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On the Write Path for Success

New Kindergarten Handwriting Program At Bon Air

One of the most important skills students develop in kindergarten can also be one of the most difficult and frustrating. An innovative program created by Occupational Therapist Sarah Wagner, however, has made learning to print more enjoyable for the youngest students at Bon Air Elementary School.

Ms. Wagner, who serves Burrell through the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, designed the StartWrite Program to provide Bon Air kindergarten students with the opportunity to develop necessary fine motor and handwriting skills at an early age so they will have these skills to build on in the future.

This fall, all kindergarten classrooms participated in the StartWrite Program, which focused on improving fine motor and visual motor skills, printing, and scissor skills. The students moved between three centers, which allowed for more individualized attention. They learned and developed skills through a variety of fun and innovative techniques including movement and songs, printing on small chalkboards, and working with pop-beads and lacing cards.

A $1,000 grant from the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit Foundation provided students with numerous fine motor manipulatives, the small chalkboards, a CD with songs related to handwriting and pencil grasp, pencil grippers, and a computer program to create handwriting paper. Classroom teachers have access to all of these supplies on a daily basis.

Having worked in schools for the past eight years, Ms. Wagner has seen firsthand the need for students to learn correct handwriting techniques at an early age when they have the most potential for change. “Kindergarten teachers also were expressing that many children were entering school without the fine motor skills necessary for handwriting, and they were unable to hold a pencil with a mature grasp,” Ms. Wagner says. “This was impacting their ability to complete age-appropriate classroom work.”

Kindergarten teacher Janine Feather echoes that sentiment. “Every year when we start to teach the new kindergarteners how to write their letters the correct way, we have students who get frustrated. That frustration sometimes even turns into tears,” she says. Ms. Feather saw a change in her students with the StartWrite Program. “This is the first year that I did not have tears over not being able to write a certain letter,” she says. “Our handwriting as a class is very neat.”

“I have several students who did not know how to write any letters during the screening at the beginning of the year and they are now able to print nearly every letter legibly,” Ms. Wagner says. “This is not just because of the StartWrite Program but also because of the teaching skills of the teachers.”

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