Joyful Learning

This comes from NPR today: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain

Apparently there will be more on the subject this week—from 8/6/2014

As stated herein before, we should leave forming letters and numerals until kids are ready. Their hands and fingers need to develop so they can hold a pencil in a relaxed manner when it’s time to write. That comes from play. Scribble, yes. And provide any other stuff that leads to picking it up, holding, moving, pushing or squeezing it with thumb and index finger.

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Pre-Writing Activities

Recently I observed a half hour Kindergarten handwriting class. It was exceptional! It was all about hand and finger strengthening and finger positioning as it applies to holding a writing tool. No letters. No numbers.

1) Lacing: Thread colored yarn through plastic shapes with holes in them, a triangle, circle, heart, etc.

2) Floam: a playdoh-like material. The children were asked to make a platypus, but could make something else if they wished.

3) Cutting: Small rectangles of paper had lines on them. The object was to cut on the lines, stopping where the lines stopped.

4) Tweezers: Plastic tweezers held with thumb and index finger were used to pick up tiny plastic carrots and put them on a rabbit’s mouth, bananas for a monkey and fish for a lake.

5) Rubbing: Paper was placed on textured plastic squares and children used a short crayon to make rubbings.

6) Hole punch: Holes were punched into paper.

7: Template: A template (butterfly) was placed on top of paper for the child to color.

Each child had a pre-writing project. Some squeezed a hole punch, making a lovely mess on the floor. Some used tweezers to pick up tiny fish to put in a lake (the lake was a little landscape drawing.) There were seven different activities, so the children could do one and then move on to another. Every child was having a great time.

Afterwards one of the teachers emailed me. Her comment, “It was a joy to see the children so engaged and appropriately challenged.”

Young hands need preparation for writing. Learning 62 legible characters is a task for little hands. They try. If young hands are not sufficiently developed to hold a pencil comfortably, children will work on the shapes with tight, tense fists. Among educators and parents demand is high and correct that young children learn their abc’s, but we need to look ahead to the future of these students.

Inefficient death gripes on pencils and pens cannot yield the fluency students need in later academic years and careers. Legible writing will be slow and possibly painful. Not a problem in the age of technology? Yes, it is! It’s proven that notes taken by hand provide the best way to retain information.

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Always Something New to Learn!

I relearned something! I say relearned because several years ago Dr. Rosemary Sassoon, a renowned handwriting expert and author of numerous books on the subject, told me, “Don’t trace.” Sounded good, but how to teach children to write without a model? I still use a model, but try to keep tracing to a bare minimum. Now after reading these three paragraphs in the New York Times article, mentioned in my last blog, Take Care with Cursive, I’ll change my ways.

“A 2012 study led by Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, lent support to that view. Children who had not yet learned to read and write were presented with a letter or a shape on an index card and asked to reproduce it in one of three ways: trace the image on a page with a dotted outline, draw it on a blank white sheet, or type it on a computer. They were then placed in a brain scanner and shown the image again.

“The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex.

“By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.”

I won’t throw the model out all together, but it won’t get introduced until children learn the alphanumeric characters. It should not be hard to show a letter with a little verbal instruction about where to start making it. I don’t want letters to start at the bottom if they should start at the top, and neither should any teacher.

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Take Care with Cursive

Recently there was an excellent article in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?hp&_r=1

If you are concerned about handwriting instruction, take care with what they say about cursive. Read, listen and view everything thoughtfully, analytically. The NYT article is frequently misquoted elsewhere, including Time magazine, to indicate support for conventional cursive instruction. So far NO research has been done to prove any method of writing by hand is better than any other.

If you have visited here before you know I believe that the italic method is best, but I can only relate my experience, I cannot prove its superiority.

Posted in All ages, Beginners, cursive, Education, News, Older Students & Adults, research | Leave a comment |
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Kindergarten and Thereafter

Recently I observed a half hour Kindergarten handwriting class. It was exceptional! It was all about hand and finger strengthening and finger positioning as it applies to holding a writing tool. No letters. No numbers.

Each child had a pre-writing project. Some squeezed a hole punch, making a lovely mess on the floor. Some used tweezers to pick up tiny fish to put in a lake (the lake was a little landscape drawing.) There were seven different activities, so the children could do one and then move on to another. Every child was having a great time.

Afterwards one of the teachers emailed me. Her comment, “It was a joy to see the children so engaged and appropriately challenged.”

Young hands need preparation for writing. Learning 62 legible characters is a task for little hands. They try. If young hands are not sufficiently developed to hold a pencil comfortably, children will work on the shapes with tight, tense fists. Among educators and parents demand is high and correct that young children learn their abc’s, but we need to look ahead to the future of these students.

Inefficient death gripes on pencils and pens cannot yield the fluency students need in later academic years and careers. Legible writing will be slow and possibly painful. Not a problem in the age of technology? Yes, it is! It’s proven that notes taken by hand provide the best way to retain information.

Posted in All ages, Beginners, Education, Older Students & Adults, Pen/Pencil Hold, Physical comfort, Posture | Leave a comment |
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The Reason to teach handwriting.

Better, it should be the reason to teach fluent handwriting.
Please see this article in the Washington Post. It’s what has always seemed logical to me, but now there is proof. As you read the article note the word, “longhand,” meaning ordinary handwriting. No specific alphabet is mentioned, but I imagine many who took notes by hand used their own personal interpretation of print-like writing—a hybrid. Print was what they first learned, and we naturally go back to what was first learned, making some changes for better speed.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/04/28/why-students-using-laptops-learn-less-in-class-even-when-they-really-are-taking-notes/

If a writer successfully changes up his print writing by adding a few joins, it often will have a strong resemblance to cursive italic. Why not insure success by starting with italic?

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A Child’s Writing Tool

If you want to write fluently your hand and fingers need to relax. Some have unorthodox pen holds that work, but most are inefficient and too tight to allow easy movement. I just discovered Twist ’n Write, an ergonomic, automatic pencil. It’s small enough for a young child’s hand.

I tried it out with a couple of First Graders who looked at it, thought it was weird, tried it out and then declared it cool. “Where did you get it?” “I want one!” The fingers are guided to a traditional tripod hold. One child discovered that part of the handle is an eraser.

Disclaimer: I have no connection with the company. I just want to share what I think is a great tool.

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A Versitile App

Eden tells me that she bought the app, Letters Make Words, to help her write when using a stylus on her iPad. I designed the app for young, beginning writers, and never thought that it might help adults as well.AppIcon

 

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New & Improved!

This is a great endorsement! It’s more to the point than the usual. It goes beyond just improving or changing letter formations, and shows the purpose, the workplace environment with efficient note-taking.DAKnew

 

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An Advocate for Italic

More and more Kitty Burns Florey speaks out about the value of italic. She believes it should be taught to all children in all schools. If taught well it evolves into a personal hand. Some may want to perfect its looks, and some may just want a workhorse handwriting. Not all joins need to be made, and some may get added. And so it should be.

It’s so easy to teach the simple basic letters to the young.

Florey wrote Script and Scribble and it’s still a good seller. To get a glimpse of her views, you might read her article for the Huffington Post: http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kitty-burns-florey/handwriting-book_b_3998345.html

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