THE MECHANISM OF WRITING 267*
Then she at once has the letter touched, saying " Touch"; with-
out any other explanation she shows the child how to trace the-
letter, and if necessary, she guides the index finger of the childV
right hand over the sandpaper, in the direction followed in writing.
Knowing how to trace and not knowing how to trace will
consist in knowing the sense according to which one draws a
definite graphic form.
The child learns at once and his finger, already expert in
tactile work, is guided, by the texture of the fine sandpaper, over
the exact trace of the letter. He is then able to repeat by himself"
indefinitely the movement necessary to produce the letters of the
alphabet, without fear of making mistakes while following the
form of the handwriting. If his finger wanders, the smooth
surface of the mount at once makes him aware of his error.
Little ones between 3£ and 4J years of age, as soon as they
become rather expert in this tracing, are very fond of repeating.
it with closed eyes; in this way they let themselves be guided
by the sandpaper in following the shape without seeing it. One
may say truly that perception of the letters by direct tactile
muscular sensation will form a great contribution to final conquest
If, on the other hand, the exercise is offered to children who
are too old (e.g. five or six years old) the interest of seeing the
letter which reproduces the sound and composes words is so strong,
that touching no longer attracts him srfficiently to induce him to
do the movement exercise; he will write less easily and less perfectly,,
having already missed the delight in movement which belongs to an
With the very small child, it is not the visible image which
leads him to trace the shape with such great interest; it is the
feeling of touch which induces his hand to perform this movement,,
which will then be fixed in his muscular memory.
Three contemporary sensations take part when the mistress-
has the letters looked at and touched—the visual sensation, the
tactile and the muscular. Hence the image of the graphic symbol!