Copying Rubric

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Data. Data. Data.

It never ends.

But how does one collect quantitative data on copying? Try this easy rubric.

In the Copying Rubric, the qualities that define accuracy in copying are divided into 4 areas: Distance, Distractions, Visual Cues and Chunking.

distance refers to the placement of the prompt with regards to the location of the writing paper.   In a Direct Line Copy, the writing prompt is placed directly on the paper onto which the student will be writing. A near point sample at the edge of his/her desk, midpoint a 3-5 or 5-8 feet away still at midline and finally far point is at the far side of the room.

DISTRACTIONS refers to any other visual information nearby. This progresses from no visual information nearby, to slightly more but unrelated writing, to that in which the text to be copied is embedded in a larger whole.

VISUAL CUES refers to the presentation of the written prompt and the availability of other visual cues (i.e. a desktop alphabet strip or an Alphatrangle. If the prompt is written on the lined paper similar to that on which the student will be writing,, or if a near point reference is available, the student may be able to reference Letter Sizes and attention to the Writing Lines.

Chunking refers to the number of letters or words copied at a time. To observe this skill, therapists should sit perpendicularly to the student, observing their gaze shift to the copying prompt and back to the paper. Note the amount of letters or words written before needing to look back to the prompt.

When using the Copying Rubric, circle the answers in each column that best describes the student’s performance. For chunking skills, record the number of times the student copies 1-5 letters or 1-5 words at a time. How do you track that? Keep reading. Scooping is next!

Slant desks

Sometimes it seems like our furniture was designed to appease the janitorial staff.

After all, the desktops are hard laminates that can be easily scoured with heavy-duty cleansers and the silhouette has become ideal only for those concerned with efficient stacking.

But if you harken back to school days of yore, you’ll recall a soft wood finish in which initials could be carved and the gently sloped slant desks that insure a comfortable reading and writing surface.

Ah… to live in the ‘60’s again.

While there is certainly a lot to be said for progress, the changes made in classroom furnishings has created a less than ideal work set-up.

Let’s start with the angle of the desk itself.

A work surface parallel to the floor is, by its very nature, perpendicular to the child’s seated body. That means that the visual process of regarding papers and books requires the length of focus to shift anywhere from 18” to 8” from the nose when reading (or writing) a page from top to bottom. That’s tricky. At the farthest point, it’s like looking at the horizon. The print appears smaller and less precise. It’s the reason most kids don’t utilize the alphabet strips on the ends of the desk… if they even notice they’re there!

An inexpensive solution to making slant desks?

Enter—the trusty screwdriver! Raise the far legs of the desk a notch. Maybe even lower the legs abutting the child’s body a notch. Just be careful not to overdue it or the contents will fall out.

Creating a slight slant to the desktops will help your students with reading, copying, writing, posture and overall attention.

Point of View Survey

A note-worthy alternative to traditional handwriting assessments, the Point of View Survey provides valuable insight into what’s gone wrong and how to fix it.  As the first part of the Size Matters Handwriting Intake, this set of statements and scales is fast to administer and easy to score.

Watch the video to learn more.

Scalpel, please!

Let the Dissection Begin!

In the Size Matters Handwriting Program, we want students to fully understand all the Letter Lines that comprise a letter. To achieve that end, we take the letters apart.

Kind of like disassembling a toaster or car engine.

Once students identify, take inventory and appreciate how the parts fit together, they can better reassemble and rebuild them.

Letter construction is no different. In fact, our Practice Framework encourages it. More specifically and in response to the research, it acknowledges that the more students are given information regarding goal attainment, the more likely they are to buy-in, find satisfaction and achieve their goals.

Toward that end, we give the children lots of information. Meaningful information. And their first surgical opportunity.

Watch the video to see how.

Key Concept Charts

Meta-analysis requires, for lack of a better word, so much analysis! Yet sometimes, words alone are insufficient. For those times, we have charts!

Watch this video to learn how to dissect letters and make use of the charts in the Instruction Manual.

It’s really easy.

Plus… we’ve done all the accounting for you.

4 – Starting Points

The Size Matters Handwriting Program is like plain vanilla. It goes with everything.

There is no fancy font. It can be embedded in all content areas taught concurrently including math, social studies and science.   It is sufficient as a stand-alone curriculum but works equally well as a supplement to any other instruction method already present.

It’s simple, but rich in its comprehensiveness. Filling. Fulfilling. Fun. In fact, a welcome formula guaranteed to please and appease the most reluctant (and by that, I mean unhappy) consumer.

Consider the Starting Point. We tell students that ALL Starting Points in SMHP are either on the Top or Bottom Line. Restricting the beginning variability to either of two options alone compels young writers into at least getting the height factor right.

“Yes,” tell your students, “All letters start on a line.”

Before commencing to write, ask your children where each letter starts. Mark the Starting Points with a Sharpie. On the Alphatrangle, we indicate it with a Green Dot and a Directional Arrow. In the Letterbox Worksheets and the Student Workbook, we use a single Green Dot….

On the line, Top or Dotted, except….

Lower case e and lower case f.

But don’t even mention them until you get up to them. Or unless they appear in a child’s name.

We are aiming for consistency and simplicity.

Nothing fancy about vanilla. But is sure does the trick of satisfying our cravings to feel competent and content.

4 – Initial Lines

Initial Lines are the Letter Lines that emanate from the Starting Point.

They can be Standing Tall Lines, Lying Down Lines, Slant Lines, Smiles or Frowns. Super C letters always start with a Super C formation, so you can safely say that Super C Letter Lines are always initial Lines.

The only variation would be for left-handed children.

Some Lefties are more comfortable swinging their pencils clockwise for letters like O, o, or Q. And since our goal of legibility supports the demographic principal of free speech (which implies free writing)…. we are cool with that.

Identifying Initial Lines is an exercise in the Student Workbook. At the guidance of the instructor, it can also be part of the 10 learning activities in the Letterbox Worksheets. In fact, a meta-analysis of Letter structure is at the heart of the Size Matters Handwriting Program.

When we ask students, “What Letter Lines make up an upper case A?” a whole bunch of other questions come to mind.

  • What size is upper case A?
  • Where does it start?
  • What is the Initial Line?
  • What is the next and the next and the next Letter Line?

Encourage your students to articulate answers to each of these questions. It helps them own the knowledge that will lead to uniformity, readability and automaticity.

Best Practice in Handwriting

This is IT.

The essence.

The variable that when understood, will make the greatest difference in the consistency, and thus readability of the written page.

Letter Size.

If there could be a single sound bite that described the Size Matters Handwriting Program it would be this:

Focus on Size. Form will follow.

Consider this. There are 62 Letter and Number Forms.,. including all upper and lower cases. And every other program focuses on these—the shape. That’s a lot to learn.   Moreover, it is conceivable that many of your students make letters or numbers that are identifiable in isolation. But in the context of a larger whole…. an indecipherable mess.

It’s analogous to going into the great outdoors and focusing on a single tree. You’re missing the bigger picture.

By contrast, there are only 3 Letter Sizes.  Three. That’s it. And they adhere to three simple Rules. (More on that in a minute.)

Furthermore, when you correct errors in Letter Size, you make an immediate and visible change in the appearance of your student’s printing.

The Size Matters Handwriting Program IS the BIG PICTURE.

You can now see, appreciate and adapt to the fact that you are in the middle of a forest.

Let’s learn how to see the forest AND the trees…. Next!

5 – The Rules

Cue the music:

I’m all about the Rules. ‘Bout The Rules. (No trouble.)

Okay… so Meghan Trainor’s song doesn’t exactly go like that.

But it could!!

And for us pediatric OTs…. It SHOULD!!

Because it truly is.

To achieve consistency and legibility in handwriting, it’s all about the Rules on Letter Size.

We lovingly joke that the Rules on Letter Size come packaged as a song and dance. As you recite the Rules, imagine pointing to an imaginary Top or Bottom Line, or making a staccato gesture along a pretend Dotted Line. Twirl your finger skyward as you announce that “They can’t go higher.” Twirl your finger downward as you sing that “They can’t go lower.” Then wave your hands in the middle as you gesture the lyrics, “And they can’t float in the middle.”

Now listen again to the refrain. You’ll be singing along in no time.

Maestro!!