A few people have asked about the wooden letters seen in my previous post about our alphabet studies. I've never used a specific 'handwriting curriculum' with little people before - I remember Jonathan learning his letters with pretzel pieces while sitting in his high chair. Most of my children have also learned to write quite naturally by living in a 'print rich' environment where drawing and writing happen pretty much constantly. When Jonathan was two his Nana sent him an easel for his birthday, and we set it up for him right away. Michael and I can still vividly recall what happened next - without any sort of prompting Jonathan painted his name all by himself, frequently turning his little blond curly head to glance at the love note on the refrigerator he was using as reference.
Now Miss Eliza has known all of her capital letters and most lower case letters for quite a long time, but she has yet to learn how to write all of them. I knew she would need more structured help so I invested in some of the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. It uses a hands-on multisensory approach to learn proper letter formation, and I know with Eliza the more senses involved the better. One of the key components is wooden pieces that are used to form the letters - children can play with and handle the straight lines and curves, gaining familiarity with their shapes. The pieces are placed on a mat in proper order, and the child traces the letter in the proper order as with writing each letter. A special mat is used with a smiley face on top to show where to begin the letter. (These can be purchased, but here the girls are each just using a piece of foamtastic with the smiley drawn on with a sharpie.)
Start at the top, big line down, back to the top, little curve, little curve (sometimes we say belly, belly).
As we form or trace the letters we repeat the directions verbally, adding more sensory cues. Eliza learns these directions and repeats them as she traces, so she is speaking, hearing, seeing, and feeling the proper letter formation. We repeat the directions as well as she transitions to writing on paper.
While we are not following the program exactly, I have the Kindergarten Teacher's Guide and I'm very pleased with it. It's a great resource containing a wealth of information about the approach, as well as lots of tips and creative ideas.
The program also advocates writing the letters in gray boxes in order to prevent letter reversals. For example, if you are making a 'B' and draw your starting line in the right place, you have to put the bumps on the right side to stay in the box. I did buy the kindergarten workbook, Letters and Numbers for Me, which is a wonderful workbook and very reasonably priced. However we haven't used it as the practice areas provided are way too small for the level of fine motor skills exhibited by my two current students. I made up my own box paper, as seen in these pictures.
I have made two sizes of box paper, the large has nine boxes on a page and the small has sixteen. I also made some that includes smiley faces for the starting point. Using a smiley face instead of just a starting dot insures that the paper is used right side up. The boxes with a smiley in the top left corner are used for letters like F, E, D, P, B and so on. As I explained, if the child positions the starting line correctly by starting at the smile on the top left, the remainder of the letter is naturally added on the right side to fill the box. I also made boxes with top center smiles for center starting letters like A, C, T, J etc. I am happy to share these papers, and I have them grouped according to size with three types (plain, top left and center start) of each size:
The Handwriting Without Tears materials are also available from most large curriculum suppliers. May all of your handwriting with little ones be happy and smiley and always without any tears. :-)