Teaching SpLD Students Series
by Jan Thomson-Long
Handwriting for little hands
“It is in the roots, not the branches, that a tree’s greatest strength lies.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo.
Modern life has given us a lot of gadgets to make life more convenient such as sports bottles that enable us to take drinks with us to sip whenever required. These are great as they help keep us hydrated which is important. But this weekend I realized that we’d lost something along the way.
I was at a conference doing a seminar about handwriting. We were shown some finger and hand exercises. Simple ones where you in turn pinch fingers with thumb. These exercises help strengthen the muscles in the hands which is important as they grow and assist in developing control needed for handwriting.
We also did the rhyme about a church and steeple that I remembered from my childhood. The speaker, Sue Smits pointed out that children don’t usually use cups these days. The holding of a handle with a weightier cup than a plastic bottle uses the pincer movement and again helps in strengthening muscles. Yes, these might break when dropped but there are plenty of cheap ones in charity shops.
We also discussed the appropriate pencil grip and myths that should be displaced. One such myth is that cursive is best, the research does not back this up. On deeper investigation it appears that the money funding the research was from companies that later profited from the sales of cursive materials. Children should be using print, no need for a lead in line, just print. If they don’t then they will be using more cognitive power on unnecessary steps that they aren’t yet ready for. Cursive shouldn’t be introduced till at least year 3.
Handwriting ought to be a specific lesson not incorporated in with other lessons such as writing a story. Trying to split the brains attention into too many novel tasks will mean that none are mastered as quickly as if done separately.