TEACHING HEADING AND WRITING 263
according to form, they did not yet know how to hold a pencil. To hold and to manipulate a little stick securely, corresponds to the acquisition of a special muscular mechanism which is independent of the writing movement; it must in fact go along with the motions necessary to produce all of the various letter forms. It is, then, a distinct mechanism, which must exist together with the motor memory of the single graphic signs. When I provoked in the deficients the movements characteristic of writing by having them touch the letters with their fingers, I exercised mechanically the psycho-motor paths, and fixed the muscular memory of each letter. There remained the preparation of the muscular mechanism necessary in holding and managing the instrument of writing, and this I provoked by adding two periods to the one already described. In the second period, the child touched the letter, not only with the index finger of his right hand, but with two, the index and the middle finger. In the third period, he touched the letters with a little wooden stick, held as a pen in writing. In substance I was making him repeat the same movements, now with, and now without, holding the instrument.
I have said that the child was to follow the visual image of the outlined letter. It is true that his finger had already been trained through touching the contours of the gRometric figures, but this was not always a sufficient preparation. Indeed, even we grown people, when we trace a design through glass or tissue paper, cannot follow perfectly the line which we see and along which we should draw our pencil. The design should furnish some sort of control, some mechanical guide, for the pencil, in order to follow with exactness the trace, sensible in reality only to the eye.