One problem continually faced by teachers, OTs, and parents is that they would like to help their student/child copy faster.
Whether its copying notes off the smartboard, copying a homework assignment, copying a first draft of an essay to a final draft, we find ourselves wishing they could speed up.
At times, slow copying speed can affect a child’s functioning in the classroom because they may frequently be falling behind the pace of their peers, and missing key information. In addition, the child may notice that it takes them longer than their peers which may lead to frustration, and to dislike writing/copying tasks.
Slow copying speed may be caused by many factors:
1. It could be an attention span issue; you find they easily get distracted from their work and require frequent cues to redirect them to the task, which slows them down.
2. It could be due to fine motor weakness; they complain their hand is tired during writing/copying tasks, and often need breaks to rest their hand/ “shake” out the pain in their hand.
3. It could also be caused by visual perceptual issues. When the child has to continually shift their eye gaze from the smart board/ book/ writing sample, back to their own paper, they frequently lose their place and forget what part they were up to. They then have to visually scan the writing sample to find their place again, which takes extra time, and the cycle repeats. This can be grueling on their eyes, and frustration tolerance. Also, often a child is only copying one word, or even one letter, at a time.
As a pediatric occupational therapist working in an elementary school, I am going to teach you two strategies to use to help combat slow copying speed. One involves colors; the other a technique called chunking.
Making each sentence a different color on a smart board is a simple strategy that can be used by the teacher to benefit the WHOLE CLASS (even kids who don’t get related services, or require extra help). Often students forget what part they were up to when shifting their eye gaze from the smart board to their notebook.
This hack is helpful because they can remember what color sentence they were up to. It saves them time when shifting their eye gaze back and forth because they can easily find their place.
It’s also great for screen sharing during teletherapy or online schooling.
Chunking is a strategy that relies on using working memory to remember multiple things at a time grouped together.(Adults use this every day to remember things such as phone numbers or short lists).
Chunking is something that can be taught to students struggling with copying speed. It is helpful for all students, but especially those that copy one letter at a time, or maybe one word at a time.
If they are only copying one letter/word at a time, a lot of time is wasted shifting their eye gaze back and forth, and re-finding their place. Often, they are not comprehending what they are copying because they are not reading the sentence as a whole, instead they’re reading and copying it as a series of individual letters, one at a time.
Chunking is used to teach them to remember two words at a time in their head, to limit the time wasted looking back and forth. Then you can move up to remembering three to four words at a time in their head, etc. This will make their overall copying time faster.
As they master this strategy, they will increase the amount of information held in their working memory at a given time.
As an OT, I like to highlight each chunk in a different color as a visual cue for them to see which two words they are going to remember at a time. Also, I find it super helpful to pair this with an auditory cue of saying the two-word chunk out loud so they can hear it, and even have them say it aloud themselves when learning this strategy.
The one downfall I have found when using the chunking strategy is that perhaps the child can remember the two- to three-word chunk, but they can’t spell the words so they are STILL looking back and forth letter by letter, taking a lot of extra time to copy it.
I try to encourage them to use chunking to spell the difficult words a few letters at a time, instead of one letter at time, to hopefully increase the copying speed.
This strategy does work best when the child is able to spell all the words, but it can still be used even if they cannot.
For more of occupational therapy tips and ideas check out my Instagram page @putthefuninfunction_ot.
I received a game in exchange for this blog post. All opinions expressed belong to me.
I am a pediatric occupational therapist from NYC. I currently work in an elementary school, as well as early intervention homecare. I have previous experience working as an OT in a special needs preschool, and private practice sensory clinic. I graduated from Seton Hall University with my Masters in Occupational Therapy. When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling, going to the beach, playing with my dog, photography, and exploring NYC.
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