The following titles are the most commonly chosen topics for in-service training days. The talks are slightly more ‘formal’ than the workshops, which try to offer a range of practical strategies for addressing pupils’ needs, but both take into consideration that schools and clinics like to be left with some clear direction on how to move forward. Below is a short description of what each talk covers to help you make an informed choice for your INSET. If you would like a session on a topic which is not on the list, we are happy to discuss with you what you would like us to offer you.
Introduction to Handwriting
In this talk we examine the rationale for being concerned about handwriting and giving precious teaching time to working on this skill, looking at research evidence to support us. We then look at the nature of this complex skill so as to increase understanding of what to take into consideration when attempting to raise or maintain standards in school.
Readiness for Handwriting and Pre-writing Experience
Here we look at the underlying motor, perceptual, cognitive and linguistic skills a child needs in order to be able to write, and look at the kinds of activities in the early years that are conducive to the development of sound handwriting.
Rules of Handwriting
Handwriting is dependent upon a set of conventions which may be specific to the particular writing system being used, such as the direction of the text, the spacing patterns and the rules about alignment. Knowing these rules can help a child to learn more effectively and guide the teacher when planning a intervention. Here we set out and discuss the rules of handwriting in an easy-to-remember way.
Handwriting in the National Curriculum
Since handwriting has had a place in the National Literacy Strategy, it is helpful to know what is expected of a child (or teacher) at any one time and to reflect on whether the goals are achievable, as well as how to master them. This session provides an opportunity to discuss what changes need to be made to the existing strategy in order to improve the quality of handwriting in our schools.
Knowing how and what to assess in terms of handwriting may be confusing, though we attempt to do it all the time. In this talk we discuss the principles of assessment, as well as covering formal and informal ways of evaluating whether or not a child may have a problem. Different assessment tools will be demonstrated and their effectiveness, as shown in the research literature, will be discussed. We also look at the different professional agencies who might be involved in assessment and how to interpret what they find.
This session addresses the important question of how we can help children who find handwriting difficult. Principles of intervention should be considered and how to plan a programme, based on sound evidence from research, will be discussed. Different intervention programmes will be demonstrated with case-studies of how individual children have responded.
Handwriting standards are best maintained in schools which have a clear policy for the whole community to follow. We can offer guidelines on what it is necessary to include in a policy and how to go about setting one up.
Which Handwriting Scheme
Deciding which handwriting scheme to choose and which criteria to use for the purpose is not an easy job. This session guides teachers through the maze of commercial schemes available on the market and helps to match them to their individual schools’ needs.
Working with Health Professionals
Teachers are not the only people involved with children’s handwriting. There are often occasions when the help of health professionals, such as occupational and physiotherapists, needs to be sought and here we discuss how to access clinical expertise and how best to maximise the effect of their support.
Secondary School Pupils
It is a fact that there are many pupils who leave primary school without having fully mastered the skill of handwriting well enough for them to perform on paper at Key Stage 3. These pupils find that they are severely restricted in accessing the curriculum if they fail to write legibly or fast enough. However, the timetable does not lend itself to providing time for handwriting teaching and practice so this session gives some guidelines on considerations to be made in circumstances such as these.
Gross and Fine Motor Exercises for Handwriting
For children with poor motor coordination and for all children as a pre-writing warm-up there are a number of helpful exercises which can be performed, individually or in a group, to establish movements required for handwriting. In this session participants have a chance to try them out and comment.
‘Pegs to Paper’ Exercises
Many children who find handwriting difficult become reluctant to write. Motivating them to practise is hard. Exercises devised using a jumbo pegboard and pegs offers a different approach to developing the required skills for controlling a pencil, and they are demonstrated clearly here. Case-studies of how these exercises have helped certain children can be shared if desired.
Tools, Furniture, Grips and Grasps
This workshop addresses the ergonomic and practical aspects of making sure that children are writing in the optimum environment for handwriting. The best tools and furniture necessary for writing will be discussed in the light of how they support the underlying skills necessary for writing. Opportunities to look at different apparatus for assisting poor writers will be provided.
Children who are left-handed may find that there are certain aspects of learning to write which are more difficult for them than for their right-handed peers. This workshop provides a chance to experience what a left-hander experiences when writing, with a view to raising awareness of ways in which modifications to classroom planning and behaviour on the part of the teachers can make life easier for them.
This session provides an opportunity for those working with children to show samples of particular children’s handwriting and discuss ways in which the child might be helped.