Jane Case-Smith, Lindy Weaver, Terri Holland; Effects of a Classroom-Embedded Occupational Therapist–Teacher Handwriting Program for First-Grade Students. Am J Occup Ther 2014;68(6):690-698. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2014.011585.
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This study examined the effectiveness of Write Start, a handwriting and writing program cotaught by teachers and occupational therapists for first-grade children. Four classrooms (n = 80) received the Write Start program, and four (n = 58) received standard handwriting and writing instruction. Two teachers and an occupational therapist implemented the 24-session manualized program, which included station teaching and individualized supports. The program emphasized practice in small groups in which the coteaching team provided students with frequent feedback, encouraged self-evaluation, and facilitated peer modeling and peer evaluation. Students who completed the Write Start program improved more in handwriting legibility and speed than the group receiving standard instruction. Writing fluency and written composition were no different between groups at posttest; however, writing fluency was significantly higher for Write Start students at 6-mo follow-up. Write Start students with low legibility at baseline made significant improvements, suggesting that the program may benefit students at risk for handwriting and writing problems.
Did the Write Start program, when compared with standard handwriting and writing instruction, result in greater improvement in handwriting legibility and speed, writing fluency, and written composition in first-grade students?
Did students with low, average, and high baseline handwriting legibility who completed the Write Start program make significant progress and demonstrate significantly different rates of progress in handwriting legibility and speed, writing fluency, and written composition?
Modeled letter formation (using continuous stroke) and provided simple, consistent verbal and visual cues for letter formation;
Used stations where small groups of students participated in activities emphasizing motor planning and manipulation, visual–motor integration, and cognitive learning;
Provided frequent feedback during handwriting practice that included correcting errors, encouraging self-evaluation, and providing praise;
Promoted peer modeling and feedback by pairing students and establishing strategies for students to share their writing; and
Monitored and assessed students’ performance to guide the selection of specific handwriting instructional strategies.
Using coteaching models, occupational therapy practitioners and teachers can provide evidence-based instruction and individualized interventions to meet the diverse needs of first-grade students.
When occupational therapy interventions are embedded in the classroom, both the teacher and the occupational therapy practitioner can monitor students’ responsiveness and adapt intervention strategies to improve their effectiveness.
The Write Start program enables teachers to integrate handwriting instruction into the writing curriculum. This collaborative intervention includes weekly meetings of the coteaching team to review student progress, plan the sessions, and design individualized interventions.
Coteaching requires high levels of flexibility, open communication, willingness to adapt a plan, and investment in coming to consensus when alternate views are presented (Case-Smith et al., 2012; Friend, Cook, Hurley-Chamberlain, & Shamberger, 2010).
Students with diverse learning needs appear to benefit from a coteaching model that combines intensive practice, monitoring and immediate feedback, peer modeling and feedback, and student self-evaluation.
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