In The Beginning
The only thing natural about symbolic language is the interest in learning it. Virtually every child in cultures using symbolic language, begins to show interest in learning the symbols at age three or four - sometimes younger. This brings us to the problem facing a young child. Developmental tendencies do not fit the invented movement pattern of our symbolic language.
There are two related issues that cause difficulties for a beginner - perception and ergonomics. Simple instruction can help your child learn correct movement patterns. Learning correct patterns in the beginning eliminates any need to relearn. It makes sense that this would present a great advantage for language skill development.
A left-handed child faces some special obstacles relating to directionality and ergonomics. If your child is left-handed please visit this link to learn specific coaching techniques - Coaching Position Skills.
We identify a perceptual condition and name it; "Form Constancy." The things in a young child's world are form constant. Directionality does not matter. The toy dinosaur animation shows many different orientations but it is always the same dinosaur.
The form constant rule does not apply to our symbols. Directionality does make a huge difference.
|No wonder so many little ones have trouble learning the difference between letters d, b, and p when they are limited to a visual recognition process. This brings us to the link between physical and visual that can improve recognition fluency.||
Two Ways To "See" Symbols
A person who has not learned to write a letter "sees" the image as a static picture. Decoding is limited to a visual analysis of the shape relative to its surroundings. A person who has learned to write the same symbol "sees" more than many people realize.
|Use the image of the letter to the right. Move your cursor to the spot where the letter starts and click that spot. A new window will open and display an animation. Close the animation window to return.||
The fact that you can choose a start point means that you are "seeing" movements even though the image is static. The movements are in the handwriting motor patterns you learned. Others may well have chosen a different start point because they learned a different process for production. There are actually three different "hot" start points on the image. Each presents commonly used production processes. Only one movement process best supports the top down, left to right pattern of our language. The others present movements that would conflict with fluent ocular tracking. Please go back to the original image and search for the other two hot links.
Invention or Instruction?
Instruction of correct patterns can build physical pathways for improved skill development. A lack of instruction leads to invention. Parents, and far too many early childhood teachers, do not recognize the opportunity presented by the child's early interest. A three or four year old will invent a production process based upon developmental tendencies. It makes good sense to teach correct patterns rather than struggle to change invented process.
What Should You Do?
Teach the child process - a movement process that physically supports the invented pattern of our language. Work along with your child using a directed approach. It is easy and fun. Study the "Method" presentation at:
This simple, four-step procedure works. Remember, the goal is process. Product accuracy will get better as practice improves control. All practice should be large. We are working on gross motor patterns. In the beginning, avoid using paper with lines. The first objective is letter pattern integration. A magic slate, chalkboard or magna-doodle will work well for patterning practice. After letter patterns are established it will be much easier for a child to understand the concept of place in space with lined paper.
Copyright © 2001, Rand H. Nelson
Peterson Directed Handwriting