Handwriting Help! How to Transition to Writing Smaller with Proper Spacing

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How to Transition Children to Writing Smaller with Proper Spacing

Heart of Dakota plans for children to incrementally improve their handwriting. Children begin with a formal handwriting book and with short early writing practice in Storytime in Little Hearts for His Glory. Next, they move to copywork of the Bible verse and classical poetry in Beyond. Then, they add notebooking for history and science in Bigger Hearts. They also begin to use wide-lined notebook paper for dictation and grammar. With each of our sons, I found it helpful to teach them how to transition to writing smaller with proper spacing. As I happened to take pictures of Riley’s handwriting progression, I’ll share his handwriting transition in this blog post.

A Jumble of Lines

When Riley began writing, he looked at the lines like they were all just one big jumble of lines. I helped him by hi-lighting the top and bottom of the lines yellow. I told him these lines were like “stop signs,” and he had to put on the brakes when he got to them. I’d sit by him and make ‘putting on the brakes noises’ as he neared the lines like, “Errrrrrrrr – stop!”  He’d laugh and stop. We talked about the dotted line being a stopping place as well. He had trouble remembering spaces too, so we colored those with pink hi-lighting. I told him he had to put a finger’s width between letters (when copying single letters) and between words when he started writing sentences. Eventually, he just needed the pink spacing. Here are some pictures of the hi-lighting that helped Riley so much:

 

A Transition to Handwritten Lines Without Dotted Lines

After awhile, like when he began the copywork of the Bible verse or the poem in Beyond, we actually used blank copy paper or a blank index card. I drew lines with a ruler quite far apart. I did this because it was actually too time consuming for him at that point to use handwriting paper with the dotted line. It took him forever, and he was ready to write smaller, but not yet able to write on wide-lined notebook paper. At this point, his writing looked like this:

A Transition to Wide-Lined Notebook Paper

After that, Riley made the transition to wide-lined notebook paper. It helped for me to write the beginning word of each line for the poem. This helped him see the size of the writing I wanted him to try to mimic. I also had Riley skip lines, as this spacing makes it easier to write, to fix errors, and to read aloud. Below, you can see his Unit 15 Beyond Little Heart’s poetry copywork of “The Cow.” Then, underneath you can see his transition to writing on wide-lined notebook paper more on his own in Unit 30 Beyond Little Heart’s poetry “Written in March.”

The Transition to Writing Well Both in Blank Spaces and on Wide-Lined Notebook Paper

With these few handwriting helps, Riley was able to transition into writing  well both in blank spaces and on wide-lined notebook paper. Below, you can see a sample of the wide-lined composition notebook he used for his dictation. You can also see how I still began Bigger Hearts first notebooking page by drawing lines for him. I did this so he could visualize the overall notebook assignment, as well as set aside space for his drawing portion of the assignment.  This was prior to Carrie creating new and lovely notebooking pages, but this tip can still work as a transition to writing within the defined space of the new notebook’s boxes.

 

In Closing

In closing, it really is amazing how children’s writing continues to improve over time with some guidance. I agree that letter formation is first and foremost, but once they have that down, the steps above helped all of our sons become neat, confident writers – with some patience on my end (not always a natural virtue of mine). I hope this helps as you assist your child in making the transition to writing smaller with proper spacing!

In Christ,
Julie

 

 

Stay with Bigger or switch to Beyond for a struggling third grader?

Dear Carrie

Should I keep my third grader who is struggling with reading and writing in Bigger Hearts, or place him in Beyond instead?

Dear Carrie,

I’m a mother of 5. My oldest is doing Creation to Christ. The next two are going half-speed in Little Hearts. My 2 year keeps me hopping, but it is my 8 year old who’s struggling. We are 3 weeks into Bigger Hearts. He’s a struggling reader. He also struggles with writing. During copywork, he leaves out words, writes letters previously mastered incorrectly, copies wrong letters, or leaves letters out. It’s time-consuming for me to sit with him. He has to erase, correct, and it’s still sloppy! He’s not doing the cursive or poetry copywork. He struggles with the Bible verse copywork, the science copywork, and the vocabulary words and definitions. I’m also helping him write the science and history notebooking. Will he just grow into this, or should I have placed him in Beyond? He’s in third grade though, and I don’t want him to get further behind.

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My Stuggling Third Grader”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Struggling Third Grader,”

Struggling in two of the 3R’s is a challenge when doing Bigger. In looking down the road, I would be concerned that even if he manages to get through Bigger, by the time he gets to Preparing on up, I worry that each year will feel like an overwhelming task for both you and your son. In looking at the fact that he isn’t doing the cursive or copywork of the poem right now, I am also assuming that you might not be getting to the written part of DITHR either? Or, perhaps your son is doing the Emerging Reader’s Set?

The copywork and reading assignments are important preparatory work to be successful in the next guide.

Honestly, the copywork and reading assignments are going to be very important right now. They will help him gain needed confidence and practice in his areas of difficulty. With the workload feeling too heavy in Bigger, it is likely that you will end up downsizing or skipping things that your son will actually need in order to be successful in the next guide.

I’d recommend shifting him down to Heart of Dakota‘s Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.

So, my recommendation would be to shift him down to Beyond. Due to his age, I would keep Rod and Staff English 2 to do daily along with Beyond. I would make sure that he writes a small portion on paper each day for English to practice getting comfortable writing on paper. Since he’s on the upper end of the age range for Beyond, I would also be sure that he completes several lines of copywork of the poem from Beyond each day. He can strive to copy the entire poem by the end of the week.

I’d be sure to do either the Emerging Reader’s Set or DITHR each day.

Then, I would be sure to daily do the Emerging Reader’s Set (if that is where he is) or do DITHR. With DITHR, when you get there, you can do some writing for him at first. You can also write on a markerboard for him to copy on his paper later. Eventually, move toward having him do more of the writing in DITHR in preparation for Bigger.

Give your third grader the gift of time to mature into needed skills.

With boys, it is especially important to give them every chance to mature into the needed fine motor skills. I taught third grade for many years in the public school, and it was easy to tell which kiddos needed a bit more time to mature (and most often they were boys). So, give your little honey the gift of time to grow into needed skills. Don’t worry about adding to the science, as he will still get twice weekly science lessons in Beyond. Just worry about the 3R’s right now and gently ease him into those needed skills daily, along with all of the other excellent skills found within Beyond. Doing all of Beyond well, rather than randomly skipping things or downsizing within Bigger will help your son be more prepared for the next guide the following year.

Blessings,
Carrie

How we use the Emerging Reader Set

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

How we use the Emerging Reader Set

Did you know that the Emerging Reader set of books is the same exact books in both the Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory guide and the Bigger Hearts for His Glory guide? There are not two different Emerging Reader sets. We have the schedule for this set of books in the Appendix of both guides, but it is the exact same schedule in both of them.

Here is our progression for reading:
Phase 1 – Phonics
Phase 2 – Emerging Reader Set
Phase 3 – Drawn Into the Heart of Reading

We only do one phase of reading at a time, so once your child is all done with phonics, we move her into the ER set. Once she is all done with the ER set, we move him/her into DITHOR.

Have a great weekend!

Trying to decide between Beyond Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts?

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

Trying to decide between Beyond Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts? 

Bigger Hearts for His Glory is rightly considered our most teacher intensive guide as there are many tedious skills that are being taught every day that will enable your child to gain their independence, but one thing to consider is that the guide right before it called Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory is more rigorous done at full speed, than Bigger is at half-speed. So, if you are looking at placement and your child falls right between these two guides, you can consider Bigger at half speed (left page one day, right page the next) or Beyond at full speed (left and right page).

Have a great weekend!

Remember to keep lessons short for little ones

Teaching Tip 

Remember to keep lessons short for little ones.

When teaching 5 and 6 year olds, remember to keep their lesson times short.  As adults, we would like to teach a short program like Little Hearts or Beyond Little Hearts all in one sitting.  Yet, 5 – 6 year olds will often do better when lesson times are kept to 30-35 minutes.

Take a break every 30 minutes with your little ones.

Try taking a scheduled break every 30 minutes, and see how your little ones do.  Set the timer for your scheduled breaks, so your little ones know how much of a break to expect. Then, they won’t be caught unaware when asked to return to “school” from play.

In the younger guides, think of the left side of the plans as one 30-35 min. grouping.

If you have children doing Little Hearts or Beyond Little Hearts, think of the left side of the plans as one grouping.  This grouping can be completed in one “sitting.”  Strive to teach the left side of either of these guides in one interruption-free 30-35 min. time period.  Schedule other kiddos (both younger and older) to to be occupied during that time, so you are not interrupted. In this way, you can efficiently move through the boxes on the left side of the plans.  By focusing on teaching the left side of plans in one sitting, you will accomplish much in a short time.

Split the four remaining boxes on the right side of the guide into two 30-minute groupings.

With the left side done in one sitting that only leaves four remaining boxes on the right side of the guide. Split these 4 boxes into two pairs of boxes, with each pair taking 30 minutes.

What might my day look like doing Little Hearts or Beyond Little Hearts in this way?

Often I do 2 boxes from the right side in the morning.  Then, I take a 30 min. break for that child.  Next, I do the left side of the plans with that child in one sitting.  After that I give the child another 30 min. break.  Last, I do the 2 remaining boxes from the right side of the guide.  After that I’m done with that little sweetie!

It’s better to group subjects than to spread the boxes of plans out all day long.

Try thinking of Little Hearts and Beyond Little Hearts as three groupings of boxes, each taking 30-35 minutes of time.  This will make your planning easier and your day go better.  Try it, and see how your year goes!

Blessings,
Carrie

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