Meet Bryan: Why are we concerned about this student?

Bryan is a fifth grade student with poor handwriting. His embarrassment about written work causes him to feel uneasy in the classroom and leads to many incomplete assignments. While he receives occupational therapy and resource supports, Bryan is almost always frustrated with his own work products. Because he is embarrassed about his handwriting, Bryan has begun avoiding writing whenever possible. When his teacher, Mr. Martin, observed him wadding up a nearly completed assignment, he decided to talk to Bryan about trying to find a solution.

A Creative Approach to Choosing and Trial a Tool:

When he thought about how to approach Bryan, Mr. Martin decided to propose a research project and open it to anyone in the class who wanted to participate. There were three other boys and one girl in his class who struggled significantly with handwriting, and he thought that they could all benefit from exploring new tools for writing. Mr. Martin met with the fifth grade team and asked for their ideas. As they talked, they identified more than a dozen students who might benefit from some help with handwriting. Most of them had been referred for occupational therapy, but did not qualify for service.

They invited the Occupational Therapist (OT) to consult at their next team meeting where she discussed general handwriting problems and showed the team a range of tools they could use. Mr. Martin decided that he would offer a six-week project for any students in the fifth grade who were interested in trying out some different handwriting materials. He would meet with them during morning recess every Wednesday for six weeks. Bryan was one of fifteen students who came to the first meeting. He was very clear that he wanted to improve his handwriting and was willing to give up a few recesses to try to find something that would help him to improve the quality of his written work.

What would support this student to achieve the goals?

three boys working in school at a desk

The Occupational Therapist provided Mr. Martin with an assortment of pencils, pencil grips, different types of paper, slant boards and portable word processors to use for the next class project. The students who came to the first meeting developed a plan to systematically try out each item and fill out a research results chart about their reaction to each. The students decided if they wrote their findings on the chart using the tool they were trying, it would not only tell in words, but also actually show how each tool worked for them.

Three of the students did not come back after the first meeting. The twelve remaining students began trying the different pencils and other tools and carefully recorded their performance. One of the students got bored and quit the second week. The rest continued to try the tools and many began to see how some things made a difference. For Bryan, the slant board combined with the squishy pencil grip seemed to make more difference than the other tools. He decided to use them exclusively during other writing times after the fourth week. At the end of the six-week experiment, the students made a graph showing which tools were the most helpful and did a presentation to their classes for which they received extra credit in Language Arts.