How to Teach Handwriting—and Why It Matters
Technology is an unavoidable part of everyday life, and it can be used to help students learn more effectively. However, there are some limitations to this: Handwriting instruction in elementary school should not be completely replaced with keyboarding instruction because it can be detrimental to students’ literacy acquisition. Why is it so important to have good handwriting and letter formation?
There is a correlation between letter-naming fluency and letter-writing fluency, as well as a relationship between letter-naming fluency and successful reading development, according to the findings of research. A strong connection exists between the hand and the neural circuitry of the brain; as students learn to better write the critical features of letters, they will also learn to recognise them more fluently as a result of this connection. Greater letter-writing fluency as a result of this recognition of letters leads to greater overall reading development.
According to the author Maria Konnikova, who wrote an article summarising several studies on handwriting and learning, “Not only do we learn letters better when we commit them to memory through writing, but memory and learning ability in general may benefit from this practise as well.” When students write letters by hand, they are more likely to retain the information. Making the transition from handwriting to keyboarding before students have mastered the art of letter recognition may impair their ability to recognise letters. According to another study, students who wrote by hand, rather than on a keyboard, were able to generate more ideas than those who wrote on a computer keyboard. Students who had better handwriting showed “increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks” in their brains, according to the research.
HOW TO TEACH HANDWRITING
Teaching students in grades pre-K to 2 how to print is a developmentally appropriate first step in handwriting instruction because it allows them to develop their fine motor skills. Providing handwriting instruction does not necessitate a significant time commitment: brief lessons and frequent feedback for students can be integrated into all areas of the curriculum during the course of a typical school day.
Handwriting instruction is divided into four main categories: pencil grasp, formation, legibility, and pacing (or speed).
It is important for children to understand that there are correct and incorrect pencil grasps when holding a pencil. Gripping the pencil with the index finger and thumb against the middle finger produces comfortable and efficient handwriting, whereas incorrect grasping the pencil can result in poor letter formation as well as fatigue.
Using tools to help a student with a poor pencil grasp may be beneficial, such as a pencil grip or wrapping a rubber band around the ring finger and pinkie (not too tightly! ), which will cause them to fold against the hand. Also useful is the “pinch and flip” trick, which involves the student placing the pencil with its writing end facing her, pinching the pencil between her thumb and index finger, and flipping it into its proper position.
This term refers to the method by which a student goes about forming his or her letters. Because straight lines are easier for students to write than curved lines, it is developmentally appropriate to begin teaching students to write capital letters before moving on to lowercase letters in the early grades of kindergarten.
In order to be effective, handwriting and phonics instruction must be integrated: as students learn how to write the letters, they should also be learning and practising the different sounds that the letters make. Practicing the formation of the letters while connecting them to sounds is the cornerstone of any multisensory phonics instruction programme, as it forces students to consistently practise forming the letters while connecting them to sounds helps to better embed phonics concepts in the brain.
Explicit instruction is especially important for students who have difficulty with letter formation in general. Starting letters at the top (or in the middle, as is the case with some lowercase letters) and using continuous strokes as much as possible should be emphasised to students. Some letters will necessitate them lifting their pencils, and they should be instructed on when this is necessary. Students benefit from using lined paper and a variety of visual aids, such as arrow cues for stroke direction and starting points, dots for starting points, dotted letters for tracing, and so on. Using their index finger to trace letters in the air while holding their arm straight out, students can also benefit from the practise of “skywriting” letters.
Younger students frequently confuse the letters b, d, p, and q with one another. Educating students on the proper formation of these letters can help to reduce confusion because they begin at different points—for example, b begins at the top of the alphabet, whereas d begins in the middle. Incorporating these letters’ motor patterns into one’s subconscious can assist in making their recognition more automatic.
Legibility: The amount of space between words has a significant impact on legibility. Using a finger space between words can be beneficial for students who write with their right hand; right-handed students can place their index finger on the line after one word before writing the next one. Left-handed students, on the other hand, will benefit from the use of a narrow tongue depressor as a spacing tool instead of this method of spacing.
The use of an appropriate pencil grasp and the formation of correct letters will often resolve any pacing issues that students may be experiencing in class. Pressing the pencil down on the paper too hard while writing is another factor to consider when determining pacing. Doing so can result in writing fatigue and a significantly reduced rate of letter production. The opposite can be true if they press too lightly, which may indicate weak muscles or an inappropriate pencil grasp. Encourage students to write with a variety of materials (markers, short pencils, crayons, erasable markers on whiteboards) to help them learn how to adjust the amount of pressure they apply to the paper or board.
With so many instructional priorities competing for students’ attention during the school day, it is easy to let handwriting fall by the wayside. Students’ letter formation skills can be improved in as little as a few minutes per day, resulting in positive outcomes for their overall literacy development.