Why Your Kid Still Needs To Be Able to Write With A Pencil

I just watched a Google tech guy try to explain why digital education is so great. Maybe it is, for older kids and college students, and kids in rural parts of the world.

But for the youngest children, and for kids with special needs of all types, digital instruction has proven to be lacking in so many ways. One of the ways digital instruction is failing kids is that children 2-5 still need to see live demonstration of pre-writing and handwriting. Live, as in a person sitting next to them, not on a screen. At the very least, the adult helping them with their Zoom lesson needs to be demonstrating how to write and draw.

This isn’t because these children have deficits. Learning to write has it’s own natural progression, and when you leave out one of the steps, you risk losing some kids completely. Every time I saw a “writing corner” in a preschool, with a few handouts and a few markers left available, I would cringe. Add in some kids with learning differences, and you have a recipe for…hiring me privately in a couple of years when the child cannot keep up in school or hates writing so much that they refuse all together.

Why?

Because intuition is no way to learn to form letters and numbers. There is a stroke sequence that is based on hand anatomy, which creates letters formed with the least amount of time and effort and with the greatest ease. NO PRESCHOOL CHILD WILL INVENT THIS SEQUENCE BY LOOKING AT A COMPLETED LETTER OR NUMBER.

Children learn to write from observing an adult holding a writing tool, copying their movements, and hearing the verbal cues that teach the sequence and skills that reduce reversals and errors like overstrokes and poor proportion.

Only after this phase can they progress to copying a finished sample and then move on to the most advanced level: independent writing without any sample at all.

By 3.5 years, a child should be able to copy a circle and a vertical cross. These skills prepare them to write beginning letters like “L” , “O”, and “H” at 4- 4.5 years of age. Expecting a 3 year-old to trace lowercase letters, or expecting a 4 year-old to write a sentence is seen when parents expect teachers to know the expected age for pre-writing skills to emerge, and how to develop them.

Thank goodness there are occupational therapists that can help out. The current preschool programs have teachers that aren’t taught anything about hand development, visual-motor development, or how to teach handwriting, and eagerly let struggling kids move onto the next class, in the hope that they will pick up some skills along the way. With hybrid education due to COVID-19, there will be some kids that never learn to write with any skill, unless administrators decide to get OTs as consultants and turn this doomed ship around.

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