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Occupational Therapy: Handwriting Fine Motor Skill Work (K-1)

Updated on June 18, 2012
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

I had a handful of students who really enjoyed this activity.
I had a handful of students who really enjoyed this activity. | Source

During the four years that I taught special education, I had a handful of students who have occupational therapy (OT) goals and/or other sensory needs. In addition to pull out or in classroom support with the occupational therapist, the therapist and I also worked together on a regular basis to develop materials or work sets that my students could use outside of this support time. These materials significantly increase the students' progress.

Typically I used the materials during my time with the students, but they are also appropriate for the general education setting, particularly in kindergarten or first grade. Most of these ideas can be incorporated into 15 minute or shorter work segments. Thus, it's very easy for a teacher or aide in the general education setting to use them with a student for a quick 1:1 or small group session. It is very easy to use many of the ideas as centers or parts of centers as well. These materials are also appropriate for home use, particularly for children who are not yet in school or are in school part-time.

The majority of these materials are $10 or less. If you are wary of purchasing special education specific materials that are more expensive or are only available online, see if the OT you work with has the items in her collection that you can try first. You do not need to purchase all of these materials at one time. Purchase 3 or 4 that you're the most interested in and then add more as you can. If anyone has other ideas that I have not included here, please feel free to leave a comment.

I use cheap cookie trays that I bought in a set of 3 from Wal-Mart for many of my messier sensory materials. They are perfect for containing the materials and are very easy to clean up. They work well for creating a personal space for working with other materials such as clay or Play-Doh, too.

There are numerous ways that you can use many of these materials. A few suggestions include: Work on their letters, practice site words, work on spelling lists, learning names of family members. You can also work on shapes, patterns, numbers, and colors. If your students regularly have writing work in their centers that they struggle with, consider ways to modify it for your students using one or more of these suggestions.

Writing in:
Shaving cream
Sand
Salt
Ground coffee
Pudding
Rice

Play-Doh (check out this huge set of Play Doh recipes here from sensory-processing-disorder.com)
Wikki Stix (numerous sets available here)
Legos
Variety of pens, markers, and chalk. Consider different colors and sizes.
Coloring/writing on top of thin paper placed on top of sand paper or cement
Handwriting Without Tears, using the chalkboard and wooden letter components
Pencil grips (my students are partial to this one)
Twist 'n Writes (my students also prefer these over the small pencil grips)
Magnetic fridge letters
Stamping (watch for discounted scrap booking alphabet stamps at Target or Michael's)
Table top chalk board or easel
Classroom chalk board or white board
Raised line paper or highlighted line paper (see links below)
Finger paint
Soft clay
Sculpey
Magna Doodle

Learn more about occupational therapy.

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