To be able to write down ideas or take notes
on paper, students need to form letters quickly and easily. When
forming letters, a student uses graphomotor skills to coordinate
the muscles in her fingers so they move efficiently.
Once a student can form letters automatically,
she can focus more easily on the ideas she wants to use for a
story, or the information she needs to include in her notes. She
can also think about how to spell a word or to restate a new definition
in her own words.
To form letters without having to concentrate
on each movement, a student needs to have a comfortable grip,
to recall the desired letters from long-term memory, to be able
to make a mental picture of what each letter should look like,
and to send signals to the right muscles in their fingers to form
the letters. Students need to do all of these things while also
remembering what they want to write next.
In addition, as a student progresses, the demands
of school, including the number of details, complexity of language
rules, and vocabulary requirements increase. If students do not
learn to form letters easily and automatically, they may find
it difficult to produce the writing required. Talking to students
about ways to improve their skills can be extremely beneficial.
Be aware that a student who has difficulty writing may possess
as much knowledge and information, and/or may be as creative or
insightful as other students. It is helpful to provide alternative
ways for such a student to present materials, such as through
artistic projects, verbal presentations, music or dramatic creations.
With all student writers,
but especially those who have difficulty writing letters quickly
and easily, it is very important to respect the student’s
feelings about his/her written work. Do not put work on display
or have peers correct the work unless the student is comfortable
with this type of public review.
- Hand out notes or a typed or written copy
of the material being presented so the student can follow along
at his/her desk rather than having him/her try to take notes
- Provide the student with partially completed
semantic maps outlines, handouts, etc. to serve as guides or
to use for review. This will decrease the amount of information
a student needs to copy and will help with the organization
of the material.
- Have tape-recorded lectures and old tests
or quizzes available in the classroom as resources for students
- Whenever possible, break up writing assignments
into smaller tasks. Help the student think of writing as a multi-step
activity. Set requirements and evaluate performance for each
step as it occurs (first grade the plan or brainstorming list,
then grade the first draft, then grade spelling, etc.).
- Encourage the student who may have difficulty
simultaneously recalling letter formation, spelling, and his
or her ideas to do writing in stages (rather than try to spell,
punctuate, and develop ideas all at once).