Friday, August 5, 2011

Handwriting Without Tears - Cheap DIY Alternatives

I looked into this program and LOVED it. However the price for everything was a killer, and for me, at least, the main reason I would get it, would be to get "all the extras".

Now, whilst I am normally an advocate, that for most people, simple IS better, this program, the great thing about it is the tactile extras. It uses multi-sensory techniques to teach the child, and help them remember, the letters. But in all honesty, who wants to spend $300+ dollars on a handwriting program? Especially with my 3, there would be no sharing, and I would have to triple up on many of these extras. We're talking major dollars.

Since I already have a few workbooks from various places here, I just couldn't justify getting HWOT. But if you already have a simple workbook for handwriting, but like the idea of the HWOT program, whats to stop you doing a little research, and making your own version? Well with this post, now there's not a lot to stop you, I am doing all the fingerwork for you.

Workbooks - So I already have some workbooks to use, but if you don't? Not a problem. There's various workbooks you can use, Zaner Bloser, Queen, even HWOT student books. as long as your just getting the student books, these programs are quite cheap. Another option is Startwrite, which is your own handwriting software, to make your own custom handwriting sheets. Also, take a long, hard look at your current curriculum. Most curriculum's nowadays, have enough copywork and letter formation in them, that there is no point getting extra workbooks just for handwriting. If your child is having a problem on a specific letter, then just concentrate on her practicing on that letter everyday, and circling her "best" letter of the day.

Letter Shapes - Obviously the main extra of the HWOT program is the wooden curves and straights used to form letters. These are $30.95 US direct from HWT or upto $60-100 in Aus! An alternative for these is making your own from foam, confused about where to start? Well, Tired, Need Sleep has templates you can download to help you make the foam pieces set. TA DA! Foam is cheap, simple to cut, and if it gets dirty, you can have extra foam set aside to make another one, or depending upon the type of foam, you can just wash it!

Mat - Oh, this is SO simple! Have a letter ready to make (an E is fine) this will give you this size you need for the "mat". You can make this mat out of foam as well, or felt, cardboard or anything else you have handy. These mats also have a smiley in the top left hand corner (to remind the child of where to start), so depending on your skills and the Mat you have made you could just get Smiley stickers or make your own smiley on felt/paper etc.

Roll a Dough Letters & Tray - Another simple one. for the "tray" I would recommend a baking/cookie sheet, and for the Letter Mats, there are a few options. for any of them I recommend printing out on cardstock, and hot laminating (cold is fine, but I always find hot seem to make it more robust in my household). One option is Letter Printables from these are printables for each letter. BUT on the 4th page (usually) of the PDF downloads is one I have found I love for Playdough rolling. Another option is Homeschool Creations Playdough Mats. Playdough of course, you can make yourself, there is plenty of recipes online, usually of two variety's, the simple one (easier to make, but harder to play with) or the cooking version (a bit more complex/time consuming, but usually results in a much better dough). Also remember to use other sensory activities for creating the letters, fill the tray up (without playdough mat in it) and get them to make the letters in rice, flour, shaving cream, or whatever else you have handy. Another mess-free version (depending on your child of course) is to put some paint in a ziplock bag and get them to make the letter in the paint.

Stamp & see screen - i don't count this as a necessity, but if you like it, you could purchase their version or use a magna-doodle you have lying around. If you want it stamp- able like the HWOT version, an option is to get a magnetic sheet and cut a Big & little Line, Big & Little curve to make them stamps, if they seem too floppy you could use some extra foam glued on it, or something else to give it a bit of rigidity (is that a word? must check after finishing this post!).

Slate Chalkboard - Well theres plenty of these around, just add the smiley to the wooden/plastic frame as per HWOT site. Theres other options too. I couldn't find a slate chalkboard (what is the world coming too?) But did manage to find a little circle table that's blackboard topped (new modern blackboard feel too, so slippery & soft, none of that blackboard scrap sound *shudder*) when practising, I just plan to "rule" a little rectangle on the table with chalk for each child, adding a smiley to the top corner :)

Blackboard with double lines- Obviously, is if its temporary use chalk to make the lines, for permanent, theres probably a few white markers out there that would do the job, permanent, possibly whiteboard, probably best to google about this!

Flip crayons - Another one I think is not a necessity. But, these are now available, even on ebay with Disney wrappers, just search for two/double/dual ended crayons" crayola also has a crayon maker out for those bits and pieces, this supposedly does dual ended crayons. You could also just melt them yourself in the microwave, and pour into a mould of your choice. If you can melt them, then there is the possibility of getting two small crayons and just melting the ends and tacking them together to dry, not sure how well this would work though.

Little Chalk - Easy, just snap up your normal chalk into little bits ;) LOL. if they don't snap nicely, I'm sure you could do something like using a very fine grit sandpaper lightly on it.

Sponges - these are just cut up bits of sponge. find a nice sponge you like the feel/squish ability of in your supermarket and go at it with scissors.

Prek Wall Cards- Why not get some A4 Cardstock and try making these yourself (perfect for those time when you need to relax) try using a medium like black crayon, or charcoal for a similar effect to their pages.

Mat Man Hands - Well, obviously you can make these easy. follow "Mat" directions above.

Capital Letter Cards for Wood Pieces - Use the same site as the Tired, Need Sleep link for Templates, she just makes the letters herself on a piece of card, and outlines them with marker, voila, sheets done.

Sentence/Name Strips - Are pretty easy to make yourself.

Grey Block Paper - Homeschool Creations has HWOT Practice paper you can print.

Pencils - And finally, pencils for little hands are just golf pencils (the ones used for score cards) so you can pick these up from a lot of places, or just save your own pencils that have gotten too short for you. if you manage to pick up a bulk lot of cheap pencils another option (although I haven't tried this so test first) is to use hubby's work tools to saw, or buzzcut or whatever the various useful tools he has (maybe ask him for best option) cut pencils in half, then sharpen the back end of the pencil, thus 1 pencil can become two perfect sized ones.

If you have the money, its a lot easier, yes to just purchase the packages from HWOT, but hopefully this will help those on a budget. You could possibly purchase the Student, and for maximum effect, the Teachers handbooks, and make the extras yourself quite cheap, or for people like me, whom already have numerous workbooks in the house, this can hopefully help your child "understand" and have fun with handwriting.

Was almost going to miss out on blogging today, so don't you feel lucky now that I did decide to grace you with my presence ;) he he he..

Good Luck!


Miss E.


Sara said...

I just wanted to add that I own several of the teacher's manuals and much of the information is right on the HWOT website! I can't remember where exactly, but you can find the order they recommend teaching the letters and also charts that explain the directions for forming the letters.

They now also have a worksheet maker that we like using sometimes. You have to sign up for an account but it is free. :-)

Anna said...

Thank you for this. We have adopted number four after getting first three graduated and sold our home school supplies. I kept hoping I could find the extra money to purchase the preK set but then thought, Why? I did like you said and purchased a box of chalk and broke it into bits, a slate the same exact size from a local craft store and folded paper toweling to make the square sponges to get started. Spent $3. Today I found the big two lined chalkboard, wood letter mat, laminated cards all used for $15. I kept hoping someone had a good idea for making the wood shapes out of alternative materials. Thank you for the links and putting this post together!

lorin said...

I cut the wood pieces from quarter-inch plywood with my jig-saw. Over the years, the kids' hands have "oiled" them to a beautiful patina. I have a friend who works in a school with a big volunteer program whose volunteer "grandparents" made a set for each kid in the classroom! They are easy to make--hardest part was hand-sanding them (but we now own a power sander, so watch out; I'm going to make more this year!).

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