A Solution to an Everyday Problem with Young Learners


We all have students who have trouble with fine motor skills. Every year, it seems like more and more kids need help opening their snack or milk container, buttoning their coat, and holding a pencil. While some of these students receive services like occupational or physical therapy, there is limited funding to help general education preschool or kindergarteners with these issues. With Common Core Standards shaping the direction of our teaching, something must be done early on to help our students facing these challenges.

The Hands First! Curriculum offers a solution to these problems. Principals, Superintendents, and Directors of Pupil Services support this curriculum as it is a Level 1 Response to Intervention Model and only takes 15 minutes daily for 4 months. Administrators also approve this program because it was written for use with common classroom materials without the need for additional supply purchases.

Created by Professionals, used by teachers and parents alike, “Hands First!” is definitely worth checking out! Even if you have just one student who just can’t seem to grip that pencil correctly or zip up their jacket.
Check out their website and follow their blog: www.handsfirstforlearning.com
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Gingerbread Writing and Reading Kindergarten Activities


Oh how we love the gingerbread man! We were busy reading, writing and demonstrating prepositions with a take home book. Then, we wrote and read about parts of a gingerbread man. Then, sequencing a cut up sight word sentence. Graphing the first part of the cookie that was eaten first was the next activity. You can download the printables from my TpT “store” here: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/My-Little-Gingerbread-Man-Mini-Unit-by-greenbeankindergarten-1005374 as a part of a mini-unit

gingerbread unit

PREPOSITION Book – This is printable and all you need is a gingerbread die-cut for the students to glue and add to the correct place as you are teaching “where” to place him.








SIGHT WORD Sentence Cut Apart and Writing Book – This is great for reading, writing and fine motor work.





This is the famous “First Bite” Chart that is not my original idea. You simply pass out a gingerbread cookie (I like the Little Debbie brand). Have the children take a bite and ask them which body part they ate first. Then graph it either with their picture, a gingerbread die-cut, or by them writing their own name under the correct section.


Fun Gingerbread Craft-ivity! My wonderful teacher Assistant created this with our students. She reviewed the body parts and discussed 2 legs, 2 arms, 2 eyes, 1 mouth, 1 stomach and then decided which body parts of the gingerbread man were real shapes (the stomach, the head and the eyes). Next, the children chose and named the color and amount of buttons they wanted. Oh, how we just love how they turned out!



RHYMING MAN – Here is our cute little dude that is helping us learn to rhyme words. This is quite possibly one of the hardest pre-reading skills in kindergarten! Rhyming can also be kind of boring, but our students had a lot of fun rhyming with the gingerbread man. First, I drew him on this chart paper. Then, I passed out only words that DID rhyme with -an and MAN. So, I set them up for success. Any word that they said or read to me WAS a word that rhymed with man. Then, I modeled how to write the word. After the 5-10 minute whole group lesson, this then became a small group lesson. I placed a double set of flashcards for the students to play “Memory,” and find 2 words that were the same and matched together. In another station, I placed the Rhyming man chart and placed a set of the flashcards for the children to match on top of the written word. For the next day, I drew a TREE and we did the exact same lesson, but with words that end in /-e/. On the third day, we sorted /-e/ and /-an/ words. Download the printable and 3-day lesson here: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Rhyming-Word-Sort-Simple-Printable-1015046

Gingerbread rhyming image





Cute gingerbread clipart from: http://www.mycutegraphics.com







Bad Handwriting?







For the past 12 years of my teaching career, I have worked with many children who struggled with their handwriting. Some of them had existing disabilities, such as down’s syndrome, autism and speech impairments. Others did not. Fortunately, an Occupational Therapist visited my classroom often and worked with these children (between the ages of 4-6). I was able to witness and borrow many of her techniques.

Sloppy handwriting is hard to read, messy and is just not pretty to look at. It can be frustrating for the child because no one can read and understand what he is writing about. A parent becomes discouraged because she knows the potential of her child. A teacher may get irritated by “bad handwriting” because she can’t grade the child adequately.

Why are we so Worried?

To be honest, some educators are not, because of the increase in testing and influx of technology. However, good handwriting is important. There is actually evidence that indicates that children who write better and faster, get better grades. But don’t be fooled-superb handwriting is not an indicator of success. There are many intelligent and successful people who have horrible handwriting!

What Causes Good and Bad Writing?

  • Investigate to see if the problem is cognitive or physical. If a child can’t remember how to write a letter or shape or they take too long, then the problem is cognitive. If they have trouble forming the letter, then it is likely physical.
  • Be aware that a pre-requisite to good handwriting is developing the fine motor muscles in the hand, wrist and fingers.
  • If a child’s fine motor muscles have never been “worked out” or used often, then they will most likely struggle with holding a pencil or crayon correctly.
  • Holding a pencil correctly is another pre-requisite to good handwriting.
  • Some children’s problem may be from an existing or “not-yet diagnosed” disability. Having an evaluation from an Occupational Therapist is a good idea.

What Can I Do to Help?

  • Check that the child is holding the pencil correctly.
  • Be sure that when writing, the child’s feet are touching the floor and the table/desk is below chest level. He may need a shorter table or chair.
  • Check that his posture is tall and straight. Slouching and laying on the table does not help handwriting!
  • Be sure that his vision is not impeding his writing (Is it possible that he may need glasses?)
  • Encourage him to play with his food. That’s right! Here are some fun food activities: Pull grapes off the stems, cut strawberries, spread peanut butter on bread or help with mixing and stirring in the kitchen. These activities make the hands strong enough to write better!
  • You can also ask an OT yourself at: http://www.handwritinghelpforkids.com/expert.html
  • Encourage typing. That’s right. It builds up fine motor muscles, too!
  • Increase their physical activity through gross motor fun. Try these muscle developing activities: throwing a ball back and forth, playing “wheel-barrow,” crawling, climbing
  • Play outdoor games like baseball, tennis, jacks, marbles, clapping songs
  • Enforce the use of silverware at dinner time. Grasping a utensil increases fine motor strength.
  • Provide various writing tools like thin, short or fat markers and crayons, golf pencils, chalk, gel pens, paint brushes.
  • Bring out the play-dough and clay! This fun is disguised a muscle building.
  • Encourage your child to button and zip his own clothing and shoes.
  • Rake leaves and wash the car
  • Sort laundry
  • Write letters on the table with shaving cream or finger write on the shower door or wall
  • Encourage block play, snap cubes and snap beads as well as necklace beading.
  • Provide handwriting letter stamps for your child to stamp and then trace