May 20, 2008,
A.P. asks from Vienna, VA on May 13, 2008
How to Teach a Lefty to Write?
Hi... my name is A. and I have a 3.5 year old son. I'm trying to teach him how to write alphabet lately. I get confused since he's using his left hand to write and it's hard for me to teach him since I use my right hand. Should i teach him from his back or in front of him? I use Kumon workbooks all this time. Any other products that can help me to teach him? And is it normal for him to NOT have a big desire to learn how to write at this age?
Thank you so much and appreciate all the inputs from you all.
So What Happened?™
Thank you everyone for your inputs. It's easy to put pressure on the little ones... but some of you were right... why the rush at this age... it will come naturally... ;-)
Thanks again for all the inputs. Now at least I know to stand on his back to teach him better. I have to practice my left hand too, so it will be more fun for both of us during the learning process... ;-)
A.F. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
A., Just make sure that you turn the paper to the right and not to the left, as a right-handed person will do. I am left handed and had a great 4th grade teacher who was left handed and came over to my desk and turned the paper the opposite way of everyone else's and it makes life so much easier! In a world built for right-handed people, the little things matter most. Good luck!
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J.R. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
QUESTION: (Left-Handed Writing)
My son is left handed and he looks very awkward and uncomfortable when he tries to write. His writing is pretty illegible as well.
Is there anything that I can do to make writing easier for him to master?
Writing from left to right, as we do in English, allows a right handed person to look at his writing as it progresses. A "lefty", however, has difficulty visually monitoring handwriting since his hand covers his writing. Because of this, "Lefties" can develop some bad habits.
1- A hooked grasp - the wrist bends forward (this positions a child's fingers above his writing and allows him to see what he is writing). This is a very bad position for writing since it does not allow efficient finger control for good letter formation.
2- An "ulnar" grasp - the child holds the pencil between his thumb with all four fingers along the shaft. The pinky finger is closest to the pencil tip. This grasp is undesirable because the pinky must guide pencil movements and the hand is unstable.
Tips For Teaching "Lefties" to Write:
Position the paper on the desk so it is completely left of the child's midline. Never in the writing process should a the left handed child cross over the midline.
Angle the paper so that it lies parallel to the child's forearm. This is likely to be close to a 45 degree angle which is a greater angle than "righties" use. Encourage kids to learn how to position paper themselves. To ensure correct positioning, affix tape to the desk to provide an outline of the position in which a paper should lie.
Lisa Marnell MS, OTR/L
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J.F. answers from Richmond on May 14, 2008
I am a lefty and I've done a lot of this working with children. I do believe the most important thing is angling the paper correctly. The correct angle of the paper (for a lefty) is found by holding the paper up by the top left corner. As you lay it down on the table, it will be the correct angle to write on. This holds true as well for righties by holding the top right corner. Having the correct angle is especially important for lefties if you don't want them writing "upside down" as they get older. It also makes it easier down the road when having to learn how to slant cursive letters. Workbooks with connect the dots and tracing exercises are great. I don't think there's any need to hold his hand, and I don't think it really matters where you situate yourself around him as long as he sees the letters correctly on the page. Many kids (even righties) write their letters backwards, or mirror image. That I've seen, this usually works itself out by 1st or 2nd grade. I hope that's helpful.
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S.M. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
My instinct would be to not touch the paper or his hand and not to model writing for him. Instead, write letters for him to copy or use highlighters or make dots for him to trace with a pencil. Let him make the physical adjustments that are natural to him and focus on copying/tracing the right shapes. That is how I teach my right-handed daughter (I am also a righty) - I have never held the pencil with her.
And yes, sometimes he won't want to write. Kids focus on one or two things at a time (just like walking or talking). He might be more into gross motor stuff now, or he might be into colors and shapes, or into verbal and music. Let hime do what he wants. He has plenty of time - it's not like he won't learn to write!
One thing I do is encourage my daughter to sign her name on cards, pictures, etc. And I occasionally ask her to sound out a word. Maybe just once a day, but it creates opportunities if they are in the mood.
If he is in preschool, his teacher should be able to advise you. Have fun!
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D.S. answers from Allentown on May 14, 2008
There is a web site that might be of help:
Hope this helps. D.
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S.M. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
Check out www.handwritingwithouttears.com
It is a handwriting program used by therapists and in many public school systems. It starts out with kids using their fingers to trace letters in sand, make them out of play dough, etc. Very effective! It was developed by a MD woman. Good luck!
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C.D. answers from Norfolk on May 14, 2008
Most kids are ambidextrous at this age, although he seems to have a preference. It shouldn't matter if you are in front of or in back of him or sitting side by side, letters are patterns, we see patterns and copy them using whichever hand is most comfortable. It is normal for him to have a short attention span about writing at this age, writing is tedious, especially if you are trying to get him to spell words instead of just practice the letters and the sounds they make. The fine motor control isn't quite there, that's why little kids use big fat pencils. Try markers, fat crayons, different colors of paper, workbooks with lines may be too much right now.
R.M. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
Hi A.! I am left handed and the biggest issue is that we hold our pencils different; it's not really backwards from righties though. If you know anyone who is left handed ask them to show you so you can then show your son. My daughter is right handed so I had a hard time also; I did dotted letters and had her trace it to make lines. That worked better than trying to guide her hand. Hope this helps.
S.C. answers from Norfolk on May 14, 2008
I am right-handed with a lefty child too. MIne is in 5th grade now. I wrote the letters for him with my left-hand. It made my brain hurt but it helped him to figure it out. Also I think it is totally normal for your son to not have a big desire to write. I would work with him as long as it is fun for him. You don't want to spoil school for him before he gets started.
I.D. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
I sat my son on my lap and showed him first how to draw lines (straight, diagonals, curves, etc.). I guided his hand with my left hand...it was hard at first. If he's like most of the young lefties boys, don't get frustrated if they're not too excited to do writing. Unless, he is showing real interest in doing so, please don't force him yet.
L.A. answers from Lynchburg on May 14, 2008
What is the rush in teaching him how to write? He'll learn soon enough. Just provide him with crayons, markers, fun things & let him learn thru play. My son didn't want to color or write, but when he saw a book on how to draw & color superheros, he asked for it, & loved trying to draw them. At his age, just getting books in front of him is appropriate. My son is now almost 10 & writes great.
K.C. answers from Richmond on May 15, 2008
I'm a lefty, and my mom says that to teach me things she would have to either get a friend who was left-handed or she would sit across the table from me and tell me to do what she was doing - at that age, most kids will do a mirror image, not exactly what you're doing, so it works out to be the opposite hand.
J.L. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
I am a lefty and when I was young my two older sisters (3 and 4 years older than me) was trying to teach me to write. They sat across from me and I learned to write "mirror" writing! (literally, you could hold it up to a mirror and read it perfectly!). Just sit next to him and write the letters and let him copy those. I also taught my daughter (a righty) to form her letters by tracing the letters as dots, then let her connect the dots.
Also, all kids learn at a different age and/or pace. My daughter was interested, but other kids her age were not. You could either buy flash cards with the letter and a picture of something beginning with the letter, or even make your own. Get him involved in making the flash cards and he may become more interested in learning them! Good luck!
J.P. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
My daughter is left handed and she seemed slow to write. I think it was because she saw her teachers and friends using their right hands and she didn't feel comfortable copying that. After I told her that she could use whichever hand was more comfortable for her, she gained confidence and her handwriting drastically improved in the past year (she is finishing pre-k this month). I think it is slightly early at 3.5 for a child to have interest and mastery so don't worry. As he gains increased motor skills in the next year, he will likely increase his interest and show better skill. As far as describing the letters to him, I don't recall anything special. I don't see her teachers doing anything special either. Her first letters were so weird (but adorable).
C.F. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
I have a 4.5 year old lefty daughter and all my family and my husband's family are all righties, so I didn't have any experience with it either.
I asked her preschool teacher for help and she did some research and came back with the two most important differences with lefties is apparently just 1)how they hold the pen/pencil and 2)how they hold the paper.
Everything else should be the same.
My DD was motivated to learn because she wanted to be like her [older] cousins, so she was learning to write early. I noticed a lot of the worksheets from school she came home with when they learned a letter used connect-the-dots to teach the kids how to make the letters (they started out by tracing a similar shape with their fingers, then moved to actually drawing them.)
Give him the tools, encourage him in small creative ways (sign a card, make flash cards, write a comic book story, etc), rather than just worksheets. I bought a bunch of the preschool activity books at the dollar store and they have a mix of counting and other things including writing. I also got her some of those write on/wipe off books with marker which she was very excited to use, since it was the first time I let her use markers. = )
As someone else said, he may be focused on other things right now, so don't worry too much if he isn't interested in it yet. Give him those little opportunities, and let the rest sort itself out.
K.S. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
When my parents taught me they allowed me to grab the pen the way I felt comfortable, and have the paper turned to the side a little, but they started working with me in the back, and even though it may look funny or feel funny to you use your rigt hand to help him right, even though it is with his left. I can actually write with both hands I had one parent that wanted me to be right handed and another that wanted me to be left. But the most important thing is for him to be comfortable. Hope this helps.
T.W. answers from Norfolk on May 14, 2008
I think you'll find it easier to teach him from the back. Also, if he's one of those leftys who tends to tilt his hand, try teaching him instead to angle the paper and keep his hand straight. It's not unusual not to be very interested in anything more than coloring at this age.
E.D. answers from Richmond on May 14, 2008
A., after reading the other posts, what I was going to say was already said, but I'll say it anyway. I taught myself in high school to do things left handed just in case I married someone who was left handed (which I did) and had children who are lefties (which I think I do). My daughter likes writing with her right hand, but my son likes the left hand. Standing behind them is an excellent way to teach them. I've also taught myself to write upside down to teach my daughter what letters look like. She is 3 years old and already reading and writing. I am so proud of her (she is autistic though, so that takes a huge part in it). Good luck with your little one and have fun.
C.D. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
I am the mother of a lefty. I think that it is easier to stand behind to move his hand. I also practiced using my left hand so that I could use my left hand when helping him (I, too, am a righty and my son cannot use his right hand for anything. He tried to eat with his right hand once and completely missed his mouth. I then reminded him that he was a lefty and all was fine!!) It is hard to imagine at first, but just imagine teaching him as a "righty" backwards. However, your son will learn how to write if you continue to encourage him and give him the tools to draw and write. My son is now in kindergarten and he has learned to write just fine. DOn't worry, it will come.
P.K. answers from Norfolk on May 14, 2008
Sit on his left side for starters. Don't draw attention to the difference.
Think, move slow before showing him a letter.
Sometimes the library has tapes showing handwriting.
Shoe tying...sit in front of him, it's the mirror image and he will get it...when it's time.
He will do fine!
I'm a lefty and had no problems teaching all of my right handed kids to write.
W.S. answers from Norfolk on May 14, 2008
My son just turned 5 and has an excellent vocabulary and verbal skills. Although he has been able to type his name on a keyboard since age 3, he's only been clearly writing his name and now other letters since about 4 or 4 1/2. Don't push too hard, at 3 1/2 it is still hard to hold a pencil correctly, never mind use controlled movements to form letters. It is more important for them to say and/or understand the letters they are seeing at this point. Also, not all lefties write the same way, with a hooked around hand. My husband is a lefty, and he holds his pencil and writes in a mirror image of a traditional righty, that is, hand in line with arm, and paper shifted to the left. Your son will figure it out when it's time!
H.D. answers from Norfolk on May 14, 2008
I think everyone here has given some great tips. The writing book that my son used from the get-go was the Zaner-Blaser method. This method works for both lefties and righties.
Give your son time on wanting to learn to write. If he enjoys coloring and scribbling, maybe you can encourage learning to write by teaching him how to write his name on his projects.
T.A. answers from Washington DC on May 20, 2008
My lefty sister found that when trying to teach rightys it is easier to sit across from them, so what they see is what they do. When teaching someone who uses the same hand, then sit next to them. Good luck
R.Y. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
Hey A.. I see that you are using the Kumon workbooks. I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old and I use them with them as well. I also just picked up the Kumon flashcards with uppercase letters and numbers on them. They come with a dry erase marker so your child can trace the letters and numbers out. My two year old loves them and is starting to be able to recognize the letters and sounds. Granted I have to keep a close eye on him so I don't end up with marker everyplace. He actually does a pretty good job tracing them though. They might help out your son as well. I know Barnes and Noble has them. Hope that helps.
F.P. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
Hi A., I believe that someone may have already stated my comment. However, I will recommend that you show him how to right from the back. As a matter of fact when teaching a lefty anything it is best to be behind him. It has to do with how it appears to them. I can't remember the exact term but it has to do with their perception and how their brain receives the information. Also allow him the ability to hold the pencil the way he feels comfortable and you should be fine. Happy teaching.
K.H. answers from Norfolk on May 14, 2008
It is too early to tell if a child is right or left handed at your child's age. Most children use both hands and don't decide on a hand until they are four or older. He is also too young to teach him to write he will let you know soon enough when he is ready to learn. If you push him too much he will rebel and you may stop him ever wanting to learn to write.
Let him just play, it is a vital part of learning. Don't worry about him he will learn soon enough how to write. If you want to encourage him he needs to learn how to make shapes first. Learning how to control a crayon by colouring is a good start. Doing wavy lines and circles all help eventually. He will grow up soon enough don't push him. Time enough for that if he starts slacking later on in school.
P.L. answers from Washington DC on May 14, 2008
I have a leftie and I knew she was a leftie at age 4 months. Some kids show preference early, and some not.
Anyway, he's a boy, and they typically don't care about things like writing until they are older. Usually the boys fine motor skills develop later. Also, since he is a leftie, don't be concerned if he starts out writing mirror image. My daughter would write her name perfectly in mirror image. I couldn't do it!
T.G. answers from Washington DC on May 15, 2008
Wow! You definitely are in the same boat I was a few years back and we still struggle with writing! My son is left-handed as well and is now 7 years old in first grade. He has never been one to color or write much on his own. He really has struggled with his writing in K and 1st, but has progressed with extra help from us at home. His school uses Handwriting without Tears curriculum, so I went to the local educational store and bought some workbooks and the journal for home. We have also been working on strengthening his fine motor skills and pincer grasp since he has an immature grip. We have seen a good bit of progress from the start of 1st grade till now though with the size and spacing of his letters. I also taught before I had kids and know from experience that girls (I also have a 5 year old girl) are more into writing at your son's age than boys, so just try to encourage and come up with some fun, gamelike ways to practice writing. Good Luck!!