Saturday, July 4, 2015

Handwriting Fluency

First, let me begin by saying that I've been meaning to write this post for at least 2 weeks. Between final documents, getting the keys in my hand, the latest #tptsellerchallenge, and wanting to start some other projects {linky party, and other posts} I just haven't had the energy I needed to dedicate to this post.

Let me tell you why this post needs a lot of energy.

THIS PROGRAM IS AMAZING, and I am not just saying that because it's my product, but because I truly believe that it works. I want all of you readers to go to my tpt page, buy it, and at least try it, because it works wonders. I may even throw a freebie or two out there, just because I think you need to try it! I need to sell you on Handwriting Fluency, because IT, WORKS. But, best of all, the kids don't even realize how much they are learning!!!
What are you talking about???  is the phrase that's probably more than likely going through your head right now! You're thinking... this new blogger, she's crazy! I don't know how kids can learn when all they are doing is practicing their handwriting... and we're not even allowed to teach that anymore!

Well, what if I, {the crazy blogger lady} told you I have a way for you to practice handwriting and cover at least 4 other common core standards.

I do.
It works.
The kids love it.
And, it only takes 15 minutes a day.

What is this crazy program you ask? Handwriting Fluency.

When I was attending "How to Teach the Common Core" {excellent training, by the way}, Jill Jackson, the presenter, was talking about writing in one of our last classes. She was giving us the lowdown on how to teach common core during writing ... which I will get into in another post, some other time, because it's good stuff too... and she said an offhand comment.

Jill said something along the lines of ... "Handwriting fluency is directly tied to comprehension." And, what I took from that is...
    If a kiddo can write what they are reading in a timely manner, they understand more of what they are reading because they can apply their phonics skills and sight words quickly to the passage they are concentrated on.

My next thoughts were: 

  • Can I build on this? 
  • Can we practice it? 
  • Will it make them all better readers, writers, and spellers? 
  • Can I get data on their handwriting fluency? What about if I could add in some reading fluency????
  • Can we use passages to build their knowledge of things we no longer have the time to teach {holidays, science, social studies}?
  • Can I use it as a spiral review for common core literature and informational text standards?

I got my answer after about a week of designing, discussing, and creating, and then another three weeks of trial and error in the classroom. The answer was YES. Well, at least to most of my thoughts. The only one I hadn't gotten to yet was ...
  • Can I use it as a spiral review for common core literature and informational text standards?
and I was determined to figure that one out too!

So, what did I do?

I typed up a paragraph and added handwriting lines to the bottom of the page.
I spent day one modeling how to complete correct handwriting and letter formation for the paragraph (which I tied into our science unit on plants at the time ... check that off the list of questions!) then I timed myself writing for three minutes with completely correct handwriting formation. The kids were dying to see if they could beat me, soooo I let them have a go at it. They took their time, really wrote the paragraph correctly and tried their best.

I knew that there could be so much more done with this program, so I kept modeling and practicing with the kids, but kept thinking about it in the back of my mind.

I then decided we could start tackling working on fluency. As a class, we were already reading the passage chorally once a day, but I knew {from the two sisters aka daily 5} that choral reading as a class is one of the best ways to build reading fluency. so then we started the I read, we read, you read part of the program. I would read the whole paragraph to the students daily. Then, we would the whole passage together, chorally. Then the students would read the paragraph to a partner for one minute and switch. Finally, I would time the students for one minute and they would mark their fluency on the paper.

When I would take their fluency scores, I noticed a complete difference in a lot of my middle readers. They were more confident, they tried harder, and they knew all of their sight words by heart. They would apply their phonics more accurately and they proved that this was working! My low babies were also improving, but my batch of low babies this year was very stagnant, even with all the extra time spent with them :(

Now that I had checked all but one question off of my list, I had one more thing to work on ... How to test their comprehension of the passage?

I came up with a 5 question weekly quiz that fit a few common core standards...

When I had the students take the test, I modeled the first week, but after that, I let them go for it! I was pleasantly surprised with the results and truly felt that the kids were understanding the passage because we had done so much work with it before ... even though we never talked about main idea, text features or anything else like that!

I continued to develop different passages for the remainder of the year, but knew this would be my first big TPT project of the summer. I knew that this worked and that if I started it earlier in the year it would become so very powerful. I developed 40 weeks of handwriting fluency passages for second and third graders. The best part is that you can use the same test every week for spiral review of some of the most important common core skills to develop in these grade levels! 

I am currently working on fourth and fifth grade packets, and have the first ten weeks completed. I hope to have fourth and fifth grade done by the time school starts for me, but that might be asking a lot... 

Handwriting fluency Pt 1 for Grades 4 and 5

If you like what you hear and want to check it out on TPT... click here! 

If your still skeptical ... check out this freebie on dropbox and then try it with your class... if you aren't impressed, at least it was free!

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