Top Ten Tips for Teaching Handwriting

To Ten Tips for Teaching Handwriting

  1. Readiness – A child needs to have well developed listening and attention skills, as well as gross and fine motor skills before they can successfully learn to write letters and numbers. It is worth considering waiting until term 2 of the child’s first year in school to start formal handwriting instruction if the children need to work on these skills first.
  2. Warm-ups – The handwriting lesson should start with some warm up activities to further develop motor skills and to prepare the children for writing practice. Try searching for handwriting warm up exercise on YouTube for ideas. Brendan Culligan’s Spelling and Handwriting book has a wonderful section on developing fine motor skills and handwriting warm ups.
  3. The 3ps – Posture, paper position and pencil grip. These are key elements of success in writing. Recap on them and ensure they are correct every time the child is writing so that they develop good habits. If the child has poor pencil grip, try a pencil grip which is designed to correct this. You can find a wide variety on https://www.sensationalkids.ie/?s=grips
  4. Demonstration – Demonstrating correct letter formation is a key part of the handwriting lesson that is often not given enough time. The correct formation needs to be demonstrated multiple-times by the teacher and the child allowed to imitate this. In my own class, I ask the children to air trace the letter a number of times as I demonstrate it.
  5. Multi-sensory – Letter formation should involve plenty of multi-sensory activities. Children can practice forming the letter with their finger in rice, sand or shaving foam. Handwriting Without Tears also uses the fantastic wet-dry-try method.
  6. Bad habits – Don’t let a child practice incorrect formation and intervene early if a child is using incorrect pencil grip as these are difficult to correct later after they have become habits. If a child is forming a letter incorrectly, they need more demonstration and multi-sensory practice of writing it correctly.
  7. Regular practice – Teaching handwriting daily for 10 -15 minutes is much more beneficial, than 30 minutes twice per week. The children need daily practice to build up their muscle strength and stamina for handwriting.
  8. Small pencils and crayons – these are essential as they require a tripod grip to use and are easier for the child to control. Chunky and long pencils and writing tools are too heavy for small hands and encourage the use of a palmer grip.
  9. Short lessons – Handwriting is very tiring for beginners. Children will easily get frustrated with a page of tracing the same letter over and over. They may get tired and give up or rush to get it over with. If a child is swapping the hand they are using to write with, it is usually because they are tired. Initially, until muscle strength is developed, they should only be asked to practice writing the letter 3 or 4 times during a lesson. This will also allow a child to experience success in writing.
  10. Difficulties – If a child’s difficulties persist, try the wonderful Handwriting Without Tears approach and consider a referral to an occupational therapist. A child with severe difficulties may need to learn typing instead of writing.

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