If you are working on spacing between words when writing, then this OT trick is for you. Many years ago, we created this blog post using a clothespin to teach spacing in handwriting. It’s a simple activity really, and one that kids love to use because they can make the clothespin spacing tool their own! Let’s teach spacing between words with a cute clothespin craft!
Teach spacing between words
When it comes to legibility in handwriting, spacing between words makes all the! Addressing spatial awareness in handwriting can make a big difference in legibility fairly quickly given intervention, practice, awareness, and the tools to address spacing in written work.
Using a visual and physical cue to teach spacing between words is very effective. This is especially true for young students who are beginning to write with more organizational requirements: lines, margins, smaller writing spaces, and faster writing speeds are some of these organizational needs in handwriting tasks.
Let’s break those areas down to describe how each might impact letter formation and legibility of written work:
- Line use- Line use progresses from kindergarten (where many students are exposed to writing letters and words on lines for the first time. This progresses to first grade with more writing requirements. Moving onto second grade may bring a smaller line space for written work. In third grade, writing lines may be smaller yet. In about fourth grade, many students move to a lined notebook. These pencil control and line use can impact legibility especially when handwriting lessons are rushed in the general curriculum of most schools. This blog post on line awareness is a great resource for written work requirements.
- Margin use- One visual perception component to handwriting includes margin use in written work. This impacts legibility when writing on a sheet of paper or moving to the next line. Sometimes, margins creep over across the page as a student copies lists or words or writes sentences as in a journal. Spatial relations includes the visual perception aspect, particularly the visual processing skill of visual tracking, which includes following the pencil as in copying words. Visual attention and visual scanning are also involved. This blog post on margins in handwriting covers this area in more detail.
- Writing in smaller spaces- Sizing in written work impacts legibility. When letters are written to large, the spacing can be crowded, leading to poor legibility. This can be especially the case when writing on worksheets or workbook pages with limited space availability. This blog post on spatial awareness is a good one to check out regarding sizing and space use.
- Faster writing speeds- Writing sped impacts legibility because when a student writes quickly, sometimes the legibility of accurate letter formation is lost. When this is the case, adding a bit of space between words can impact overall legibility. As students progress, writing speed requirements increase. Consider the second grader that is required to copy their homework onto their notebook or homework planner. There is only so much time in the school day, so a limited chunk of time is given for this task. When a student struggles with pencil control, letter formation, motor planning, or any other contributing factor, this can really impact written work on a functional handwriting task that has dire consequences. When the student comes home for the day, they are unable to read their homework assignment. This same issue is true for older students. In middle school or high school, they are unable to copy notes in their class. This can lead to difficulty copying notes and studying. This resource covers writing speed in written work.
Sometimes a simple visual cue like this craft stick spacing tool and pointer stick can make a big difference in handwriting spatial awareness and handwriting legibility.
Read on for another quick craft that kids can make and use to teach spacing between words…using a clothes pin for better spatial awareness in written work.
Handwriting Spacing Between Words Tool
This clothespin spacing tool is one that can be attached to a notebook or folder and used again and again…because any school-based OT knows that those spacing tools can get lost very easily!
The best part of this handwriting spacing tool is that kids can make their own, while creating a unique tool that fits their personality!
First, read more about how spacing tools work.
Next, get all of your materials ready, because this handwriting spacing tool is a fun activity! In fact, school-based therapists can create a group activity in a classroom with random items found in a craft bin…while boosting those fine motor skills!
To make a DIY spacing tool, you’ll need a clothes pin. The wooden type is perfect for painting and decorating, making a fine motor craft based on the child’s interests, favorite color, etc. When the child makes their own spacing tool, they are more likely to use it again and again.
Using the clothes pin clip allows the spacing tool to be saved. (Better yet, the clip prevents another lost therapy item later found at the bottom of a backpack or in the midst of desk chaos!)
How to teach spacing between words with a clothespin:
The clothes pin clip is perfect for attaching to notebooks, folders, or a pencil box on a desk. Students will always know where their spacing tool is…but how do they use it?
Use a clothespin to teach spacing between words the same way you would use other spacing tools.
Show students how to place the clothespin on the paper after the last letter of a word. They can keep the clothespin in place as they write the next word in a sentence. They physical and visual cue of moving and seeing the clothespin can make a lasting impact on spacing between words.
Think about it this way: the messiest written work is easier to read when it has space between words. As readers, we tend to fill in missing blanks using our predictive reading skills. When words are spaced out, students will be better able to read back over notes, homework assignments, and other written work.
Spacing is often times, the easiest way to make a big impact on handwriting legibility!
For younger students, using the clip portion of the clothespin spacing tool can be achieved using strips of paper to practice handwriting. Simply cut regular double ruled paper into strips and clip the clothespin between each word as the child writes.
Those strips can even be laminated and handwriting practiced with a dry erase marker.
Using the clothespin spacing tool can make a big impact on written legibility!
To make the ClothesPin Spacing Tool
You’ll need some basic craft items (affiliate links are included below):
- Next, get the kids started on painting. Ask the child or group of kids to paint all sides of the clothes pins.
- On the wet paint, glitter and sparkling gems can be added.
- Let the paint dry and embellish with additional items including gems, stickers, puffy paint, or other items.
Looking for more ways to teach spacing between words? Try these ideas:
- Spacing Tool for Handwriting
- Visual Spatial Relations Activities in Handwriting
- Spatial Awareness in Handwriting
- Spatial Awareness in Handwriting Activities
The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.
The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.
- Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
- Ideas for combining handwriting and play
- Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
- Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
- Tips to improve pencil grip
- Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.