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.
Well the festive holidays are over and we are back at work and school. So it is time to get back into good habits for the New Year!
So, before you try to encourage your little darlings to sit and write, get them to do a few physical handwriting ‘Warm Up Exercises’. Not only do they help to prepare the hands and fingers for the task ahead, they also help to release any tension that has built up. They are fun to do, which usually brings a smile and often laughter, an added tonic to any learning experience.
The warm up exercises can be accessed through a number of ways:
- Teachers through the content section for the Key Stage you are teaching by clicking on the Handwriting warm up activities button.
- Parents through the “Getting the Most from Our Website” section by clicking on the picture under the Taking the tension out of handwriting title.
- Resources in the “How to Teach Handwriting” section by clicking on the Handwriting warm up activities button.
- Follow this link: https://www.teachhandwriting.co.uk/handwriting-warm-up-exercises.html
Drawing pictures is a great way to help your child develop their pre-handwriting strokes and shape forming skills. It is amazing how using simple shapes can help you and your child create fantastic Christmas cards, pictures or gift tags.
We have put together some quick step by step Christmas drawing ideas for you to try using basic shapes such as circles, rectangles and triangles.
We hope you find them useful: http://bit.ly/2LktVRZ
Hand and finger printing can be a fun way of getting your child used to touching and using different textured mediums. The creative element can help some children to cope with, and learn to overcome, some sensory tactile defence difficulties. Being happy holding objects allows them to hold a pencil comfortably, leading to better handwriting.
Handwriting requires a child to apply the right amount of pressure to get the pencil marks of the letters on to the page. Too little pressure and the writing is often faint and wriggly in appearance (like a spider has walked across the page). Too heavy and the marks are very dark and can tear the paper; often the writing looks big, angular and laboured. Not being able to apply the correct pressure also affects how a child holds the pencil, which can cause the hand and fingers to tire more quickly, making writing tasks challenging.
Printing activities help your child to start to become aware of how to control the amount of pressure they use and the effect that this has on the quality of the work produced. Learning to control the amount of pressure exerted and how it feels can be very difficult for some children and it takes time and a range of experiences to develop these skills.
There are some fabulous printing ideas out on the internet; one of my favourite art resources is The Usborne Art Idea Books. Hand and finger printing can create some amazing artwork which can be used to make wonderful personalised Christmas cards, tags and paper.
Who could not be charmed by these fun thumb and fingertip snowmen or robins or delighted by a hand print angel?
For other useful tips on printing and setting up a printing work station (http://bit.ly/35Z7pWQ ), check out our ‘More fun handwriting activities’ in our Resources section: http://bit.ly/2kyeo3w
Handwriting skills don’t start with pencil and paper they begin with earlier play opportunities. Using play-dough type modelling materials is great for developing hand and finger strength, bilateral coordination, sensory perception and for learning and perfecting different grips for using tools.
So, why not make some great salt dough Christmas gifts and tree decorations with your child. Not only will they melt the hearts of those who receive them but you will be developing your child’s fine motor skills (needed for good handwriting) while having fun, can’t be bad!
Go to our ‘More fun handwriting activities’ page (http://bit.ly/2kyeo3w ) in our Resources section for a salt dough recipe, that I have found good to use with children, and just download the ‘Salt Dough Modelling’ pdf (http://bit.ly/2Y9pVcn ).
At Teach Handwriting our aim is to move children off of worksheets as soon as possible. To achieve this, it is important to encourage them to transfer their skills to plain or lined paper whichever is most appropriate to their ability level. We realise that it is not always possible to buy paper with the appropriate line height in all cases, so would recommend creating your own on the computer.
- Use a combination of worksheets and lined paper in each handwriting session with your child:
- Use the colour worksheet, or a grey scale version, and complete one or two rows.
- Then encourage the child to try the same patterns or letters on appropriately lined paper, again try one or two rows only.
Hopefully the worksheet will last over a couple of handwriting sessions and you and the child will see an improvement over the time. The sooner they learn to transfer their skills to paper the better.
We realise that printing off our worksheets and coloured lined paper can become costly so, to help reduce the costs:
- Use a colour version of the appropriate worksheet initially and then try printing in grey scale. Children usually make the adjustment to grey scale well once they are used to how the picture clues and colours work.
- You could also use the grey scale worksheets and colour the start of each row with the appropriate colour.
Just as the writing tool used by your child changes as they develop, so does the paper they write on.
Informal Pre-handwriting Pattern and Initial Letter Development
If your child is just starting out on the handwriting adventure then any type of plain paper (no ruled lines) is considered the best option, as many children find it less restrictive.
Young children, due to the stage of their physical development, use large movements to draw (from the shoulder rather than the wrist) which often creates larger shapes and lines; you don’t want to restrict this movement as it can cause handwriting difficulties later. As their gross and fine motor skills develop so does their pencil grip and ability to draw and write at a smaller scale, moving more from the shoulder to elbow and wrist.
Formal Pre-handwriting Pattern and Letter Development
When your child is ready to refine their pre-handwriting pattern skills, or move on to forming letters, it is a good idea to use plain paper. The aim at this stage is to learn how to form the letters correctly, not size or neatness as that comes later.
Before moving to lined paper, to help your child begin to appreciate letter proportions and positioning, paper with picture clues can be used.
On our website the free writing paper and animations reinforce the idea of letter proportions and positioning by splitting the backgrounds into three colour zones to represent the sky, grass and earth. There are a number of reasons why this can be beneficial:
- It can create a sub-conscious memory in your child’s mind of where particular letters sit in relation to others without the constraints of lines or obvious boundaries, especially as the picture can be any size. Children remember where to place the sun, grass or worms in their drawings; so why not letters?
- It can be easier to talk through the formation of how a shape or letter is formed with pictorial and colour clues to guide and inform the direction of the movements required.
- As your child’s fine motor skills develop so the size of the picture/colour clues can be reduced to match their progress.
As your child’s fine motor skills develop it enables them to form smaller more refined versions of the letters and this is when it is more appropriate to use lined paper.
To download different line heights of our picture and coloured coded paper, scroll to the bottom of our ‘Handwriting Animations and Worksheets Page’: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI
Learning to handwrite does not start with pen and paper but through play, as children explore shape and motion (how the body moves) through their senses – touch, sight and body awareness. Play is such an important element of your child’s physical, emotional, social and academic development.
It is through play that you can really engage your child in learning how to correctly form pre-handwriting patterns and letters (the start points, orientation, directional movements and finish points).
Our non-pencil – ‘Big to Small’ activities are an easy fun way to start developing these skills early on through play: http://bit.ly/2AaX8sk
Young children love seeing their name so it is a great way to introduce letter formation; here are some other fun ideas:
- This activity can be done indoors on large sheets of paper or using chalk on a path or patio (the beach is also a great place to do this). Write your child’s name very big and make a mark on each letter that represents a start point (an arrow showing the direction of travel can also help). Remember to use a capital letter for the first letter of their name and we would suggest lower case letters for the remaining letters. Use the letters as a track for racing cars or toys. If you make the letters big enough your child could walk, hop, jump or skip around the letters. To help them remember the letters, once they have finished a letter, encourage them to say that letter‘s alphabet name (NOT a sound the letter can make).
- Collect stones, twigs, leaves, etc… Use them to make the letters of your child’s name. They may only make one or two of the letters, before making a hedgehog house, nest or den for their toys becomes more interesting, but this does not matter, it is all part of the adventure.
- Feely bag games are a fun way to explore shape and form. Try placing the letters of your child’s name into a bag or box they cannot see into. It is useful to talk through the letter shapes beforehand so they can see them as they move them about in their hands; then place them in the bag. Ask them to put their hands in (both hands if possible, but if not, then use the dominant hand) the bag, picks up a letter, feels it, identifies it and pulls it out to check only AFTER identifying it. If correct, they get to “keep” it, if wrong, you get to “keep” it. The winner is the one with the most letters at the end. For some children it can help to have another set of the letters outside the bag to help them identify the shape they are handling in the bag. Again encourage them to use the alphabet name of the letter.
- Play-dough, clay and Plasticine activities are great for developing hand strength for handwriting and learning how to form letter shapes.
Your child will love these sort of activities as they see it as just playing and they get your undivided attention. You will enjoy it as you are sharing quality time with your child helping them to develop more than just their letter formation ability but also their communication and social skills.
Learning through play is a powerful way of supporting your child’s development. So have fun and play!
Here at Teach Handwriting 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.
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.
We 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
Last week we explained that pre-handwriting patterns are the first stage of learning to handwrite. Once a child has mastered theses, they are ready to start learning how to form letters.
But where do you start?
Our view is to focus on lower-case letters first and only the capital letters for the first letter in a child’s, examples: Peter Rabbit, Sally Green, George Blue or Mary Shell.
- One reason is that about 95% of what children write, and are exposed to, is in a lower-case form and only 5% in capital.
- Lower-case letters are far less complicated, requiring fewer pencil lifts to complete the letters.
- As both lower-case and capital letters require a child to form curved lines, a skill which most children have to practise, writing lower-case letters is no more difficult than writing capitals.
- In a young child’s writing all the letters are initially the same size, whether they are capitals or lower case; it is part of the normal developmental path of handwriting. So, the view that teaching capitals letters is easier because they are bigger is not true.
- Young children who have learnt mostly capital letters first find it difficult to stop, as it is so ingrained into the memory, often using them half way through words and sentences. Even when they are older this inappropriate use of capitals creeps back into their work especially if they are tired or concentrating hard on composing their work.
A child’s first major achievement, in their eyes, is to write their name. So, although concentrating on lower-case letters, teach them how to form the capital letter for the first letters of their name to get them excited about handwriting.
As they master the lower-case letters introduce the remainder of the capital letters. It is important that both are taught so that a child can develop a speedy, fluid and legible handwriting style.
Free Letter Formation Animations & Worksheets: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI