Using Letter Families to Teach Letter Formation

Letter Family 1

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:

To Trace or Not to Trace, that is the Question?


Trace 1Tracing has been an activity frequently presented to encourage young children to learn how to form letter shapes, especially in early years teaching.

However, current research suggests that encouraging young children to free write is a more powerful way of engaging the brain to learn how to form letters when compared to tracing them.

Learning to handwrite requires a child to remember which shape they want to make (visual memory) and how to make it (motor memory).

Here at Teach Handwriting we feel that traditional pencil tracing activities are not a particularly effective way to teach children pre-handwriting patterns and letter formations. This is because children are often so focused on controlling the writing tool around the shape that they do not fully engage their motor memory storage and visual memory skills.

We believe that finger tracing a pre-handwriting pattern or letter shape is more effective than pencil tracing. The greater resistance provided by finger tracing stimulates a child’s nervous system, instantly making them aware of their actions and helping them to focus on the movement by engaging both the motor memory and visual memory. This information is initially stored in their short-term memory but, with continued practise, moves to their long-term memory. Having to think less about how to form the shape, because they can subconsciously recall how to make it, allows a child to then concentrate on controlling the pencil.