Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to Think Outside the Box for Handwriting Difficulty


I have been trying hard to get Joey answering questions about what he is reading.  He is a super fast reader.  Trouble then is his comprehension skills...he doesn't remember anything.

Another major issue is his handwriting.  He knows how to form letters, but his brain doesn't always allow his hand to write as quickly as it needs to.  He struggles getting his hand to do what we wants.  He was diagnosed with a visual perception delay a few years ago.  He has made some progress, but it's slow going.  So I needed to come up with a way to have him type up answers to questions that I prepare about his work.

Now that he is in 6th grade, I have been trying to set a new round of goals for him:
  • Read more chapter books
  • Broaden his reading/learning topics
  • Read to understand
So this year, I decided I would like to just randomly select a non-fiction book off the shelf at the library for him to read and answer questions about.  Maybe some random subjects in all areas, including geography, science and technology.

I have started doing this with books for our World Geography country each month, as well as our historical study for Adventure Club.  I select books that will not be overwhelming for him to read, and then I basically write up a questions for each chapter of the book.  

Initially I started typing worksheets with questions, and then he would fill them out as he completed each page of his reading.  I helped him by providing the page number he would find each question.  But then we came back to that frustrating handwriting issue.   He could answer the questions, but the handwriting killing the progress we were starting to make in my "Read to Learn" campaign.

So one weekend, my brain was in overdrive trying to figure out how to handle the handwriting issue.  I couldn't trust Joey to open and save the files needed in his Word processor.  Eventually he would get it, but then I would have to be on his computer to check his work until he learned how to email me files.  

Out of the blue, my brain knew what to a light bulb went off!!

We have started using Google Docs to create a form of questions for him.  Google Docs is a great program.  I use it to create sign up forms for field trips.  I can keep track of how many people are attending better this way.  But could I use this program for what I needed to do with Joey?

My first step was creating an email for Joey to use for schoolwork only.  He has been strictly warned about attempting to use this email address for anything other than communicating with me.  So far he has listened well, and we have had no issues.  

That was the easy step, next I actually pre-read his material. Then I start creating questions.  I try to limit the amount that I ask off of each page, depending on the subject.  I also limit each unit assigned daily to a specific number of chapters or to a set number of pages.

When I am ready to start creating questions, I select "Create" a new "Form" in Google docs.  I actually have my files split under each child, because I plan on using this more with Brayden also.

After filling in the title I choose for that set of questions, and I usually keep it simple...such as the one shown, I start adding my questions.

I do this by selecting 'Add Item' in the Upper Left hand corner of the screen.  From there you can choose text, paragraph text, multiple choice, checkboxes, etc.  I generally choose 'paragraph text', since Joey can see his answer, no matter how long it is.

I actually create the questions most time while I am reading.  I just keep entering until I am done.  I select duplicate to continue adding questions.  And to help him learn to search for the answer, I also include the page number where the answer is located to help him stay in the right area of the answer so that he does not get totally frustrated.

I also select a neat background for him.  Such as the one below.  There are over 100 different backgrounds, so it just depends on the topic.  But I am also careful to not make it too wild to cause issues with his eyes.

Once it is saved, I email the form to his email for schoolwork.  I also get a copy sent to my email.

I then include a reminder to visit his email and complete any emailed assignments on his daily assignment sheet.  We have done his spelling list this way now for a couple weeks.  It's great practice for him to type it.

I can check his progress on assignments by just logging into my Google Docs account and simply click on the assigned work.  A spreadsheet of my questions and his answers comes up.  I simply check his work and print it if I need to or save the file under his work tab.

We are still "tweeking" the system.  But so far this system has been working for him.  I am very grateful that this program is helping Joey to work independently.  Who knew?!?!  

And the best part....the total cost.....FREE!!!!

Yes, it does give me extra work.  I do pre-read the books, but really....this has totally been to my benefit since I can lead discussions with him about whatever topic or person he is reading about.  I can also kick some butt playing "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" !!!  

I really recommend trying this tool in your school to help out with comprehension delays.

Be sure to drop by the TOS Crew Blog Cruise and see How other Crew Members do things at their homeschools......


  1. Pretty cool!! That takes a lot of extra work on your part which is one reason why I love homeschool mothers. They can always fix something to cater to there children best!!! ♥

  2. Hi! Hopping over from NOBH. Your title caught my eye. I've read about using Google Docs for older children -- for composition, mainly -- so I was intrigued by how you are using it. I'll pin this. Thanks for sharing!