Why Teach Handwriting to Young Children
Research shows that teaching handwriting while learning to read is essential because handwriting is language by hand. Keep in mind, there is a difference between handwriting and penmanship. Young children should learn to form letters using direct, systematic, and explicit instructions. However, they are not expected to write letters perfectly.
Begin with Large Gross Motor Activities
When a child is first learning how to write letters, it is essential to use large muscles to teach how letters are formed. When students learn how to write the letters using large motor motions, they can more easily visualize each stroke and how they fit together to form the whole.
Large motor motions:
- help to develop reading and handwriting skills
- ensure the development of the motor-sensory areas of the brain for letter recognition
- develop the muscle memory needed for handwriting
- allow time for developing fine-motor skills while learning letter formation
Students can practice forming phonograms with large motor movements as long as needed and may use letter tiles for spelling analysis until they are ready to use a pencil.
Build Fine Motor Writing Skills
As children are working on letter formation using large motor muscles, they can build fine motor movements. Small motor motions originate at the elbow. They are more abstract and less easy to visualize, so building fine motor skills may be necessary.
Develop the student's fine motor skills by using:
- different mediums: markers, chalk, crayons, fingerpaint, paintbrush, etc.
- tools that provide sensory feedback while writing: whiteboard, chalkboard, sensory box.
- string beads or lacing cards
- tweezers to move beads or an eyedropper with water
- objects to sort such as math cubes, colored pom-poms, or buttons
- play-dough, crafting supplies, or building tools
- scissors to cut paper, fabric, or other materials
Transitioning from Paper to Pencil
The transition to pencil and paper should be based upon the individual student's development. Begin by demonstrating how to hold a pencil and position the paper. Once a student has an appropriate pencil grasp and can form recognizable letters without frustration, it is appropriate to begin practice using a pencil and paper.