Tuesday, 25 August 2009

WOW: A letter of recommendation

Letter Layers received this letter recently - For those of you without a magnifying glass :-) it says...
Dear John,
Many thanks for sending the cd on approval. WOW! My son loves it and I can honestly say within him doing the first two letters there was a huge improvement in his confidence and attitude. To visually see those lead in and out strokes has helped him to understand that joined up handwriting is not as hard as it seemed. I can actually see him thinking of where to start and where to join-the concentration is much improved. Once we got over the hurdle of "we don't do this one like this at school" referring to the loop letters. I managed to persuade him to have a try and reassured him that it was ok and that the flow was better. He was in agreement and we have decided to go with your style. A heart felt thank you to you and your wife for producing this wonderful resource. It truly has helped my son - he loves it and says it is great fun! Sincere regards...
We are so chuffed with this. More evidence that handwriting is a key skill for children to develop and they can develop it in a fun way!Letter Layers works and we are looking forward to telling more people about it! Do get in touch if you want more info enquiries@letterlayers.co.uk we can send copies out for sale or return - have a go, see what you think!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Letter Layers works! littlies and biggies love it!

Thanks to both boys - to be honest they loved it! Once kids are in front of a camera they love to perform!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Great game to get kids writing #3

Hello it's me again Magic - I'm really excited because today the Coen family ( the people who have made this game for me) are letting me loose! You can join me to learn a really important movement to help you with your handwriting. Play the film above and learn the "up and over" movement. You use this movement for lots of letters. You can practice your up and over movement anywhere! On a piece of paper, in the sandpit, in the mud :-) on your mummy and daddy's backs ( get them to do it on your back too!). I hope you have fun with this game. Let me know what you think!

The next game is for children at Level 3 who are starting to hear sounds at the beginning and end of words and are becoming more confident at linking letters to the sounds they make but can not write them.

The next game is for children at Level 1 again. It's called My sandwich sounds! Do you like sandwiches? What sort of sandwich would a queen eat? Have a think and we'll see you soon!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Great game to get kids writing #2 : Hide and Seek sounds

Hello - me again! My name is magic and I love juggling! BUT my favourite thing is writing and knowing my sounds! Today I'm going to tell you about a game to play with your child. This is a Level 2 game: for for children who are familiar with some letters and the sounds they make.
What you need: an a4 sheet of paper, a pen...that's all!
First, take your a4 sheet of paper and divide it in to 6 sections. On each section write one of the letters above a,c,e,o,s,x then cut out the letters. Next the game begins. This game is a twist on hide and seek. Tell your child that you are going to play hide and seek with sounds! Instead of the child hiding you are going to hide the sounds in easy to find places in a room. Ask your child to close their eyes and count to 10 slowly ( the numbers don't have to be correct!!!) . The challenge is to find the sounds! As your child finds each piece of paper encourage them to name the sound - see if they can tell you something that begins with that sound - apple,cup, egg, orange, snake, ( x is tricky! what word ends with a x? box, fox). Play the game as many times as you like and I bet your child will suggest they have a go at hiding the sounds! What a great way of becoming even more familiar with sounds!
Check back for our next game - we're going to do some writing!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Great game to keep kids writing : My sounds in the den

Hello I'm Magic and I'm a character on Letter Layers, a game that helps children write cursively. I know a lot about handwriting so watch out for my TOP TIPS over the next few posts.
This first game is called - My sounds in the den. It is a Level 1 Activity which is for children who are still developing their understanding of what a letter looks like and sounds like. If you want more information on the different levels look back at our blog from the
9th August.
This game is great for helping children match the sound of a letter to what it looks like.
What you need:a space where you can make a tent/den and objects beginning with each of the letters in letter group 1 a,c,e,o,s,x ( you can see them in my picture too!) e.g. an apple, a cup, a toy elephant, an orange, a toy snake and a box . You also need 6 post its or stickers on each post it/sticker write one group 1's letters.

1) With your child make your special sound den. If you have a tent this will work if you don't have one don't worry! l I'll let you in to a secret! My favourite type of den is the one you make with a sheet thrown over a table - this will suddenly turn the space under the table into the best den in the world!

2) Put all of your objects in the box and head into your special sound den. Remind your child that this is a space for sound experts! Spread the post it notes/stickers on the "walls" of your den. With your child look at each letter and see if they are able to name the sounds- do it together.

3) Next ask your child to close their eyes , reach in the box and choose an object - make this really exciting - you could put a cover over your box and get your child to try and guess what the object is before they see it. Once they have chosen an object ask them what it is.

4) The next step is to work out which of the sounds the object begins with. Look round the den again at the sounds you have stuck on the "walls":-). Does the object begin with any of these sounds? When you find the correct sound stick it to the object.

5) Repeat this process until all of the sounds apart from "x" are stuck to objects. Remember to tell your child how AMAZING they are with their sounds! Pretend that you have finished the activity "That's it then - we've done all of our sounds..." I bet your child will say "No we haven't! We still have this one!" Your child may or may not recognise the letter x - See if they can hear the sound at the end of "box" really emphasise the end sound.

...and you've finished! As a reward for being such so super with sounds read your child's favourite story in the sound den.

Keep checking back for my next great idea for keeping kids writing over the summer!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Mary Coen Advanced Skills Teacher and Letter Layers creator: The World of the Emerging Writer

I am an Advanced Skills Teacher in Literacy and the creator of Letter Layers, a revolutionary interactive programme that encourages early adoption of cursive writing skills. The idea for Letter Layers was developed during my years as a teacher (over 20 years between you and me ;-)) and was based on the research I carried out as part of my Masters Degree studies in Special Education.

I see cursive handwriting and the correct formation of individual letters as an essential skill that children must develop as soon as possible in their journey to becoming independent writers. Sadly, it is an area that has been long neglected by research and government and there is a need for more guidance and resources to help teach this fundamental ingredient of early literacy development.

Handwriting has also been largely ignored by the National Curriculum and even The Revised Strategy is still only concerned with neatness, style and correct joining. Composition has been seen to be the main driver in children learning to write.

Class Teachers have been discouraged from distracting children from the creative/composition side of writing by drawing attention to handwriting while they are composing. But what happens if you are unsure of how to form the first letter of the first word that your story starts with?

“Does the ‘a’ start on the line, in the middle, further along the page?”

What happens if you are printing and not writing cursively and therefore run out of time in a timed writing exercise – you are unable to get to the climax of the wonderfully creative story you had crafted so beautifully in your head?

Nothing – that’s what happens.

Sometimes it is worse than nothing.

Anger and frustration at not being able to note down ideas and thoughts can often be seen in primary classrooms.

Children who are unable to note down their thoughts, who are unable to write, come to detest making any mark on paper as they feel they have failed at the first hurdle.

Early writing is an extremely complicated process

There is no hierarchy in the complex set of skills required for writing. Children work on lots of the components for writing at the same time e.g. hearing sounds, recognising sound symbols, linking a sound to a symbol etc. Handwriting or the formation of letters is just one of these skills. Imagine … a child that is able to write the letter ‘e’ doesn’t necessarily know that the sound it makes is ‘eh’ and may not be able to hear the sound ‘eh’ at the beginning of the word ‘egg’. It’s an exhausting business learning to write!

Before any of these skills become embedded or automatic the child holds them in the working memory. This is like a temporary storage box where we hold the information necessary for completing any given task.

The working memory is constantly being bombarded with ideas and thoughts. This causes problems. Once a task has been completed new information is introduced to the working memory so that it can complete other tasks and existing information that has not become embedded in the long term memory is discarded to make room for this fresh data. An example of this might be where a child was able to write the letter ‘e’ perfectly well on Monday but on Friday they are unsure of where the letter should begin and end. (And ‘e’ is a pretty tricky letter to write! It looks a lot like a squiggle to the child!)

This is why in the early stages of writing children have to be reminded each day of the same things they were reminded of the previous day. E.g. What’s the first sound you can hear in ‘dog’? How do we write the sound ‘d’? What other sounds can you hear in ‘dog’? Etc.

What does research say?

Research is now telling us that although we know that there is no hierarchy in the skills needed to produce writing, the skill of being able to hear a sound and write the corresponding letter as early as possible is crucial if the child is to be an effective writer.

Therefore the earlier children are able to recognise sounds and form letters correctly the earlier they will get on to composing pieces of writing that they will be delighted with.

Look out for more my next article where I will explain why children MUST learn how to write cursively as early as possible.

CLAY, M. (1975) What Did I Write? Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT (1998) The National Literacy Strategy Framework for Teaching. London: Department foe Education and Employment

MEDWELL, J., and WRAY, D. (2007) Handwriting: what do we know and what do we need to know? UKLA, 41, pp. 10-15

BEARNE, E., and GRAINGER, T. (2004) Raising boys’ achievement in writing. UKLA, 38, pp. 156-158

Sunday, 9 August 2009

It can be hard to keep kids writing over the summer. Over the next few weeks we're going to be posting some fun ways to get kids into writing.

Of course children are all at different levels so look out for our activity rating! Children in all three of these levels may not be writing cursively. If you want specific help to get your child writing cursively have a look at http://www.letterlayers.co.uk/

A level 1 activity is for children who are unfamiliar with what letters look like and the sounds they make.

A level 2 activity is for children who are familiar with some letters and the sounds they make.

A level 3 activity is for children who are starting to hear sounds at the beginning and end of words and are becoming more confident at linking letters to the sounds they make but can not write them.

Each week we will concentrate on a different group of letters:

Group 1 letters: aceosx

Group 2 letters: dgqzf

Group 3 letters: imnruvw

Group 4 letters: ltbhkjpy

Our first activity will be for children at level one. If you want to prepare for it you will need a space where you can make a tent/den and objects beginning with each of the letters in letter group 1 e.g. an apple, a cup, a toy elephant, an orange, a toy snake and a box.

Watch out of the next post!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Reassuring news for handwriting afficionados! Postcards are still going strong proving that our love of handwriting remains. Read the story here http://tinyurl.com/kq6wnz. Kids love writing postcards to their friends ( much more fun that writing to great aunt flo!) . So remember your pencil case when you are off on your holidays and get those kids writing!

Friday, 7 August 2009

This is our first post on the new Letter Layers blog. We may not be experts in blogging but we know what we're talking about when it comes to getting kids excited about handwriting. At the moment it's busy times for the Letter Layers team as we are working hard to re launch our website. We want to make sure that everyone knows how fantastic Letter Layers is. Never heard of it? Well let us tell you more...

Letter Layers is a new tool to teach cursive handwriting. It has been used successfully by teachers and parents. Who is it for? Well anyone really who is looking to improve their handwriting skills!

In a true web 2.0 way rather than write about it why don't we show you? www.youtube.com/letterlayers

So if you'd like to know more get in contact! letterlayers@ymail.com We look forward to hearing from you.