Teaching Handwriting: 5 Essential Practices

The following video shares five core principles for making handwriting instruction highly effective and engaging. You will learn practical strategies that can be implemented in your classroom right away:

Video Script

Hi! Today we are going to discuss 5 essential practices to keep in mind when teaching handwriting.

SMALL GROUPS

The first is that handwriting should be taught in small groups. This enables one to closely observe students while they are writing and to provide immediate feedback to correct errors as they occur. When students practice without supervision, they often form the letters incorrectly, which can lead to bad habits. Providing feedback after the work is completed, is definitely not as effective.

LOWER CASE

The next important principle regards focusing on lower case letters. Uppercase letters can be harder to form. The majority use two or more strokes which requires multiple pencil lifts and continual visual monitoring to ensure accuracy. Upper case “E”, for example, uses four separate strokes, whereas lower case “e” uses one continuous stroke, making it more efficient to form.

When students are taught upper case first, they tend to write in upper case; which makes their writing hard to read. This is often a hard habit to break.

Lower case letters account for about 95% of all letters in reading and writing.  It is, therefore, essential to teach students the letters that they need the most, and not to overwhelm them with learning both upper and lower case simultaneously. Once students have mastered all their lower case, only then should uppercase be introduced. The next practice, that of grouping letters by their common stroke, makes handwriting instruction very efficient.

GROUP LETTERS BY COMMON STROKES

The Handwriting Heroes program sorts letters into five groups based on their first stroke.

  • The letters in the skydiver group all start by skydiving down.
  • The Bouncers drop down, up and over.
  • All the Cannon-Pops start like c.
  • The Skiers ski diagonally down.
  • And the Surfers surf the wave, meaning, they have no common stroke.

For the four groups that do share a common stroke, the repetition of the same movement from one letter to the next, builds motor memory and promotes rhythmic writing.

MULTISENSORY TEACHING

In addition to grouping letters by their first stroke, there are several other multisensory teaching strategies that enhance memory and learning. Handwriting Heroes provides visual models in the form of workbook illustrations; digital animations that explain WHY the letters are formed the way that they are; large wall cards which can be displayed in the classroom, and alphabet desk strips for easy reference.

Tactile-kinesthetic strategies use movement to teach the letter strokes, before requiring students to put pencil to paper. Using whole arm movements, students write the letter in the air, first with one hand and then with both hands together. Students also love using touch screens to trace, copy and write the letter, and dry-erase surfaces for making playdoh letters, and for rainbow writing.

For auditory learners, songs help to reinforce the common stroke among the group’s letters, and stories incorporate the letter sounds. Encouraging students to say the action words in the story, while they are making the letter, helps them to recall each stroke. All these strategies together, decrease the need for visual guidance and lead to more automatic letter production; as demonstrated by the following video:

DAILY PRACTICE

The last principle that is of great importance when implementing a handwriting program is to practice these skills daily. Plan for five short lessons per day, over 5 weeks. Teach one new group per week, and then review the letters already learned. Thereafter, students can continue to practice using a summary worksheet. Graph the time it takes to complete the worksheet to motivate students to improve their speed and build fluency.

 
Teaching handwriting to children in small groups is one of the five core principles for making handwriting instruction highly effective and engaging. Click here to learn more about this and the other four core principles that teachers can implement for their students in the classroom right away!



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