Motivating students to write when they are struggling with handwriting can be a painful task for any therapist/ educator. The reality is that when a student is not motivated, he/ she may just “go through the motions” or they may simply refuse……either way it can halt progress and leave both of you (teacher and learner) feeling hopeless.
So when I met Luca Canever, a Spec Ed. teacher from Italy and learned about how he successfully motivated his students using fairy tales… I was immediately intrigued. I did not hesitate to sign up for his webinar and it was eye- opening to say the least. I learned so much! I was in awe of how he used client factors and a client centered approach in his interventions and it spoke volumes to me as an OT.
We as OTs all know that when any task is hard, motivation tends to be low, simply because success is not always imminent. Low motivation can be detrimental in many ways, especially with the task of teaching handwriting. When a student is intrinsically motivated, they can often push through the struggle, however sometimes students need some extrinsic motivation to get them through this hump.
So, what influences motivation?
There are many factors that influence motivation including our values, attitudes, interests etc., but our past experiences also have an overwhelming impact on our motivational level. Let me explain…
If a student struggles with handwriting, they may develop a negative association with this task and will certainly not be motivated to do it. However, we know that the only way to get better at handwriting is to practice the task of handwriting ! The other problem is that this aversion to handwriting can often become a self- fulfilling prophecy i.e. a student might find themselves thinking the following way…..
“ I can’t do it, I’m not good at it.” But If I don’t practice, I will never get good at it..” This can become a never ending cyclical problem. IT is also important to note that “ I can’t” often translates to “ I don’t like” which further strengthens a negative association with handwriting.
That is what Luca encountered with his special needs student we shall call Leo and this is his story. Leo had a very negative association with handwriting and therefore was simply not motivated enough to practice it.
How Luca used Burps, Farts and Fairy tales to motivate his student….
Now, Luca had worked with Leo for over 4 years on cursive writing. Leo was an 18 year old boy with mildly cognitive disabilities, poor fine motor skills. To make things worse, Leo took several medications which made his hands tremor and shake. This aspect made handwriting even more challenging for Leo and in turn created a further aversion to handwriting.
Luca’s actual goal was for Leo to practice writing in cursive sentences upon dictation. However, Leo was always very hesitant and aversive to participate in handwriting. He would get easily frustrated with any writing tasks and shut down. What Leo needed was opportunities to practice so that he could get better and feel ‘good’ about handwriting again. Luca knew that if he could get him to practice and provide Leo with the positive reinforcement he needed, that could change things. But the question was how?
What Luca did is used a client centered approach by looking at the client factors. He tried to learn as much as he could about Leo’s specific interests and wondered if there was a subject or theme that might influence his performance in the handwriting.
Luca soon realized that Leo loved to draw and like most pre-teen boys, farting and burping was an amusing topic on any day. These ‘interests’ or what we would call ‘client factors’ in OT, were exactly what Luca decided to harness.
So Luca created a handwriting template “Whitesnow and the Seven Farts” by adapting the popular story of Disney’s Snow white and the 7 Dwarfs. Using this template, Luca encouraged Leo to write his own version of Snow White who soon became a burping and farting princess.
Copyright 2022 @ Canever
Luca also created this lined visual template, to help Leo with his visual perceptual skills when writing:
Copyright 2022 @ Canever
Below is an example of how Luca also incorporated Leo’s love for drawing. Leo would write about the The 3 little pigs and he also drew his own burping, farting version. So instead of just having Leo re-write the traditional somewhat boring story, Luca now had Leo writing about the pigs farting bricks. That did the trick!
Copyright 2022 @ Canever
By pairing something the student didn’t like ( handwriting) with something he really enjoyed ( drawing, burping, farting ), Luca was able to make a huge difference for this student. Now there are a lot of other motivational factors and strategies ( Precision Teaching and an acoustic reinforcement strategy called TAGteach) that Luca used, but this became the perfect starting point.
Needless to say that Luca’s brilliant motivational strategy created several hilarious memories for both student and teacher.
If you would like to learn more about the fun and fascinating strategies Lucas used, please sign up for our upcoming webinar on “How to teach handwriting using burps, farts and fairy tales ?”. In this webinar Luca shares quantitative data showing how much more progress Leo was able to make once he was more motivated. It was truly transformational !
Upcoming Webinar – How to Teach Handwriting Using Burps, Farts and Fairytales
Acoustic reinforcement (TAGteach) is one of the most unique and interesting strategies Lucas showcases in this webinar. If you would like to learn more about the science of acoustic reinforcement, checkout this OT Continuing Education webinar on Teach handwriting 2X faster using Acoustic Reinforcement. It has a ton of videos and practical strategies you can implement in everyday practice.