Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Show #59- Jan Olsen, OTR- Handwriting Without Tears

Handwriting skills, or penmanship, is no longer taught in schools the same way it was when I was in elementary school in the 70's. Yet, we are putting more and more emphasis on writing skills in school. While it's natural to say "Well, it's all about computers- they need to learn how to type, not write by hand!" and typing skills are important, the ability to be able to express yourself in writing of any sort begins with the process of learning how to manipulate pencils and have letters, words and sentences flow between your brain and the physical act required to record those thoughts on paper (or this computer screen!)

Both of my children have struggled with their handwriting, and the lack of legibility and the lack of fluidity in their handwriting" has had a serious impact on their composition skills. When handwriting is a difficult, frustrating and unrewarding chore, kids start to do as little of it as possile, and become "minimalists" in terms of their composition- doing as little as possible to skate by. Yet the demands on them to write across the curriculum in school- even in math class, continues to increase every year in school. This is not something we can afford to ignore.

Jan Olsen is an occupational therapist who has taught children handwriting for many years. Jan's own son had problems with his handwriting, which led in part to her development of the Handwriting Without Tears Program. Most teachers don't learn about teaching handwriting, mechanics or even the proper posture required during their education, so it's hard to expect them to teach children the appropriate way to form their leters and numbers. Jan's program his being used by over 2 million students and has been adopted in over 16 states as the standard handwriting curriculum. It has an emphasis on fun and success, and it has helped my kids, although we will be spending the summer breaking some bad habits and adopting some better ones, in just 5 minutes, twice a day.
In our two part conversation, Jan and I talk about why handwriting is important, and why it isn't part of the normal curriculum. As you listen to the show, you'll see how important things like positive reinforcement are for kids- "You're fine, but your letters are in trouble" and how even parents can help their children succeed.

Part 2 discusses details of the Handwriting Without Tears Program in some more detail, and how the multisensory aspects of the program really help kids understand how the letters are formed and why, eventually building up to making writing an effortless, automatic task.

Handwriting without tears workbooks can be purchased from their website by clicking here.

As always, we'd love to hear your feedback! Our voicemail number is (206) 666-2343; our email is ldpodcast@gmail.com.

I'll be attending Podcasters Across Borders the weekend of June 22-24, and I'll be speaking at BlogPhiladelphia, July 12 & 13th. I am also one of thelead organizers of PodCamp Philadelphia. If you are interested in knowing more about any of these events, drop me a line, and I'll send you everything you need to know!

Click here to listen to Show #59- Jan Olsen- Handwriting Without Tears!

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