learning

  • Treasure C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters

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    THE BACKSTORY:  

    Treasure
    C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters was developed to improve the handwriting of children by providing specific therapeutic techniques. One of the most common errors that occur with children’s
    handwriting is the formation and directionality of letters. This refers to the direction the child moves
    the pencil to form letters. Since all
    uppercase letters begin on the top line, it makes sense to associate letters by
    groups according to the curved or straight lines used to form them.

    The uppercase letters are separated into six groups to
    help children relate the letters to common objects. In addition, seven action word phrases are used to help a child memorize how to form individual letters. This provides a multisensory approach as the child feels the motion of the pencil, hears the words, and sees the strokes as they are being formed into letters. In addition, there is a helpful mascot cheering along as a child works his or her way through the book.  

    This workbook was created to help parents, educators, and occupational therapists.  Its concept is smart and
    effective and can be introduced as early as 4 years of age when children
    typically begin to draw simple shapes. However, it is most
    effective when started around age 5 or when a child is able to neatly and
    easily copy strokes on command and has strong foundational skills including a
    functional pencil grasp. It is meant to be completed before its companion workbook for lowercase letters. 

    THE CONCEPT:

    The 26 uppercase letters of the alphabet are separated into six formation groups that spell out the acronym CHEST: Clocks, Hats & Hooks, Ears, Slides, & Trees.

    C is for Clocks. These 5 letters curve around like a circular clock: C G O Q S.              

    H is for Hats. These 5 letters have a line across the top like a hat: E F I T Z.

    H is also for Hooks.  These 2 letters curve up like a hook: J U.

    E is for Ears. These 4 letters have a bump on the right side like an ear: B D P R.

    S is for Slides. These 5 letters slide down to the side like a playground slide: A V W X Y.

    T is for Trees. These 5 letters zip straight down and have branches like a tree: H K L M N.

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    The
    26 uppercase letters of the alphabet can be formed using seven simple phrases called Action
    Words: Curve Around, Make an Ear, Make a Hook, Slide Down, Slide Up,
    Zip Down, and Zoom Across.

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    THE SET-UP:

    First
    introduce the Action Words pages. They are used to introduce the language used
    for the formation of the curved and straight lines. The Coloring Pages are then used as introductions
    to the different groups. The groups do not need to be completed in the
    order they are presented.

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    Next, each letter will have a page within a group. Action words printed in bold
    should be said aloud to guide the
    child. Using a parrot voice makes it
    more fun and encourages the child to say the words as well.  

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    Lastly, there are additional pages including reviews of the groups, copying words, and activity pages. The workbook also includes a visual chart and a guide with all the action words for the 26 letters on one page.

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    Visit www.playapy.com to purchase the award-winning Treasure C.H.E.S.T. and its companion workbook Heads, Tummies, & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters.

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    Watch this video for an example of a child using the Action Words.

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  • A Passion for Play

    February is the
    time of year for professing your true love, and I am not too shy to admit that
    one of my greatest passions is play. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I
    spend many hours of my week at play with children. The trunk of my car is full
    of games, toys, and equipment like balls and cushions. I design activities to
    foster skills in children that have developmental delays or disorders that make
    learning and living more challenging for them. Surprisingly, I often have to remind
    parents and teachers that play is actually a child’s occupation. It is through
    play that they learn, use their imaginations, problem solve, enhance their
    muscular coordination and strength, regulate their emotions, and develop their
    sensory systems to understand the world around them. 

    My passion for
    play is a direct result of witnessing the negative effects of schools
    decreasing recess time for young children. Hence, I have become an advocate for
    more playtime in schools. In recent years, societies have moved away from play
    by placing more concern on risk aversion, separating from nature, and
    succumbing to elements of modern living like increased technology. In addition,
    the implementation of policies like No
    Child Left Behind
    has placed more emphasis on testing and assessment
    scores. This has forced schools to find more time in the day for instruction,
    which has led to reducing unstructured play opportunities and free time for
    children. Research, however, shows unfortunate consequences have developed from
    trying to improve education in this way. In fact Boston University psychologist
    and author, Peter Gray, has studied the link between a sharp rise in mental
    disorders and the decline of free play over the last 50 years.

    As more therapists and educators
    become passionate about play advocacy, more attention is brought to this
    important issue. Subsequently there are more positive stories in the
    news including a 1st grade teacher in Texas who recently
    experimented with adding more recess time during the day. Over the course of
    five months, she reported her students were more focused, more attentive, less
    fidgety, and less likely to have discipline issues. I can only hope that more
    schools rethink their recess policies and return to providing more time for
    students to rest and reset their minds.

    I hope you find
    this insightful. If your child struggles with a lack of play opportunities in
    school, consider consulting with an occupational therapist to develop a plan
    for your home. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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  • Keeping Cursive Current

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    As the creator of
    a handwriting program, people outside of my profession often ask me if I think
    handwriting will soon be a thing of the past due to the advancement of
    technology. They usually reconsider when I remind them of all the daily
    activities we don’t think of that require handwriting like writing checks,
    filling out applications, signing contracts, etc. What fascinates them,
    however, is hearing all the benefits particularly when it comes to cursive
    handwriting. Since many schools have stopped requiring the instruction of
    cursive, it has become a lost art to many. So much so that National Handwriting
    Day
    , January 23rd, was created to promote the skill and help to keep
    it current.

    The benefits of
    handwriting extend beyond the obvious improvements in fine motor skills, hand
    strength, and hand dexterity. Research shows that handwriting verses tracing or
    typing of letters is important for the early recruitment in letter processing
    of three brain regions known to support successful reading. Therefore, handwriting
    may facilitate reading acquisition in young children.1 In fact,
    research has shown children that learn to write letters from memory
    automatically and quickly may increase the probability that they will become
    skilled writers in terms of composition.2
    This is because there is better access to thoughts and information
    when handwriting flows more naturally. Cursive has been known to be a faster and
    more efficient method for handwriting, but research also shows that it is better
    for learning as well. A 2014 study compared the notes taken by college students
    with one group writing in cursive and the other group typing. The students that
    used longhand demonstrated better understanding and retention of their notes
    despite writing less than the typing students whom recorded more words
    verbatim.3 Lastly, cursive
    handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and
    right hemispheres, something absent from printing or typing.

    The many benefits
    of cursive handwriting create a strong argument in support of its continued
    instruction in schools. Keeping it current is not only helpful to children and
    adults as readers and writers but as learners overall. Maintain a cursive
    practice and reap the rewards.

    I hope you find
    this helpful. If your child struggles with handwriting tasks, talk to your
    pediatrician about consulting with an occupational therapist. Have a playful
    day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

    References:

    1
    James, K. and Engelhardt, L. (2012). The effects of
    handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate
    children. Trends in Neuroscience and education. 1 (1), 32-42.

    2 Berninger, V.W., et al.
    (1997). Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers: Transfer from
    handwriting to composition. Journal of
    Educational Psychology
    , 89, 652-666.

    3
    Mueller,
    P.A., and Oppenheimer, D. M. (2104). The pen is mightier than the keyboard:
    Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science. 23
    April. DOI: 10.1177/0956797614524581.

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  • Why Writing Capital Letters 1st is Key

    Learning to write
    is a milestone in the childhood experience of almost all typically developing
    children. Still, it is achieved with great effort and struggle for many. Countless
    products sold in stores often complicate the task for parents by combining
    uppercase and lowercase letters and encouraging the printing of 112 letters in
    an alphabetical yet developmentally arbitrary fashion. This can be overwhelming
    for a small child, decrease their confidence, and create poor habits. Hence,
    specialists often teach uppercase letters prior to introducing lowercase. It
    may seem counter-intuitive to learn capitals first when mostly lowercase
    letters are used in writing. There, however, are several important reasons why
    this particular method is beneficial to a child in terms of ease and
    comprehension.

    Here are 5 helpful reasons why learning to write capital letters first is the key to success:

    1.     All uppercase letters start at the top.
    Lowercase letters vary and have different starting points.

    2.     All uppercase letters are the same height.
    Lowercase letters vary and have different heights with some tall and some
    short.

    3.     All uppercase letters use the same space.
    Lowercase letters vary with some letters ascending to the top line and some descending
    below the base line.

    4.     Uppercase letters are easier to recognize.
    Children have more exposure to capital letters in their environments on street
    signs, billboards, buildings, etc.

    5.     Uppercase letters encourage top to bottom
    and left to right eye and hand coordination fundamental for reading in addition
    to writing.

    It is also important to note it is not necessary to learn to write letters in alphabetical order.  Many handwriting programs are available with instructions to teach letters in groups according to how they are formed or in developmental stages. This helps a child to practice similar letters together and quickly become more successful.  Remember to consider if a child has the foundational skills of copying and connecting simple lines to form basic shapes before teaching letters. If your child is struggling with handwriting, consult with your doctor about seeing an occupational therapist for an evaluation or consultation. 

    I hope you find this tip helpful. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist,
    award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information
    about Playapy’s publications, visit
    www.playapy.com
    or email
    info@playapy.com.

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  • October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month

    Dyslexia is a learning disability that is commonly known but poorly understood. Most people associate dyslexia with reading letters backwards, but that is only one possible symptom of many.  Generally speaking, dyslexia is a specific learning disability for reading.  It is often characterized by difficulty with word recognition, decoding, or spelling. This can lead to difficulty with reading comprehension and could slow down vocabulary growth resulting in struggles with reading, writing, and sometimes speaking. Against popular belief, dyslexia is not caused by poor instruction, poor intelligence, laziness, or impaired vision. It is a result of a neurological condition and can also be genetic. It is also something which can be overcome with help and support leading most to good reading and writing skills overall.

    It is important to detect dyslexia as early as possible because reading and writing are such an integral part of learning in the classroom. Some signs of dyslexia in young children include having trouble with recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, learning new words, learning the alphabet or numbers, rhyming words, or remembering word sequences like the days of the week.  Some signs of dyslexia in older children include poor handwriting, reading or writing reversed letters like b or d, mastering spelling rules, following a set of directions, or remembering facts or rules. 

    I hope you find this information helpful. If you feel your child may have multiple signs of dyslexia, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational therapist or speech therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

    Continue reading
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