Handwriting is a skill which, like reading and spelling, affects written communication across the curriculum. Given effective teaching, handwriting can be mastered by most pupils by the time they are six or seven years old. The essential qualities of good writing are fluency, neatness and speed.
Handwriting is a movement skill and so needs to be demonstrated accurately. Try writing your name and address with eyes closed, most people are able to do it quite easily, this is because the movements of your hand when writing are firmly established in your movement memory because you have made them so often. This is why children need to practice handwriting movements correctly and often. It is also important to describe the movements involved.
The first handwriting lessons are vital and the most important issue is to ensure that the children we teach learn to form the letters of the alphabet with the correct sequence of strokes from the beginning. Children who have been allowed to invent their own ways of forming letters will find it harder to change the longer they are allowed to persist, but unless these habits are ‘unlearned’ (often at great effort since the movement memory is very retentive and will tend to revert to old habits) it will be impossible for them to learn a fluent, joined hand. The correct formation of all letters needs to become quite automatic and may require a lot of practice.
In the early stages of learning to write, the process is more important than the product but every effort should be made to prevent significant faults becoming ingrained habits that will be difficult to break.
At Westmeads we have adopted the Nelson Handwriting Scheme to use to teach our children as they progress through the school.
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Time allocation: Year R, 1 and 2 10 minutes daily
Wherever possible, handwriting will be linked to Letters and Sounds and also the teaching of spelling.
Outline of the Nelson Handwriting Scheme:
Year R – Blue Level (Interactive CD Rom)
Year 1 – Red Level (Interactive CD Rom)
Year 2 – Yellow Level (Interactive CD Rom)
The following words are useful in discussion about handwriting: clockwise, anticlockwise, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, parallel, ascender, descender, consonant, vowel, joined, slope.
Throughout the school, children should be encouraged to write with a variety of tools – pens, pencils, chalk and crayons. Too thin a pencil, offered too soon, may result in a tight grip. In the early stages a soft pencil with a thick stem is most appropriate.
Techniques for teaching Letter Formation in Reception and KS1 classes:
- Demonstration and modelling using IWB and whiteboards.
- Observe individuals and correct bad habits
- Encourage children to form letters by drawing them in the air.
- Finger trace over tactile letters.
- Write over dotted or ‘shadow’ writing.
- Write in sand with finger or chalk
- Write with chalk on a chalkboard
- Write on an Interactive White Board
- Write letters boldly with a wax candle and then apply a colour wash.
- Form letters with pegs on a peg board or with beads in plasticine.
- Finger trace the outline of a letter on the back of the person in front of you.
- Draw attention to the connections between letters.
The children are awarded handwriting badges once they have ‘mastered’ a particular set of letters.