Handwriting Help for Kids
Designed by an occupational therapist, this program takes a gentle, hands-on approach to handwriting. Put those pencils away, because you're not going to need them at the beginning! The earliest books are designed to be used with children as young as three or four to help them develop the fine motor control they will need to learn handwriting. Students then progress to writing upper-case, then lower-case letters, sentences, cursive writing and more. Because each product is slightly different, I'll begin with the Pre-School Play and Write Kit and move on from there. This readiness kit focuses on building hand strength and development; coordination; shoulder, elbow and wrist control; visual perception and discrimination. Wikki Stix and wipe-off crayons are included with the book. The top-spiral-bound book features short pages and a sturdy, laminated back cover. When opened, there is plenty of room below the pages to work on the inside back cover. Letters are introduced in groups that share similar strokes, from uppercase to lowercase. Why learn upper-case letters first? According to the author, upper-case letters all "start at the top and use simple strokes." The first letters presented are upper-case B, D, P, and R, since they all use "down and bump" strokes. First, you and your child will build Wikki Stix letters with the included Wikki Stix. Then, the child will trace the Wikki Stix letters with his or her fingers with their eyes open and then their eyes closed, so they can get the "feel" of them. Finally, if children are able to hold a crayon, they can draw letters of their own on the wipe-clean laminated cover.
The Learn Letters Workbook also introduces upper-case letters first, and lower-case letters second. Several steps are suggested for learning/reviewing each letter including finger tracing over the example letter, tracing over example letters with small chunks of crayon (to promote the tripod grip), and whole arm writing, where the student writes the letter as large as they can. As each letter is introduced, a "letter story" is given that offers direction on how to draw the letter. For 'G,' the letter is shown large, starting at the top with a star, and ending at a small house. The story is "The cat circles around. Stops. And goes home." Below, the students can trace the series of 'G's, each one shaded lighter than the next. After each group of letters is learned, a combination activity lets the student practice all the letters in each group. The end of the book covers numbers as well as letters that are often reversed. The Write-On kit for this level includes a laminated, double-sided sheet and wipe-off crayons. One side is designed for kids to practice upper-case letters, while the other is for lower-case letters.
If learning to write numbers is presenting a problem, look no further than Learning Numbers with Spider Stories. This cute kit is designed like to the Pre-School Play and Write Kit, with a top-spiral bound book, Wikki Stix, and wipe-off crayons. For sets of numbers that use similar strokes, a short story about a spider crawling around a boxy room is given. For example, to make a '1,' a spider drops down from the ceiling to the floor, but for a '2,' the spider does a big "bump jump" out from the wall, then crawls along the floor. Like the preschool kit, children can form Wikki Stix into each number before they practice writing them.
The first-grade books deviate a bit from the presentation in the lower grades. Letters are still introduced by stroke similarities, but in first grade, they begin with both upper-case and lower-case 'A,' 'C,' 'E,' 'O,' and 'B.' The letter stories are given, but are less prominent, and the student is offered "starting stars" on the line next to each letter to practice formation. After each letter grouping, the student is asked to write simple words using the letters learned. Practice pages feature more complex words or short sentences. The Write-On kit for this level features upper- and lower-case letter practice on one side and three large lines (with "sky," midline and "ground" to practice writing sentences on. Includes wipe-off crayons.
In 2nd grade, the emphasis is on learning to write letters at a standard size, aligning letters on the line, and spacing words and letters correctly. Capitals, periods, and other grammatical concepts are also incorporated. The Write-On Kit for 2nd grade includes a wipe-off pen, and the double-sided laminated sheet is designed for students to practice alignment, spacing, and writing with capitals and periods.
By 3rd grade, children are advancing into cursive, which they approach as learning different types of "waves." They begin by learning lower-case 'a,' 'c,' 'd,' 'g,' 'o,' and 'q,' which all have "over and back" waves. Other cursive letters follow other "wave" patterns, and are presented in other groups. Upper-case cursive letters are presented last and also grouped by similar strokes. Some letters come with a "Snob Alert" letting children know that they "refuse" to connect to the rest of the word! Arrows clue children in on where to begin writing the practice letters. The Write-On Kit for 3rd grade features "cursive waves" to trace on one side and room to practice letters and words on the other side. A wipe-off pen is included.
The books seem perfectly designed for reluctant writers, kinesthetic learners, or very visual learners. I love the idea of using Wikki Stix in the early levels - it's almost more like playing than working! Workbooks are 76 pages, and include teaching helps on the inside front cover. Tips for teaching left-handed writers are also included. If a more traditional, "pick up the pencil and go" method isn't working for your child, you might check out this imaginative, hands-on program. - Jess