One of the most important skills that children have to learn is how to write and to handwrite neatly. Whether it would be their name or writing an essay, they should learn how to write letters not only to supplement their language skills but also to give them great fine motor skills too. Let’s take a look at how we as educators can teach handwriting to them the right way!
Each of your students can grasp their knowledge of writing at their own pace. With that in mind, it is up to us educators to guide them properly with the right amount of discipline and encouragement to help them successfully learn the task. Here are a few things to keep in mind before and during instruction.
Strengthen Hand Muscles
If your student is having trouble coloring neatly, can’t cut on a line, have trouble using a zipper or buttons, you may first want to work on various hand strengthening exercises. Teach them letter formation using play dough. They can roll out strips of dough, then cut it using scissors and form the letter that way. You can also have them color the letter. Using a spray bottle outside and spraying the letter helps as well. Once the hand is ready to hold the pencil, then you can instruct on proper posture and pencil grip. Grab these fine motor task cards that you can send how with your students or set up as a center!
Posture & Pencil Grip
The first step in teaching neat handwriting them how to write is to demonstrate how to write properly. It is done by letting your students know that their back should be straight, feet should be on the floor, and the top of the table should line up with their elbows. If any of your students slump while doing any writing exercise, give them a slant board or a binder to keep their posture proper.
Students might not be able to hold their writing instruments in the proper tripod grip the first time. It is important to stress pencil grip and use a variety of strategies to make sure that your student uses this form automatically. It is better for hand health and allows your students to write without too much hand strain. I have a blog post that will walk through one of the FASTEST ways to get kids to use a trip grip! Promise, this is the best “trick.” When I see a student use the wrong grip, I immediately jump to this strategy and it works, click here to read more about it.
It is very important that the teachers and parents use consistent language with students as they are learning to write the letters. Everyone must use the same script that includes parent and guardian support from home to school.
Before even working on each letter, I like to go through and teach the stroke language to make sure students understand the word that I will be using when teaching each handwriting stroke.
Writing Paper & Letter Guides
After students master the proper writing grip and understand the language and forming letters, the next step is to introduce them to the type of activity sheets that you will let them write on. A great way to explain letter formation in relation to the handwriting paper is by using the Clever Cat strategy. I don’t remember where I heard this strategy but I have been using it for years. Basically, you use the cat’s body to explain parts of the letter in relation to the paper.
I also wanted to point out the method using my writing sheets. I use three different letter instruction methods. First, when initially explaining how the letter is formed, use the script and draw the lines inside the bubble letters. Then once students have practiced in the bubble letters you can continue to the letter case worksheet. My favorite part of these handwriting pages is the grey box!
This area is for teacher use only – to teach proper formation one on one. For example, if you are observing your students as they are forming the letter and you notice the wrong formation, you can help them in the gray box. That way you do not work in their workspace which doesn’t hurt their confidence. After students have had practice with uppercase and lowercase sheets, they can continue their practice on the final sheet which has both upper and lowercase on one sheet.
Teaching Handwriting is a Process
Students are not going to improve their handwriting overnight. It is especially important at the beginning of instruction to observe students for proper posture and handwriting so that they get in good habits which will help them throughout their life.
To this day, I have a huge callous on my middle finger because of poor handwriting grip! I don’t want that to happen to your students. Also, I know that in this day in age we are using computers more and more, even the younger students, but fine motor skills transfer over to other life skills. We will probably not get rid of handwriting just yet so it is important to focus on it still – even if it isn’t formally in the curriculum!