[nobe-l] question about teaching writing

Heather Field missheather at comcast.net
Thu May 28 22:10:05 UTC 2015

Hello Kelsey,
There are several skill sets involved with teaching young children 
The first is hand-eye coordination. This skill set includes the ability to 
correctly hold a pencil, proper posture while writing, how to move your 
pencil up and down and around, and how to follow lines on a page using a 
pencil with your hand by watching and correcting. This vital skill set is 
foundational to good handwriting and is often not given enough attention 
these days. a child's hand and finger muscles need to have been strengthened 
by lots of activities. Such activities include squeezing plaster scene or 
modeling clay, (not playdoh), digging with spades and scoops in a seed box 
and a sand box, holding jugs and cups and pouring water, cutting with 
scissors, squeezing a hole punch and so on. Then the child must be able to 
follow the pre-writing activities that consist of wavy lines, semi-circles, 
lines etc. which prepare them for handwriting. These activities are 
available for free download online. I would send these activity sheets home 
with children for their parents to supervise and have them complete one per 
I teach children a rhyme for how to get ready to write - how to sit and hold 
their pencil etc..

The second skill set is to be able to recognise and name all of the upper 
and lower case letters. A child must know the names of the letters before 
being expected to try to write them.

The third skill set is knowing how to form or "put together" each letter and 
where to position each letter on the writing lines. Those teachers who truly 
teach handwriting teach children where to start every letter - eg. start at 
the top and go down. They teach each part of writing a letter - eg. down, 
up, around, kick. Children need to learn to start the individual letters in 
the correct place and then to recite what actions there pencil must take to 
correctly form the letter. Finally, they must learn that some letters are 
tall letters, some are curvy letters and some are spikey letters. Depending 
on which kind a letter is, it will occupy certain space in the writing 
lines. In America, they usually use a top line, a bottom line and a thin 
line which runs down the middle of the top and bottom lines. Tall letters go 
from the top to the bottom lines. Curvy letters sit on the middle line and 
so on. In Australia we use additional lines in between the top and bottom 
lines which allows children to sit the letters in the right relation to top 
and bottom lines more easily. If children are not taught this third set of 
skills, and most aren't, then they will be poor handwriters all their lives.
I share this amount of detail with you to make the point that I don't 
believe that a blind person should be tutoring a child of kindergarten age 
in the portion of handwriting where it is vital to watch where they start 
their letters and where they are positioning the letters on the lines. 
However, this does not mean that you cannot ensure that they have 
well-developed muscle control and that they know their letters and can tell 
you the movements required to write each letter. These movements can be 
practised in a flat surface or in the sand or on a tray in dry rice etc. 
This way you can have your hand on the child's hand and monitor what they 
are doing.
I have taught numerous children to write very successfully. When I knew that 
they had a firm foundation in the first two skill sets, I would have a 
sighted person sit with me to assist in monitoring the actual handwriting 
activity. I briefed this person on what I needed the children to do to be 
rated as having demonstrated that they could successfully write the letters 
and words of each activity. The sighted person would report any problems the 
child was having and we would work together to correct it. Not only do you 
need to know what print letters look like, but you also need to know where 
each letter starts when being written and the movements required to form 
each letter. You also need to know where each letter needs to sit on the 
writing lines. Finally, to prepare a child for handwriting in kindergarten, 
you need to know which font the school district where the child is enrolled 
If you are interested, e-mail me off list and I can forward you some links 
to helpful resources. Meanwhile, I would agree to tutor the child in phonics 
and letters and start preparing her for handwriting with all the hand 
strengthening and hand-eye coordination activities. School will probably be 
starting before the child is ready to start writing properly.
Hope this is helpful.
Heather Field

-----Original Message----- 
From: Kelsey Nicolay via nobe-l
Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 12:11 PM
To: nobe-l at nfbnet.org
Cc: Kelsey Nicolay
Subject: [nobe-l] question about teaching writing

I am a registered tutor on Wyzant.com. I received an inquiry from a mom who
is looking for an elementary tutor for her daughter who is going into
kindergarten next year. She stated that her daughter needs help with
phonics, letter recognition, handwriting, etc. I can teach phonics and
letter recognition without much of any adaptation since I can purchase flash
cards with the print letters for the student and then braille them for me so
I can tell if she is getting the letters right or not. I can also find
phonics books in Braille and provide information for the family to purchase
the books or braille the books myself. However, I am not sure how I could
help with handwriting. I am totally blind, so I learned Braille from the
beginning and never learned print. Therefore, is there any reliable way a
totally blind person can teach a sighted student to print letters without
sighted assistance? What adaptations would I need in order to help the
student with this skill? I've tutored test preparation with a high school
student before and never had a problem since the student had his own laptop
he brought with him to sessions. However, I have never had to tutor a
sighted pre kindergarten student before, so I would appreciate any advice on
Thank you,
Kelsey Nicolay
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