Why I like Callirobics – it is the blending of a writing program that uses calligraphy (fine motor control and movement not necessarily associated with letters) and the rhythm and synchronicity of music, to teach pre-handwriting skills. It incorporates sight, sound, and the motor act of writing to help make basic and much more difficult strokes become fluid.
Callirobics by Liora Laufer is based on an early learning CD and workbook. The conversion to an app is wonderful! The focus is not on letters, but on exercises that demand control, and can be used across writing styles or curricula. It is a great app for learning to use a stylus and there are many great styluses out there specifically designed for children. In fact, I would not use this app with fingers at all, unless initially learning to do the early sequencing of forming the patterns. Ask your AT or Occupational Therapist for recommendations. The picture on the right shows the difference of using fingers to trace the outlines on top in red, and using a stylus on the bottom in blue. Using a stylus helps teach graded control with a writing utensil.
When children first learn to write, they tend to use their whole arm, when making strokes. One of the hardest things to learn is to gain control and stability of that wily arm whilst holding an instrument and trying to target a stroke to a line. Using the synchronization of rhythm is simply genius. Music will help take the motor act of writing, complete with the most difficult part of starting and stopping on cue, and place it on a more fluid level of functioning by synching actions to a rhythm. By helping to place learned things on automated functioning rather than under constant vigilance and scrutiny, it is much easier to call up and use. Think of it as learning to ride a bicycle. If we were constantly saying to ourselves “Pedal, Pedal, Steer” we may never fully make it to the corner, or be crashing into obstacles along the way. The effort needed to put the whole thing together is too much. The music selections are pertinent to the patterns and help give parameters in which to synch yourself.
There are two workbooks to this series. The beginning book, Pre-Handwriting skills to Music, consists of eleven lessons that focus on learning to make basic shapes using straight and curvy lines. The second volume has a whopping twenty lessons on which to pull from. Each lesson is graded in needing to attend and increases the demand for control. The author recommends that each lesson be completed 5 times before proceeding (once a day) – perfect for integration, and not so long that it becomes laborious. You can have the child choose between colors to use, and there are inspirational messages at the end of the completion of a lesson. The Callirobics for Schools, has placement for 30 different students and you have the option to save a picture of the child’s work to the camera roll, and then later print out for data collection. I did learn that I could easily cheat and just wait out the music and not have to make a mark, so close or distant supervision would be appropriate here. Also, some of the exercises are difficult; I would probably either stay to the enlarged picture initially. My favorite form? The infinity symbol on the last page. You can see that I removed the midline in order to see if one could find it on their own. This is the app to use to help kids use correct patterns of positioning, pencil, grip and stroke formation, as well as using your other hand as the “stabilizing or helper hand”. If you start with that, handwriting down the line will be much easier to learn, and you won’t be trying to break up habitual or old patterns. Take a look and see what you think.
- Easy to use curriculum, with great in app and webpage support
- Great for Data Collection
- Promotes graded control, attention, and eye-hand coordination
- Using short sessions with lots of repetition helps better integrate the material by building on previously rehearsed skills
- Appropriate to then translate to any formal writing curriculum or style
- Promotes confidence and competency, while allowing the child to explore pencil grasp, positioning and marking
- Self-affirming reinforcements
About the Author
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years, and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play everyday; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.