Friday, February 13, 2015

Pre-writing is FUN! Week #3

This week I got back in Henry's classroom, The Apple Room and had a great time. The more that I get to know these kids, the more I am finding out how unique each one is as an individual but how well they all work and have so much fun together as a class as well! They really are just a great bunch! 

Beginning our time this morning,  we sat in a circle and passed the putty again! Each child took a turn squeezing, pinching, and passing the putty. As mentioned in Week #1 blogpost,  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. The children told me about their weekend plans, and it seems a lot may be headed to the mountain for some skiing and riding! Next, we sang a song from HWT® called Where Do You Start Your Letters? This song helps to teach children at a young age to use a top to bottom approach when writing uppercase letters. Starting at the top, and getting in the habit young, makes writing easier and more fluid for children.

After we took turns around the circle, I introduced the children to all of the stations that were set-up around the classroom. This weeks main focus was using sensory motor ways to build letters, and I had each child initiate with practicing the correct formation of the first letter in their name. Once they mastered that letter they could move and make other letters or make pictures. Please enjoy seeing the kids working below, and excuse the quality of some of the pictures! 

Station 1 - Mat Man™  
Please scroll down or click here to read week one's post of Pre-writing is FUN! to learn more about Mat Man™ .  

Station 2 - Building Letters with Wooden Pieces

The Handwriting Without Tears Program® uses wooden pieces to teach children how to make letters and about the vocabulary used (big line, little line, big curve, little curve). In week 1, the wooden pieces were introduced when building Mat Man™ , so many of the kids already knew the names of the pieces. The blue mat or Mat Man's™ body is used as a base  to help kids build their letters. I also taught children about the "starting corner" on the mat, which again, promotes beginning at the top! The kids did a great job at finding the correct wooden pieces and building their letters. The kids that have middle starting letters, such as A, J and S, adapted quickly as well and understood exactly where to begin building the first letter in their name. 

Station 3 - Writing Letters with Small Chalk Pieces
 After building their letters and increasing spatial awareness, the children next drew the first letter in their name. The pieces of chalk were purposely broken to encourage the children to utilize a more mature tripod grasp. Using chalk on paper incorporates a tactile component into the activity as well.  For the kids that needed extra help understanding proper letter formation, I had them make rainbow letters tracing over and over their initially drawn figure, improving motor memory! HWT® also uses chalk and small slate chalk boards in their program. The chalkboard also helps kids understand not only a top to bottom formation but eliminates reversals. As you can see with the construction paper, if you begin at the left, in the starting corner, you are unable to draw a letter backwards (i.e. B, D, b, d). Parents, if you do end up ordering some materials from HWT®, I encourage you to also buy the workbooks and teachers guide to use the vocabulary we have been using in the classroom. If your children are going to Flood Brook School next, they will continue with this vocabulary and program in Kindergarten.

Station 4 - Zoo Sticks
Zoo sticks are an awesome tool to help increase intrinsic hand strength and improve fine motor coordination. I've talked about them in my What's in My Kids Easter Baskets? posts. The kids were taught to use their "pinchers" instead of all 5 fingers or a fist, and every single one of them held the zoosticks properly! When kids hold the zoo sticks with their "pinchers" they are facilitating a pencil grasp. When they hold them improperly, they are not working to build the appropriate finger and hand muscles and quality over quantity is what is important here! There are a million activities that you can do with zoo sticks and they also work as a great clean up tool; think small legos!

Station 5 - Wikki Stix

I have to say that I think this may have been the favored station amongst all of the children! I know Henry came home and said this was his favorite and the kids were also asking to bring them home and make sure that I left some in the classroom for future use! Parents, you may be visiting Amazon and ordering a pack soon! The link takes you to the search page for Wikki Stix, so you can order as little or as many as you like! This station was a favorite with Mrs. Adams I think too, she was so excited to watch the kids independently build out their entire name when all we instructed them to do was build the first letter and then be creative from there! These kids rock!

Station 6 - Rice & Beans (Lentils & Chic Peas too!)
The last station was a tray of rice and beans where the kids were encouraged to use their isolated pointer finger to draw the first letter in their name. We encouraged the students to start at the top, wherever that was for where they were standing, and for many, this had already become habit after only an hour of practicing! 

Multisensory experiences are wonderful to do with your pre-schoolers before getting to the pencil and paper, as developmentally some may not be 100% ready! Incorporating the senses increases the likelihood that kids will learn and retain information as well. It allows children to learn in different ways and neurologically, it allows the brain more opportunities to  store and integrate this information and retrieve it when moving to pencil and paper is appropriate and more consistent.

Looking forward to Pre-writing is FUN! Week #4 on February 27th. Hopefully, this gives everyone some fun, multisensory activities to do with your kids over President's Week!  

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