Choosing and using the right pen can help to avoid smudging; make handwriting look smarter and prevent hand strain when writing for extended periods of time. Everyone is different, so the type of pen required is different too.
There are three main points to think about when choosing a pen for handwriting:
- The type of ink it uses.
- The size and weight of the pen.
- The type of point it has.
1. Types of ink used:
- Oil-based ink
- The ink is quick drying and so does not smudge easily
- The ink flows smoothly depending on the point style of the pen
- Ink can stop and start for no apparent reason
- Water-based ink
- The ink does not dry as quickly as oil-based ink so can smudge
- The ink flows very smoothly
2. Pen sizes and weights
Because pens come in different shapes, sizes and weights it is important for your child to try out a range of pen styles to help them find the best fit for them. Remember one pen style does not suit all, everyone’s hand size and finger length are different.
Things to consider when choosing a pen:
- Does it feel too short or too long?
- Does it feel too thin or too thick?
- Does it feel too heavy or too light?
- Some children like a smooth round pen shape.
- Some prefer a textured round pen shape.
- While others may prefer a hexagon shaped pen.
3. Pen points
Pens come with different point or nib widths and shapes. The size and shape of the point gives different line thicknesses and are usually purchased as point sizes: extra fine, fine, medium or bold (some will have a measurement on as well).
- A fine pen point produces thin lines and some children will find this can help to make writing neater.
- A medium and bold point give thicker lines which many may find smoother to write with, though the letter size may be slightly larger because of it.
Once again it is important that children try out a range of pen point sizes to help them find the best fit for them.
Remember one pen point style does not suit all, everyone’s fine motor skills and writing pressures are different.
Why do we use pencils when we start to teach handwriting?
Modern classrooms use a range of technology, such as interactive white boards, so why are our children still using pencils when learning how to handwrite?
Pencils are a great first tool for learning to handwrite!
- They come in different widths and lengths (to cater for the different gross and fine motor skills of the children).
- Have different lead thickness and grades (soft to hard) of lead.
- Provide varying degrees of resistance (depending on lead grade) which slows down the letter formation process enough for young children to have the control required to start to form their letters correctly. The greater the resistance the more the body can neurologically acknowledge (feel) the movement and help to send appropriate information to the brain.
- As a child develops their handwriting skills to a more fluid handwriting style the pencil type can be easily changed.
- Cheap and easily accessible.
- A drawing medium which young children are already comfortable using.
- Often a one size fits all approach to the pencil type, rather than tailoring to a child’s needs.
- Difficulty in maintaining a good writing point, results in the child needing to use different levels of pressure, making handwriting hard work.
- Over use of rubbing out mistakes (wastes time and develops a culture where making a mistake is seen as a failure). Making mistakes is how we learn, it is not failing!
Pencils are practical in school:
- With pencil, children find it more difficult to write on one another and their clothes.
- You do not have a whole class of children clicking pens (Velcro is bad enough).
- Pen lids are not constantly lost or being swallowed.
- Pencils seem less of a problem when stuck in ears or up the nose.
- They are cheap.
- Pencils do not explode, leaving a mess all over the room and any child that happened to be in the room at the time.
- Time not wasted by trying to suck the ink up out of the pen.
Handwriting is a complicated skill to learn and having the right tools for the job always helps. It is worth spending a little time with children using a range of pencil styles and lead grades to find ones that they find comfortable to use for handwriting. These will be different from those they use for drawing. As their handwriting skills develop so the type and grade of pencil they begin to favour will change.
The correct paper position and tilt enables your child to handwrite comfortably while being able to see what they are writing. It also allows the non-writing hand to move the paper up the table so that the writing hand elbow can stay in the same position. The aim is to have the paper move up the table, rather than the writing hand moving down and eventually off the table.
As a class teacher I noticed that by the time children were about 8 or 9 years old it was very difficult to encourage them to move the paper up the table as they wrote. They would very often move their writing hand down the table, keeping the paper still, struggling to write properly as their hand hung over the edge of the table. Bad habits start early and can be difficult to change; good paper position and paper movement training at an early age can make such a difference to a child’s handwriting ability.
So why is paper position and tilt often ignored when teaching handwriting?
Maybe it is because experts disagree on what is the most appropriate paper tilt for right and left-handed writers. As there is no clear guidance people become uncomfortable about giving advice and so brush over the value of angling the paper for handwriting.
The most appropriate paper tilt angle is generally suggested as anywhere between 20 to 45 degrees anti-clockwise for right-handed writers and 30 to 45 degrees clockwise for left-handed writers.
For more tips and advice on developing a good paper tilt angle checkout this section of our website: http://bit.ly/2QSssWQ
Just to let you all know, we have taken down the old Teach Handwriting website pages that were acting as redirects to the new Teach Handwriting website that went live at the end of October 2018. This may mean that you will have to add the new pages to your favourites again, sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. The Website and all the resources that were available to you before are still the same. If you have any problems finding what you are looking for just contact us and we will be happy to help.
Pre-handwriting patterns are the first step in helping your child to learn how to form letters for handwriting. They help your child to learn the shapes and directional pushes and pulls required to form letters. All letters are a combination of these shapes and lines.
Young children can start to learn these patterns through their play, long before they are ready to pick up a pencil, moving toys back and forth across the floor or whirling them around in the air. To your child it is just play and fun, but you are doing something far more powerful and constructive by helping them to develop the motor memory patterns and directional movement skills they will need for handwriting.
Later, as their coordination and gross motor skills develop, they make more controlled and varied movement patterns in their play. Changing directions, speed and size are all prerequisite skills needed for learning pre-handwriting patterns.
These handwriting patterns do not need to be taught as worksheet activities (though they do help to perfect shape and pattern formation), drawing pictures and patterns in sand, paint and with other writing tools are all fun ways to practise.
Teaching the handwriting patterns in groups helps to further develop the specific movements (pushes and pulls) required to form them and help commit them to the motor memory. Your child can then recall these motor memories to support them as they begin to form letters.
Once the handwriting patterns have been mastered your child will have the confidence and skills base necessary to start forming letters, numbers and symbols.
Pre- handwriting Pattern Animations: http://bit.ly/1yibFhm
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 as well as 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. Getting them to do more of the paper and pencil activities is not the answer if they do not have all the appropriate key physical strengths to support their handwriting development.
Our assessment is simple to complete and does not need any specialist equipment. The important elements are; your knowledge of your own child and your observations of them at play and while they are engaged in normal day to day task.
Link to our Assessment page: bit.ly/1Aibiie
A better understanding of your 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.
Link to our Physical Games page: bit.ly/1yfbrHU
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.