The best way to work on letter identification is through sensory- motor based learning. What I mean, is that when we crawl, hear hop, look, stretch, run, feel, climb, touch, and push, the brain is at an optimal state for learning and retention.
In this activity, we were working on upper case letters (remember that its best to teach letter identification for uppercase then lowercase letters). We had been working on the Frog Jump Capitals (Handwriting Without Tears) and so I took 4 of the ones the child new and added the next two. The letters were written on one of the foam shapes and then scattered upsidedown in the gym. The letters were also written on the chalkboard. I wrote several on the chalkboard that were not hiding so that it increased the visual discrimination work that was demanded. Then I called out the letter that the pirates were looking for (I was the pirate and the child was the pirate on the treasure hunt) and he then had to follow the path (steps/foam blocks) to retrieve only the letter that was called out. Since the letters were written on the chalkboard out of sight from where the letters were hidden, the child had to rely on auditory memory and visual memory. The child then brought back the foam letter to the chalkboard and squeezed the clothespin to place it above the stimulus letter. The game could easily be modified for any level of difficulty. Fun!
Don't let the pricetag of the Handwriting Without Tears program keep you from making progress with your student or child. You can use the basic concept of the program without breaking the bank. Here are some of my Pinterest Fav's for HW Tears materials you can DIY.
Once a child has learned to identify uppercase letters, then its a good time to start learning how to "build" them . Its best to build the letters before actually writing them, because the building helps children remember the strokes needed and the large muscle movement is great because it helps them to integrate what they have learned. I used this simple activity with a child that was also working on core and upper body strength. He brought along a favorite stuffed animal, so I gladly let the doggie play too.
Platform swing or a therapy ball will work well too
Various wooden shapes (or make your own) from Handwriting Without Tears
Building Mat (in orange here, which is a 9.5x11 foam with smiley face in upper left corner)
Uppercase letter card (or if you child knows the strokes, then you can call out to them)
I spread out the shapes and he worked on finding and building each uppercase letter one at a time. I put some shapes further away so he'd have to pull and crawl to retrieve the shape (therefore using core and upper body strength).
Once he found the shapes needed, he built the letter on the mat beside the stimulus. You can modify the activity to be more or less challenging. For example: to make it harder, you could take away the stimulus cards and ask child to find a "big line and a big curve" and then see if they can make a letter with it (D).
Our weekly "Mini Charmers" preschool class gets to play with lots of messy sensory activities that encourage handwriting preparation. Yep, thats right. Work on handwriting without doing handwriting. In the studio, we had a few centers going at once.
Our first center was the cornstarch tubs. Lots of gooey cornstarch, mixed with water, washable paint and small things thrown in. Kids were Encouraged to find and pull out everything they could find-- from frogs to tiny perler beads. The cornstarch is resistive, so this works the finger muscles. The activity also encourages tactile processing as children have to distinguish between textures.
Another preparatory center was our "N" and "M" activity. They cut the big lines out of magazines and placed them on the construction paper. Building letters is a great reinforcer for visual memory of letters and for the stroke too. We use Handwriting Without Tears curriculum so there are lots of building and writing inside of boxes and with consistent language.
In another center were our clothespin activities. Miss. Kelly and the OT students made these foam sea creatures, etc, a few minutes before class. Kids loved adding legs and candles!
Then, we always have our group direct handwriting instruction for our letters of the week. These kids are laying on their stomachs as it increases core strength and helps their forearms and hands be in the correct position. You can see that these 4 years olds are writing their letters very well and independently. These are some bright Charlotte kids!
Parents of rising JK and kindergarten: We now have two "clubs" especially for this age group. The Going to Kindergarten Club is a two hour, drop off class to encourage fine motor and handwriting skills in a fun and movement based curriculum. This is ideal for boys that need a little boost prior to formal school.
We also have the "Early Writer's Club" . This is a drop off class that is ideal for rising K students who are ready to learn a formal handwriting program. This is a great class that is movement based and also has fun arts and crafts to encourage handwriting and fine motor skills.
These are fun ways to prepare your child for kindergarten and to give mom and dad some time to get those errands done! Handwriting component is taught using Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. Screening is required for both clubs and space is limited to 5 children per club.
About the blogger: Stephanie Wick is a pediatric occupational therapist that founded and is lead O.T. at Learning Charms.
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