We have always found it to be more valuable for a child to learn how to see each letter as a sequence of movements. When you teach a child to see the movement sequence they can also learn - at the same time - how to use the "fluent" type of movement. We correlate the visual strokes with auditory cues called "Action Words" to enable rhythm.
Our teaching process is simple and very time-efficient. Lessons are short, physically active and fun. Best of all, recent science* has demonstrated that this type of rich activity actually stimulates the brain to create pathways for communication between the various brain structures.
Step One: Illustrate and Describe
Gif animation on the web is a bit limited but as you watch the one above you will begin to see a rhythmic process -
1. out right, 2. back left, 3. out right, 4. back left
Watch the animation and count, "1, 2, 3, 4" with the movements. The first two movements fit a pattern - out/back - that can be accomplished with one muscle group - and can be learned for rhythmic execution. The second two movements fit the same rhythm pattern - out/back - and the same muscle group, despite the fact that different strokes will result in a different shape.
Watch again and instead of counting 1, 2, 3, 4, "say" the following four words:
Roll Top, Sharp Top.
Step Two: Air Writing
Now, point at the animation and write in the air with your arm - pointer finger as the pencil - and "say" the words aloud as you move. Airwriting is a gross-motor, pattern-integration activity that is helpful at any age to get rhythmic information into the patterns that will allow "fluent" legibility. The student is actually learning how to preplan and then execute the sequence. Rhythm becomes the control factor which will translate to legibility at applied speed. How many pattern repititions do you accomplish in one minute? Vary the muscle groups; i.e. writing hand, elbow, foot on the floor, write with your head. Gross motor patterns are not muscle group specific.
Step Three: Fingertrace
Use the Color/Rhythm movement models on pupil pages - held on the desk in writing position - to integrate a little more precise movement information. Tracing with the pointer finger - DO NOT USE A PENCIL - allows the muscles to move with the voice and maintains the rhythmic type of movement. How many pattern repititions are accomplished in one minute?
Step Four: Write and Say
Replace the book with practice paper - in writing position - and have pupils touch on the start point... "altogether, say it!" Moving the pencil with the voice is the final step and not as easy as the steps above. As soon as the pencil starts to produce traces, many students will revert to drawing movement. You will know when they do. The voices will stop. The drawing type of movement is not rhythmic so they are unable to chant with you and the others.
Repeat the Fingertrace step and try again - with eyes closed. The voices should work and everyone will be surprised at the form created. Now try again, eyes open, so that the eyes can help. Make sure the voice is working to maintain the rhythmic type of movement. Repeat airwriting and fingertracing steps until you can get the pencils to move with the voices.
We start with simple basic stroke movements to make the "movement objective" easier to accomplish. Once pupils learn how to "move the pencil with the voice" to produce simple, basic-stroke, patterns; application of "writing movement" to letter sequences is much easier. The sequence of instruction is based upon related movements. We learn simple sequences and then add to them. The lesson plans are all there - one ten-minute session each day.
Recent Science using PET Scans:
*R. Shadmir and H. Holcomb: Neural Correlates Of Motor Memory Consolidation. Science Magazine, Vol. 277, 8 August 1997. Back
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