The Drawbridge Flip Method is a simple way of helping your child pick up a pencil and hold it correctly in the tripod grip for handwriting.
Follow this link for an instructional video for both left and right-handed writers on how to use the Drawbridge Flip method:
Drawbridge Flip instructions:
- Place the pencil on the table in front of the writing hand, so it forms a straight line up the table with the writing tip of the pencil pointing towards you.
- Then using your thumb and index finger pinch the pencil either side of the shaft about 2 cm up from the tip for a right-handed writer and about 3 cm up for a left-handed writer. Dots or sticker may be placed on the pencil to help thumb and finger placement.
- Pick the pencil up off the table and place the fingernail of the middle finger on to the pencil just above the tip.
- Keep the ring and little finger gently curled in.
- Push down with the middle finger so that the pencil moves up and over like a drawbridge, keep pushing until the pencil is supported in the cup (web of skin that joins the thumb, hand and index finger) and the pencil is resting on the inner edge of middle finger.
- When writing, the end of the pencil will be angled towards the shoulder for right-handed writers and the elbow for left-handed writers.
It can be difficult to identify why a child is having trouble learning to handwrite fluidly and with speed. This is because handwriting is a complex skill, requiring both physical skills and the knowledge of how to form and join letters correctly.
Where do you start?
Follow our step by step guide to identify where the problem may lie and then work with the child using our suggested solutions: http://bit.ly/2uFcUJF
Don’t miss the early steps, even though you think they may not be relevant to an older learner, as the child may be struggling because they have either missed an earlier stage of physical development or teaching.
Sometimes children need to be taken back before they can move forward.
Handwriting with fluidity, speed, accuracy and over longer periods of time requires a complex range of whole body and hand strengths and skills. So it is not surprising that many children find handwriting challenging.
For a good handwriting style children need to develop their:
- Gross Motor Skills – so they can sit correctly for periods of time.
- Fine Motor Skills – so that they can hold and control the pencil and move the paper up the table as they write.
- Motor Memory Skills – so they can recall how to form the letters.
- Visual Memory Skills – so they recall what a particular letter looks like.
- Spatial Awareness Skills– so they can place the letters correctly on the paper and in relation to one another.
- Eye Tracking Skills– scanning from left to right so that the letters are formed and placed correctly.
If a child is struggling with handwriting it is important to take a closer look at their physical abilities. If they do not have all the appropriate key physical strengths to support their handwriting development getting them to do more of the paper and pencil activities is not the answer.
Our assessments are simple to complete and do not need any specialist equipment. The important elements are; your knowledge of the child and your observations of them at play and while they are engaged in normal day to day task.
You will find our assessments on the ‘Key Strengths needed for handwriting’ page: http://bit.ly/2D1RKKs
A better understanding of a child’s key skills abilities enables you to focus more effectively, through targeted physical games and activities, to help them build and develop their skills.
You will find ‘Games to build gross and fine motor skills’ here: http://bit.ly/2FhFkR7 and ‘Games for the other physical skills’ such as visual memory and eye tracking here: http://bit.ly/2M350S1
Handwriting is such an important skill as it engages the neurological pathways and working memory in a way that pressing a keyboard just doesn’t; so once mastered it helps to open up the doorways to other literacy skills such as phonics, reading, spelling and composition.
Some fun indoor activities may be the order of the day for this half term as the weather is not so hot.
This is a very simple idea which children love because they can take greater ownership of it. The aim of the activity is to help build up hand and finger strength through using the pegs; however it can have a dual purpose, helping to keep track of the week by using it as a timetable or for learning spellings or maths activities, as well as supporting the development of language skills.
You do not need anything fancy, just some string (for the washing line), clothes pegs and pieces of paper or card to peg onto the washing line. The washing line can be a permanent fixture or you can just pop it up when you need to use it.
The clothes line needs to be at a height suitable for your child to peg things on to (placed against a wall is a safe option so that no-one can walk into it by accident and hurt themselves).
There are a whole range of games that can be played using this simple washing line and pegs concept:
- Memory games – Get your child to peg up 5 to 10 different pictures or items on the line. Then give them 1 minute to remember the items. Once the time is up ask them to look away, or close their eyes, and then you remove one or more of the items. Get them to look back at the line. Can they work out what is missing?
- You could try just moving one or two of the items around. Can they figure out which ones are in the wrong place and put them back in their correct place?
- Try swapping an item for something new, which your child did not hang up on the line. Can they work out which is the new item on the line?
- Odd One Out – Hang pictures on the line that belong together. Can they pick out the odd item on the line and explain why it is the odd one out.
- They could all be pictures of fruit with a picture of some clothing
- They could be shapes with straight sides and one with curves
- They could all be animals but all are wild with only one being domestic
- Sorting – Ask your child to sort all the pictures or items from a selection and to hang all the identical things on the washing line. They could all be the same;
- Pattern Work – Using pictures, different colour and shaped paper or items create different patterns. The patterns can be based on colour, size or type of object. You can create a pattern sequence on the washing line and then ask your child to try and copy the sequence. Can they explain the pattern and create their own for you to copy and explain?
- Pairing or What is the Same? – Hang a range of pictures or items on the line, making sure that some of the items can be paired together because they are exactly the same. They could match because;
- They are exactly the same e.g. a pair of socks
- Match numbers to a picture with the same number of items on
- Match capital to lower-case letters
- Or have items that can be put together because they are both from the same set, for example they are types of fruit or are the same colour.
We would recommend teaching joins in join type groups, whether your child has learnt cursive or continuous cursive single letter fonts.
Teaching the join types in their groups helps a child to understand the directional pushes and pulls required to successfully join the different letter combinations.
There are 4 main groups of letter joins; bottom joins, bottom to “c” shape joins, “e” joins (top and bottom join strokes) and top joins.
Moving from Cursive Single Letters to Joining
There are seven join strokes to be taught. Most children will find the bottom joins the easiest to achieve, as it only requires the extension of the exit stroke they already put on the letters. The bottom to “c” shape joins can be tricky at first but soon mastered. The joins that tend to cause the most confusion and difficulty are the “e” joiners and top exit joiners.
I would recommend teaching the bottom joins first, then the ‘e’ joins and finally the top exit letter joins.
Moving from Continuous Cursive Single Letters to Joining
There are three join strokes to be taught. The easiest is the bottom exit letters (the majority of the letters), all a child has to do is write the letters closer together without lifting their pencil off the paper. Only the top to “e” and top joiners need to be taught for continuous cursive, as the nature of the font style means that the lead-in and exit strokes needed to join the majority of letter combinations have already been taught.
I would recommend teaching the bottom joins first, then the top exit to ‘e’ join and finally the top exit letter joins.
For our free join animations and worksheets: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI
For tips to support the teaching of joins check out our Teaching Tips section: http://bit.ly/2AaX8sk
Here at Teach Children we believe that a child is only ready to start learning to join their handwriting when:
- They have learnt to form all 26 lower case letters correctly
- Letters are of a consistent and suitable size (not necessarily the perfect size, remember big is beautiful)
- Letters are positioned appropriately on the writing line as well as in relation to one another.
Children generally begin to join letters between the ages of 6 to 7 years old, depending on the handwriting font style being taught. Those taught a continuous cursive font style from the beginning tend to join much earlier due to the nature of this font (for some by the end of their Reception Year).
Children do not need to be able to remember how to correctly form all their capital letters before they are taught how to join their letters. This is because capital letters never join to the lower-case letters in a word. However, for these children correct capital letter formation needs to be taught alongside the introduction of letter joins.
The ultimate aim is for a child to develop a good handwriting style; which means;
- They can produce and maintain a good speed
- Have a fluid hand movement that is comfortable
- Letters are of a consistent and appropriate size, positioned correctly
- Handwriting is legible (so others can read it easily).
For some children (mainly SEND pupils) this may mean that they will always print or use a single letter form of writing as learning to join is just not appropriate. But that does not mean they will not comply with the bullet points above.
Research in recent years by psychologists, educationalists and neuroscientists has found that older children, with better handwriting skills showed greater neural activity in areas associated with working memory (used for planning, ideas generation and composition skills for written work).
Due to the way that our working memory functions the handwriting process can impact on the quality of the work. For instance, those who have poor handwriting ability use a disproportionate amount of their working memory capacity in recalling and forming the letters, effectively blocking the higher level composition process (Gathercole, Pickering, Knight & Stegmann 2004, cited Medwell et al. 2007).
This is because children with fluent handwriting skills have developed an automotive (instant, subconscious) ability to recall and reproduce letter patterns, making handwriting a lower level process within their working memory.
This would suggest that learning to handwrite with accuracy, fluidity, speed and legibility is a vital goal if we want our children to reach their full potential. Learning to join letters is therefore an important step to achieving this. Once handwriting has been mastered a child can focus more effectively on the composition and structure of the piece, which requires planning and logical thought processes, so that the plot or argument can be fully explored and presented.
Medwell. J, Wray. D: Handwriting: what do we know and what do we need to know, Literacy Vol. 41, No 1, April 2007.
Here at Teach Children we recommend teaching letter formation in family groups rather than in alphabetical order.
The letters of the alphabet have been sorted by shape, start points, directional push and pulls of the pencil and finish point to create the different family groups. It makes it easier for children to develop and remember the correct letter formation, this is because they do not have to constantly remember a whole range of start points or directional movement at one time. For instance, the letter c has the same start point and anti-clockwise directional movement shape that is needed to create the letters a, d, g, o and, although a little more complicated, the letters s and e,
Teaching letters in groups or families can also help to limit letter reversals such as b and d.
Also, by teaching letter groups in the order shown on the website children are able to write whole words, which have meaning to them, and this in turn encourages them to write more.
Click here to see our Letter Family animations and supporting worksheets: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI
It can often be assumed children will pick up how to write letters if they see them often enough (by osmosis). This is just not the case. Correct letter formation has to be taught. Seeing a completed letter or word or watching it being typed up and appear on a screen does not show children how to form the letters.
For children to develop a good handwriting style it is important to learn how to form letters correctly to begin with as this makes the transition from single letter formation to joined letter handwriting much easier. This enables them to develop a speedy, fluid and legible handwriting style.
Letters are created through joining lines and curve shapes in a particular way. They have a designated start point and set directional pushes and pulls of the pencil to reach the designated finish point. This is why at Teach Handwriting we teach letter formation in groups/families rather than in alphabetical order. Certain groups use the same, or similar, shape and directional push and pulls of the pencil to form the letter, for instance the letter c has the same start point and anti-clockwise directional movement shape that is needed to create the letters a, d, g, o and, though a little more complicated, the letters s and e. Teaching letters in groups and families can also help to limit letter reversals such as b and d.
Due to how handwriting has or hasn’t been taught over the generations we all have our own way of handwriting. When supporting and teaching young children we need to develop a consistent approach so that they do not get confused or frustrated by adults giving them conflicting information.
For parents this means finding out from your child’s school which letter font they are teaching so that you can support them more effectively at home. This may mean that you have to learn a new way of writing some letters. This also applies to teachers and teaching assistants. As the adults in the situation we have to accept that it is for us to make the changes. Just because something is different from the way we were taught, or do it, doesn’t mean it is wrong, it is just different!
Our free letter animations are not just to support children with their learning but also to provide parents and teachers (all adults really) with the knowledge and support to help children develop a consistent handwriting style.
Surprisingly there are few differences when teaching left and right-handed children to handwrite. A left-handed child needs a slightly different pencil grip, and needs to hold the pencil slightly higher up the shaft, as well as a different paper position and tilt. Some left-handed children do find handwriting challenging to start with because they naturally want to draw straight lines right to left rather than left to right.
I would recommend you try the following, if you find your left-handed writers are struggling with learning to handwriting: