One year when I taught third grade, I had a student who struggled with handwriting. He did not have good control in holding or using a pencil. As I watched I became convinced that he was left-handed. He ate with his left hand. He caught with his left hand. When I asked why he didn’t write with his left hand he said his kindergarten teacher said it was bad to write left-handed. She only let him write with his right hand.
I decided to work with him after school for short practice times several days a week. We began by playing with playdough to build strength in his hand and finger muscles. When we moved from that to writing, I tried to sit across the table from him and guide what he was doing. It quickly became obvious that he could not watch what I did with my right hand and mimic those actions with his left hand. So, I changed tactics.
We got out the fat sidewalk chalk and began drawing circles on the chalkboard. We made large, interconnected circles using the larger muscles in his arm and shoulder. I stood beside him at the board and we both used our left hands to make circles, loops, clouds, and squiggles. Gradually, we both started to gain better control of the chalk with our left hands. With control, we could make the shapes smaller. Then we began writing letters and words.
It was only a matter of weeks before he was able to transition from writing on the chalkboard to writing on handwriting paper. At first, we used the wide lined handwriting paper that many students use in kindergarten and first grade because he still had difficulty controlling the pencil. Over the next few months, he gained enough motor control to write legibly on regular notebook paper.
It was exciting to see how he progressed throughout that year. The added bonus was that I learned how to write with my left hand on the chalkboard. Clearly, we are never too old to learn something new!
About the Author
Bethany Wilkison gained 20 years of experience as a classroom teacher and children’s ministry educator before coming to Learning Lifeguard to serve as an author and resource coordinator.
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