Wednesday, August 12, 2015

For love of lefties

In this first few weeks of homeschooling, I've found myself googling so many things I could have never imagined needing to "google." Here's the short list...

1. Space slime
2. Does my 5 year old have dyslexia?(Thankfully, I don't think so-but the English language is hard!)
3. Are flamingo's really pink?
4. Spinosarous vs. Tyrannosaurus
5. Lipstick in carpet(this one may be par for parenting in general)

and more to the point,

5. Teaching the left handed child

I know I know, it's an exciting life around here! All that to say, after early suspicions and a continued dominance throughout preschool and into Kindergarten, it's safe to say that Evan is definitely left handed. I'm not. Two weeks into our handwriting materials and a few bumped elbows later I've started to dive into what difference that makes and how to make those small but necessary adjustments in order to make things a bit easier for him. No hooked wrists for us thank you!

Here's a exert from an education blog I follow on some basic differences between left and right handedness. Did you know that only about 10 percent of the population is left handed?! News to me!

"If you are right-handed, you begin on the left-side of a page and write, moving your hand from left to right. As you proceed you can see what you have written and your hand moves mostly in a pulling motion across the page. However, if you use your left hand (try this), as you write from left to right, your left hand tends to move over and cover the words that you have already written, so that you can't read them! If you are writing with ink that can smudge, this is an added problem. Your left hand moves across the page in a pushing motion. Experts say that by the primary grades, many left-handed child have not be correctly coached and have developed bad writing habits and experience considerable difficulty as a result. They often struggle and write extremely slowly, which is frustrating and puts them at a disadvantage if they have to write tests within a time limit."

Now that I know about this whole pushing verses pulling thing, here are a few simple tips I've picked up from the pages of more experienced childhood occupational therapists to make classroom life with your leftie less of an issue.

1.   Angle his paper with the left corner pointed up. Righties tend to angle the right corner of their paper up, and lefties should do the same with the left side. It places their writing arm in a natural position to be able to write on the lines as they move from left to right without having to excessively hook their wrist. Easy peasy to implement.

2. Have them sit on the left. Duh! This would be more applicable in a school setting where there is a grouping of desks. In that scenario you would ideally have the child seated at the end and on the left to give writing space to his fellow students and avoid knocking elbows. What it means for us at home is very simply that I'm intentional to sit to his right. I've also started positioning papers slightly to his left.

3. When teaching lefties to copy letters and words, make sure the example is either above or directly to the right side of where they are writing so they can actually see it. Most worksheets place the example letter or word on the left side and then leave a blank space on the right for the student to copy it. This is difficult for lefties because their left arm automatically covers up the model, so it may take them longer to complete or may lead to more mistakes because the model is covered up the majority of the time. Not fair! I selected "Handwriting without Tears" for our handwriting curriculum because it recognizes this unique need when it comes to the positioning of models and they have customized all of their worksheets so that they are accessible for both righties and lefties(they set the example at the top of the page). Thank you, HWT!

There are many more tricks out there-writing on the left side of a spiral notebook, encouraging good pencil grips, using the right hand as a helper, and mirror techniques to name a few. While it's not especially difficult to teach a leftie, I do think it's important to recognize those tiny adjustments you can easily implement early on to avoid bad habits down the road. 

And now you know-one less topic to google! :-)

1 comment:

Kay said...

Hi, Rebecca! One thing that always helped me when I was teaching was to sit/squat directly in front of the lefty that I was helping with his/her handwriting so that my dominant hand could easily cover his/her dominant hand as I guided them in forming the letters correctly. My oldest, Daniel, is a lefty too! :)