Archives For handwriting

At this time of year, parents of my students starting kindergarten or first grade always ask me,

“What should my child practice over the summer?”

“Practice handwriting!” is my answer.

letter in the house detailKindergarten and first grade teachers emphasize handwriting. If your child grasps how to form letters, handwriting will come much easier. Schedule a set time each day to practice writing letters.

To help motivate your child, you might say something like, “We can go swimming after you trace and then write your letters for 15 minutes.” Then set a timer for the allotted time.

Given the teaching pace in kindergarten and first grade these days, your child will have a great advantage with a strong foundation for forming letters.

For strategies to help your child master handwriting, please click here to read my previous blog about handwriting. Link to Your Child: Letter Writing Master.

How do you motivate your child to practice academic skills over the summer? What strategies do you use to keep the practice going?

Remembering sight words is a big part of your child learning to read. The words “was” and “you” are examples of sight words. Sight words appear frequently when reading and often times do not follow phonetic rules – your child will not be able to sound them out. Memorization is the best approach to mastering sight word reading and spelling.

2015 04 28 sight word listYour child can memorize sight words with a personalized word book. My students make their own sight word books. Their books contain only the words that they need to master.

Use a sight word checklist to decide which words to include in your child’s word book. The checklist contains the most often used sight words. Have your child quickly go through the list. Check the words that she can read quickly on sight. Add the words that she cannot read into her sight word book.

The sight word book is a blank book with pages big enough for your child to write an individual word at the top and then below to write a sentence and/or draw a picture to help explain the word’s meaning. For example if the word is “where”, your child could write a short sentence under the word like, “Where is my bike?” She could draw a picture of her bike with a question mark as a cue to help her remember that “where” is a “question” word.

2015 04 28 sight word bookStart with 25 words in your child’s sight word book. Add 25 more words after she masters these. This activity is effective because your child creates her own individualized meaning cues for the word through her sentence and picture. By creating the sentence and picture herself, she will remember better the word when she reads and spells it. This is particularly helpful when your child is working to remember homophones – words that sound the same but have different meaning, like “by” and “buy”. The picture and sentence trigger visual memory clues that your child can use later.

My students really enjoy creating and using their own books of sight words and sentences and pictures. What are ways you help your child remember sight words?

Your child can learn to spell by using my game called Word Builder. Word Builder makes seeing spelling patterns fun for your child. Simply, it is a nine box checkerboard with consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) word patterns.

2014 12 08 Word Builder 1When your child plays Word Builder, her job is to build as many words as possible with the given letters. The only rule is she cannot jump over any letter to make a word. However, she can build any word by placing letters forwards, backwards, horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

Through the game, your child can learn word patterns and families – such as the “an” or “am” word families. She can learn how to use specific sounds to build words that sound the same but have different meanings. For example, she can learn that she can make the word “meet” by changing the “ea” in the word “meat” to “ee”.

If your child is a younger emergent reader, limit the number of words for her to find to five. Draw three blanks for each word to emphasize the difference between beginning, middle, and ending sounds. Also, differentiate vowels from consonants letters in the checkerboard by writing the vowels in red and the consonants in black.

If your child is an older student, use this game to help teach letter pairs that have the same sound, such as “ee” and “ea”. Talk about tricks to remember homonyms such as “meet” and “meat”, for example, “The meat that you eat.” My older students love the challenge of seeing how many words they can spell in a certain timeframe. “How many real words can you build in five minutes?”

2014 12 08 Word Builder 2Kids love Word Builder because it is a puzzle. They are motivated to find or build as many words as they can.

With this game, your child can master her consonant-vowel-consonant words (cvc). The game will help your child recognize word families, and patterns of letters within words – making spelling easier.

What are fun ways your child likes to practice her spelling words?

This time of year, my parents ask for ideas to help their children make letter formations.

wilson pageStart your child working on lower case letters before capitals. I can’t emphasize that enough! Your child will see and use mostly lower case letters when she is reading or writing. A question I often get from parents is, “Which letters should we work on together?” The Wilson Reading System provides a fantastic chart that shows which letter formations to teach together.

Tactile tools are great ways for getting letter formations instruction to “stick”. Tools include placing paper over a plastic grid and then having your child use a crayon to make a letter. You can use “house paper”  to help your child place the specific letter in the right space. After your child writes a letter, have her use her finger to feel the bumps impressed in the paper from the crayon going in the direction of the letter formation. The tactile perception will help your child remember how she formed the letter.letter in the house

letter in the house detail

Another tactile teaching tool is to have your child write letters in chalk on fine-grade sandpaper. Have your child trace the chalk letter with her finger. Alternatively use shaving cream. It is messy, but your child will both feel and see in contrast letters as she forms them.

Tracing letters in letter formation workbooks is a good way to reinforce making individual letters. A way to make doing this even more fun is to use colored pieces of acetate. Cut sheets, found in an art store, to the size of your workbook pages. Use dry erase markers and let your child trace and erase each letter. Another tool, a small tablet like a dry erase board can help your child focus on the space and help create a boundary for writing. (I use a 7” x 4 ½” board.)

How your child grasps her pencil is important to mastering letter formation. Try golf pencils, short sticks of chalk or short dry erase markers to encourage your child to practice the three-finger pincer grasp. Your older child will enjoy having many choices of pencil grippers as she masters the three-finger pincer grasp. These are just a few tools and ideas to help your child enjoy and master letter formation. For a link to ideas that will help your young child start strengthening their pincer grip, check out: therapystreetforkids.comgrippersWhat are some tools you use with your child to help with making letters?

For more, see my blog: Reading and Writing Go Hand In Hand!

When learning letter sounds and identifying letter names, your child is also ready to add handwriting into the mix. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Teach your child how to make letters that have similar curves. For example, c, o, a, d – since all have similar ways of being made. Start by mastering making lowercase letters first and then tackle the uppercase letters since your child will be writing primarily in lowercase letters.
  • Use an arrow as a marker for your child to demonstrate the direction in which to form the letters. As directionality becomes second hand, making additional letters will become easier for your child.

Zaner Bloser Manuscript Model 2010Zaner Bloser Manuscript Model – 2010 (A-Z and Numbers)

  • Have your child say the letter name and sound as they make each letter. This will help further reinforce that a letter has three components: a name, a sound and a way of making it. For example, c goes cah as your child writes the letter c.
  • Use tactile activities to help make practicing letter writing fun for your child. Some examples are forming letters with shaving cream on a cookie sheet or in sand on a sand tray, and tracing a letter that you write on very fine sandpaper.
  • Use small golf pencils to help encourage your child to use the correct pencil grip. Its small size will encourage your child to use the correct pincer grip which makes forming the letters so much easier and gives your child greater control over the pencil. It also will help your child more successfully maneuver their fork and spoon while eating, an added bonus!

These are a few ways to make letter formation part or your child’s reading learning too – letter name, sound, and formation go hand in hand!

What are some ways you encourage letter formation with your child?