Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spelling and Writing Redo

If your child's written sentences look like chicken tracks filled with misspellings, it not too late for improvement. The two old-fashioned skills of cursive and keyboarding(touch typing) may help a child improve his spelling and writing. To work, however, the skills must be taught correctly.

Cursive seems to be a dying art. Many school do not teach it. Others give it brief lip service. Taught in a specific way, cursive can help a child with LDs improve in spelling and make writing readable. Why? With cursive:
  • A child gets to feel the word as a whole. Children with LDs often misspell short, non-phonemic words such as said, of, or one.  Cursive gives a child an introduction to the feel of a word as a connected entity.
  • When printing some children have a terrible time with spacing between letters and words. In cursive, it is more apparent when a word stops and a space is needed.
  • Cursive can be taught so that each letter begins on the line. This consistency helps children with spatial problems. (Fig. 1, Initial stroke)
  • Reversal of letters tends not to be as much of a problem in cursive as in print.
  • Although learning cursive slows down writing, it is faster than printing once learned.
My personal opinion is that cursive letters should be taught to a child with LDs with an entrance and release stroke. (Fig. 1) I know there are methods that just make cursive a rounded form of printing, but that still results in crowded letters for some children. My favorite method of teaching cursive is using Diana Hanbury King's workbooks, but there are other methods in which all lower case letters start on the line. To teach cursive
  1. Write a large letter to show the child how the letter is written.
  2. Have the child write the letter in the air while saying the letter. Guide the child's hand if she has difficulty writing the letter correctly in the air. 
  3. Have the child trace your letter on a large sheet of paper. (Newsprint folded in half is a good size to start.)  Make sure she starts on the line and traces the letter in the correct direction. This large letter will now be her reference model.
  4. Have the child write the letter while looking at the model. If she can do this correctly turn the paper over and have her write the letter saying its name. 
  5. If he writes the letter correctly have him write the letter with his eyes closed. 
 If your child starts getting confused go back to steps one and two.
Figure 1

Some children get confused where they need to change direction in cursive. They may end up going round and round like a traffic circle with letters such as o and g.  Other problems are bridges such as ow, ou, oy, oa, etc. (Fig. 1, Bridge) In the beginning mastering the letters may take more time than you might predict, but with effort and practice your child should learn how to correctly write all the letters.  Start with very large letters. Move to smaller letters when the child has mastered writing the large letters correctly.

In touch typing the first goal is to use the correct fingers. With touch typing a poor speller can also feel a word. I have seen children who touch type, move their fingers to give themselves reminders on a written spelling test. I like the book Keyboarding Skills because it quickly teaches children how to type the alphabet. Just as in cursive, children should say the letters aloud as they learn to type. The key is making sure the student says the letters and uses the CORRECT fingers. I let the child look at his fingers as he is learning. Although there are computer programs to learn to type, I have found that children with LDs often need a human encouraging them to use only the correct fingers and say the letters. Remember the goal isn't just typing but re-learning spelling. 

After a child knows all the lower case letters in cursive, or the correct fingers in keyboarding, let them practice the alphabet.  In cursive give them a model and some practice before you time them for a minute. On the keyboard have them practice without looking at the keys. Tell them if they finish, they should start over at "a". Most children are delighted how well they do and how quickly they improve within a minute. Another practice should be writing or typing spelling words while saying the letters. After writing or typing the word correctly two times, say, "Hands on home keys or pencil on line, close your eyes and begin. " These practices work best if they are short and frequent.

Despite predictions of no need for cursive or typing in the future, right now they are tools to open new doors for a child with LDs.  Children have at least 12 years of school facing them, and adults should work at giving them tools to make the journey enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. Young kids usually can't wait to learn cursive. It makes them feel grown up. Start early and encourage them to use cursive whenever they write. It will become second nature after a while.