sometimes see people with that horrible hooked position like Barak Obama uses. Eugh. Horrid and will lead to pain and difficulties in some cases. A lefty’s pencil grip should look the mirror image of a right handed one! 
  • Grip. Moving on from what I said above. The lefty grip should not be any different from a right one. However they may find it difficult to copy the mirror. Pop the pencil in your left hand if you are helping. Moulded grip pencils can help too. Ot reminds them when their fingers should be and stops the temptation to hook their hand or hold the pencil too high up. 
  • Joining up. Ok I’ll admit I HATE that kids in primary school are being forced by the government to use cursive writing. It’s bloody hard and noone cares once they get to secondary so why can’t they just develop beautiful printed handwriting? Being a lefty makes it even harder. You can’t see what you just wrote as the rest of your hand covers it. Also, we are pulling the pencil not letting it flow as happens when you are right handed and writing left to right. We’d be fine if we were writing right to left! Many of the joins taught are not natural at all for lefties. Consider this if a child is struggling. It might be something as small as letting them cross their ts the other way to the way in the scheme you are teaching. 

I think I’ll stop there for now. Any comments or thoughts welcome on here or come and find me on Twitter! 

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