Friday, January 30, 2015

Pre-Writing is FUN!

Welcome Little School Families, and thank you for visiting my blog page! Anyone else visiting, I hope you enjoy the next 6-8 weeks of posts, as they will be educating everyone on how to engage pre-k kids in learning about writing and more.

Today, I had the amazing opportunity to work in my son's pre-school classroom at The Little School. As a family, we truly feel blessed to have such a wonderful pre-school with caring, loving and compassionate teachers! When your children attend The Little School, we, as parents, are required to provide parents as partners hours each year. This can mean anything from volunteering at fundraisers, doing classroom laundry, disinfecting, and so on. This year, I am lucky enough to work in the Apple Room and share time with Henry's class teaching them pre-writing skills using many activities from The Handwriting Without Tears® Get Set For School® Program. The purpose of each blogpost is to encourage families to continue the learning at home and engage in these fun, meaningful activities with your children. I have been using this program since 2004 with wonderful success from children as young as 3 up through 6th grade, and I am excited to share what I know with you!

This morning began with the Apple children sitting in a circle and taking turns with glitter putty. While squeezing, pulling and squishing the putty, each child talked about their plans for the weekend before passing the putty to their peer. Theraputty is a great tool to use for strengthening the hand and finger muscles, especially prior to coloring, writing, drawing. It can also be used as a calming modality for children who fidget with their hands often. It holds more resistance than play-doh providing children with more proprioceptive input and feedback. After this little hand warm-up, the students drew Mat Man™on a piece of paper. They had already been introduced to Mat Man™by their teachers, so this little drawing activity was fun!

Next, the children were introduced to building Mat Man™! Mat Man™ was developed by Jan Olsen as part of Handwriting Without Tears®. When building Mat Man™, children learn about body awareness, language, social skills and turn taking to name a few. Initially, I built man man while the children helped to sing the Mat Man™Song (listen to a preview of the song here). Next, I handed out all of the pieces required to build Mat Man™, and the children built him themselves. They took turns and worked so well together it was awesome to watch! Once he was built, we engaged in fine motor "warm ups" (briskly rubbing hands together; squeezing fingers into a fist and opening them wide spreading fingers apart; squeezing on tight, pretend gloves; pushing hands on floor). These types of movements help to wake up the fingers and hands and get them ready for drawing! We also performed cross crawls before sitting to draw our 2nd take on Mat Man™. Cross crawls encourage cross brain activity, which stimulates the brain and prepares it for learning, while also improving body awareness. To perform a cross crawl, you bring right hand/elbow to touch raised left knee and left hand/elbow to touch raised right knee alternating in a smooth, fluid pattern - you can find videos demonstrating the cross crawl on youtube. The kids had fun trying all of these movements and did a wonderful job even though some were challenging!

To end this mornings session, the kids each drew Mat Man™ for a second time. Some of their drawings were more detailed than the first after only a short 20 minutes of building him and engaging in some movement described above, which was fun to see! Lastly, each child had their hands traced on construction paper. I cut out each child's hands and the teachers are going to laminate them. This will allow the children to build Mat Man™in the classroom using their own hands, which always seems to make it more meaningful and special! Please click here for instructions and templates on how you can build Mat Man™at home, which I highly encourage! I also didn't mention that the wood pieces that are used to build our friend have specific names, which are discussed on the websites link. The important part of this is that you can also use these wood pieces to build letters, and it teaches and encourages children to begin using language that they will need when learning to form their letters.

Fun tips
*It's never to early to start reading and educating your children on moving from left to right on paper
*When they are learning to write their name, teach them proper letter formation (start with a top to bottom approach as a beginning)
*Please encourage an appropriate tripod grasp for your children by the time they are in the Apple Room (last room before Kindergarten) - Bad habits are hard to break!

Thanks for visiting and please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions. I am already looking forward to week 2 with The Apple kids!

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