I was going to write about Caspar being a reluctant reader (and writer) but I think I'll leave that for another day. My last post received some comments about pencil grip and I think it's a topic and a discussion that needs it's own post.
Ever since Caspar began holding a pencil I've been concerned about his grip. He used to hold a pencil, crayon or marker by wrapping his entire hand around it and moving his whole arm to make a mark. I wrote about my concerns in this post when he was three. As I discovered triangular crayons and triangular pencils help - a lot.
As you can see above, Caspar does not have a perfect grip. As you can see below he is capable of a more relaxed and efficient grip but it doesn't come naturally to him.
So what do I do with my concerns? Before Caspar turned three I sought advice from a Montessori teacher. At that young age the advice was to relax, you want your child to enjoy drawing and possibly writing, you don't want them to feel self-conscious or worried that they aren't holding the pencil right. Use role modelling, write with your child, use a correct grip yourself! I am also left handed and hold my pen in many different ways. When I am writing with or around Caspar I concentrate so I can show him the correct grip. Children absorb things like that! The advice I've received at every parent teacher interview since is that you want your child to enjoy writing - don't correct him.
My advice to others concerned about their child's pencil grip is the same. The priority must be on the child enjoying the experience, enjoying learning. However I would suggest trying some triangular crayons or triangular pencils and if your child is in a class, seek the advice of the teacher (or Directress!) who knows your child best.
Today Otis received his own set of pencils. He's using the Lyra Ferby which are a rounded triangular shape and are the perfect 'first' pencils.
I'm not sure if there is one correct grip but I use this picture below from The Write Start as a guide.
If you are a teacher or a parent with similar concerns, I'd love to hear your thoughts or advice.
Edited to add that all activities that encourage the pincer grip prepare the hand for writing. There are also many activities that are encouraged to strengthen the hand (such as using clay, playdough or using scissors).
Do you remember Marie-Claire? She's a mom to twins, a go-getter and now a business owner! She was also a Montessori child!
I know I'm biased but I believe parenthood can bring out the very best in people. I love it when someone can overcome the busyness of parenthood and design a product not only for their own children but for all of our children. Even more admirable when the product is innovative, smart, biodegradable and non-toxic!
Marie-Claire's first project was a beautiful set of Children's Alphabet Wallet Cards designed by Australian artist Marc Martin. You can see how Owen and Silas use their alphabet cards in the photographs below. Marie-Claire also provides some play ideas for the cards on her site So Awesome.
Well, she is at it again! More cards...Colour & Shape, Numbers, GO! and My Wallet!
• Colour & Shape – beautiful combinations of colours and shapes in French, Spanish and English (illustrated by modern ink and watercolour artist Nomoco of London).
• Numbers – fascinating depictions of common household items in French, Spanish and English (illustrated by husband and wife team Eugene & Louise of Belgium).
• GO! – cool paper-cut images of people moving in exciting ways (supported by Montessori-infused grammar identification "The boy skis down the hill.")(illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr of California).
• My Wallet – a set for pretend play! Cards, play-money printed on Tyvek, a durable wallet and a companion digital toy iOS app (illustrated and developed by Marie-Claire and her husband Victor).
If you love the Alphabet Cards you might be interested in these cards too. The process for backing this project is just the same - click over to Kickstarter for further information. If you're not familiar with Kickstarter please take the time to have a look through Marie-Claire's pages and updates. It's important to remember that to get these additional cards to production the goal funding must be met. And there is only 11 days to go! You can pledge as little as $10 for a set of the Colour & Shape, Numbers or Go! Decks.
If you backed Marie-Claire on her first project (the Alphabet Wallet Cards) and back this campaign you get a free wallet! Further details here.
If you would like to purchase a set of Alphabet Wallet Cards, Marie-Claire is offering 25% off to all How we Montessori readers using the coupon code HOWWEMONTESSORI25.
So what's the giveaway? Marie-Claire has been kind enough to offer one reader a set of Alphabet Wallet Cards. To enter all you need to do is leave a comment in the comment section of this blog post. Please only one entry/comment per person. The give-away is open internationally and will close on Monday 25 March 2013 at 10PM Australian EDT.
I've previously written about how I was considering using the Movable Alphabet with Caspar at home during the long summer break. Some of you thought it was a good idea and others suggested it wasn't such a good thing.
First it is important to note that Caspar uses the Montessori cursive Movable Alphabet at school. I (as his parent not teacher) have only ever seen him write in print. All the books that he reads at home and his school readers are in print.
Before deciding on an alphabet I spoke to Caspar's teacher. She suggested to go with cursive but mentioned that Caspar is fine with print. She also suggested that I make an alphabet myself. While I considered it (Montessori Print Shop has a great guide How to make a Movable Alphabet) I just couldn't find the time or energy. I also couldn't justify buying an actual Montessori Movable Alphabet. I ended up going with the Print Movable Alphabet with Plastic Box from Michael Olaf. It was affordable and complete (I ordered it when ordering other items and shared postage with a friend). Also in line with suggestions I've received here and to stress the point - his teacher recommended to work on hand strengthening activities over the holiday break (lots of cutting with scissors, clay, colouring in).
I'm happy with this Movable Alphabet and that it is different from his alphabet at school. The main way we use it is to spell and sound out words together. If Caspar asks me to spell a word for him rather than provide the answer we will work on it together.
Otis has his own alphabet too. He's not working on letters or sounds. He is simply working on the recognition of his name. I could have just printed his name but I think these magnets are all kinds of cute.
Do you use a Movable Alphabet at home?
After writing about how Caspar was using Montessori number work to practice his numbers, I received a copy of Montessori letter work to review also. Having these books together is really useful. You can see our letter work book is looking worn, it's certainly getting used.
I would suggest these books are best suited for a child around three years - when the child first expresses an intersest in writing. Although Otis at 20 months loves counting books and Caspar at five years uses these for practicing some of the more difficult numbers and letters.
The books could be used alone, in conjunction with a sand tray, chalk and black board or pencil and paper. The books are board books, thick and sturdy. The numbers and letters are slightly textured, not as rough as the sandpaper letters I've felt.
I've said it before but I think these books are a great at home alternative to the sandpaper numbers and letters. They would also be a good home schooling tool and could be combined with other methods of education.
Learning to write can take a long time. From being able to hold the pencil to writing each and every letter can in my experience take years.
Caspar was three when he first started using the sandpaper letters. Now he's more interested in writing words and I know at school he likes to use the moveable alphabet. So I thought he was past the sandpaper letter stage. This was until I sat down with him to do some work together. I noticed that he wasn't writing most of his letters and numbers correctly. Some he was writing quite oddly. The only way I knew to rectify this was to go back to the sandpaper letters.
I recently received this review copy of Montessori Number Work and it does the trick. The book is ideal for a younger child who is learning to count and work on number recognition to someone like Caspar who is learning to write the number. Each number is slightly textured so this book and Montessori Letter Work make great affordable at home alternatives to the sandpaper letters and numbers.
Why I will also love these books for Otis is because they have that great Montessori ethic. They are beautifully illustrated with suitable and realistic images (not so much like one counting book that has Otis counting lollies... yes lollies).
Six was one number that Caspar was writing strangely so it's nice to re-visit and using the book he gets it right every time.
Eight can be a little tricky. He actually stopped half way though and had to go back to the book.
This was a really good lesson for me. It's easy to think that because Caspar has good letter recognition and is starting to write words that he's past using the sandpaper letters. It was also a good lesson for me in observation. I know I've slacked off on observing Caspar (it's hard with a toddler around) but it's just as important now than ever.
I'd love to hear a teacher's perspective. At school is there ever a time for a student to re-visit the sandpaper letters/numbers or would you take a different approach? I'm also thinking about getting a moveable alphabet, what do you think, a good purchase for use at home?