Posted by CoolOT on October 6, 2013
During summer break, I was working on new ways to work on pinching. A good pinch is important for developing a good pencil grasp and to complete functional tasks. I prefer activities that have a purpose or result in an end product. I don’t want students to trace lines or cut without an end result. So, I experimented with using a hole punches. I like hole punches but found they’re purpose limited. I have developed a new way to use a hole punch. Instead of cutting on lines where precision is not critical to the outcome, use a hole punch instead. Sound strange? Let me show you.
One of my Color/Cut/Glue worksheets.
Fold along the cutting line.
Punch along the folded line.
After punching it should look something like this.
Unfold the paper
Tear the paper. The crease helps it tear better.
The paper has been “cut”
You can use any hole punch shape. I have a star, feet, flowers etc.. This method works well on longer lines. Scissors work better with shorter lines or with minimal space between images. I have been working on designing worksheets specifically for a hole punch but for now I will keep experimenting with what I have currently.
Thanks for Reading!
Posted in Fine Motor, Handwriting | Leave a Comment »
Posted by CoolOT on August 25, 2013
I wanted to talk about motor planning as it relates to handwriting. I was at work the other day working in a pre-school classroom. I had a discussion with the assistant on the importance of writing horizontal lines from left to right and vertical lines from top to bottom.
So, lets start with the definition for motor-planning from Wikipedia;
Motor control is the process by which humans and animals organize and execute their actions. Fundamentally, it is the integration of sensory information, both about the world and the current state of the body, to determine the appropriate set of muscle forces and joint activations to generate some desired movement or action.
What does that have to do with handwriting? When kids are first learning to make strokes and lines they establish a motor plan. The motor plan once established is executed quicker and with less consious thought. The action becomes automated. If kids establish a motor plan of drawing horizontal lines from right to left, they are more likely to use that motor plan to form letters. Right to left horizontal lines increases the likelihood that letters will be reversed. The e and z are common reversals for students who have established a right to left motor plan. The same is true for circles, children who make circles clockwise rather than counter-clockwise are more likely to reverse many letters like, a, d, g,q,c, s and f. So, when I see a lot of reversals I don’t automatically think dyslexia or a learning disability. I look at motor-planning first.
It takes a lot to establish a new motor plan and takes consistent reminders from all the adults who work with a student. That’s why I decided to write this post. I want to raise some awareness of a basic skill that is often overlooked.
This school year, I’m going to increase my focus on basic strokes and shapes formed correctly. All of the handwriting programs have this element but I don’t think it is really emphasized. They want to jump into writing letters before the basic stroke, motor plans are thoroughly established. The extra time early is worth the effort.
It’s important not to progress quickly with handwriting. Direct instruction is key. Sticking with paper with top, middle and bottom lines through second grade is better. Notebook paper should be saved for 3rd grade and beyond. I can go on and on about paper. I will save that for another post.
Thanks for reading!
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Posted by CoolOT on August 15, 2013
It’s Time for a New School Year
Everyone is buying school supplies. I want to add some things that I rely on regularly. Some of the things I’ve used for years and some are more recent additions.
Let’s talk about pencils first. I like and use pencil grips but the grips get lost. Pencils with larger diameters don’t always fit into electric pencil sharpeners. I still have a wall pencil sharpener and most of the students love to use it. A wall sharpener is a great bilateral task. So, I buy Ticonderoga Tri-Write pencils. They encourage a tripod grasp with the triangular shape. I find them at office supply stores. I can and do put grips on them.
Triangle Shaped Pencils
For coloring activities, I favor colored pencils over markers and crayons because they last longer. I like short, fatter pencils over the long, skinny ones that are usually up front in the aisle. I have used Write Start colored pencils by Crayola but they are becoming hard to find. I found a nice replacement this year with Easy Grip Pencils. If markers are your preferred choice get Pip Squeak Markers, either the fat or skinny ones. The main thing is not to get longer markers because kids tend to use a fist grasp. The shorter pencils and markers promote a tripod grasp better. There is even Pip Squeak colored pencils. I’ve included a couple of images.
Let’s move on to scissors. Spring scissors are great for learning to cut. I found these at the local super store last year and they worked well for cutting on lines. They weren’t so great for precise cutting. They were only 2 bucks. Most spring scissors cost $10+.
I have my own paper that I use to teach students letter size and spacing. I sell it on Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ve actually made journals and notebooks but it is time-consuming. A primary ruled journal can be a good first step into notebook paper. Kids in early elementary school should not be writing on regular wide ruled paper. Their fine motor and writing skills are developed enough. I found this at an office supply store, it has space of drawing a picture and lines for writing.
Primary Rule Journal
Balls instead of Chairs
I love to have kids sit on balls instead of chairs. I have air cushions that can be placed in a chair but they don’t work as well as balls. Balls tend to roll around, get popped and just aren’t used effectively. I have rings for the balls to be placed in but the rings move and the kids fall off the ball. I have found a solution. Get a ball with built-in stability. The one pictured has a bean bag inside and is puncture resistant. I’ve had a larger version for years and it works great. So, I added the smaller one this year. I bought it at large retail store for $20.00. That is much cheaper than a specialty catalog. I love it when I can get better stuff for less money.
I purchased this chair from Ikea last year and it has been wonderful. Every class should have one. It spins in circles for great vestibular input and the shade pulls down to provide an enclosed space that is very comforting and calming. Stimulating and calming in one chair.
These are just a few things that I use every day.
Thanks for Reading!
Posted in Fine Motor, Handwriting, Sensory Processing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by CoolOT on July 10, 2013
A new set of handwriting worksheets, using Block Handwriting Paper, has been uploaded to Teachers Pay Teachers. This set uses all the Second Grade Sight words for handwriting practice. For the first 6 pages, the words are organized by similar starting dots. Some of the pages had extra lines. So, the words were then regrouped on the next 3 pages in order to use the whole page. Both options were included so the user could choose the best option for the lesson. The last 5 pages are a Start Dot matching activity. The words on the left side have to be matched with the corresponding starting dots on the right. Block Handwriting paper, Step 6 was used with minor modifications. The space is slightly smaller, in order to add more lines to the page.
It’s important for children to have a firm grasp on where a letter starts. If the letter is started in the correct spot, the chances of correct formation are increased and the chances of reversals are decreased. The starting dots for the tall lowercase letters are just below the top line, purposely. When students write on regular notebook paper, the tall letters should not start at the top line. This prevents the words from running together from top to bottom on the page. There is less need to skip lines when the letters don’t start at the top line.
Block Handwriting’s focus in on letter size and spacing. The vertical lines of the blocks help with letter size. The block of space helps prevent wider letters from becoming too wide. How many of us have seen, w, that takes up half a line and ends up being too tall? The starting dots show how letters within a word start. Sometimes the starting dots of letters are close like a and n. The letter a, starts on the right side of the block and the n, starts on the left side of the block. Sometimes the starting dots are further apart like n and o. The n, starts on the left and the o, starts on the right side of the block. It’s important for children to understand and be able to visualize spacing. Many students struggle with it.
Every thing that has been developed and will be developed for Block Handwriting focuses on letter size and spacing. More tips and tricks for handwriting are planned.
Thanks for Reading!
Cover Page showing samples of the worksheets.
Posted in Handwriting | 1 Comment »
Posted by CoolOT on June 12, 2013
I’ve was trying to come up with some activities for grasp strength and fine motor skill development. I was making list of things like, drawing with sidewalk chalk or playing in a sandbox. When it occurred to me, it wasn’t the activities themselves but it is how I use the activities that makes the difference. That’s what gives the activities more value. There are plenty of activities out there in toy stores, craft stores, blogs, Pinterest and websites. I even have some on Teachers Pay Teachers.
When I’m using play dough, I don’t just open the container and put the dough on the table. I want the child to open the box, open the container, spread out the plastic, get the dough out of the tub and dump it on the table. All those little things build strength and skill. Yes, the child might rip the box but it can be tapped back together, with them assisting. Tearing painters tape is a great bilateral task. Learning how to open a box with a tab is a useful skill. I’ve had many kids hand me the tub and ask me to get the dough out. While it’s a great language skill for them to ask, I want them to get it out. It’s great problem solving and motor planning.
When we finally get it out, I play with them in order to demonstrate how to roll it out, use cutters and other tools. If a tool is difficult to use, I will use it and have them help me. If a child doesn’t have enough strength to push a cutter through the doh, we push together with their hand on top. I do the same process when it is time to clean up. Getting the lid on the tub, to keep it from drying out, is another useful skill.
I use the same type of approach with gross motor activities. A scooter board is a good example. Part of the therapeutic value is having the child figure out how to get on and center themselves. The same thing goes for the Dizzy Disc and swings. I don’t put them on the equipment, I help them get on.
There is therapeutic value in daily activities. It’s in how you approach the tasks that makes the difference. An an Occupational Therapist, I am trained and use to breaking down tasks. I help with the parts that are difficult with demonstration and directions. I let them do what they can. Sometimes, I have to stop myself and put my hands in my lap. One of my biggest challenges is to get teachers and especially teaching assistants to step back and let the child do the activity. I hear, they can’t do it and then I hear, I can’t do it. Then I say, it’s okay, just try. I’ll help if you have trouble.
Thanks for Reading!
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