Miss Galvin Learns

July 4, 2014
by Ms Stefanie Galvin
1 Comment

Throwback Thursday – Handwriting Bags

Originally posted March 16, 2013.

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Last week in my Five for Friday post I shared a picture of my student’s new handwriting bags. I thought I’d share a bit about how we’ve been using them.

In the P-2 early years area at my school, we try to include a specific handwriting session each week to focus on letter formation, thus, I’ve been modifying how I’ve previously taught handwriting (very paper-based!) to make it a little less damaging on the environment!

What’s included:

  • A name-tracing card in our State font (Victorian Modern Cursive, for those not from Australia), laminated
  • Lowercase and Uppercase alphabet and numbers in our State Font (this is from one of our handwriting books), laminated
  • Dotted-thirds writing paper (actually on the back of the alphabet page!), laminated
  • Mini whiteboard
  • Whiteboard marker (I got them in packs of 5 for $2.80 from Daiso)
  • 1/4 Chux Magic Eraser

And everything is kept in a large-size snaplock bag (I use Hercules bags) in their tubs.

Our handwriting program:

Currently our handwriting session is on a Thursday morning after our Literacy/Guided Reading session.

Students collect their bags, put them on their tables and join me on the floor for a focus session on our letter for the week. We use a program called Track, Trace and Copy to observe and practise forming letters correctly using our Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). Depending on the letter (and it’s relative complexity) I might have students bring their mini-whiteboards to the floor and we’ll practise forming letters together, or we might form them in the air. I also have students come out and model correct letter formation.

At the end of the mini-lesson students go back to their tables and use their writing packets. We’re developing a formula (slowly) so that students stay on task:

  1. Students start by tracing their name (at least once). For my Preps it’s good practise revising how to write their name correctly, and it’s just as good for my Grade 1s who, even though they can write their names independently, struggle with letter formation, capital letters and letter size.
  2. Students trace the lowercase and uppercase letters on their laminated tracing sheet.

Then, the handwriting task is differentiated for my Preps and my Grade 1s.

The Preps:

  • practise writing the letter focus on their mini-whiteboard 10 (or more times) and circle their best go,
  • use our weekly brainstorm of words to practise their handwriting, and,
  • practise writing out sight words (we use the Magic 100 Words program).

The Grade 1s:

  • use their personal dictionaries to practise writing words using our letter of the week on the dotted-thirds laminated sheet,
  • use our weekly brainstorm of words to practise their writing on dotted thirds, and,
  • write a sentence and illustrated it on their mini whiteboards.

All the students are responsible for cleaning their laminated sheets and whiteboards and for ensuring that their whiteboard pens have their lids on them and that everything goes into their bags at the end of a session.

While students are working independently I pull students out in small groups (or independently) to work on a specific hand-writing skill – using a variety of whiteboard activities, IWB activities or sheet-based activities (although I’m moving away from having handwriting sheets, unless I can reuse them!).

I also usually have a fantastic parent-helper during this session who is really good with the kids. (I taught her middle child in his first year of school in my first year of teaching, and now I’m teaching her youngest in his first year of school!) She knows all the tricks, and helps correct pencil-grip, letter formation and knows how to encourage even the most reluctant writer. I’m super-lucky to have her helping me out!

Now – this isn’t a perfect program, but already it’s starting helping me to really target the students that need specific instruction in letter formation (which is really tricky in Australia, because our State handwriting fonts are SO different to what students see everyday – sometimes I wonder why we don’t teach print handwriting, but that’s another story!).

I’m also hoping to include a few little fine-motor skill activities into handwriting as well, because some of my kiddos really need that extra support.

Do you teach handwriting? What do your handwriting sessions look like?

Edit 29/5/2015 – After popular demand, I’ve listed a handwriting placemat for Victorian teachers here:

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