On the Road to Writing
Handwriting develops as children develop increased control over their bodies and a desire to communicate through mark-making. In order to eventually acquire a legible, fluent and fast handwriting style, children need to develop skills including good gross and fine motor control, recognition of pattern, a language to talk about shapes and movements, the main handwriting movements involved in the three basic letter shapes as exemplified by l, c, r.
What is the difference between gross and fine motor control?
Fine motor control is the term used to describe smaller movements, usually of the hand and fingers. Fine motor control is best developed through activities which involve small-scale movements. Gross motor control is the term used to describe the development of controlled movements of the whole body, or limbs (arms or legs). Of particular importance in relation to handwriting is the development of good posture and balance. Activities such as dance, football, use of small apparatus, cycling, gripping climbing frames and building with large-scale construction kits all develop gross motor control.
Why is pencil grip important?
A good pencil grip facilitates legibility, letter formation, speed and endurance. An efficient pencil grip is one in which the writing tool is controlled only through finger movements. This occurs when the pinky side of the hand supports the whole hand against the writing surface, allowing the other fingers to hold and move the pencil/pen/crayon. Holding a pencil or pen correctly requires strong finger and hand muscles and dexterity. A correct pencil grip will enable the writer to move the fingers, controlling the pencil or pen with efficient finger movements. The ability to hold a pencil correctly can affect a child’s attitude to learning and schoolwork, their academic achievement as well as their motor/joint development. Incorrect pencil grip is painful and causes the child’s hand and arm to fatigue quickly.
Why is good posture important?
Developing a good posture is as important as developing a good pencil grip. Over the years, children spend a great deal of time writing, and sitting in an awkward position can cause headaches, fatigue and pain in the shoulder, arm or hand. It can also slow down a child’s writing. Children will be able to sustain writing for longer if they become used to sitting comfortably.
Ideas for developing gross motor control
-Consolidate the vocabulary of movement by talking about the movements children make, such as going round and round, making curves, springing up and sliding down, making long, slow movements or quick, jumpy movements.
-Show children how to make large movements in the air with their arms, hands and shoulders. For example, fix ribbons on to the end of sticks for the children to swirl in the air. Encourage the use of both sides of the body.
-Let the children make different body shapes/actions in response to music to help them to remember the shapes.
Ideas for developing fine motor control
- Let the children make patterns using pegboards.
- Provide sewing and weaving activities.
- Involve the children in chopping and peeling in cooking activities.
- Provide woodworking tools – pliers, screwdrivers, hammers.
- Use finger rhymes, counting fingers, playing with words and sounds, etc.
- Provide small construction toys.
-Structure sand and water play to include sieving, pouring, picking up toys using tools, etc.
- Develop the pincer movement: show the children how to use tweezers to pick up and sort sequins, small beads, etc., sprinkle coloured sand, glitter, salt, etc. on pictures.
- Provide the children with paints, finger paints, etc. for making big patterns on differently shaped paper, for example, fish, balloons, kites. Talk about the patterns they make. Focus on developing the curly caterpillar, long ladder and one-armed robot.
- Encourage the children to strengthen their fingers by using clay, play dough, Plasticine, etc., for modelling. They can make letter shapes and patterns using the modelling media.
- Encourage dexterity by asking the children to cut out large letter shapes or patterns. They can use different coloured marker pens for tracing along inside the shapes. Emphasise that circles and curly caterpillars need to be traced from the top and anti-clockwise.
- Give the children thick paintbrushes and water to paint patterns on walls, fences, etc.