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Build It and They Will Come to Write

In 2022, I posted an article about writing tools designed to help children with dysgraphia (writing challenges). I titled the post, “Promoting Writing Success with Tools for Dysgraphia.” In the article, suggestions included using:

1. Pencil grips

2. Paper with raised lines

3. Finger crayons

4. Adaptive scissors

Recently, I ordered a new writing tool for my grand granddaughter to use. The writing tool turned out to be a fun way to teach printed letters before the actual writing begins. Items in the package include a:

1. Mat to use when building wooden letters

2. Slate Chalkboard

3. Little sponge cubes to erase the chalkboard

4. Little chalk bits

5. Pencils for small hands

6. Large plastic bag

7. Usage instructions.

Once schools realized that handwriting would not be included in high-stakes state exams, many teachers began eliminating instruction in the manuscript (printing) and cursive letter formation. In response to this lack, Handwriting Without Tears copyrighted a writing program in 2012. Proponents of the program hoped to prepare parents and teachers to teach this important communication skill.

One unique feature of the program asks children to first build letters with pre-cut wooden pieces before asking them to write the letters on small slates instead of on paper. Stages of development include:

1) building letters with wooden pieces

2) tracing letters and numbers on slates

3) copying letters and numbers on slates

4) copying letters and numbers on paper

5) writing independently

The initial goal teaches letter and number recognition. A second goal seeks to avoid reversals. Children are taught that all letters (except for lowercase d and lowercase e) start at the top. A smiling face in the top left corner of a writing surface indicates where most letters begin and encourages a top to bottom and left-to-right habit. Although the program wants children to keep letters close together, children also learn to leave spaces between words.

The program urges teachers and parents to begin by teaching upper-case letters first. These letters are easier, they consistently begin at the top, and upper-case letters help ease the transition to lower-case ones. The following upper- and lower-case letters are exactly alike: C - c, O - o, S – s, V – v, W – w, and Z – z.

Although the following upper-and lower-case letters do not have the exact formations, they include letters that look similar: J – j, K – k, T – t, P – p, and U – u. Originators of the program encourage singing different words with the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It . . . by singing “Where Do You Start Your Letters? At the Top!” Using several long and short wooden pieces along with a few large and small curving pieces, letters can be constructed before tracing or copying.

Sources included:

FUN Function Empowering Different (800) 231-6329

Individual Student Manipulative Pack - Wood Pieces and Slate Chalkboard. ISBN 9781950578955. Grade Level PreK thru 1st. 2023.

Southpaw Fine Motor (scroll down until you get to tools for writing) PO Box 1047Dayton, OH 45401 (800) 228-1698

Therapro Products 225 Arlington Street Framingham, MA 01702-8723(508) 872-9494 • (800) 257-5376


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