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Teaching Handwriting: An Important Skill to Master

With the integration of technology into the classroom and limited instructional time, teachers spend less and less time on the teaching of penmanship.  In fact, many schools have stopped teaching script all together.  Instead, the instruction and practice time that was once used to refine printing and cursive skills has been reallocated to other tasks such as keyboarding.

What Are the Long Term Effects of Limited Instruction on Penmanship?
Because young learners are spending less time on penmanship, many students do not fully develop this skill, and their fine motor abilities suffer.  Therefore, when they write, they have to think about letter and word formation, leaving little to no room for listening, the formation of ideas or sentence structure.   In addition, we are seeing a number of adverse effects across areas of academics:

  1. Because student handwriting skills are not fully developed to a degree of automaticity, many students still need to concentrate on penmanship.  As a result, they have less cognitive space to devote to the complicated tasks of listening, writing and solving mathematical computations.  
  2. Note-taking skills suffer as students are concentrating on the act of writing instead of the academic content that the teacher is instructing.
  3. Poor penmanship can result in illegible notes and students can lose points on assignments that are difficult to decipher.
  4. Many students are less motivated to write because the process is labor intensive and tiring for the hand. 
  5. When students have poor penmanship, they are often shy about others seeing their work.
  6. Practicing penmanship also helps to develop fine motor dexterity, and strengthen the muscles of the hand. 
Areas to Focus on When Teaching Handwriting?
  1. Formation of letters: Teaching the proper formation of the letters is key to neat handwriting.
  2. Legibility of Penmanship: Helping students to learn the proper sizing and placement of letters and words is important too.  You might like to check out one of my products: Color Coded Handwriting 
  3. Speed of Penmanship:  Practicing penmanship also helps to increase a student’s ability to form letters quickly.  This can be key to developing comprehensive note-taking skills.

What Can We Do To Make the Process Fun?

  1. Consider the expression: “It’s all in the presentation.”  Be sure to make your activities sound fun.  For example, instead of calling an activity “learning script” or “learning cursive,” consider using a fun, exciting name such as “learning roller-coaster letters.”
  2. Strengthen fine motor dexterity by integrating fun activities such as mazes and coloring into a daily routine.
  3. Get tracing paper and let your students trace images and words.  Also, using carbon paper between an image and a blank piece of paper will allow kids to trace over images and reproduce them on the blank piece of paper.  These activities will also help to develop fine motor skills.
  4. Have fun making a collage of letters.  For instance, when teaching the letter “b,” cut out this letter from magazines and paste them onto a piece of card stock.
  5. Allow students to form letters and words out of fun tactile materials such as sand, marbles, shaving cream, clay and more.
  6. Consider reading my blog post: 5 Strategies that Make Learning the Alphabet a Lot of Fun.
I hope you found this helpful!  I’d love to hear your comments.

Color-Coded Writing: A Scaffolding Approach for Word Formation

Many young learners struggle with the sizing and formation of letters.   In addition, writing across the paper in a straight line can be challenging.   For these students, I like to offer a color-coded scaffolding approach that provides support and also brings the fun factor into the learning process.  I call it, Color-coded Handwriting and it helps my students master this difficult, fine motor task. 


What’s the Process:

  1. I offer my students color-coded paper as well as color-coded letters.  
  2. I tell my students that all the letters have to match up with the colors.  
  3. I share with my students that the colors represent, “the sky – blue, the grass – green, and the ground – orange.”  Letters that are green, such as the lowercase letter “o” are called grass letters, tall letters such as “t” are grass and sky letters, and letters such as the letter “g” are grass and ground letters.  All letters rest on the line below the grass. 
You Can Make This Yourself, or Purchase it Ready Made:
You can make the paper and letters with hand writing paper and highlighters, but if you would prefer to have the paper and letters already made for you, you can purchase my publication, Color Coded Handwriting for only $4.99. This downloadable, printable PDF comes with color-coded upper and lower case letters, as well as a variety of lined, color-coded templates in small, medium and large.  Furthermore it offers a two column option that is ideal for spelling words.  Finally, this product suggests a fun game-like activity.  
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com, www.learningtolearn.biz  

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