We have agonized over handwriting in our house. We have two seemingly conflicting viewpoints: First, we don’t consider handwriting “busy work.” Rather, we think handwriting should be incorporated into the other subject areas your children are learning, such as Bible, history, science and literature. On the other hand, as we’ve been evaluating numerous handwriting products on the market, we have noticed a similar theme… children need lots of practice to become efficient at handwriting! Sometimes, children respond well to brightly colored workbooks (at least, ours did!).
On that basis, we’d like to give you some options.If you would prefer not to purchase a separate handwriting product, use the following pointers to design your own program:
For kindergarten, we’ve found that it’s effective to teach just the capital letters, in the same order you introduce them as you teach your child to read. Have your child copy several letters you’ve written, then write several more on his own. Have him circle the very best letter. Use plain paper, with no lines, or at the most, provide simply a baseline for your child. Make a dot on the paper that will become the letter’s starting point. Emphasize that your child must always form the letters in the same way, each and every time. Keep the letters large, in keeping with small fingers and growing motor skills. You may even choose to skip the paper and use a marker and a white board, or a cookie sheet filled with cornmeal or sand.
For first grade, you’ll want to teach both capital letters and lower-case letters, using lines now. You can purchase inexpensive handwriting paper at most discount stores or teacher supply shops. An online source is http://www.rainbowresource.com. Be sure to buy a style of paper that allows your child to write the letters BIG. As your child reviews how to write each letter, begin requiring him to also write words. You may wish to first write a sample of the word for your child to trace, then ask him to copy it. By the end of the year, your child should be able to write his spelling words or short sentences.
For second grade, review all the letters (capitals and lower-case), with standard handwriting paper, paying particular attention to any letters that need extra work. Have your child write weekly spelling words, Bible verses (or portions thereof), and copy sentences from books (history, science, etc.). In addition, you should begin to dictate sentences to your child. To dictate, first choose a short sentence from one of his other books. Read the sentence aloud to your child, then see how much he can remember and recite back to you. Remind him that the first letter of sentences will always be capitalized, discuss any punctuation, etc. Now your child will write the sentence on handwriting paper. When he is done, spend time with your child comparing the sentence to the original. You may want to repeat the same sentence several days in a row.
For third grade, if your child’s motor skills seem ready, you should now begin transitioning to cursive. Ruth Beechick recommends teaching each letter with a certain rhythm. For instance, since a lower-case cursive s has three strokes, have the child count “1-2-3” as he learns to write the letter. Teach one letter at a time, but have the child begin to use the letters previously learned in actual words as soon as possible. Handwriting for this year can include spelling words, copying sentences, paragraphs and poetry (from all subject areas), as well as longer passages of dictation. Use slightly smaller handwriting paper than the previous years, as you begin to think ahead to the transition to wide-lined notebook paper.
For fourth grade, transition to wide-lined notebook paper and possibly, begin using a pen instead of a pencil. Continue all the techniques listed for third grade.
As children get older, many enjoy learning other forms of handwriting, such as calligraphy. Don’t forget to teach typing and computer skills as well!
If you would prefer to purchase a ready-made handwriting curriculum, we highly recommend the following:
- Bob Jones University Press, http://www.bjup.com
- Italic Handwriting Series, by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay, Continuing Education Press, http://www.cep.pdx.edu/titles/italic_series/faq.htm
- Handwriting Without Tears, http://www.hwtears.com/
Finally, please consider the possibility of teaching cursive handwriting first. For an explanation of the reasoning behind this method, please visit http://www.swrtraining.com/id29.html. (For this method, we recommend Cursive First or ABeka Handwriting.)