By Clare Walton, Interim Head of Lower School, Charlotte Country Day School
Using an iPad to teach kindergarten students proper handwriting skills may seem counterintuitive. After all, early-years educators are seeing decreased fine motor skills upon kindergarten entry, due largely to young children spending more time on tablets and less time holding crayons.
Yet, at Charlotte Country Day School, our teachers find the iPad app “Handwriting Without Tears” to be a powerful tool in enriching the skills they have always taught in the classroom. We already use the Handwriting Without Tears philosophy, which introduces handwriting on slates, and have always used slates with chalk, and sometimes shaving cream, to teach handwriting because that kinesthetic feel increases brain connections. Using chalk or a sponge, students practice writing letters wet and dry before they move to a pencil in the Handwriting Without Tears practice book.
Each Country Day kindergarten classroom has six iPads which our children use for handwriting practice as they rotate through center time. What I especially like about this practice tool is that it doesn’t allow children to form bad habits. As they trace the letter shape with their finger, a friendly little sound chimes when they go off the stroke line. If they are supposed to start the stroke at the top, a little sound chimes when they start at the bottom and they can try again. The children hear, see, and feel stimuli about the letter they are practicing, and that reinforces proper handwriting techniques.
Other benefits for educators are tools within the app to assess the progress of each student, as well as adjust the sensitivity depending on student needs. Practicing with a pencil and paper is still best—students need to build the fine motor skills associated with gripping a pencil. The iPad is just another part of our tool box to help students do their very best work.
Clare Walton serves as Country Day’s interim Head of Lower School, where she has worked for 30 years, first as a kindergarten teacher, and as Early Childhood Director for five years.