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Learning to Handwrite

”There is a growing field of research that supports the French belief that handwriting is an important skill—not just for its own sake, but because it correlates with other important skills and brain functions, such as language learning, reading development, and working memory” 
(Susan Vachon. Education Week.12/3/14)

DfE 2021: By the end of Reception Year, ”children at the expected level of development will: – Hold a pencil effectively in preparation for fluent writing – using the tripod grip in almost all cases”

DfE 2021: ”At first, children should not be taught to join letters or to start every letter ‘on the line’ with a ‘lead-in’, because these practices cause unnecessary difficulty for beginners. Children may be taught to join the letters in digraphs, but this is optional. (All resources designed for children to read should be in print)”

Handwriting in the National Curriculum:

Year 1
-Sit correctly at the table, holding a pencil comfortably and correctly.
– Begin to form lower case letters in the correct direction, starting and finishing in the right place.
– Form capital letters.
– Form the digits 0 to 9.
– Understand which letters belong to which handwriting ‘family’ (a group of letters that are formed in the same way).
Year 2
– Form lower case letters of the correct size, relative to one another.
– Start using some of the diagonal and horizontal strokes needed to join letters, and understand which letters are best left unjoined.
– Write capital letters and digits of the correct size, orientation and relationship to one another.
– Use spacing between words that is appropriate for the size of the letters.
Years 3 – 4
– Continue to develop their joined up handwriting.
– Increase the legibility, consistency and quality of their handwriting – for example, ensuring that downstrokes of letters are straight and parallel, not sloping.
Years 5 – 6
– Write with increasing legibility, fluency and speed.
– Choose which shape of a letter to use, and decide whether or not to join specific letters.
– Choose the writing implement that is best suited for a task.

Encourage your child to hold their pencil correctly right from the beginning; remind them of the tripod pencil hold: ‘froggy legs with pencil resting on the log’. Left-handers need to be shown how to angle the paper and write the letters with their hand below the line rather than by hooking their hand over the top of the line. With initial guidance, left-handed children can be taught to handwrite just as legibly as right-handed ones.

Late b/d reversal is linked to poor handwriting instruction. Students with this difficulty habitually start writing both letters at the same point on the line, resulting in a failure to distinguish between them. (Tricia Millar). One way to remediate b / d confusion is to show the child how to use their own mouth shape as a cue: ”Make your mouth the shape to say a letter /b/, your lips make a straight line, so you write the letter that starts with a straight line – the b. When you start to say /d/ your lips and tongue make a circle (ish) so that’s the letter that starts with a circle”.

”Children learn letters by writing them, not from looking at them or from letter tiles. They say the sound the letter(s) stands for as they write it (not the letter name)” 
(D. McGuinness 2002 RRF newsletter 49)

On the subject of classroom teaching of handwriting, synthetic phonics trainer Debbie Hepplewhite points out the big difference, ”…between learning to write with a mini whiteboard sitting cross-legged on the floor with a marker pen – and learning to write with paper and pencil, learning correct pencil hold and sitting comfortably at a correct-sized desk” (D. Hepplewhite. ABC Does Blog). She adds, ”It is handwriting that adds to the ‘multi-sensory’ set of activities for core phonics learning. We have virtually a nation of children learning to write with marker pens sitting scrunched up on the floor. I ask teachers wherever I speak or train to conduct observations around their schools when children are writing to see just how they write (physically). What is their posture, how do they hold their implements, do they write ‘under’ the words or ‘above’ (hooking their wrists around -writing ‘upside down’ in effect), where is their ‘spare hand’, how well do they form their letters on writing lines?? Further, how do the staff handwrite in front of the children, when modelling any writing, when marking the children’s work?” (D. Hepplewhite. RRF message board)

Debbie Hepplewhite: Teaching Handwriting in Primary.

Cursive Handwriting and Other Education Myths

Learning to read/recognize letters via handwriting vs via keyboard / tablet

Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard:

Hands help us to see!

Want to improve children’s writing? Don’t neglect their handwriting.

Writing by hand helps with reading, spelling and possibly language development.

“Reading and writing share the same network in terms of brain development, and this research actually adds more information by saying that handwriting by paper and pen has major advantages.”

Handwriting at secondary school: ”It turns out that handwriting casts a halo effect. We tend to assume that people with well-formed, easily legible handwriting are also cleverer. Although handwriting never features in GCSE or A level exam rubrics, the effects of handwriting bias are well established”