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Handwriting matters - really matters

 
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debbie



Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2444
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2014 10:10 am    Post subject: Handwriting matters - really matters Reply with quote

In the news right now, in England, is the issue of teachers not supporting left-handers enough in schools. This issue has been raised by an individual MP - and there are now tweets about it - even a poll about it - because the MP suggests that there should be reference to this aspect of teaching in statute.

My response to this issue, and to the poll, is to state that many teachers need training in their own handwriting - and HMI and Ofsted need training in this issue too!

I have written about the lack of reference to handwriting in the government's 'core criteria' for evaluating Systematic Synthetic Phonics teaching programmes on my 'Naked Emperor' blog because whilst Ofsted and HMI have our teaching profession in constant fear in England, my personal experience and view, and the personal experience and view of many others, is that HMI and Ofsted are not necessarily up to speed with various aspects of teaching and learning - phonics and handwriting being a case in point!

When I took HMI to task on the poor handwriting of both teachers and pupils in video footage from apparently 'outstanding schools', I was told they were not looking at handwriting on this occasion! Well, why not? After all, these were basic skills lessons for infants that the HMI was observing and Ofsted was taking the trouble to film!

See my blog about this here:

http://debbiehepplewhite.com/?p=48

In response to my tweet about this, I received a reply which led me to the blog below - and when I read the very thoughtful piece about handwriting, it had me in goose bumps from top to bottom!

There is much to say about handwriting in terms of teaching and learning requirements, but the piece in the blog below is a very heartfelt appeal for pupils to take a different perspective themselves about the role and importance of handwriting. I love it!

I would like to think, of course, that if I had been their teacher before they reached secondary, they would indeed have a different perspective on handwriting. I know, however, that of all the pupils I may well have taught fantastic handwriting (and ALL pupils can write really well with joined-up script when taught well), that a number of them will revert, or resort, to an awful infantile scrawl when they go to secondary - and that their teachers will do little or nothing to address this - but here is the issue for me:

By teaching them really well, and them learning well, at least they have a CHOICE as to how they write going forwards into adulthood.

I have several styles of handwriting - much of which is scrawl-level when I'm in a hurry or being lazy - but I CAN write well if I want to or need to.

I have the CHOICE!

If you are a teacher, give your pupils the CHOICE - and if you are a secondary teacher, CARE, and be a little more demanding about the standard of writing and presentation for any handwritten homework and course-work.

But if you are a teacher and your handwriting is awful, how can you expect good handwriting and presentation from the pupils themselves?


http://blogs.surbitonhigh.com/english/2014/02/18/our-futures-are-not-necessarily-written-in-the-stars/
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Debbie Hepplewhite
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debbie



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is the BBC news piece about the MP's call for more support for left-handers.

Some of the readers' responses are worth reading to remind us of factors which we might overlook such as left-handers using the mouse on the left of the keyboard, and exam questions being written on the left with boxes to fill on the right and so on.....


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26612938

Quote:
An MP has written to Education Minister David Laws asking for left-handed pupils to be guaranteed the special teaching he says they need in school.

Sir Peter Luff, who is himself left-handed, says teachers sometimes miss signs that pupils are left-handed and this can lead to developmental delays.

The government says it has introduced guidance that left-handed pupils should receive teaching to meet their needs.

But Sir Peter says this needs to be made statutory
.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are some suggestions for very basic provision for young learners:

Model any 'air-writing' facing the same way as the children - not facing the children.

Model with your right hand for right-handers and with your left-hand for left-handers. Place your left-handed children on the left for modelling your air-writing.

Scribe children's words in good infant style handwriting on writing lines.

Mark any children's work in the school handwriting.

Routinely model writing on the teacher's board with the school handwriting.

Ensure all teaching staff in the school can write well in the school handwriting.

Provide desks of the correct height.

To help develop their spatial awareness and left-right-ness, face desks 'forwards' and place known left-handers or suspected left-handers slightly to the left of the room/teacher's board, when facing forwards.

Know that children learn more effectively when desks face forwards (and it is fit-for-purpose) than when children's desks are grouped.

Teachers can gain children's attention much better when desks are facing forwards and they are more likely to be comfortable and with better posture when attending to work on the teacher's board or interactive whiteboard when facing forwards.

Be aware of sitting left-handers to the left of right-handers so their elbows don't clash!

Model any writing from top left of the teacher's board and keep the board clear of any clutter - so it looks like a blank page.

Write and model diagrams in the way that you would like children to learn to organise and present their work.

Model writing with correct letter formation and on 'writing lines' whenever possible for infants.

Don't use an alphabet 'arc' to show letters of the alphabet, display the letters from left to right and perpendicular - preferably on writing lines.

For free alphabet resources and free handwriting resources and guidance, see:

www.debbiehepplewhitehandwriting.com

Be aware of children developing the tripod grip for holding their pens or pencils and be prepared to address this routinely.

Saying, 'Don't forget to hold your pencils correctly' is not sufficient, you have to be very vigilant and active to support children to hold their pencils with the tripod grip until it is an automatic habit.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to Susan Godsland for flagging this up via Twitter. It is a very interesting piece which any teacher or parent should read:

Quote:
Why Learning to Write by Hand Matters

By Susan Vachon


http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/12/24vachon.h33.html

Quote:
At our independent K-12 school of about 1,000 students, the number of individualized education programs with the diagnosis of dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects writing, has increased significantly in recent years. While statistics on the overall prevalence of dysgraphia—also sometimes referred to as written output disorder or graphomotor weakness—are hard to find, more and more middle school students cannot legibly write by hand.


Quote:
Being a proponent of 21st-century skills and an early adopter of technology, my response to these graphomotor weaknesses has up until recently been bypass strategies, such as directing students to word processing or voice-recognition software. These technologies enable children with writing challenges to get their ideas in print. I rationalized the use of these strategies with the belief that being able to write legibly was not a necessary skill for success in the 21st century.

A recent six-month sabbatical in France and a further exploration of the research into the value of good handwriting have shaken my beliefs. In fact, these experiences have made me seriously reconsider my previously blasé attitude toward the importance of well-developed handwriting skills.


I personally think teaching handwriting well is a huge issue - and I rarely see handwriting taught well on visits to schools and on viewing a selection of video clips in schools.

Here's a suggestion I make during talks and training events:

Set your pupils up to each write a piece of free-writing - and watch how they do it.

Don't let them know that you are going to observe their writing habits/skills/lack of skills - just focus on the writing task - observe and note.

Your eyes might be opened.

You may then well say, 'So what?'

But if you are working in a school, it is surely your duty to teach all the pupils to have dexterity and to ensure they have good handwriting skills.

If nothing else, remember the simple logic that by ensuring they can all write competently in a joined adult-looking script, you have given them choices.

As they mature, they can choose how to write and how to write in different contexts - but at least they have a choice and you have discharged your duty.

I have a number of anecdotes of young TEACHERS coming up to me to tell me that no-one has ever taught them (that they remember) how to hold a pencil with the tripod grip and to write UNDER the words.

They are dismayed - and they are also thrilled as they value the input for THEM teaching handwriting moving forwards.

Have we let down generations of many people?

Look around, look back in history, look at other countries' practices like France (read the article).

Then decide whether you want to be the best teacher you can be - and provide the pupils with great pen skills and choices, or whether you don't care if they have clumsy penholds and obscure their writing as they write - and their writing is infantile and clumsy with no other style at their fingertips.

Imagine the appearance of their work going through their years at schools.

How much care might they apply, and how much satisfaction are they likely to feel with weak or no presentation skills?

If you are a senior manager in a school, note how the staff hold their writing implements, how do they handwrite or write on the board. What does their handwriting look like when they mark pupils' work? Is it neat and is it even legible in some cases? Is it all in capital letters as I have seen not infrequently in secondary schools?

If you are an examiner marking handwritten essays, what impression does the handwriting give you?

If you are an employer with a job vacancy, what impression will you gain from any handwritten letter of application?

Please remember, if nothing else, to give your pupils CHOICES for their futures.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you were a parent visiting various schools to see which one you would prefer for your child, would you be impressed if the schools' policies towards teaching handwriting was a cavalier, 'Oh, the children can hold their pencils anyway they want to - and they can write their letters any way they want to - whatever they prefer and comes naturally to them'.

And, 'Oh, in this school, we want children to feel relaxed so we do most handwriting activities allowing them to sit on the floor and even encouraging them to lie on their tummies if that is how they want to do it. We don't bother with desks.

And, 'Oh, children can sit and chat with their friends in all lessons, we don't worry about their posture or being able to look up just to see information on the teacher's board, they can turn their heads around when they need to'.

And, 'We don't intervene when some children find their own ways to record their ideas, and to hold their pens. It doesn't matter if they obscure their writing and hook their wrists around to write from above the words. As long as the words and ideas come flowing out from them'.

And, 'Well - nowadays we have computers and keyboards, it really doesn't matter if the children write with ball and stick writing their whole lives because, after all, who writes letters by hand nowadays'.

And what if your child becomes the next generation teacher!
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