There are many programs that schools have come to use in order to get their early students ready to read and write. One program in particular that primarily focuses on the writing component of a beginner students agenda is Handwriting without Tears. I have found this program to be both successful and enjoyable for the students involved. This extensive writing program consists of an abundance of activities in which students use a variety of sensory and tactile objects in order to understand the root of each letter in the alphabet. Handwriting without Tears does not stop at the alphabet, it actually expands to number writing and as the student becomes more advanced, word and eventually sentence writing is a part of the amazing program.
My focus in this piece is for the beginner learners; the ones that are just being introduced to the wonderful world of writing. Most children, once entering kindergarten or even pre-kindergarten, are excited about the prospect of learning their alphabet. Handwriting without Tears does such a wonderful job easing the child into their program and providing a multitude of resources for practice, practice, practice!
Handwriting without Tears teaches children the letters of the alphabet first by introducing a fun character called “Mat Man.” This character is made of big and little curves, as well as big and little lines made of wood. These terms are used throughout the entirety of the alphabet, seeing as how each letter is ultimately made up of some big or little curves and lines. Once the students are familiar with these wooden tools they sing a song about “Mat Man” as well as a song about where letters always begin (at the top). These catchy songs help the children to learn about letters and direction without becoming overbearing or confusing.
The next step in the handwriting process is learning each letter. When each letter is introduced the children and teacher practice the letter in many different ways before actually writing it on a piece of paper. First, the students use the wooden pieces to figure out how the letter can be portrayed. Then, the teacher models how to create the letter with the pieces and shows the class how to trace the letter with their finger, starting at the top of course. Next, it is the students turn to copy what the teacher has modeled and create/trace their own letter. Upon finishing with the wooden pieces, each child then gets a mini double sided chalkboard, chalk and small eraser (some teachers prefer to use a sponge cut into small cubes). The teacher once again models the letter on both sides of the chalkboard, and then allows time for the students to complete this task. Then the teacher models how to erase the letter, using the same process used when writing the letter. Once again this is then completed by the students. Lastly, the students are given a piece of paper from the Handwriting without Tears workbook where they are to trace the letter learned.
I have seen this process done in classrooms, such as my own, and I have come to very much enjoy each task that needs to be completed. The most important aspect about this program though, is that I have also seen that the students are enjoying their experience and are proud of what they can accomplish.
By Samantha Yanofsky, Private Tutor