Many parents and teachers struggle to help their children improve handwriting. In many ways, the way a child writes speaks volume about their level of patience, readiness and steadiness to work.
Read and apply these strategies. Staying consistent with them is key to progress. Being easily frustrated about them reduces child’s confidence and may lead to loss of interest to applying effort. Effort is usually all that counts.
1. Letter size differentiation
Teach that tall letters are “tall” and reach the top line (e.g. b, d, f, h, k), small letters are “small” and are printed in the middle of the line (e.g. a, c, e) and descending letters drop below the bottom line (e.g. p, g). To help cue students into the correct formation of the letters, have them practice writing letters on highlighted paper and/or using the highlighted paper or writing assignments can be beneficial.
2. Case Consistently
Students who are not correctly using capitals or lowercase letters need direct instruction and practice. A reminder strip with simply upper- and lowercase letters on the desk may help.
3. Spacing between words
– The student is told that the spaces between words must be wide enough to fit a small sticker. Small smiley face stickers work best. You can have them use their little finger on the non-writing hand to space.
– A visual reminder is placed on the student’s desk during the writing process which shows a small sticker placed between the words. You can create an alternative to the small sticker. It could be a cut up straws the size of Ribena straws.
– After the student finishes his/her writing, the paper is given to the teacher and a small sticker is placed between words where the sticker will fit. If the space between the words is too small, a sticker or straw is not put in that area.
Students who are not forming letters correctly will need re-teaching of the correct stroke sequence.
Using multi-sensory strategies such as writing letters in sand or shaving cream will help. Writing letters in the air prior to writing on the paper is a great strategy because it involves whole body movements (this is known as “air writing”). For a more structured program, the Handwriting Without Tears is a program that is highly respected and has proven effective in improving handwriting.
In general, students need practice in writing the letters correctly. This will involve direct supervision when practicing writing as we do not want them practicing incorrect strokes (remember: only perfect practice makes perfect). It will take repeated practice writing letters correctly to reverse an old habit.
5. Letter Reversals
For students who reverse multiple letters (b/d, m/w, p/q), address one discrimination at at time. Over-teach one of the letters before introducing the other. For example, if you are addressing the b/d reversal, over-teach writing of the “b” before introducing the “d”.
Use multi-sensory materials while teaching the letter(s). Making and tracing the letters using playdoh, soft sticks, shaving cream, yarn, or glitter glue will help.
Be sure the child says the letter name and sound while tracing the letter (“b” says /b/ while tracing the letter-repeat multiple times).
Use visual cues to cue correct letter formation. A common visual cue is to teach the “b” as a “bat with a ball” to cue that the stick is formed first while writing the letter. The “d” is cued as a “drum and a drum stick”. Placing a visual cue on the student’s desk or in front of the classroom also helps.
Try these tips. Let us know about the others you try too. Please share your tips.