The Teaching of Handwriting – A progressive approach
The purpose of teaching handwriting is to enable children to communicate effectively in writing. Their writing will be legible (easy to read), fluent (they can write reasonably quickly with a good flow) and comfortably (children who have not learned to handwrite properly or who employ poor posture often find writing painful as they become quite stiff).
The teaching of handwriting is often provided as a whole class activity, with children assiduously copying letters, joins or words from the board and repeating. It is true that handwriting can only be achieved by regular practice. It is also true, however, that children enter school with differing handwriting readiness. Their motor skills both gross and fine are at different stages, and therefore their readiness to pick up a pencil and begin making marks and then letters will all be at different stages. It is as important with handwriting as it is with reading that we take each child from their own starting point and provide the relevant practice to enable them to achieve success and to progress at their own pace. Here then is a progression chart for handwriting (the first two stages are concurrent). In your class, whatever the age group, assess the handwriting skills level of each child, group those on a similar level together for handwriting work, and provide the relevant activities to enable them to progress to the next level. While in some classes the children may all be at a similar level, in others it will become clear that there are children attempting to join their handwriting who have still not mastered letter formation, or who are not yet forming their letters in a uniform size. In younger classes you may have some children who still do not have the physical readiness for writing, and who are not yet ready for letter formation, certainly not trying to write on lined paper. In handwriting lessons, while the copying and practice is very important, it is equally important for the Teacher or a Teaching Assistant to give direction and feedback on letter formation, sitting position, evenness of script, achieving smooth flow, and pencil grip.
Contrary to popular opinion, the advent of the tablet, the smart phone and the computer has not replaced the need for fluent, neat handwriting and this life skill needs to be taught with care and attention. Children leaving primary school must be able to write without thinking about it, so that they can concentrate on the content of their writing. Research also demonstrates that children with neat handwriting tend to feel better about their writing and are more motivated to write, and are also better at spelling. Every child should be supported to develop good handwriting.
Some key points in handwriting:
· Pencils must be sharp
· Short pencils (below 8cm) should be discarded.
· Sit up properly with chair upright (not rocking).
· Writing surface can be tilted to the left (right handers) or right (left handers) but by no more than 45 degrees. The non-dominant hand should be on the table in a supportive position.
· A clutter free table is best.
· Left handed children should always sit on the left side of the desk
Children can be taught to be self-critical and even pedantic with their handwriting. When working with a group, expect them to copy EXACTLY, and nothing less, as this will avoid any poor habits being deemed as acceptable. As long as the work is pitched correctly for their ability and motor control then they will be able to succeed and will look with pride on their improved writing.