Expert teacher tips for teaching handwriting in the primary grades

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Teaching young students how lớn write by hand before moving on khổng lồ keyboardingcan help improve their reading fluency as well.

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Technology is an undeniable fact of everyday life & can support students’ learning. But there are limits khổng lồ that: Completely replacing handwriting instruction with keyboarding instruction in elementary school can be detrimental khổng lồ students’ literacy acquisition. Why are handwriting & letter formation so important?


Research has demonstrated a correlation between letter-naming và letter-writing fluency, and a relationship between letter-naming fluency và successful reading development. There’s a strong connection between the hand & the neural circuitry of the brain—as students learn lớn better write the critical features of letters, they also learn lớn recognize them more fluently. This recognition of letters leads to greater letter-writing fluency, which leads to greater overall reading development.


In an article summarizing several studies on handwriting & learning, the writer Maria Konnikova notes, “Not only vì chưng we learn letters better when we commit them to lớn memory through writing, memory & learning ability in general may benefit.” When students write letters manually, they learn them more effectively. Switching to lớn keyboarding before students have developed handwriting skills may reduce their ability to recognize letters. Konnikova also cites a study that found that students who wrote by hand—as opposed to lớn on a keyboard—were able to lớn generate more ideas. Students with better handwriting demonstrated “increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks” of the brain.


Learning how lớn print is a developmentally appropriate first step of handwriting instruction for students in grades pre-K to 2, in terms of their fine motor skills. Handwriting instruction does not require a big time investment: Brief lessons & frequent feedback for students can be incorporated in all areas of the curriculum throughout the school day.


There are four main aspects of handwriting instruction: pencil grasp, formation, legibility, và pacing.


Pencil grasp: When it comes khổng lồ how a child holds a pencil, there are correct và incorrect grasps. The correct grasps—in which the index finger & thumb hold the pencil against the middle finger—result in comfortable and efficient handwriting, while incorrect grasps can cause poor letter formation & fatigue.


A student with a poor pencil grasp may benefit from using tools such as a pencil grip or from wrapping a rubber band around the ring finger và pinkie—not too tightly!—to fold them against the hand. You can also teach the “pinch và flip” trick: The student places the pencil with the writing kết thúc facing her, pinches the pencil between the thumb and index finger, & flips the pencil into the correct position.

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Formation: This refers lớn how a student goes about forming letters. Straight lines are easier for students lớn write than curved ones, so it’s developmentally appropriate lớn teach students to lớn write capital letters before moving on lớn lowercase ones.


It’s critical that handwriting instruction be integrated with phonics instruction: As students learn how to write the letters, they should also be learning & practicing the sounds that the letters make. Handwriting và dictation activities are the cornerstone of any multisensory phonics instruction program, as requiring students lớn consistently practice forming the letters while connecting them to sounds will serve lớn better embed phonics concepts in the brain.


For students who struggle with letter formation, explicit instruction is particularly important. Students should be taught to lớn start their letters at the đứng top (or middle, as is the case with some lowercase letters), and use continuous strokes as much as possible. Some letters will require them lớn lift up their pencils, and they should be taught when to bởi this. Using lined paper is helpful, as is giving students a variety of visual aids: arrow cues for stroke direction, dots for starting points, dotted letters for tracing, etc. Students also benefit from “skywriting” letters—tracing letters in the air with an index finger while holding their arm straight out.


The letters b, d, p, & q are often confused by younger students. Teaching the correct formation of these letters can help diminish the confusion, as they have different starting points—b, for instance, starts from the top, whereas d starts in the middle. Internalizing the motor patterns for these letters can help make recognition more automatic.


Legibility: An important factor impacting legibility is spacing between words. It’s helpful to lớn encourage students khổng lồ use a “finger space” between words—right-handed students can put an index finger on the line after one word before writing the next one. This technique doesn’t work for left-handed students, who will benefit from using a narrow tongue depressor as a spacing tool.


Pacing: If students are using an appropriate pencil grasp và forming letters correctly, that will often solve any pacing challenges. Another factor to consider when looking at pacing is the press: Students should not be pressing the pencil down on the paper too hard as they write because doing so can lead lớn writing fatigue and a greatly reduced rate of letter production. But if they press too lightly, it can be a sign of weak muscles or inappropriate pencil grasp. Encourage students khổng lồ write with a variety of materials (markers, short pencils, crayons, erasable markers on whiteboards) to help them adjust how hard they press.


School days are packed with instructional priorities, and it can be easy khổng lồ let handwriting fall by the wayside. However, with just a few minutes a day, students’ letter formation skills can improve, leading to positive outcomes for overall literacy development.


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