- For beginning printers or those with reversal or directional issues, I may place a strip of green highlighter tape down the left side of the desk. (Word of caution… Don’t use floral tape. It will rub off on your sleeve.) I also may place a strip of masking tape down the right side of the desk and color it in a checkerboard pattern. And yes, I prefer a checkerboard Finish Line to a solid red line as it implies dynamic movement. I want kids thinking about moving toward the right.
- For many students, I issue blotters. I am a big fan of blotters. Blotters are essentially a textile underlay that softens the work surface. If anyone has ever written on an executive desk ensemble, you’ve experienced how comfortable it is to sit there writing. Blotters recreate that sensation. You can create a blotter effect with a single sheet of construction paper. Construction Paper is made by compressing lots of smaller pieces paper together. The effect is a forgiving and comfortable writing surface rather than the hard laminate one. It’s analogous to the difference between playing tennis on a grass court versus macadam. It’s a slower game. The ball is slowed. By using a blotter, the pencil is slowed. Blotters give students a chance to actually start and stop on a line.
As children get older, Go Line morph into a left margin line, and Finish Lines become right margin lines.
- The next concept is that of Letter Lines. Letter Lines are the lines that comprise each letter and number. Some letters have Standing Tall Lines. These are lines that are straight up and down. They may extend from the Top Line to the Bottom, the dotted line to the Bottom, or the dotted line and below.
Some letters have Lying Down Lines.
Clearly, these are side-to-side lines and may appear on any of the writing lines.
- Slant Lines that go forward or backward, it really depends on the direction the pencil moves.
- Clock Lines wrap around an analogue clock as if from 12 to 6. It’s actually a more natural movement for left-handed children, so for symmetrical looking letters, this directional movement may be easiest and still end up with the same result. In actuality, some clock lines travel backwards, moving from 6 to 12, passing by 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. These Clock Lines often complete a rotation, as is seen in the letter O.
- Smiles can either move down and up to the left and or down and up to the right, thereby being either backward or forward smiles respectively. Frowns move up and over to the left or up and over to the right, and similarly can be called backward or forward Frown lines.
Now once I’ve introduced a few of the Letter Lines, I ask children to find letters that contain them. It is endlessly fascinating to me how often children appear never to have seen any of the posters or even desktop stickers around their room. They will look all about them trying to find something that has a letter on it. You may have to introduce them to their room… like the alphabet strip above the board, the one on the far end of their desks, and all the educational posters on the wall. Teach them how to dissect the letters into their component parts.
- On the Letterbox Worksheets, we have (what we call) the Letter Line Equations. This is our first step in helping preschoolers analyze each letter. We encourage teachers and therapist to explain how this works.
Upper case U is made up of one standing tall line plus a smile plus another standing tall line.
- After the children have completed all the printing and coloring tasks, there is a second chance to review Letter Lines.
- Cover the paper up to the Finish Line (although that is certainly optional) and now you have a QUIZ!! What letter lines are in an Upper-Case U?
- Letter Line Equations appear on all the worksheets. Upper case E has one Standing Tall Line and 3 Lying Down Lines.
Upper Case R is made of one Standing Tall Line, plus one Clock, plus one Slant Line. You get the idea.
- The analysis of Letter Lines is continued in the Student Workbooks. Here, students are asked to count the number of letter Lines. In Upper Case F, how many Standing Tall lines? Lying Down Lines? Slant Lines? Sometimes, the answer is none.
- But we’re not done. There is one more letter Line and we call it Super C. SUPER C is our superhero. Super C letters are always initial lines. There are 5…
- Just to make sure that children are clear on the directionality of stroke on these commonly reversed letters, all Super C letters come packaged with a little extra drama. A sound bite... if you will. So, while students are taught the sizes for each letter… they also learn hear the refrain…But not only... Which means that it is also a Super C.
- This is the Letter Line poster that illustrates the different types of Letter Lines. Aside from Kindergarten, which has its own workbook, this series of 6 posters is the only thing the other grades have in terms of a lesson.
So let me say a few words about posters.
They are not decoration. They must be brought to life by reading them aloud and pointing out the information. Confirm with the students (before you assume that they like them), that they’d want them to hang in their room.
Would it help them? Would they use it?
And only after they say yes, should you actually hanging them. Hanging the posters is also part of the lesson plan. Where would they like it? On the right wall, the bulletin board, a little higher, a little lower? Make a big deal about finding the exact right spot, certainly one of their choosing. For each of the posters, solicit a student’s help to hold it and tack it in place. Don’t hang the posters without the children’s input. Their role in the unfolding drama builds their investment.
So, this is the one for Letter Lines. As you can see, we introduce the common directional terms at this point, too. Standing Tall lines can also be called Vertical Lines; Lying Down Lines are Horizontal and another name for a Slant is Diagonal.
- This is the Super C poster. Pull it out only after the Super C lesson. And again, ask the children if they would like it? Would it help them? Then only if they answer ‘yes’ should you make overtures to hang it. And this can get dramatic, too. Suggest a ridiculously low spot. An obscured hidden spot. A clearly visible spot. The extra drama reinforces the Buy-In.
- This poster is just for fun. It’s a little comic that tells of Super C’s healing powers. It starts with a desperate teacher at wit’s end. (Read)
- Starting Points, including Initial Lines are the next Key Concepts. Starting points are indicated by a green dot and a single directional arrow. All letters start on a line… with only 2 exceptions… but I don’t even bring that up until we get to them.