When I was first presented with the idea of building a Google Site for handwriting, I was both excited by the challenge but also unsure of how to bring what is traditionally a ‘pen and paper’ skill to life using a digital platform.
Not only was I wondering how the logistics would work (both modelling and filming the letter formation), but I wasn’t entirely sure how Google Sites actually worked as I had never done this before.
During this unprecedented time of school closures, we have all had to adapt to finding new ways of delivering our curriculum through online learning platforms. As a school, we were keen to find new ways to support both parents and children, through online learning, with some of our key curriculum areas. One of the things we discussed was the creation of a bank of resources that would allow children to be able to continue regular handwriting practice at home. Research supports the thinking that handwriting involves both complex motor and cognitive skills, contributing to improvements in both reading and spelling.
We also wanted to ensure that we were creating a resource that could be used well into the future to support children’s handwriting development and also support staff new to the scheme with their modelling and teaching of handwriting. With this in mind, and being the handwriting fanatic that I am, I set about the task of creating a Google Site that would support handwriting development through the use of short video clips.
After countless different angles with a tripod, and even roping my husband in to help me find the perfect spot in the light, I was thankfully
introduced to a neat little app called “Explain Everything”. In using this app, I was able to record the letter strokes alongside the patter from the Debbie Hepplewhite scheme, which would become the foundation of the handwriting videos. The app enabled me to create a clear image of each letter as it was being formed in a way that the tripod just wouldn’t allow. The videos needed to be simple so that anyone (parent, child or teacher) could pick them up and use them easily. By keeping them short, they were accessible and could be incorporated into smaller chunks of learning.
Next came the task of building the site, something I had zero experience in! My goal really was to create something professional, smart and user-friendly. Google doesn’t make this too tricky.
However, the restrictions offered some notes of frustration, but it was no doubt fairly simple to use and create. The letters were organised into categories already, by the scheme, and so the pages of the site were born from this.
Following the first collaborative review, we discussed usability for the parents and children and decided to add buttons to the home page so that letters could be found quickly and easily without the requirement to know what “type” of letter it was. Once we were happy with the site and its layout, we were able to add the link to our Google Classrooms.
Whilst we may have started this journey due to the current lockdown, a significant part of our rationale for this project came from wanting a resource that could be used both at home and in the classroom going forwards. This resource is not just to support our families during this lockdown, but instead, to support them and our teachers well into the future with the teaching and practice of handwriting.
We are excited for this to be the first in a number of Google Sites projects which can be used by both learners and teachers for many
years to come.