Once, Twice, Thrice… Shoot!

Let’s bring handwriting sensibility to a conscious level throughout the day.

Too ambitious, you think?  Not really.  Once children become attuned to listen for the clinking of dice, efforts to print letters the correct size becomes more routine and deliberate.

During any writing assignment, walk around with a few dice in your palm or in a container.  Children quickly learn that at any given moment,  you may stop by their desk and ask them to critique their printing.  Of course,  it’s important to put matters into proper perspective.  Suggest to the teachers that they not interrupt the children while they are thick into their daily edits, free writes or other written assignments.  But at the same time, encourage them to juggle some dice as they stroll between the desks.  When children sense the clicking noise, they’ll knowingly and immediately focus on making Star-Worthy letters.

It’s a great strategy to use during any subject lesson.  No reason you can’t be thinking about neat printing during science or social studies.

What’s more… it’s a perfect adjunct to a push-in or collaborative therapy session.  Model how stopping by one child’s desk causes a domino effect among the rest of the class.  Each child knows s/he could be next.

But on the occasions when it’s not until you arrive in a classroom that you realize you’ve forgotten your dice, all is not lost.

Got fingers?  Then shoot.  Both student and therapist/teacher hide one hand behind their backs.  On the count of three, each thrusts the hidden hand into sight with anywhere from zero to five fingers pointed forward.  Note in this game… a closed fist stands for six.  Add up all the digits (or fist) for the total number of times that child has to make a Star-Worthy letter.

Playing cards work fine, too.

In fact, there is no excuse not to sneak in a little extra practice.  Even without the audible reminder of the dice, a Machiavellian rubbing of your two hands together will tip off your students that a game of chance is just an errant letter away!

Got Dice?

The OT Practice Framework stresses the importance of including our patients, clients or students in the discussion.  From evaluation to treatment planning, soliciting a child’s perspective and insuring his understanding of what’s going on… on whatever level of comprehension matches his intellectual level, become keys to carryover.

Put simply, when our students have a say in their therapy, they are more likely to value the time, the activity and the goals as meaningful.  This can be the critical first step to the buy in.

And it can be a simple as a roll of the dice.

Playing the Dice Game is fun and empowering.  Dice can be used to determine initial practice or remediation.

Start by showing a child an assortment of dice.  Offer a mixture of colors, finishes, sizes and facets, from 4 sided to 20-sided.   Next, tell the student, “Select a die that is calling your name.”

The student then rolls the dice.  Whatever number comes up is the amount of times the child has to print a STAR-WORTHY individual letter, a group of letters or a word.  If the child rolls a five, explain that 5 STAR-WORTHY letters must be printed.  If the child prints five letters, but only 2 are STAR-WORTHY, s/he is still printing that letter.

To be STAR-WORTHY, not only do the letters have to be the correct size.  They also have to be made using the correct letter lines and  correct starting points.  In other words, the Dice Game becomes an opportunity to fine-tune letter printing.

So while we only score for SIZE for the purpose of data collection, when we play The Dice Game, we’re also looking at the other variables that contribute to uniformity and mature habits.

Your children will love this idea.  They may even purposefully seek out the multifaceted dice because of their novelty.  They will revel in the fact that we are obliged to respect whichever number is rolled… even if it’s a one, though I caution them teasingly that it had better be a good one!

Everyone is a winner.

The Dice game–it’s both entertaining and addicting.  In fact, its unpredictable outcome appears to level the field.  Teachers, therapists and students defer to the laws of probability.  In a word, handwriting practice has been elevated to a crap-shoot!

Bonus Round!

OK… one more exercise each.   I’ll explain a few on the unknowns on the menu.  Don’t want you to get frustrated!


  • Wipe the Board.  Actually, this could be called ‘Help the teacher decorate and clean!’  While many teachers ask for student volunteers to erase the board or assist in hanging work samples, this activity brings the necessity of doing this to a conscious level.  Used as a daily exercise, different students are responsible for washing the entire chalk or white board, stapling displays onto the bulletin boards, dangling pictures from the suspension ceiling frames or otherwise installing educational and aesthetic items around the room.  Encourage teachers to add or subtract materials on a regular basis.


  • Can Can.  Divide the class into 2-4 groups.  Students stand side by side along the front, back and sides of the room, linking their arms over each others shoulders.  In unison, they kick their right legs to the left and then their left legs to the right.  It’s like a chorus line.  Repeat this performance while singing your school song, a top 40 favorite or even Happy Birthday.


  • Yabba Dabba Doo.  Fred Flintstone knew how to have fun.  Using his timeless cheer, instruct student to bend and reach with both hands to the outside of the left ankle.  Shake your hands while down there and say, ‘Yabba!”  Immediately swing your arms to the outside of your right ankles, shake your hands and say, ‘Dabba!’  Then, without hesitation, reach skyward shaking both hands and say ‘Doo!’  Repeat 5 times.  Reverse directions, right ankle then left, and do it another 5 times.  This exercise can be done sitting or standing.

I can feel the energy rising already!

Thicker is Better

There’s nothing to hold onto when you’re following a thin one.

Cutting line, that is.
So many children destroy small pictures when the stimulus boundary is only a thin black line. It seems almost inconceivable that the outline has any bearing to the placement of the scissor blades. You might as well have asked them to slice a strand of spaghetti in half… lengthwise.
When first instructing young children in cutting, thicken the stimulus line to the width of a broad tip marker or the equivalent of a 30 point line made on the computer. Then ask the children to cut right down the middle of the black line so that black is visible on both sides of the paper when it’s separated. You can even draw a pencil mark through the black line so children know what you mean.
Then, once they’ve actually bisected the paper, place the two sides next to each other. Point out whether black is showing the full length of the cut on one side, and then the other.
As children understand the goal of the activity, the width of the line can be thinned.
Pair this strategy with Lead-In/Lead-off Lines. Your children will be cutting more accurately in no time!

2 – Letter Lines

preview4There are 6 different kinds of Letter Lines.  The icons or images indicate the movement of the pencil on the paper.

1.  Standing Tall lines.  These are straight up and down lines.  Older children may elect to use the term Vertical to describe these lines.  Standing Tall lines can progress from the Top Line or Dotted Line to the Bottom Line, or from the Dotted Line below the Bottom Line.  Most vertical lines progress downward, but not always!  Picture the first line made in a lower case h, and then how it continues back upward once it touches the Bottom Line.

2.  Lying Down Lines.  Also known as Horizontal Lines.  These lines are typically drawn forward.  Some left-handed children are more comfortable drawing some Lying Down lines form right to left.

3.  Slant Lines.  These can be forward or backward moving lines, tall or short.  Also known as Diagonal Lines, these Letter Lines can also progress downward or upward, as in the letters v and w.

4.  Clock Lines round an analogue clock as if from 12 to 6.  Clock Lines always start off moving forward.  They can progress clockwise as if going from 1 to 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, or counterclockwise from 6 to 5, 4, 3, 2 1 and back up to 12.

5.  Smiles and Frowns.  These Letter Lines can move forward or backward.  Lower case f starts with a backward frown.  Lower case q ends with a forward smile.

When introducing the concept of Letter Lines to your students, ask them to find letters with each type.  Point out the alphabet strips above the board or on their desks.  Help your students ‘dissect’ each letter so they understand all the Letter Lines that comprise them.

… wait…

Didn’t I say there were six Letter Lines?

Stay tuned!

3 – Super C


Super C is the sixth Letter Line.  But because of his importance in warding off reversals, he is given his own status as a Key Concept.

Super C lines are always Initial Lines.  And theY are always backward and downward moving.

There are 5 upper case letters that are Super C.  They include C G O S and Q.
There are 7 lower case letters that are Super C.  These include:  a c d g o q and s.

Super C is our superhero.  As such, he comes packaged with a little extra drama.  Whenever doing a Size Matters lesson, always ask a child to tell you what size a letter is first.  But immediately afterwards (and only if the letter is a Super C), continue with…

But not only….”

Those 3 words should cue students to respond enthusiastically and straight away with,

“It’s also a SUPER C!!!”

No Workbook Needed!


Visual references are a good idea.

In the Size Matters Handwriting Program, these posters remind students about Letter Lines and their directional movement.

Always teach the information on the poster before hanging it.  Be sure children understand and are invested in the concepts.  After that, ask them where they’d like them displayed.

On the right.  To the left.  A little higher.  A lot lower.

In fact, let the children tack them into place.
When your students participate in the decision making regarding where to place instructional information,  you increase the likelihood that they may actually use that information when they need it.

Build the Buy-In.

Cutting Progress

It’s all about the numbers.

Data is the newest 4-letter word.  We can’t escape the need to collect it, record it, share it, and compare it.  In fact, the demand to write progress notes is often so consuming that is feels like there is almost no time left for treatment.

Unless…. you employ fast, simple, reliable and measurable rubrics.

See the video below to learn how to use The Cutting Program Progress Monitoring Form.

1 – Go Letters!

preview7Give me a G!
Give me an O!
Give me an L!
Give me an E!
Give me two T’s!
Give me another E!
Give me an R!
Give me an S!

What’s that spell?  Or a better question might be, “What’s that mean?”

What it means is that some letters or numbers are formed with forward moving lines.  Check out the first line in the 7, the slant in R, the hump in lower case h.  In all of these letters, the pencil moves toward the Finish line.

On the other hand, check out the hook in g, the first slant in K, the diagonal in z.  All of these letters are formed by moving the pencil in the direction of the Go Line…. in other words, backwards.

Referencing the Go and Finish Lines, when teaching letter formation, may help children properly orient the letter and avoid reversals.  Imagine a little Go Line and Finish Line on the desktop.  It might give your students the visual cues they’d need to make their letters and their writing go the right way.

Concept 1 – Go Lines and Finish Lines

Picture a race.   Participants poise themselves on running blocks at the starting line. Once the race begins, they progress toward the checkerboard flags. It doesn’t matter if you are crab-walking the distance, skipping, hopping or running. You are headed toward the Finish Line.

So are we.

Go Lines mark the place where students should make their first letters. Finish Lines connote the end of the line. It’s a kinesthetic way of reinforcing left to right directionality across the page.

Whenever a student’s pencil marks are moving toward the Finish Line, we call it a forward movement. Writing in general progresses forward. If they write in the direction of the Go Line, it’s called a backward movement, because… for all you Candyland players… they are moving back to Go!

The Student Workbooks and Letterbox Worksheets both contain green Go Lines on the left side of a set of Writing Lines and checkerboard Finish Lines on the right side of the Writing Lines.

For some children, I may actually place a strip of green highlighter tape down the left side of their desks. (Don’t use floral tape… it will stain your clothing!) Down the right side, I’ll place a masking tape strip with a grid running the entire length. Together, the children and I color in alternating boxes to make a Finish Line.

And for some, I’ve simply drawn the same starting and ending lines on a blotter*. The kids color them in accordingly.

Go Lines and Finish Lines eventually morph into left and right margin lines, respectively. But for your youngest students, this is a helpful way of preventing or correcting reversals.

*  Blotters, you ask?  Tell you more soon.