Friday, May 9, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Rhythm of Handwriting - Cursive

Handwriting and special needs is not a great mix.  Gess' writing is atrocious.  A few years ago our therapist wanted her to learn cursive suggesting it is actually easier for her in the long run.  I had started teaching her but kind of let it go.  So when I had the opportunity to review the Rhythm of Handwriting Complete Set for cursive from Logic of English I figured maybe a fresh start and new perspective would pay off.  After all, the Logic of English Essentials kit I reviewed last year worked really well for us and I thought it would be great to be using them together.

In fact, while Logic of English does teach manuscript they actually encourage you to begin with cursive writing and they offer all of their products with it.  While I wish I had started this at the same time I began the Essentials curriculum it does work well enough by itself.

The Rhythm of Handwriting Complete Set included:

The Cursive Handwriting Workbook
The Rhythm of Handwriting Quick Reference Card
The Student White Board
The Tactile Cards in Cursive

The Rhythm of Handwriting is for ages 4 to adult.  They have lesson plans for both ages 6 and under as well as ones for ages 7 and up so you can gear the writing towards your student's needs.  The beginning of the workbook has all the information you need to help you teach the lessons including the step by step process, suggested schedules, and ideas for practice. They begin with lower case letters first and don't focus on capitals until all of these have been mastered. The letters are organized by their initial strokes: swing, curve, loop and bump.  I love that they teach writing by using all four modes of learning: seeing, hearing, doing, and speaking.

Each lesson in the workbook starts with a large handwriting chart where they practice with their finger drawing the letters with the instructions given on the page while both listening to and repeating the instructions.  As you move on you shorten the instructions to the bold words only as the child becomes more fluent in writing.  Eventually they are doing it on their own and then start practicing in their workbook.

The Quick Reference Card is a great tool for this.  As a teacher having to memorize all those instructions gets hard.  Here, you just quickly glance and know what helps to say.  They are even numbered by stroke.  I am glad they helped you abbreviate the directions by putting the words in bold.  It isn't long until the student is moving faster than you can say them and if you take too long to say the directions the student might pause and wait.  That is not what you want.  I had to remind Gess to keep the strokes going.  Each letter was one smooth stroke, no stopping!

To tools they give you for practice are extremely helpful. I love how the Student White Board has two sides. One is large, like the page in the workbook they use with only their finger.  The other side has normal sized lines so they can practice writing them in a more realistic way.  Just be sure you get a thin dry erase marker for that side.  Sometimes, even our smaller dry erase marks would make the lines run together.  Here is Gess working on her w.

The Tactile Cards are a great sensory enhancer and we always used them with every lesson.  Whether practicing on the white-board or in our workbook I always had Gess start by tracing the card first.  The letter itself is like sandpaper but in a pretty green instead of ugly brown.  I believe the manuscript cards are in red which is still nice and colorful.

After all this practice she was ready for the workbook.  The workbook is neat in that it offers several different sizes for the lines they write in.  They actually take a different approach and suggest that younger students use smaller lines rather than larger ones.  Because of their small hands they have to actually stretch less and work the fine-motor skills more smoothly.  They simply say to let the student choose which sets of lines works best for them.  Gess did choose the larger lines, but her hands are hardly small anymore.

As you can see some of the r's are circled.  They wanted you to circle the one you thought was the best.  I noticed that if I commented "good job" or anything while Gess was writing, she would circle the one I gave her good feedback on, even if it turned out not to be her best.  Sometimes she circled that one as soon as I said it, before she finished all the rest!  I decided to also circle the one I thought was best, or second best if she chose the one I liked too.  That way she could see what I was going for as well.

The website also has some printable practice sheets you can use for extra practice.  Those didn't seem to suit our needs as well.  Some were shaded and not having the lines was confusing to Gess.  Even the one that did have the dotted lines in the middle had the upper and lower bar in different shades of bold and it was really hard to differentiate the columns, so we used paper I already had.

We have one more section to go before they start teaching them to put the letters together to make words. Since our review is over I wanted to see how she was doing so I could show all of you.  I made her a sheet with words using only the letters she has learned so far.  I think she did pretty good!

I also recommend starting with cursive, especially if you have a child with special needs.  I sure wish I did. Not having to pick up their pencil during a word is helpful for more legible writing.  The fact that they do pick up their pencil to start a new word helps with spacing.  When Gess prints, her words are always smashed together.  I have the hardest time getting her to space them.  I really wish I had started this when we started Logic of English Essentials. I highly recommend doing this while they are learning their phonograms, however it has been good review for Gess.

I feel that with all the extra helps such as the white-board, tactile card, audible cues, and the many choices for line sizes this is an excellent program for anyone, including children with special needs.  I certainly plan on continuing it and hopefully Gess will begin using it in her everyday writing.

The Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive Complete Set sells for $65.00.  While you can purchase each item separately I would recommend getting the complete set, especially if you have a child with special needs.  To learn more visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about this and some of their other curriculum by clicking on the banner below.

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Renee K. said...

Nice job on your review. I loved this program with my daughter. Yea, special needs and handwriting are not always a fun mix. I plan on taking this program into next year and may look at some other parts of LOE.

Debbie said...

I am taking your advice and starting with ROH first and then we will start Essentials. I have an older child with mild cerebral palsy.


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