Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fine Motor Skills Interventions

The dread of every teacher and parent- a whole page of work a student has toiled over for hours, and it's completely illegible!  Fine motor skills can be tricky for students to master, especially with the emphasis on typing.  Parents and teachers can use strategies in the list below to encourage fine motor skills in students of all ages; these have been collected from occupational therapists, teacher friends, and my own classroom experience.  Start with one that sounds the most engaging to your student!

Pencil Pushups
Take a pencil in your hand and  hold it the "correct" or most ergonomically comfortable way for a typical writer.  First, keep your "stop" fingers tucked in, just like when you write.  Then, pull in your three "go" fingers (your thumb, index, and middle finger that grip the pencil) so that each finger is bent and retracted as closely to the hand as possible.  Finally, extend your "go" fingers so that they are completely straight.  You've just done a pencil pushup!  Repeating this movement a few dozen times a day will help build muscle strength of those tiny finger muscles; this will make it easier to have the stamina it requires to write.  It also encourages the "correct" grip on a pencil, which will make it more comfortable for the writer, and will allow them to write for longer periods of time with greater accuracy, and less pain or discomfort.  Teachers can begin or end a certain subject area, like at the end of math, every day that the whole class does pencil push ups.  Set a timer for a few different times during the day to help build pencil pushups into your daily routine! 

Handwriting Levels
I have a set of mini drawers that I keep different "levels" of handwriting in.  The first level is the sentence, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog!" on large  handwriting paper.  The second level is the same sentence but on regular lined paper.  Next comes, "THE FIVE BOXING WIZARDS JUMP QUICKLY?" on large handwriting paper.  Level four is the same wizard sentence on regular lined paper.  Level five is the alphabet in cursive and level six is the fox sentence in cursive on handwriting paper.  The fox sentence in cursive on regular lined paper is level seven, and level eight is the student's name in cursive on regular paper.  To pass a level, a student must fill the page with the letters/sentence in legible handwriting.  Then they "graduate" on to the next level.  This set of handwriting levels helps students master basic to more complex handwriting and they feel accomplishment as they graduate from each level.  I used to spend about a half hour a week on handwriting levels, but now that cursive handwriting is no longer part of Oregon state standards, I just pull intervention groups for students who need help with their fine motor skills/printing.

Pencil Grips
There are a wide variety of pencil grips available for purchase.  Through a grant I wrote, I got my entire school a set of the little Steno pencil grips, like these-
 They are inexpensive, help force students to hold their pencil correctly, and provide some cushioning support for smaller fingers.
I also have these available for just my students that  have difficulty with fine motor skills.  They have more cushioning and also help students grip their pencil ergonomically.

Detailed Coloring Sheets
Before detailed coloring sheets became popular a few years ago, the only ones that I could find were created by Dover Publishing.  I love them because I chose pages that correlate with whatever we're learning about, and they each include a little informative paragraph that explains what is happening in the illustration.
Personalized Handwriting Practice
Either use a handwriting font on Word or go to a website like to create customized worksheets. My students love pages of their name in cursive, sentences I've written about our class adventures or interests of theirs.  This offers higher levels of engagement because they're interested in what they're writing; it's not just random sentences!

What Works Best for You?
What are your favorite ways to practice handwriting and fine motor skills?  What do your students or your child like the best?  What made the most difference in your own fine motor skill development?  Leave a comment below, share this post, and subscribe to make sure you don't miss any new teaching goodness that comes out!