Copying off the blackboard is a complex interplay of different skills. In order for copying to be accurate and completed within an adequate time period, all these skills need to work together.
There are different types of spatial skills – they are as follows:
Position in Space perception: Understanding one’s own position relative to the environment i.e. I am upside down. Or understanding an objects position in space e.g. the triangle points up or down or left or right. Difficulties with this often result in letter reversals or incorrect orientation of shapes etc.
Spatial Relations Perception: The ability to determine the relationship of one object to another e.g. the chair is behind the desk. Difficulties with this often result in incorrect sequencing of numbers and letters e.g. 67 vs. 76 and saw vs. was.
Space Visualisation: The ability to mentally manipulate the orientation of an object without actually moving it e.g. will this key fit into the lock? Will this word fit into the space left on the line etc. Difficulty with this results in poor problem solving e.g. how much space is needed on the paper to draw a house.
How to develop these skills:
• NB! The children must know their left and right – if they aren’t sure of this get their parents to work on it at home with them.
• Work on prepositions e.g. under, over, behind, in front etc.
• Jigsaw puzzles are excellent for developing spatial skills.
• Block or grid drawings where they have to copy the same pictures/ parts of pictures into the same blocks.
• Pegboard or shape activities that require them to copy a specific design with accuracy (Tangram type games are excellent).
• Giving them opportunities to draw maps or use maps (e.g. draw a map of where some treasure is hidden in the room/garden/house).
• Giving them opportunities to draw spaces e.g. draw a map of the house or draw a map of the garden etc.
• Play construction games e.g. Lego where they build from designs.
How to assist children that have these types of problems in the class:
• Not knowing their left and right: Give them a visual cue e.g. a band on their right wrist; a sticker on their table etc.
• Reversals: Provide them with cognitive strategies to assist with this e.g. using their hands to make a “bed” or teaching them “bat and ball; drum and drumstick”.
• Difficulties with letter and number sequencing: provide them with a visual cue of working from left to right e.g. an arrow that points from left to right that they stick at the top of their table.
• Difficulty with spacing between words: practice “measuring spaces with their eyes” e.g. drawing lines that have equal distances between them l l l l l; placing beanbags equal distances apart etc.
• NB! For any children that do have difficulty copying accurately off the board, make sure that they sit as close to the board as possible and that they face the board head on, not at an angle.
Other factors that affect copying off the board:
Eye-tracking: This is the ability of the eye-muscles to smoothly track a target or stay on track when reading a sentence. Difficulties with this result in losing one’s place frequently.
This can be improved by doing the following: ball games e.g. tennis, cricket; games with balloons; catching bubbles. It can also be developed by tracking a pencil with the eyes or tracking a torch light moved across a dark ceiling. Scanning exercises also facilitate these skills e.g. scan a newspaper article line by line and circle every “o”.
Figure Ground Perception: This is the ability to separate the foreground from the background e.g. when you look down to write some words from the board, you can look up again and easily find your place.
This can be improved by doing word searches or working through books like “Where’s Wally”.