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Left-handed pupils: five quick-win support tips

Pupils who are left-handed need some subtle but important support, says this teacher

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Pupils who are left-handed need some subtle but important support, says this teacher

How many left-handed pupils do you have in your class? On average, it will be three.

Have you thought about how best to support them? Can you even name them?

Granted, in the grand scheme of children in need of additional support, left-handers may rank low down on your list, if at all. However, some small changes and nuggets of support can be transformational for these students.

So, here are a few quick, easy-to-implement tips that will make their time in your classroom a bit easier and boost their confidence in the process.

1. Check your seating plan

The perfect seating plan is a subtly crafted masterpiece in need of constant fine-tuning throughout the year. Does each table have a mix of abilities? Does it have the right ratio of boys and girls? Most importantly, will each table group work well together without making your life a complete misery?

By the time you’ve juggled all of that, catering for "handedness" is probably the last thing on your mind. However, a few quick tweaks to ensure that your left-handed children are seated on the end of the table will not only give them the space to stretch out their elbow as they write, but will also prevent frustration and the inevitable exchange of words as they repeatedly bump elbows with the right-handed child to their left.

2. Help with paper positioning

Have a go at writing in pencil with your left-hand from left to right across a page and you’ll find you end up with the beginnings of a lovely smudge down the side of your hand. Continue in this vein and not only are you likely to have a rather scruffy end product, you’ll also have a rather sore hand as a result.

One way to counteract this is by tilting the paper approximately 45 degrees clockwise so that the top-right corner is closer to the child. This not only prevents the hand from obscuring what has been written, but also avoids the dreaded smudge. While some left-handed children naturally adopt this paper tilt, others will benefit from having it modelled to them.

3. Handwriting demonstration

Learning cursive writing can be a challenge at the best of times, but spare a thought for your left-handed writers in your teaching demonstration. The push and pull of the pencil to form each letter is different depending on the hand you are using. It is important that teachers demonstrate handwriting with both their right and left hand in order to model best practice to all learners.

4. Pencil hold

Any left-handed children struggling to adopt a conventional pencil hold should be given a left-handed pencil grip. This will help get them used to holding the pencil at least three centimetres from the point. Without support, left-handed children tend to adopt a "hook" writing style that leads to continual strain on the hand and an awkward and cramped writing posture. Remind children to keep their hand and wrist under the writing line to prevent this hooked hold. If they are still having problems, try a sloping desktop board.

5. Think about your resources

It may sound trivial, but do the children in your class actually know why the scissors are different colours? Point this out to them, explaining that the blades are positioned differently to help you see the cutting line clearly. Using right-handed scissors with a left hand is not only uncomfortable, but also obscures the cutting line. Spare some thought, too, for the pens in use further up in the school years. Children tend to find pens with broader, more flexible nibs easiest to write with. Steer clear of pens with very wet ink as this can be smudged easily.

Emily Hunt is a teacher and author based in Bristol. Her book 15-Minute STEM is now available. She also blogs about all things STEM education at www.howtostem.co.uk and tweets at @howtostem

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