wrI recently attended a NQT Conference led by @ActionDyslexia (Neil Mackay) where a number of ideas and thoughts were discussed surrounding children who have dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD and other needs. During the discussions, there was one child in my class who was on my mind. They have not been diagnosed as ‘dyslexic’ but there definitely are certain traits. In terms of her reading and inference ability they are great. But when it comes to forming their ideas onto paper they really struggle.
So what are the methods of getting children to improve their handwriting? Focussed handwriting practise? Getting the child to verbalise answers and then write it on a whiteboard for them to copy? Have the child type it onto a laptop then transcribe by hand? (This, of course, is motivated by the fact this child has to be able to write by hand – no matter how little they may actually handwrite when they leave school). Used a handwriting book that has the special extra line to identify how tall the lower case letters should be (they then write perfectly in that handwriting book but cannot transfer that onto regular lined paper)? I and other more experienced professionals had tried all these and more with this child – a little improvement occurred but not the needed amount. What’s more, even though she had progressed between Sept-Nov 2014, from December 2014-Feb 2015 it had gotten worse. This was a typical example of one of her better pieces of work recently:
Keep in mind this is a Year 6 child. Now, I know some may see this and say “I have Year 7’s, 8’s etc with worse handwriting than that!” It can be a huge problem, not just to people trying to mark this child’s work but, more importantly, to the child’s self-esteem. This particular child expressed that she knew her handwriting was not good and did not feel happy about not being able to produce similar quality work as her peers. Neil Mackay showed us NQT’s a ‘quick fix’ that can help children who struggle to form their writing. This is the same child using this method – please note that the last two sentences the child constructed completely by herself:
The highlighted lines serve simply as the handwriting book line which identifies the height of a lower case letter. While this clearly isn’t perfect – what an improvement! I was shocked! Then came the child’s reaction. She said how she felt good about what she was writing and she saw the difference compared to [turned to previous work and pointed out the differences]. What I love about this is that, not only has it allowed her writing to be more legible, but it’s a time effective method also, with little extra effort on her part. It took her an extra 5-10secs to place the highlighted line, and then she wrote. That’s it! She has been given the power to write her thoughts and ideas legibly!
What an experience – if you have any children in your class who struggle with any aspect of writing, I strongly suggest you try this out. It isn’t 100% certain to be effective, but it is likely.