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Grammar Granny        < Previous        Next >


Child-Sized Paper and Pencil, Please


You know those big, chunky pencils that kindergarten and first-grade teachers love to see in the chubby little hands of their young charges as they get their early introduction to handwriting? And you know those adorable sheets of lined paper, where the lines are a generous inch apart to give the little darlin's plenty of leeway in forming their first letters?


Yeah. Well. They're both bad ideas.


Occupational therapists who study what's best for fine-motor skills, especially handwriting, would tell you that a child does best with child-sized paper and pencil.


That means that what's commonly labeled as "third-grade" paper, with lines about a half-inch apart, is actually better suited to small children just starting out writing their letters.


And golf pencils, or lightweight No. 2 pencils broken in half, are better than the double- or triple-weight and relatively long pencils that so many children struggle to control.


Don't believe it? Well, compare the size of your hand to the size of a 5-year-old's. Now take a hold of something that's proportional to your hand, the way one of those long, heavy pencils is proportional to the child's. Maybe a wooden ruler is the closest you can come. Pretend to write with that in your hand, and you'll see how awkward it is. Feel how the top one-third kind of waggles to and fro? Are you focusing on the line you're making, or holding the top of the pencil steady?


Similarly, when kiddie paper has lines an inch apart, the children's eyes can't keep up with the strokes their hands must make to form letters that tall. Many of them resort to "drawing" the letters - doubling back and repairing crooked lines, or filling in space. That makes their penmanship more of an art project than the swift, firm handwriting strokes it's supposed to be. If that keeps up for long, you're setting that child up for dyslexia and dysgraphia - not a pretty picture, no matter how big (or small) you slice it.


The idea is to make handwriting as simple as possible, so that the child's own letters will resemble the letters in text, and he or she will recognize them more quickly, and be off on the highway to great reading sooner. Don't put up speed bumps and stop signs; give 'em the green light with the right-sized writing tools.



By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 003 2006


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