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How handwriting trains the brain....and why it should be part of therapy

This picture is from Lexercise Live Broadcast 39: In Appreciation of Handwriting (View the Live Broadcast here.)

  

Practitioners of structured literacy (aka Orton-Gillingham or O-G) methods typically use "multisensory" writing activities in each therapy session. Recent neuroscience supports this approach and further defines its most essential aspects (Dehaene, 2013).  (See Dehaene's video linked below.)

The Chancery Script approach is consistent with this modern neuroscience.  Chancery Script is different from other handwriting methods in that it teaches the use the palm of the hand as a mental guide for movement pathway for each letter. Letter are taught as movement pathways and not as static shapes.  Students who have struggled (sometimes your years!) with letter formation and legible writing typically benefit very quickly (after a few weeks) from the Chancery Script approach.  

In practice sessions, the therapist teaches the student to self-judge each letter their practice attempts and to cross out the letters that they think are not acceptable.To raise the student's awareness of essential features, the therapist may ask the student to state what is unacceptable about each crossed-out letter.  This teaches self-regulation, an important building block for later proofreading.   Structured exercises like these take just a few minutes each day. When done correctly, the child will enjoy these exercises, and they will be effective in improving handwriting and even spelling.

In a structured literacy (O-G) approach like Lexercise, daily practice is integrated across all the domains of language, so, for students who struggle with it, handwriting is typically a part of the structured sequence of practice that also includes practicing sounds (phonemic awareness) and letters, reading words accurately and fluently, spelling, using meaningful word parts and suffix spelling patterns, as well as reading and writing sentences and discourse.  The therapist can adjust the methods snd the focus for individual students.

Transcription needs to be automatic ---as easy as breathing--for children to be free to express themselves in writing.   

REFERENCES

Dehaene, S. (2013). How the Brain Learns to Read. (Video) Presentation delivered to the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). (Retrieved from YouTube, 7/1/15)

Graham, S. (2009). Want to improve children's writing? Don't neglect their handwriting.  American Educator, vol. 22. p.20-40.

Richard, J.R. and Graham, S.  (2010). Creating Better Readers and Writers: The Importance of Direct, Systematic Spelling and Handwriting Instruction in Improving Academic Performance. Columbus, Ohio: Saperstein Associates.

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