September 6, 2019 3

Teaching Handwriting to Children: 5 Essential Practices

Teaching Handwriting to Children: 5 Essential Practices


Hi! Today we are going to discuss 5 essential
practices to keep in mind when teaching handwriting. 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. The next important principle regards focusing
on lower case letters. Upper case 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 upper case be introduced. The next practice, that of grouping letters
by their common stroke, makes handwriting instruction very efficient. 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. 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: 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.

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