“Making mud pies in the back yard!”
“Being so mad at my brother when he cut my Barbie’s hair!”
“Sledding and snowball fights in the neighborhood!”
“Baking with my mom on a Sunday afternoon!”
“Summers at the pool with my friends!”
Something we like to ask participants to do in our workshops is to think back to childhood and to yell out memories that come to mind.
Why do we do that?
These memories give us information about qualities of things that we remember… and we can apply this to best practice for teaching our kids. We could even make the question more specific. What classes do you remember the most? For me, the answer is pretty straightforward: “The classes that were hands-on, and in which I was learning through doing/movement.” Even though I have not worked in a hospital setting professionally, I still remember some techniques that I learned in classes because I was learning through doing. Do you have similar experiences?
So, how does memory move from short-term and working memory to long-term memory? We like to use the idea of “Memory Lanes” (Sprenger, 1999) to describe the process. These “lanes” are:
[Side note: Automatic and Procedural memory are processed through the cerebellum (part of the brain that coordinates movement). More on the cerebellum in the next blog (sounds boring, but it's actually super-cool!)
In what categories do your memories fit (many won’t fit discretely into one category- there is certainly overlap in the lanes)? For most people, many childhood memories fit into Emotional and Procedural memory lanes.
The bad news is that most schools spend the most time using Semantic learning, which leaves out the opportunity for even greater and deeper learning through other lanes (Lengel & Kuczala 2010).
So, how does this apply to teaching handwriting?
We’ve got to get these kids moving and emotionally connected, and this will help them to remember and will set them up for success in learning handwriting! We love to start handwriting sessions with music and dancing (emotional and procedural memory lanes) as children are learning spatial concepts needed for handwriting (see previous blog). Then, we teach each letter using musical tones with whole body mirror movement first (emotional and procedural memory lane), then writing on a vertical surface and finally taking pencil to paper.
Have little guys? Use these memory lanes to help them to learn spatial concepts that they will need for writing—top, under, big, little…
Try it out!
Make the letter of the week with tape on the floor (and/or make it with various other materials- beanbags, balance beams, etc.) then have kids move along the letter in various ways-- log roll, animal walk (frog, crab, bear), jump, walk backwards, etc.. This reinforces the formation of the letter through movement (procedural memory lane) while also working on foundational skills needed to support learning, moving and writing (bilateral skills, reflex integration, strength, visual-motor skills). Plus... it's FUN (emotional memory lane)!!
Connect Experience Write (CEW) is an interpersonal handwriting program that uses sensory-motor integration and visual-spatial concepts to facilitate the development of handwriting skills in students.
In CEW, students write letters using visual templates while listening to musicthat simulates the movements needed to form the letters. This combination of visual templates and auditory guides strengthens the visual-spatial foundations related to writing.
How does it work?
Keeping relationships and emotional connection at the forefront, CEW classes begin as a group. Students participate in whole body movements to the beat of music to help them identify the top, middle, bottom, left, and right parts of their bodies – all important foundational concepts to writing. They then move their shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers to a song that helps them isolate the body parts used when writing. Lastly, gross motor movements are performed with a partner (called “Mirror Movements”) that correlate with foundational writing strokes – vertical line, horizontal line, curves, and diagonals. The music is comprised of the same tones as the music that is used for each letter.
About the Creators
CEW was developed in 2012 by occupational therapists, Michele Parkins and Carrie Davis, while working in a school for children with challenges in relating and communicating. Together, they realized that so many students are missing the foundations they need in order to be successful in writing and have experienced many defeats in the area of handwriting before. With their knowledge of music, development of gross and fine motor movement, visual-spatial development and engagement, they decided to create a fun, engaging handwriting program that effectively teaches kids to create letters!
If you would like to learn more about CEW, please contact us!.
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Carrie Davis and Michele Parkins are occupational therapists and co-founders of CEW