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Crayolas, Creamsicles & Learning

Fifth-graders Teach Preschoolers Fine Motor Skills, More

There’s a big difference between the proper way to hold a crayon and hanging onto a popsicle. And it’s easy for grownups to forget that learning to use scissors is a skill that takes both patience and practice.

Some Cummings Elementary fifth-graders understand, and they’re helping their pint-sized schoolmates navigate the maze of fine motor skills, one dry erase board at a time.

Nearly 20 students in Kyle Anderson’s fifth-grade class visit Traci Burri’s preschoolers for 20 minutes every Wednesday to show the youngsters how it’s done.

At one table, fifth-grader Isaiah DeWit folds his fingers around those of preschooler Ryker Bishop as he grasps a brown crayon.

“See what happens when you hold it like this, and then try writing,” Isaiah suggests as he gently repositions the youngster’s fingers.

At another table, preschooler Janet Dykhouse fits her fingers inside the teal-handled scissors she is holding as fifth-grader Arissa Shimmons looks on.

At Cummings Elementary, big kids and bigger kids form friendships

“Are you excited for Christmas?” Arissa asks Janet, who nods as she cuts a piece of red construction paper. The two clearly share a friendship as well as a school assignment.

“What are you going to ask for?”

“An Elsa doll.”

The Writing Warriors, as they are called, demonstrate the finer points of holding implements used for writing, cutting and other key preschool tasks. At the same time, they help the youngsters work on mastering writing the alphabet and, eventually, sounding out letters and words on their way to a lifetime of wordsmithery.

“As you’d think, the preschoolers idolize the bigger kids,” says Burri, who conceived the program last January with nine of Anderson’s fifth-graders. “These tools are available in class pretty much all the time, but they aren’t interested in what they don’t know how to use. When a bigger kid shows them how to use them, they’re diving at them.”

Many of her students in this year’s half-day preschool don’t have older siblings who can model fine motor skills and practice hand-eye coordination, Burri explains, “and it’s a confidence-builder when a bigger kid is interested in them.” As for the fifth-graders: “It gives them responsibility and they get the satisfaction of seeing progress.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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