I often get asked, “Nicole, how do I start to teach handwriting in Pre-k?” It is always a difficult question because so many curriculums use different methods. Some introduce capital letters first, some introduce lowercase letters first, and some mix them all in a jumble of learning! My answer NEVER changes even after looking at many different Pre-k handwriting curriculums. You must use multi sensory writing activities to introduce and start the handwriting and letter formation process!
What Do Sensory Writing Activities Look Like?
Pretty much sensory writing activities look like a bunch of activities that DO NOT involve a pencil, paper, or a workbook. Multi sensory handwriting activities allow students to really think about letter formation and use self-talk, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills to practice the art of handwriting without even picking up a pencil!
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Here are a couple of multisensory writing activities I absolutely love seeing teachers use in the classroom:
Sensory Writing Activity #1: Air Writing Demonstration
Before having any student pick up a pencil, let them use their finger and work on letter formation in the air. They can pretend their finger is a magic wand, a lightsaber, or even cooler are the finger flashlights, turn off the lights and let your students make a light show while formatting letters!
Sensory Writing Activity #2: Vocalization
Talking out the steps of letter formation is also essential, and it gives students the words or language they need to know when forming letters independently.
You may say things like:
- “We start our letter at the top.”
- “We dive down.”
- “ We swim up and over, and we make sure to bump the bottom.”
Let kiddos know it is ok to talk to themselves when learning how to write, they may sound a little crazy, but everyone is doing it!
Sensory Writing Activity #3: Vertical Easels, Finger Paint, and Shaving Cream
Vertical writing is a huge plus, and I hope every Pre-k classroom has easels available for its students! Vertical writing improves wrist extension and pencil grasp when students get older, and by having students work on vertical surfaces in Pre-K, they strengthen the muscles in their wrists and fingers.
Some enjoyable ways to give your student the opportunity to combine multi sensory writing activities and vertical writing are to give your students some finger paint or cover the easel in shaving cream and have them practice writing letters!
Not sure where to get started? I have the perfect solution for you!
My Legible Handwriting For Kids Handwriting Club is perfect for parents and teachers looking for ways to make handwriting practice easier!
Sensory Writing Activity #4: Writing Tray
Although this is not a vertical writing activity, using a cookie tray or deep baking pan filled with sand or a salt tray is another excellent educational way to help students form letters. They can use vocalization, self-talk, and other strategies you have taught them while playing in the sand, and I even suggest getting some educational letter cards with the trays!
Sensory Writing Activity #5: Play Dough, Pipe Cleaners, And More
As an adult, I love play dough. I don’t know if it’s the smell that brings me back to my childhood or the squishy feeling when I squish it between my palms, either way, it is a great tool to help students learn letters. So are pipe cleaners, and they are easy to bend and can be twisted and tied together for great multi sensory activities.
Sensory Writing Activities: The Perfect Handwriting Activities For Preschoolers
Although you may be looking at this list and thinking, “are these really handwriting activities?” I can guarantee they are, and these handwriting activities for preschool students have so many benefits! Giving preschoolers a written model and having them grab a pencil and copy the model repeatedly is NOT enough. Including multi sensory writing activities you are give many ways for students to practice.
As a teacher there is always room for growth and I love helping teachers grow and learn more about occupational therapy! I offer some great Professional Development Sessions (and mini-sessions) to help get teachers going in the right direction!