A look at the literature about handwriting instruction models and the characteristics of effective handwriting programs. Last we look at how to incorporate some of the research into teaching handwriting in the classroom.
Handwriting Instruction Methods
This is the second of a two-part series about handwriting. In the first part of the series, handwriting readiness and when to teach handwriting were covered (see below). Here we discuss how to teach handwriting and handwriting instruction methods.
Learning to recognize and form letters is a fundamental part of writing. While there are many ways to teach handwriting, not all teachers would agree about using one handwriting instructional program over another. The controversy remains, slanted or traditional, in other words, D'Nealian versus Zaner-Bloser?
Again, there is much research on how to teach handwriting. The purpose here is not to provide a preferred choice, but to discover what the literature says about which handwriting instruction method is best. Here is what we know (reference below):
- Vertical (traditional) handwriting is easier to learn. It seems more natural as students learn to draw straight horizontal and vertical lines and circles before slanted lines.
- Vertical handwriting is easier to read. Environmental print, reading books and computer writing are all in vertical print.
- There is no research to support that slanted printing fosters easier learning of cursive writing.
The research does indicate that effective handwriting programs have certain characteristics:
- There is opportunity for students to verbalize the rules of letter formation
- There is opportunity for students to evaluate their own success
- Visual and verbal feedback is provided from the teacher through explanation and demonstration and rewriting.
- Copying provides better results than tracing
How to Teach Handwriting
Regardless of the handwriting curriculum used, the teacher can follow the characteristics listed above while teaching handwriting. First, it is important to teach and model proper pencil grip. Have students practice and walk around the classroom to help each child who needs assistance. I teach handwriting as a whole group instruction at the blackboard. In the beginning of the Kindergarten school year, lined paper is not introduced. The students are merely practicing formation of letters at this time. So, standing at the blackboard the teacher names the letter, the students find it on their name tags and say it aloud. The teacher models the proper formation of the letter and has the students repeat aloud how the letter was formed. Next, the students copy the letter onto their unlined paper. The teacher walks around the classroom to give visual and verbal feedback. This works well when the teacher assistant is available to assist. Some students progress well with hand over hand assistance. This is, making sure the student has the proper pencil grip and the teacher assists with her hand over the student's hand while she repeats the rule of the letter formation. Praise student efforts.
In addition to learning proper handwriting, the students should be given plenty of opportunity to write throughout the day without formal handwriting instruction. They should have a separate writing time where they write about meaningful life experiences, time to write at centers, and across the curriculum. Also, read more about how a teacher can send home information for parents to assist early writers at home.
ERIC Development Team (1997). Six Questions Educators Should Ask before Choosing a Handwriting Program. ERIC Digest. ED409589.
Koenke, K. (1986). Handwriting Instruction: What Do We Know? Eric Digest: ERIC Information Analysis. 1-3.
Read more information about sharing the pen and with interactive writing to construct text with young writers.