Learning to write is one of those tedious subjects that is just plain boring. Well, what would you expect from anything that required that much repetition? Although I made some headway with Gavin with regards to writing practice after introducing him to a handwriting iPhone app, all self-motivated practice came to an abrupt halt after Gavin grew weary of that app. He still practices writing at school and, on the odd occasion, at home, but it is often a half-hearted job which gradually gets worse and worse the more he writes.
Just as I was despairing at ever being able to motivate him to attempt to write neatly, we stumbled upon the solution while eating at Papa Rich. For the benefit of those who have not had the pleasure of eating at Papa Rich, it is a restaurant that requires you to fill out a form for your orders. You look through the menu and write out the corresponding food codes and quantities onto their order sheet and a waiter will come and collect the order sheet from you.
After witnessing this process several times, Gavin decided one day that he wanted to write out the orders. Rather than having to wrestle the pencil away from him, I agreed to let him write out the orders thinking at the back of my mind that I would cross it all out and rewrite the orders before the waiter came. In the meantime, I told him, “If you want to write the orders out, you need to write neatly or they will not be able to read our orders.” Gavin agreed eagerly and proceeded to do one of his best writing efforts I have seen. I was so amazed I handed the order form over to the waiter without correcting it. The waiter was even able to read it all – correctly, too! Since then, he’s been writing the orders every time we go there.
This is a lesson I’m sure we all know well but it is a good reminder for all those times when we just want to pull our hair out because we are beyond frustration and too blinded by emotion to think clearly. The best way to motivate a child to do something is to make it his little project. If you can get him to take ownership of his little project, you can be sure he will put in his best effort. After that, you can stop pushing him from behind and feeling ready to burst when he refuses all your efforts.
While we’re on the subject of handwriting practice, I discovered another writing app for the iPhone that is great for teaching children to write. It is called “iWriteWords“. It teaches children how to write numbers and letters (in Caps and little letters). They also teach children to write words (which incidentally translates to spelling through reinforcement). The best thing about this program is that it teaches children to write the letter and number strokes correctly in the right order because they need to follow the strokes in a “dot-to-dot” manner (see below). Most other writing programs don’t have such restrictions which means a child could write the letter “A” beginning with the horizontal stroke first, or even in reverse.