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Where are my kindergarten and pre-K teachers? Are you teaching scissor skills? It is so important for young children to use TOOLS safely in the classroom, but in recent years this skill has often been ignored.
A teacher recently told me that their district said if it wasn’t in the common core they couldn’t teach it. Listen very carefully to me here…of course it isn’t in the common core! The common core details expectations for math and literacy, not for fine motor skills development. Guess what? Social studies and science are not included in the common core. Did we stop teaching those subjects? (The correct answer is ‘No’, BTW…)
Children do not learn to cut by osmosis. Just as how we learn to write, children also need regular PRACTICE using scissors. And with the development of technology and the commonality of phones and tablets in homes, some children will come to school having never handled scissors before.
We are trained professionals. We know what young children need to succeed and it isn’t only reading and math. Empower your students by teaching them skills that they need, and enable them to become independent learners.
The following ideas are things I used in my classroom, and links to the best sites on the web that are helpful in teaching (and justifying) cutting skills.
Why Cutting Skills Are Important
Any time young children are using their hand-eye co-ordination they are developing their fine motor skills. Developing dexterity and strength in small hand muscles is an important step in becoming independent.
Bilateral co-ordination, whereby a child uses both sides of the body to complete a task, (for instance, one hand turning the paper, and one hand using scissors to cut) is also important for ensuring both sides of the brain are communicating and sharing information with one another.
Scissors are the first ‘tool’ that we entrust to children, and we need to explicitly teach how to handle them, and the rules surrounding them. We wouldn’t leave a child unattended with a sharp kitchen knife and initially we need to treat scissors with the same caution and respect.
How to Incorporate Scissor Activities Into Your Classroom
These are the strategies I used when incorporating scissors as part of the learning environment.
- Before school started, on Meet and Greet night, I gave out a letter that explained what children needed in their pencil box on the first day of school. For me that is just crayons and a pencil. That’s it. I asked parents to send glue sticks and scissors separately, and I asked them to write their child’s name on the blades of the scissors. On the first day of school, we gathered up all the scissors (and double-checked pencil boxes for any contraband scissors) and stored them away safely.
- In the first week of school, before we ever used scissors, I talked with my students about how we were going to be learning to use a special tool and that those students who showed me that they could be responsible and could follow the rules would be able to keep the tool in their pencil box and would receive a certificate of recognition.
- When we began centers (and I am talking play and exploration centers for the first month, with the gradual introduction more structured centers after expectations had been explicitly taught), one of my adult guided centers was the scissor cutting center. I was lucky to have a full-time teacher assistant who led the group. We began by placing a sticker on the thumbnail of their dominant cutting hand, and teaching how to hold the scissors so that they can always see the thumbnail. We talked about safety rules:
- I keep my scissors low; they are never higher than my chin
- I only cut things that my teacher tells me to cut
- I keep my scissors closed and in my pencil box unless my teacher tells me otherwise.
- Then we began! We taught how to open and close the scissors like an alligator chomping, and how to make big cuts and small cuts. We practiced cutting a variety of materials, including paper, play-doh, kitchen paper tubes, tissue paper, card-stock and straws, before we graduated to cutting lines, zig-zags, curves, waves and crazy lines. By the end of each week we made a crown with crazy hair to demonstrate our newly learned skills!
Choosing the Correct Scissors
Believe it or not, some scissors are better than others. My favorite for the classroom are these kid-friendly blunt tip non-stick blades by Fiskars. You will find that some other scissors for students often come handles with two circles and children can’t decide which fingers go where. Not so with Fiskars: they have a thumb opening and a wide opening for the other fingers. Also be aware that left-handers will need left-handed scissors. Just as it is harder for them learning to write (think of them pushing from left to right covering over their words, whereas right-handers pull from left to right, easily reading what they have written), left-handers also have a harder time seeing the line they are cutting if they are using right-handed scissors. Fiskars has got you covered with these left-handed scissors.
Ideas for Your Scissor Station
I love this portable cutting station from No Time for Flash Cards. It keeps the scissors securely anchored to a bowl, and all the scraps in one place. Genius!
Fun learning for kids had great success with the play-doh and straws cutting activity. It is great for beginning exploration as there is no outcome and children develop their fine motor skills in a play environment.
Christie from Mama OT has a great post explaining how scissor skills develop and tips for helping students progress in their scissor cutting abilities!
Best of luck teaching your super snippers how to use classroom tools!