Saturday, 25 June 2011

Letter Formation

I had noticed that, when my middle son (8) was writing, he formed his letters awkwardly and his writing didn't flow. As we were abroad until he was 5, he started school in England at the beginning of Year 1, so had obviously missed some of the foundation work on letter formation which children presumably do in the reception year. It seems no-one picked up on his problem. In fact, his teacher always used to tell me what beautiful handwriting he had - "The best handwriting in Year 1" - and, as he is such a careful and conscientious worker, he continued to work at his writing, but with incorrect formation, which became a habit.

As we have this week started on the Kumon programme, I had high hopes this would be a means of breaking these habits and helping him with his writing. One of Kumon's principles is to give children an easy starting point and work on their concentration and study habits before the difficulty of the work increases. My middle son's starter sheets therefore involve a lot of letter tracing and word formation. He complained this was too easy, but I was pleased as I hoped to iron out his problems.

As I closely observed him working, which is another principle of Kumon, I noticed it was not all bad news. It seemed to be a particular family of letters, those starting with a downward stroke - like l - which were causing problems. Many other letters, including those which begin with a 'c' formation were fine. I pointed this out to my son, who was at first discouraged. "But that's the way I write them," he protested. I told him he would find his writing much easier if we could correct this habit and form the letters correctly. On his third day of Kumon, after he had finished the set work, I asked him to write the letter 'l' from top to bottom repeatedly. If he was shoddy or careless, or if he wrote it in the old way (bottom to top), he had to do another line. He only did about 3 lines before he managed a whole row of correct 'l's. I left it at that for the day, but my plan was to work through the troublesome letters in the same way - one each day - t, r, m, n, k, h, b, i, j, p, f.

Imagine my surprise the very next day, when he sat down to do his Kumon, and began working through his pages for the day. Based on the remedial work we had done with the letter 'l', he was forming every single letter correctly! Of course, I was delighted and praised him for this. He was over the moon ... "I can do it!" he said, "And writing is so much easier". He flew through his work, and was so pleased with himself. "Didn't anyone tell you this at school?" I asked. "I don't think anyone noticed," he said and, of course in a class of 30 children, I am sure that is sadly true.

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