Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Handwriting Without Tears - Mat Man

Handwriting Without Tears (HWT)is a handwriting curriculum that uses a developmentally based, active learning approach to teach children how to write. It implements the use of blocks, songs and special instructions to help a child learn how to write their letters. I found the blocks particularly appealing.

I discovered HWT through a fellow homeschooling mother at my church. She was watching my daughter during church one Sunday and they were playing with musical instruments. She discovered that my daughter was making letters out of the drum sticks, so they made a game of it. That afternoon she told me about Handwriting Without Tears and the blocks that they use to help you shape the letters. I ordered it and found it to be exceptional. While the first set of materials I purchased had the Preschool books rather than the Kindergarten set, this photo shows the basic materials I started with.

The concept is to first build the letters with the blocks. You can get letter cards that have the letter for you to build on one side and alphabet helps on the other side, a mat to try to make the letters with on your own, a chalkboard slate, the workbooks and of course the blocks to build the letters with. You get four shapes of blocks: A big line, a little line, a big curve and a little curve. Each letter tells you which one to use to make it. The theory is that building the blocks with your hands first helps you when you actually go to draw it. It really works well. To show how well this works they start off by having the children build Mat Man.

To make Mat Man you use the mat you would build the letters on and use it to make a man. It is amazing how making a man out of a mat actually helps children to do a better job actually drawing a man. Most children at that age can make a stick man rather easily. Well this activity helps them to refine that stick man into a what looks more like an actual person. Here is how it works. We start by placing the blocks around the mat to build the man.

We use the curves to make a head, ears and his smile and the lines are used for the arms, legs and feet. We even add in some beads to make the eyes and nose and we used to have hands we made by tracing my daughter's hand. When you are done the man looks like this.

Now here comes the great part. After they make Mat Man they draw him. It is amazing to see how well the child can copy what they just physically made with their hands! Here is the Mat Man my daughter drew.

If building with blocks can help a child draw a man they certainly can help them write their letters! My daughter just loves making Mat Man. Even though she has already learned how to draw him without having to build it first, she still loves sitting down with the blocks and building him. She would often keep playing with the blocks when our daily lesson was done. It is such a blessing when you find something that your children love to do!

In my next post I will share a typical Kindergarten HWT lesson and show my daughter learning one of her most difficult letters, the letter S. Handwriting Without Tears is a great curriculum for children with special needs but it was not made with only our children in mind nor is it made specifically for homeschooling. In fact the parent that shared this with me was using it with her children at home and they have no special delays, in fact they are rather bright. She just found it to be great way to teach them to write. I have since shared this with some families in our local DS support group and they have used it to supplement what their children are learning at school. So if you are considering what curriculum to use to teach your children to write, or find that your child is struggling with writing in school, you might consider trying Handwriting Without Tears. I am certainly glad I did!


Ruby's Mom said...

I love HWT! I have used it with several of my kids.I have mainly just used the workbooks and chalkboard though,so it's nice to see some of the other elements that I could use later with Ruby when she gets old enough.
I love your blog!

Beverly said...

Thanks for sharing. My sister has giving me some of the HWT that she had left over from her class room. I need to get some more of the items. I love your photos and seeing how it all comes together!

Monica said...

We love HWT also!!! I bought the entire kit when Adam was 4 at the national ds conference. And like your daughter Adam loves to play with the wood blocks during his free time also!! I love when they think they are playing but really it's school work :)

Gess's peace shirt is so cute!

Ruby's Mom said...

I left you an award on my blog:)

Homemomma said...

That looks really cool! and boy did she copy that Matman great!

Sue said...

Hi Lori,
Thanks for visitng our blog and being my our follower. I had to figure out what that was. I'm not very tech savvy but I am very passionate about working with children with special needs.
Our class welcomes you both to our world. I hope you will visit often.

Jenny said...

That looks like an awesome product. The blocks are such a great idea!

Thanks for sharing.


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