I don’t blog about it very often, but I actually have a double undergraduate degree in special education (cross-categorical) and elementary education and a Master’s degree in teaching reading. I’ve taught in a variety of settings in both the public and private sectors. However, now that my firstborn, who yesterday looked like this
And today looks like this,
I LOVE teaching. It is so rewarding to watch a child learn something and then be able to apply it independently. It’s amazing actually. And I can’t wait to experience this with my own kiddos.
One of the benefits of having a background in special education is I really had to learn how to take each concept that a student must know and break it down into the smallest parts. For example: If a student is struggling with handwriting, I have to dissect the many different abilities that go into being able to write to determine where the student is struggling. It could be anything from fine motor control skills to poor eye sight. I once had a fourth grade student who had horrendous hand writing. His parents finally took him to the eye doctor (he had been failing his school eye exams) and they discovered he was legally blind. No wonder he had a hard time writing!
I’m a big proponent of waiting until a child is developmentally ready before introducing a skill. So many times we set our children up for failure by expecting too much from them too soon. Every kid is different and that’s OK.
4 Signs Your Preschooler is Ready to Start Writing
So how can we tell when our little ones are ready to start writing? Here are 4 skills that they need to master first:
1. The letters of the alphabet have meaning to them. Imagine sitting down and having to write something in Chinese characters. You are given something to copy. You look at it and it looks completely foreign to you, but you draw out the formations anyways even though you have no idea what you are writing. In reality, you are not writing in Chinese characters, you are drawing in Chinese characters.
If a child is taught to write the letter A, but has no prior knowledge about what A is or why A is important, then he or she will just be copying meaningless shapes onto a page. We want the work our children do to have meaning, and so we must wait until they know WHAT they are writing, before we teach them HOW to write it.
2. They can use small movements with just their fingers to complete fine motor tasks. When you really think about it, writing is made up of small movements that come more from our fingers than our hand. If a child is still using his whole hand to complete tasks, and hasn’t mastered the art of using his fingers, he is not ready for handwriting. Can your child remove a sticker from a sticker sheet? Can she use her fingers to screw a nut onto a bolt? Is he able to color and stay within the lines? These are all good indicators that your child has mastered the art of using fine motor movements in the fingers. For a great list of activities and resources that can help your child develop these skills, check out: 21 Ways to Prepare Your Preschooler for Handwriting Success.
3. They can draw straight lines and curves. Quite simply, the letters of our alphabet are all made up of either straight lines or curved lines. If a student can’t draw a straight line or a curved line, then they do not have the skills needed to start writing. A great resource for practicing drawing lines and shapes are the Kumon early learning books. These books have fun activities like mazes and drawing pictures, that require the students to learn how to draw lines and curves.
4. They can cross their midline. Pretend there is an imaginary line that vertically separates your child into two symmetrical halves: the left side and the right side. The ability to cross the midline is when a child can take their dominant hand and easily cross over into the other half of their body. If a child is right-handed, then they are able to cross the midline when their right hand easily and effortlessly crosses over the middle of the body into the left side. You can see in this picture my son is crossing his midline.
I can’t tell you how many students I have had that struggle with crossing the midline. This makes handwriting very hard because the student either has to switch hands every time he gets to the middle of the page, or he has to move his paper to continually keep it on one side of his body. Not being able to cross the midline can also affect reading and gross motor movements.
Crossing the midline requires the left side of the brain and the right side of the brain to work together in coordination. There are lots of activities and exercises you can do to help your child if he or she struggles with crossing the midline. Check out the ideas here, here, or here.
Is Your Child Ready to Learn to Write? Try This Great Resource!
Clearly this list is not exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start in evaluating if your child is ready to start writing. If your child is showing all the signs of readiness, congratulations! Have fun! If you are looking for a great, faith-filled resource to guide your handwriting instruction, then I wholeheartedly recommend Write Through The Bible Jr.
This program takes handwriting instruction and adds a Biblical component. It’s full of fun activities for each day that help your child connect meaning to the letters that they are writing and reinforces the Biblical principle of the week. My four-year-old begs me everyday to do more writing in his “art book” as he calls it.
The book is available in KJV or ESV Bible translations, ball and stick manuscript, D’nealian manuscript, or cursive fonts, and in digital ($17) or softcover ($27) formats. Not bad for a whole years worth of handwriting curriculum! We have the ESV, softcover version in D’nealian manuscript.
If you are interested, you can download a sample copy of the first weeks lessons here.
Is your child showing all of the signs of writing readiness? How do you integrate the Bible with writing?