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Action Research: Handwriting. By: Meghan Wilson and Tyler Behnke. Our Question & Rationale:. Question: How is handwriting affected when a medley of sensory-centered strategies is used with fourth grade students who need improvement in penmanship skills?

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action research handwriting

Action Research: Handwriting

By: Meghan Wilson and Tyler Behnke

our question rationale
Our Question & Rationale:


How is handwriting affected when a medley of sensory-centered strategies is used with fourth grade students who need improvement in penmanship skills?

Rationale: After speaking with the fourth grade team at SJLES, it became apparent that the teachers felt handwriting instruction was a need, but one that was difficult to make time for in their enriched curriculum. After reading the article, Handwriting Club: Using Sensory Integration Strategies to Improve Handwriting by Melissa Keller, we wanted to try teaching handwriting using Keller’s fun ideas to see if they would work as well as the article suggests. We also found that sensory integration tied in nicely with the School Improvement Plan at St. John’s Lane Elementary School, and a school wide initiative called “Engage Me: One Student, One Strategy.”

sjles school improvement plan connections
SJLES School Improvement Plan Connections

Reading: Data Analysis and Reading Objectives for 2009-2010

Objective 1: Staff will enhance the rigor of daily instruction and interventions to improve the achievement of all student groups.

Strategies: A co-teaching model will be utilized to align special education instruction with regular education instruction.

School-wide initiative: “Engage Me: One Student, One Strategy.”

Rationale for connections: Action research by nature is an intervention. We created this intervention to improve handwriting, which is an important skill used in reading and writing instruction that is often put to the side after the primary grades. We used a co-teaching model to increase student achievement. We corresponded with our general education mentors to set up scheduling needs for one student who was pulled for reading instruction, as well as for materials, and helpful advice. In addition, we connected to a school wide initiative that centered on using a strategy to engage one student. Although we worked with more than one student, we found that the use of sensory integrated activities was very engaging and motivating for our students, which is evident by the growth from their pre-assessment to their post-assessment scores.

our students
Our Students

GM: fourth grade male, Caucasian American descent,

new student

CL: fourth grade female, Latin American descent

TM: fourth grade male, Asian (Middle Eastern) descent

All students are in the 9-10 years old age range.

Two students on grade level in reading, one above grade level

our plan of action research
Our Plan of “Action Research”

Weekly Schedule:

Wednesday – 11:00- 11:30am = 30 minutes

Thursday – 11:00- 11:30am = 30 minutes

Friday- 11:00-11:30am = 30 minutes

o Total hours per week: about 1.5

o Total number of projected weeks: 3 weeks

o Total number of projected meetings: 11 total

our daily schedule
Our Daily Schedule

11:00- 11:05- Students will complete a maze activity to work on writing fluency and coordination

11:05-11:10- Introduction of sensory activity and letters of focus for that day. Teachers will model how to properly form letters of focus using dry-erase boards.

11:10-11:25- Students will engage in sensory activity where they will practice the letters of focus. Teachers will facilitate.

11:25-11:30- Wrap up (What did you learn? What helped you? What did you like? What did you dislike?) and clean up.

Other Daily Happenings:

o Students will be provided with chair cushions.

o Natural lighting will be used as often as possible.

o Distractions will be limited as much as possible.

o Students will be allowed to bring a snack with them as they work (as our meeting time is during their typical DEAR and snack time).

pre and post assessment data collection description
Pre and Post Assessment:Data Collection Description

Please see our tri-fold board to view our pre and post assessment document and rubric.

Explanation of Pre/post assessment: Students copied 11 pre-written sentences on lined paper. Then, at random, we chose three words from each sentence to assess. Students were assessed on letter height and proportion using a 3,2,1,0 scale. Three being the best, meaning students almost always showed correct letter height and proportion, and 0 meaning that students almost never demonstrated correct letter height and proportion. Each word was given either a 3,2,1, or 0. The assessment was worth 99 points total.

our intervention
Our Intervention

Pre-test Date: Thursday 2/4/10

Week 1: Hard Lines

2/24/10 Day 1: Kk, Tt, Vv Paint

2/25/10 Day 2: Ww, Xx, Yy chalk

2/26/10 Day 3: Zz, Ii push pins

Week 2: Lefties

3/3/10 Day 1: Bb, Ee, Ff clay

3/4/10 Day 2: Hh, Rr, Ll poker chips

3/5/10 Day 3: Mm, Nntwizzler strings

Week 3: Curvy and Dippers

3/10/10 Day 1: Aa, Dd, Gg shaving cream

3/11/10 Day 2: Uu, Oo, Jj, Qq pipe cleaners

3/12/10 Day 3: Ss, Cc, Pp sand

Post-test Date: Thursday 3/18/10

description of intervention
Description of Intervention

Each day, students focused on two to four letters. Using the specified sensory activity for that day, students practiced correctly forming those letters. We modeled how to properly form each letter of focus using The Language Arts and Reading Company, Zaner-Bloser, used in The Howard County Public School System. We purposefully chose the type of sensory activity for each day to fit the types of letters being formed. For example, sand and shaving cream were used for “Curvy Letters” because they are smooth, and when forming a curvy letter, it should be one smooth motion like when forming an S or a C.

assessment summary
Assessment Summary

All three students improved from their pre-assessment to their post-assessment.

TM went from a 37% to an 86%. He had a 49% gain, which was the largest gain out of all three students.

CL went from a 74% to a 91%. She had a 17% gain. Visually, her handwriting looks like it had the most dramatic improvement.

GM went from a 74% to a 90%. He had a 16% gain, which was the lowest gain out of all three students.

assessment analysis
Assessment Analysis

Based on the results of our pre and post assessment, it is clear

that learning took place. Each of the three students in our group

increased their previous scores. One student had a significant

percentage gain of 49%. This student, visually, has the most

concerning handwriting, but through our intervention, was able to

make the greatest gain even though he still had the lowest post

test score. Another student had a gain of 17%. This student,

visually, had the most dramatic improvement. Lastly, we had a

student with a 16% gain. We believe this student had the least amount of

percentage points gained due to his tendency to become easily distracted.

He is a new student to SJLES, and we believe he is still transitioning from

one style of instruction to the instruction style used at SJLES. Overall, we

are beyond proud of all three students’ progress, and recommend sensory

integrated instruction for handwriting improvement!

  • Continually remind students of proper handwriting skills.
  • Suggest fun sensory integrated ways to practice handwriting at home or during free time.
  • Sensory handwriting stations in classrooms
  • Incorporate sensory integration into writing assignments and activities
  • Create a sensory integrated handwriting club at SJLES! The students will LOVE it!
  • Assess the students on more levels of handwriting. (points of contact, letter formation)
special thanks
Special Thanks…
  • Cole Reilly
  • Kelly Rippeon
  • John Seniura
  • Vanessa Lichliter
  • Ann Eustis

You made the success of our Action Research possible! Thank you so much!