Last month Korey reviewed the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum and the workbooks for first grade and up that go along with it.
We have also used this program in our homeschool with great success since my oldest was in Pre-K, so I thought I would highlight some of the HWT hands-on materials that have been a huge benefit for my children.
These multi-sensory materials are designed for children who are getting ready to learn to write and for those who are developing their handwriting skills. I have used these with my children starting at age three, and even my oldest at age seven still enjoyed and benefited from using them.
- Capital Letter Wood Pieces – These are used to teach formation of the capital letters. For example, students learn to take a “big line”, put it on the left, then add a “big curve” on the right to make the letter “D”. The wood pieces are also used to teach children how to make “Mat Man”, a simple stick figure person. Children also learn positional concepts such as top, middle, bottom, left, and right as you use the pieces with them. This vocabulary, as well as “big line”, “little line”, “big curve” , “little curve”, is used in teaching letter formation with all of the HWT products.
- Roll-A-Dough Letters – This product includes a 4″ x 6″ plastic tray, a set of 18 double-sided, laminated capital letter and number cards, and a container of dough. A letter or number card is placed in the plastic tray, and then the child forms the dough into the shapes needed to make the letter and places them over the letter card. The dough is terrific for strengthening finger and hand muscles, as children roll, push, and shape the dough into “snakes” to form their capital letters. The tray can also be used for letter practice with rice, shaving cream, or sand. (Occasionally I am brave enough to do the “messy” stuff because my children are such tactile learners and really do enjoy it. I just make sure there is a plastic tablecloth underneath the work surface for easy clean-up.)
- Stamp-and-See Screen – My children have enjoyed all of these HWT materials over the years, but the Stamp-and-See is probably their absolute favorite. This is a 4″ x 6″ magnetic screen that comes with a set of four magnetic wood pieces (big line, little line, big curve, little curve), and a chalk-sized magnetic writing tool. You use the laminated cards that come with the roll-a-dough set, place one on the magnetic screen, and then use the magnetic wood pieces to stamp the letter on top of the card. When you remove the card, voila – you have made the letter! After working with the magnetic stamps, you can then use the writing tool to trace over the letter card. Once again, when you remove the card, you can see the letter that you’ve made. I want to mention that the writing tool is the size of a small piece of chalk. HWT encourages using short pencils and pieces of chalk to help children achieve a correct pencil grip as they are learning to write. This approach has worked wonders with my own children’s pencil grips.
- Slate Chalkboard – This is another favorite in our home. It is a 4″ x 6″ slate in a wood frame with a smiley face in the top left-hand corner. The smiley reinforces top, bottom, left, and right, and also reminds children to start their letters at the top. The chalkboard is used in combination with a method called “Wet, Dry, Try” to teach letter formation. First the teacher writes the letter with the chalk, the child uses a wet sponge and makes the letter strokes to erase the letter, and then uses his finger to trace over the wet strokes. Then the child uses a paper towel to dry the wet strokes. Finally, the child gets to use the chalk to write the letter. The child has practiced writing the letter four times using four different methods and typically has had fun doing it!
The Handwriting Without Tears Site has a series of short videos that demonstrate how these materials are used with children. I’ve learned a lot from watching them, and I think that whether you use these products are not, these videos provide you with great examples of how to teach letter formation. You can click on the following links to see them. (You may need to scroll down a bit on the page to see the videos.)
Using this tactile approach to teach letter formation has helped my children to gain confidence in their handwriting skills while having fun at the same time. If you’re interested in learning more about the Handwriting Without Tears program and the many other materials they have to offer, I encourage you to visit their website.
Written by Shannon, who can be found blogging about her family’s homeschool adventures at Song of My Heart.