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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Climbing Back on my Soap Box or I Told You So! Part Two

Phew!  I survived Christmas, although the 22 expected guest morphed into 28 and 8 of them are still vacationing in my home.  No problem as the left-overs continue to spill out of my refrigerator every time the door is opened.  I am a bit exhausted, though.

I find I have just enough energy to climb back on my soap box and continue my sermon on the virtues of handwriting instruction.

In my last post, I professed:
*Consistent, logical, progressive instruction and practice allow everyone to participate and experience a sense of accomplishment and success.  Then I started to explain how I construct my instruction so that it best supports my students.  Let me continue from there.  

After teaching l/L, I revisit the concepts from that lesson the next day as I teach h/H.  The same concepts are practiced:  start at the top line; go straight down to the bottom line.  We just add the short hump, thereby drawing attention to the dotted mid-line on our writing paper.  The mental recording I hope to instill goes something like this: down, up, over and down.  On subsequent days, we learn b/B and k/K.  

Having laid the foundation for the mid-line, our next step is short, straight line letters: i/I, r/R, n/N, m/M.  I still teach t as a 3/4 letter, so it comes last in this sequence.

Next up are letters that start like c.  Obviously, we start with c/C, then move on to a/A, d/D, e/E, and o/O.  All of these lower case letters start with a c and I stress that daily.  This really helps with the Reading Recovery students and those needing reading interventions.

Next I introduce letters with tails: g/G, j/J, p/P, and q/Q. I typically teach g and q in sequence since they both start like c. Similarly, j and p both start with a straight line that commences at the mid-line. While I realize that y/Y also has a tail, I refrain from teaching it yet.

f/F is an anomaly, so I teach it in isolation. The upper case F fits well with the letters that start like l, so I may teach it after b/B and k/K. Then again, I may teach it after t/T.  It all depends on the needs of my students.  

Similarly, s/S is rather unique.  It can start like a c, but must fit itself all within the lower half of the writing line.  This can be difficult for young learners, so I typically delay teaching s/S until the children have a good sense of the short letter spaces.  

Because the remaining letters are used less frequently in early writing, AND because they involve diagonal lines, they are reserved for the later lessons.  The usual sequence for diagonal letters is v/V, w/W, y/Y, x/X, z/Z.

Having worked with student teachers for many years, I am always surprised to learn that they have never considered teaching the letters in any order other than alphabetical. Similarly, many new teaching professionals have given little thought to building a scaffold with their instructional sequence.  That's a lesson that is applicable throughout their teaching and, to my mind, critical to success.

Neither did these neophytes consider all the basic skills they could squeeze into a simple handwriting lesson. Through these lessons, students can acquire the concepts of top/bottom, tall/short, begin/end, straight line, curved letters, tails/below the bottom line, middle, mid-line, diagonal, capital/lower case, proper nouns, spacing, ...

There's more to my sermon on the soap box. Please come back soon.

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