Learning to draw pre-writing shapes
Imitating pre-writing shapes
When therapists use the term ‘imitate’ they mean that the child imitates movements that they have seen. So, the adult draws the shape before and with the child so that they can watch and imitate the movements. This is easier for the child as they don’t have to plan (or remember) the movement required.
Worksheets are a form of imitation as well as they provide a template for the child to work from. Some children may also need to watch the adult first to understand what to do on the worksheet. It is helpful to keep the same movements on the same sheet to help with reinforcement. So, straight lines on one sheet and curved on the next.
Recognising and matching pre-writing shapes
Being able to visually recognise and match pre-writing shapes is an important step to being able to draw them. It is impossible to draw something that you don’t have a visual representation of. For example, could you draw a saola? My guess is that most people reading this article haven’t heard of a saola and therefore won’t know what to draw.
However, if you follow this link to see what a saola is, then you would be able to copy it. It’s the same for children learning to draw shapes. If they don’t know what a triangle is, they will struggle to draw it.
Recognising oblique lines
A common difficulty I have seen in children with additional needs is that they struggle to identify their oblique lines. So, they see | / and \ as the same shape. These children need more support to firstly understand that a straight line (|) is different to an oblique line (/ \). I often call them ‘straight man’ and ‘falling over man’ to make the distinction. Having them physically move their bodies into the positions can also help to reinforce this.
Next, they need to understand the visual difference between / and \. Typically, these children also need support to identify the difference between straight (+) and oblique (x) crosses too. It can be helpful to use matching sheets which the child has to find one or the other of the shapes. And, also puzzles which match the different shapes.
When teaching them to draw oblique lines, it is important that the child always starts that the top of the shape. This means that you can reinforce the direction of movement. If they change where they start (i.e. between top and bottom) it is more confusing for them to learn.
Copying pre-writing shapes
Once a child can imitate a shape, the next step is copying it. By copying, I mean they can look at a pre-drawn version of it and make their own, without any help from an adult. When copying, they need to have an understanding of how to plan their movements. This is much more difficult for children with dyspraxia.