Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mat Man-Handwriting without Tears


After researching a bit about handwriting, I decided I would give Handwriting Without Tears a try. I will be writing an entirely different post about why we are enjoying it so much, but for now, I wanted to introduce you to "Mat Man." This guy is used as a tool to teach shapes, and to give children body awareness. There is a Mat Man song, on the "Get Set For School" CD to go along with the building of this character.

One of the manipulative tools you can purchase to go with Handwriting Without Tears are 26 large wooden letters; 8 big lines, 6 little lines, 6 big curves, and 6 little curves. In the Teacher's Guide, they describe many ways these wood pieces can be used. Primarily it is for play and considered pre-writing, for preschool students.  The set is expensive, and although my husband is a wood worker, we decided not to make them out of wood. But for less than a dollar, I bought a piece of foam board, used the template provided on page 84 of the Teacher's Guide, and cut them out myself with a xacto knife. 


The next step was make a few of the Mat Man accessories, like nose, eyes, and hands. (The heart in the photo is just felt I had cut out for another project.) Page 40 of the Teacher's Guide included a template for these pieces, so I just copied them onto cardstock, and laminated them. But water caps or other odds and ends would work just as nicely. You should notice however, that I have 2 left hands...a detail that doesn't matter at this point!

At first I just played the song and put together Mat Man as the lyrics told me to.

 Mat Man has:

  • ... 1 head so that he can think
  • ... 2 eyes so he can see
  • ... 1 nose so he can smell
  • ... 1 mouth so he can eat
  • ... 2 ears so he can hear
  • ... 1 body to hold what is inside (heart, lungs, stomach)
  • ... 2 arms so that he can reach
  • ... 2 hands to that he can clap
  • ... 2 legs so that he can stand
  • ... 2 feet so that he can walk

Caleb listened intently the first time, watching as Mat Man slowly came together. Then asked to do it himself. So he mixed up the pieces and asked me to start the song. Here's the video of his first time assembling Mat Man.

He did that twice and then got bored with it. His next idea was to write Dad a letter (I pretty sure he was remember the Frog and Toad story where Toad is sad because no one ever sends him letters!). Handwriting is not Caleb's favorite thing to do, but if there is a purpose in constructing letters, than he's usually on board. (Which is true for most of us, I believe. Doing workbook exercises with no connection as to why it matters is not really igniting most people's love of learning.) So I got out the Handwriting Without Tears slate and wrote out the letters for him and he wrote "DAD" on an envelope. The letter also included the word "DAD" along with a nice selection of stickers and a picture of a forest (he had just finished watching Wild Krats).  

So then we took the letter to the end of the lane to put into our mailbox. Dad was coming home for lunch and we knew he likes to check the mail. 

When Dad got home Caleb casually walked up to him and asked if he got the mail yet. When Dad replied no, the two of them headed out together. Remarkably, he acted real casual, not giving anything away. Dad said he just talked about other things he had done that morning. Self restraint with a 5 year old? And his own idea! :)


  1. I am strongly considering using HWT! My oldest just turned five. I'm not ready to start it with him right away, but I love the idea of the program. I look forward to your posts on this. :)

    1. My son just turned 5 too. Some of the prewriting ideas are below his level, but the multi-sensory approach is really working for him. Stay tuned for more posts about this! Thanks for posting your comment! :)


  2. They use this at my son's preschool and his growth this past year was amazing. He also has the creative freedom to draw just about anything out of a collection of shapes. Love it.

    1. Val, that is so good to hear. I think having both an educator as well as an occupational therapist who understands the kinesthetic needs and abilities of young kids really makes this program amazing. My son actually wants to practice handwriting now! And the shapes that your boy sees that objects are all made of shapes!


  3. For anyone that has the 2013 version, the template is on page 86. Thanks! :)


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