Finding a classroom to answer the question ”Would healthy, high functioning fingers and hands help in the development of a child’s brain?” was not easy. Coincidence took me to Jennifer and Sandy. I knew these teachers from Michigan Reading Conferences. I asked them; “Do you know any 2nd grade classroom teachers who would be open to me drawing with their students once a week? They both said, “Come into our classroom.” They team taught kindergarten, so in October of 2006 I began with 44 children. I thought K might be too young but Sandy and Jennifer were on board and confident so I thought I would give it a try and see what happened.
Our conclusions after the first year:
- Children could sit still and follow directions for 70 minutes. Engagement was high no matter what the demographic or skill level.
- Students liked keeping their crayons organized by color families. They loved sharp pencils, they preferred unbroken crayons and learning how to take care of them.
- Their handwriting improved immensely and quickly.
- The student’s near-far perceptual skills astounded their teachers, Sandy and Jennifer.
- Kindergarteners loved teaching each other how to draw something they knew how to draw. For example one student taught the class how to draw a race car.
- The student’s work inspired a school district in the Chicago area to be trained in this teaching approach. They loved the skills, the smiles and the handwriting.
- Students wanted to continue learning to draw in first grade.
- The smaller Dixon Ticonderoga Tri-write pencil – was perfect for their small hands and was a quality lead and eraser that helped make them be more successful.
- You can correct pencil grips in kindergarten.
Side Note: I was asked to be a keynote speaker in 2007 to present at an IASCD Annual Kindergarten conference specifically on this research/practice I had started. It was met very enthusiastically with educators.The ties to literacy were evident. They loved the handwriting, the drawings and the 70 minute attention span. My thoughts were that this experiment had to continue. I am very often asked when I share this work: “What’s your research?” All I can do is share my voluminous qualitative research which shows what children ARE capable, no matter the “at risk” factors. To quote Einstein, “If we knew what we were doing it wouldn’t be research now would it.” This weekly research of mine lasted for 13 consecutive years.