I am asked frequently in elementary school what can be done to help struggling left-handed students. You can easily spot them. They are the kids with pencil (or marker) smeared all over the side of their hand!
Unfortunately, this is a right-handed world (only about 10-13% of us are left-handed). Have no fear! There are some things you can do to help your “leftie” who struggles with writing tasks:
- Seated Position: The student should be seated in a place that allows the left arm to move freely. A good place may be the left side of the classroom, with no students to their left.
- Tilt the Paper: The paper should be tilted for both right- and left-handed students. For lefties, the paper should be placed to the left of midline, and slanted with the top left- hand corner higher than the top right-hand corner. It’s perfectly normal for a leftie to hold the paper at a more “extreme” angle than their right-handed counterparts. The key is to keep the wrist in a neutral (not bent or hooked) position while writing.
- Establish Hand Dominance: If a child starts to write with either their left hand or right hand, encourage them to finish writing with the same hand they started with. Discourage switching hands in the middle of a task. Instead, take a stretch break, or loosen up on that pencil!
- Can I Get Some HELP Over Here? When printing, the helper hand holds the paper, but needs to move out of the way a lot more than for right-handed students. Practicing with two-handed tasks, like tracing around shapes or stencils, using a ruler, etc. help the student to learn to coordinate their two hands together.
- Visual Reference: When copying information from one place to another, be sure to place the information to be copied on the student’s right side so they can see what they are to copy.
- Cross It: Many left-handed writers cross some letters from right to left (usually H, T, J, G, I). Not a problem! It’s easier to make pencil strokes that pull into/toward the hand rather than push away from the hand.
- Orientation: Reversals can be common for left-handed writers. Make sure the student understands the starting point for each letter. Use visual cues (a dot), or verbal cues to remember where to start each letter.
- Pencil Grasp: Efficient pencil grasp looks the same for righties and lefties. Although, it is often helpful for lefties to hold the pencil a little higher on the shaft. The wrist shoud be held neutral and resting on the table to provide hand stability.
- Remember: Just because a student writes with the left hand doesn’t mean they will accomplish ALL tasks left-handed. Many will, but some children eat right-handed, write left-handed, and cut with scissors right-handed. Treat each task separately, and encourage the skilled use of the same hand for that task.
Any other leftie-friendly ideas you have tried?