Handwriting is an important skill that will impact our student’s everyday life for the rest of their lives. So many students are coming to kindergarten not ready to write. However, our curriculum pushes us to have the students writing with very minimal handwriting instruction in the early weeks of school. Here are some fun and effective ways you can incorporate into your lesson plans to help increase your students fine motor skill development.
Sleeping Fingers, Busy Fingers, and Pillow
First, take some time to explain that each finger has an important job when they are cutting and writing. Marianne Gibbs, the creator of Write Out of the Box, uses the term sleeping fingers, busy fingers, and pillow to help children understand what each finger is supposed to be doing while they are writing and completing other fine motor activities like ripping, cutting, and using tweezers.
The sleeping fingers are your ring finger and pinky. They offer support to the busy fingers to allow them to do their job most effectively. The sleeping fingers rest on a “pillow” in the palm of your hand.
The busy fingers are your thumb, pointer and middle finger. When writing these fingers make up the tripod grasp that allows letters and numbers to be formed easily and correctly.
A pillow can be anything small enough to place in the palm of your hand for your sleeping fingers to rest on. I prefer to use something soft, such as a pom pom or cotton ball, just because I feel they best represent a pillow. But Marianne Gibbs also suggests using a penny, marble or a piece of candy.
After discussing these three important terms with your students have the students spend some time using the correct formation doing these fun activities.
Fine Motor Skills Tip 1: Ripping
Ripping is a great activity that most 4 and 5-year old’s can already do that will help develop fine motor skills. I have the students rip up pieces of scrap paper that I have collected throughout the year. I try to have them rip all different lengths and thickness of paper as some may be more challenging to some. To give purpose, and even more practice, to this activity, I then have them create an art project using the pieces. We use the rip and glue activity in our sight word books weekly.
You can download a free sight word book here.
Fine Motor Skills Tip 2: Cutting
Cutting is another great way to increase fine motor skills. Many of our students need practice cutting anyway so providing them the opportunity to practice cutting every day has multiple benefits.
You can have a cutting station set up in your classroom. Use a large plastic bin that can easily be sat on a table or on the floor. Attach 3 to 4 pair of child scissors to the plastic bin by drilling holes (with help from the janitor, of course) and attaching them with a string. Set 4 to 5 smaller plastic containers inside the large container. Fill each of these containers with a different material to cut.
Materials to Put in Cutting Station: construction paper, scrapbooking paper, cardstock, scrap pieces of lamination, straws, ribbon, yarn, and pipe cleaners
Allow students to visit the cutting station anytime they are not receiving direct instruction and they have completed their assigned work. Only allow 3 to 4 students at the cutting station at a time. When students start to become less interested in visiting the cutting station, throw in some decorative scissors and/or seasonal materials to give it new life.
I love a cutting station, but I also know how important it is we are maximizing our time with our students. I have created many interactive books that are focused on teaching and reviewing an academic concept. The interactive components provide a lot fine motor skill practice through cutting, folding and gluing.
Recently my students have been working on puzzles to practice cutting skills in my word work center. They love the new sight word puzzles.
Fine Motor Skills Tip 3: Sensory Bin
Lastly, having your students use tweezers is a great way to have students strengthen their fine motor skills. They will love getting to explore a sensory bin, like this one, using tweezers to search for small objects. Sensory bins can easily be tied into science by throwing in small animals. Have the students sort and classify the animals as the practice having each finger do its assigned job.
I hope you will find this post helpful in strengthening your students fine motor skills in fun and interactive ways. What are some activities you do to improve fine motor skills so students are ready to be good writers?