June 1, 2020

Dear New Field Families,

We are thinking of you today, and we realize that this a very difficult time. Please know we stand with our school community and are here to support you.  
This week, we did want to share a third strategy or "rule" we use to help make handwriting more readable. This "rule" is related to letter sizing. Scaling down letter size to narrower-lined paper can be tricky, but there are many fun ways to explore and reinforce this concept. We hope you and your child are able to check out one or both of the attached activities.

We also wanted to share another activity for students with emerging handwriting skills. Please check out our Hungry Caterpillar fine motor activity that incorporates drawing shapes, coloring, cutting, and pasting.

Over the past few weeks, occupational therapy has been connecting with students for teletherapy sessions. Occupational therapy is now able to provide direct services via Google Meet video conferencing - and it's been such a pleasure to see and work with students. Please email us if you are interested in setting up direct, virtual occupational therapy sessions for your child. Occupational therapy also is working to monitor your child's continued growth and progress at home. We would love to see or hear how they are doing with activities shared by occupational therapy. 

Please know that we are here to support your child and family during Remote Learning. Our office hours are from 9:00 – 11:00 AM, Monday – Friday, but we also would be happy to talk, videoconference, or email at other times that are convenient for you.  


Erin Palmer                                   Sara DeAngelis 

Occupational Therapist                 Occupational Therapist

ekpalmer1@cps.edu                    scdeangelis@cps.edu

3. Shrink the Letters!

Note: When talking/learning about this rule, we often shorten it to just “SHRINK!” 

·       Letters might have to "shrink" to fit between lines. This is how we introduce the concept of reducing letter size to fit narrower-lined paper. Thinking of letters as "shrinking" can help make the concept interesting, understandable, and relatable! 

·       It can help to first show (or make) two types of writing paper; one with wide ruling and one with narrow ruling. Then I encourage students to "color in" the writing space for each type of paper (the space between the lines). This shows a nice contrast in how much writing space might be available; the wide-ruled paper has a "big" space for writing, narrow-ruled paper has a "small" space for writing. Coloring in the writing space can help students perceive this more clearly.  

·       It can help to show the same letter or word on two types of writing paper; one with wide ruling and one with narrow ruling. This really illustrates how letter size is related to the available writing space. Wide-ruled paper has a "big" writing space and can fit "big" letters; narrow-ruled paper has a "small" writing space and can fit "small" letters. 

·       Using visuals or letter manipulatives can help reinforce the concept of scaling letter size. Using different-sized play-doh letters or letters cut from paper allows students to see and feel what size letters best "fit" on wide-ruled and narrow-ruled paper. It can also help them identify oversize letters that are too big and extend beyond the writing area.  

Special Strategies 

·       Highlight! Highlighting the available writing space (the space between the lines) can help students shrink their letters down! They can "see" the space they have and how letters that are "too big" extend beyond the highlighted area.   

·       Skip a Line! Learning to shrink letter size for narrower-lined paper (like looseleaf or notebook paper) can be a longer process. If a student's letter size still appears a bit large for looseleaf or notebook paper, but they want/need to use this type of paper, we sometimes recommend skipping a line! This means students are asked to write on alternating lines. This helps improve the readability of their work, even if letter size is still larger. 

·       Combine these strategies - Highlight alternating lines!  Highlighting alternating lines can be a great way to both immediately improve handwriting readability and help students learn to shrink their letters! 

 Special Strategies. Shrink the Letters. Picture...

How Do We Remember This Rule? 

·       We usually use a physical/movement symbol for the rule to Shrink the Letters (which can help students remember the rule, regardless of their reading level): Take finger and thumb (as if pinching something), first holding them far apart, then bringing them closer together (shrinking the space!). We also sometimes use a written symbol, such as the same letter written in a large size and then written in a small size. Please see attachments for details.

 Video. Physical Movement. Shrink the Letters.mov

What About Work Checking? 

·       Early practice checking work for Shrink the Letters includes using one's finger to move letter by letter and trying to find oversize letters that are "too big," that extend beyond the lines. Older students with experience in this area can often check work at the word or sentence level, essentially “eyeballing” their work rather than using their finger to check letter by letter. Letters that are "too big" can be corrected.

 HW Rule & Checklist Document. Shrink the Letter...

ACTIVITY 1 - Introduction to Letter Shrinking

1.    First, make or print paper with wide-ruling, leaving lots of space between lines. Then make or print paper with narrow-ruling, placing lines very close together. 

2.    Ask your child to color the spaces between the lines and identify which paper has more writing space.

3.    Now, pick a simple word (e.g., DOG) and form it with play-doh or paper letters twice - once very large, so it fits the wide-ruled paper, and again very small, so it fits the narrow-lined paper. 

4.    Help your child match the large letters to the wide-ruled paper and the small letters to the narrow-ruled paper. 

5.    Now ask your child to copy the word (e.g, DOG) on the wide-ruled paper and on the narrow-ruled paper. Help them identify which letters look "big" and which look “small” or have “shrunk.”

5.    Now ask your child to write their name "big" and "small" on the two types of paper! 

 Activity 1. Intro to Shink the Letters. Picture...

 Activity 1. Intro to Shrink the Letters. Paper.pdf

ACTIVITY 2 - Advanced Letter Shrinking

1.    First, review rule for Shrink the Letters!

2.    Then ask your child to correct my sample sentences, identifying oversized letters that extend beyond the writing space. 

3.    Next, ask your child to copy the sample sentences on paper with narrow- or moderate-ruling (like loose-leaf or notebook paper), using their eyes and hands to shrink the letters so they fit in between the lines. 

4.    If this is tricky, try highlighting every other writing area (alternating writing spaces) and ask them to write on the highlighted areas.

5.    Help your child check their work, starting at the beginning of each sentence, and looking for oversize letters; letters that are "too big" can be corrected. 

 Activity 2. Advanced Letter Shrinking.pdf

 Activity 2. Advanced Letter Shrinking. Paper.docx

Hungry Caterpillar Fine Motor Activity

Please feel free to check out the accompanying video! Fine Motor Hungry Caterpillar

·       Sensory. This activity largely focuses on the circle as a pre-writing form. Incorporating bubble play before starting the activity can be a sensory-rich, fun way to "find circles." It can also encourage the use of two hands and finger isolation (pointing) to prepare for coloring, cutting, and pasting  

·       Shapes/Pre-Writing Forms. This activity includes 2 pre-writing forms: the circle and the vertical line down. A circle is made of "2 Big Curves." A vertical line is a "Big Line Down." We always start our lines, shapes, and letters at the top. Try adding starting dots for your circles and lines to help your child start at the top. We use circles to form the caterpillar's head and body. Lines down form its legs and antennae.

·       Coloring. We color the caterpillar's head. We work to color on the picture. A thick outline of the picture helps students see the boundaries more clearly. We also try to color all parts of the picture, such as the top, middle, bottom, left and right sides - even if we aren't yet coloring "thoroughly" or "all the way." 

·       Cutting. We cut color paper (if available) for the caterpillar's body. When cutting, we hold our scissors so our thumb is "up." We use two hands when cutting; one to snip and one to hold the paper. Scissors go "open and cut." We try to cut on the thick marker line and make consecutive cuts across the paper. If this is tricky, cutting on short lines can be easier. 

·       Pasting. We try to use two hands to open the glue stick. We might need help "seeing" where to put our glue on the caterpillar's body; using crayon or highlighter to show where the glue goes can help. We try not to "smoosh" our glue stick. When pasting, we take paper, put on, and push down. 

·       Body Awareness. When adding the caterpillar's facial features, we can talk about our own faces! Where are our eyes? How many do we have? What do our eyes help us do? Where is our mouth? How many mouths do we have? What does it help us do?