Wow. That title is quite a mouthful. But I am too lazy to write two posts that essentially say the same thing.
Once he turned 7 this school year, Astroboy finally started on formal handwriting work. Prior to this, he wrote a little, mostly because of zhuyin lessons. But if he got tired or didn’t want to write, I tended not to push him. I didn’t want to push writing before the kids had their pincer grip down, and sadly, my kids never had their pincer grip down early because we did very few art activities.
Thumper learned handwriting in Montessori preschool and we practiced handwriting our first homeschooling year with New American Cursive. I wrote all about choosing handwriting curriculum a year ago. At that time, I decided that I really liked the handwriting style I learned as a child and bought some Zane Bloser handwriting practice books for both kids. Another option is Evan Moore’s Daily Traditional Handwriting, which we got for a $35 flat subscription fee this year for access to their whole e-book website.
I didn’t push the issue when neither kids took to the Zane Bloser workbooks. Took me last school year to realize, at the end of the day, I don’t love worksheets. Not enough variety for me as a learner. So I don’t have a personal motivation to push the children when they are also tired of worksheets.
With Astroboy, we’re learning handwriting in a more organic way. Basically, he’s documenting his work in a work plan or writing little sentences, and that is how we will learn and practice handwriting. A good argument for doing it this way instead of worksheet is that we don’t have to separately devote time to a handwriting curriculum.
First, I designed some cheat sheets for English, Zhuyin reference sheet, and Chinese Characters for us to mark off words we learned and for him to look up answers himself.
For English, we have to learn to write the alphabet 4 different times! We’re starting with lower case cursive, then upper case cursive, lower case print, and finally upper case print. You always start by teaching lower case because the child uses that most often!
In July, we started by establishing a work journal habit. Work journals are used in the Montessori classroom for the child to log what he did in the work period. One thing I learned from working with Thumper is, don’t insist on the child writing or even drawing when he can’t write for too long.
This is our very first entry in the work journal, with everything written by me. You can also see our very first zhuyin writing lesson. After he wrote on his zhuyin worksheet 3-4 times, I had him spell out the four tones because he continues to have trouble with knowing the tones when he writes. The order of zhuyin follows Kang Xuan’s first grade self study book.
After a few days of me writing in the work journal, he started writing the date since he knows how to write his numbers. We continue working on just writing the 4 tones for the zhuyin character of the day plus one word (2 characters) he had to spell himself. So in the example above, it’s pi, pi2, pi3, pi4. He made to draw a little picture for his favorite potty word.
Then English letters were added in as well. Just like zhuyin, he had to learn to write one character a day only, 3-4 times as practice, and then immediately put to use. We highlight the English letter or zhuyin we’ve learned on our cheatsheet to keep track.
When it comes to handwriting practice, 3-5 times per character letter is really enough. I had a 4th grade Chinese education, but since I did not go to Chinese school in the States, I completely forgot how to write. People who have a lower Chinese level than me often can write more characters than me. Without continual practice, characters are easily forgotten. For this reason I don’t put a lot of stock in writing the same character repetitively. What’s more important is using it.
At any rate, since he has to learn phonics every day, the first letter we learned was p. I wrote it down twice in dots for him to trace and twice regularly. He had to write that p down in the workbook, then I finished writing the rest of the word for him.
In the photo above, the ph in phonics was written by him. With this method, it took us 7 days to learn how to write the word phonics.
For about a month plus, we learned random English letters which he used when we played hangman. Even though we were doing All About Reading, hangman allowed us to incorporate spelling. For any letter he already knew how to write, I asked him to write it down himself when we played the game. (He’s used to me running around while playing games with me. I’m often conveniently too busy to write letters and he has to write them.)
With this method, he was practicing handwriting by writing little zhuyin dictation word or sentences and English phonics in hangman daily.
By October, we’d almost reached learning all of zhuyin and all of lower case cursive. As a way for him to learn and use upper case cursive, I started having him write the name of the month.
It is always so satisfying when I come upon a random solution that works out so well. Now we are indirectly learning days of week and months of year! I pat myself on the back. And yes, the October is all his writing. Tthose numerals are now decorated because he’s written them for 4 months already and he’s bored.
A side note. Montessori apparently said that a work journal belongs to the child, not the teacher. So they’re actually encouraged to decorate them and take note in them as they see fit.
It is now November and right now we’re learning the days of the week and starting on Chinese characters. Each day he writes a Chinese sentence I make up using the Chinese characters we learned. If he gets bored with that, I will start doing dictation with sentences in Sagebook.
It takes him 10 minutes just to write today’s date as it is. So I’m not quite asking him to write a lot yet. But, as I’ve learned from teaching the kids to read, it’s the daily consistency that’s more important than how much you learn each time. I had periodically taught him how to write various lower case cursive letters in the last 2 years. Since I was not consistent, we did not make progress till this year.
I was at times very impatient about how slowly we were going through all our 52 zhuyin (37 zhuyin plus zhuyin combos), at the rate of just one letter a day. But it’s paid off as I can now ask him to write in zhuyin any characters he doesn’t know in the dictation sentence.
Overall, I’m much happier about the more organic way of writing; having the kids practice writing with just daily work in the cultural and language subjects instead of copying English sentences or asking the kids to make up Chinese sentences (造句: another reason why I still have not used my Kang Xuan books). When we do it this way, we seem to end up incorporating other subjects we’re studying, which will allow me to get more subjects covered (something I constantly struggle with), and the kids can see how everything is connected, just like I keep reading in Montessori related writing.
I’ve been trying to do it this way for years but it took till this year to learn that, like cooking, I need to start with the boring recipe first, then tweak it and add the more fun stuff as I get comfortable with the routine. To just try to do the fun stuff from the beginning will overwhelm me.
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- English Alphabet Cheat sheet
- Zhuyin reference sheet,
- Chinese Characters Cheet sheet
- Zhuyin Handwriting Practice worksheet
- Chinese Characters Handwriting Practice Sheets