Article

Grades K-1: Handwriting Lessons

6 exercises to build motor skills and improve handwriting.

By Peggy Campbell-Rush
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2

Reclined Reading Encourage students to choose one of these three positions when they read independently. In doing so, they’ll strengthen their upper arms, forearms, and wrists.

Tripod: Students should lie on their stomach, with their upper body propped on their elbows. This stabilizes many of the joints and helps tighten arm and wrist muscles.

All Fours: Have kids place a book on the floor and prop themselves up on their hands and knees to read. This puts pressure on the shoulder and arm muscles and builds strength by resistance. As an added bonus, students will also fully flex their wrists.

Arms Up: Students should lie on their backs and hold a book up to read. This strengthens the entire arm, especially the upper arm, by the sustained action of holding the arms up and steady.

1 | Hungry Tennis Balls

Standard Met: McREL Physical Education Standard 1
(Uses a variety of basic and advanced movement forms)

What You Need: Tennis balls with a two-inch slit cut into each one, markers, bingo chips or coins
What to Do: The palm is the core of strength for the fingers. If the palm is not strong, the fingers will not operate with strength, flexibility, and control. One way to exercise the palm is to use a tennis ball that has a two-inch slit cut into it that forms a “mouth”—students can draw eyes, a nose, and even lips on the tennis ball to create a face. (Make the slits beforehand using a pair of heavy-duty scissors or a box cutter.) Have students hold the ball between the thumb and fingers and squeeze it to open the mouth. Tell them to keep the mouth open as they feed the tennis ball some bingo chips or coins with their other hand. After they’ve put 10 or 15 chips into the ball, students can open the mouth and shake out the chips. This requires sustained use of the palm and will build strength over time.

2 | Roll-Along Reading

Standard Met: McREL Physical Education Standard 4
(Understands how to monitor and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness)

What You Need: Pieces of paper with letters, sight words, or numbers written on them; tape; lightweight ball
What to Do: Shoulder strength plays an important role in students’ abilities to use their wrists, palms, and fingers in a coordinated way. If students’ shoulder and upper-arm muscles are weak, their fine motor skills will be unsteady and uncoordinated. One way to build strength in the shoulder and upper arms is Roll-Along Reading. In the hallway, tape sheets of paper with letters, sight words, or numbers written on them to the wall. The papers should be placed at varying heights, but still within students’ reach. Instruct students to stand arm’s distance from the wall. One at a time, they roll a ball along the wall. When students touch the pieces of paper with the ball, have them read the word, letter, or number written on each. This will keep their arms extended and their shoulders engaged. If students get tired, have them rest and start again when ready.

3 | Michelangelo Drawing and Writing

Standard Met: McREL Physical Education Standard 4
(Understands how to monitor and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness)

What You Need: Bulletin-board paper or sheets of construction paper (24" x 36"), pencils, markers
What to Do: Another way to help build students’ arm strength is to ask them to act like Michelangelo. Explain who the artist was and how, among other things, he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and show pictures of his works from websites or books. To set up the activity, tape a large sheet of paper to the underside of a table or desk. Allow students to lie on their backs and draw with their arms raised. You might provide students with large pillows or beanbags so their arms can be closer to the paper. Tell students to try not to write or color off the paper. Change the paper each week, if necessary, and hang the completed masterpieces on a bulletin board or wall.

4 | Ride the Motorcycle

Standard Met: McREL Physical Education Standard 1
(Uses a variety of basic and advanced movement forms)

What to Do: Take your students on an imaginary motorcycle ride to help them strengthen their forearms and wrists. Show students how to swing one leg over an imaginary low-riding motorcycle. Their arms should be out in front of them, with each hand balled up as if gripping handlebars. Knees should be bent so students are in a slight crouch. Once in the riding position, hit the road with your bikers. Have them go up hills (bend wrists upward), down hills (bend wrists downward), around sharp curves (twist wrists to the right or left), and on bumpy roads (shake fists to mimic holding on while riding over bumps). Don’t be surprised if you hear some students making the sound of a motorcycle engine: Vroom!

5 | Marble Painting

Standard Met: McREL Physical Education Standard 2
(Uses movement concepts and principles in the development of motor skills)

What You Need: Box lid, drawing paper, marbles, paint
What to Do: All you need are a few classroom supplies to help your students create abstract pieces of art while strengthening their wrists. First, line the lid of a box with drawing paper. Have students dip a marble in paint and place the marble in the box lid. Holding the sides of the lid, students should move it around to make the marble roll and “paint” as it goes. Using one marble at a time requires a lot of focus, especially if you ask students to make specific shapes, such as a circle, a square, or a triangle. This will provide an even greater challenge and develop more motor control among your young artists. Additionally, you can let students dip other marbles in different-colored paints to make more colorful designs.

6 | Wet Coins

Standard Met: McREL Physical Education Standard 1
(Uses a variety of basic and advanced movement forms)

What You Need: Paper cups, water, eyedroppers, coins
What to Do: Sometimes we forget what it takes for our fingers to do their jobs—not only individually but in coordination—to write, cut, color, button, zip up or unzip, and more. Help students practice these fine motor skills using real or fake coins. First, have students “water a penny.” Fill a paper cup with water and demonstrate how to use the index finger and thumb to draw water into an eyedropper. Next, show students how to squeeze the dropper to let out just one drop at a time. Have students use the droppers to see how many drops of water they can fit onto a penny. (They will be amazed at how many drops fit on a single coin!)

For a more difficult activity, try the “wet coin pickup.” Distribute wet coins to your students. Have them place the wet coins on their table or desk. Next, name a coin (quarter, dime, nickel, penny). Tell students to pick up that coin using the thumb and index finger and hold it in the air, then put the coin back down before you call another.
 


Adapted from Ready to Write!: 100 Tips & Strategies for Developing Fine-Motor Skills to Help Young Students Build a Strong Foundation for Handwriting.

 

Click Here to Subscribe to Instructor Magazine

 

Image: Courtesy of Peggy Campbell-Rush

top
Instructor Cover

Instructor Magazine

Six issues per year filled with practical, fun, teacher-tested ideas for your classroom. Keep up with classroom trends, get expert teaching tips, and find dozens of resources in every issue.