M M M M M 

m m m m m  

Many mice are munching muesli bars. 

These short phrases are what I remember of handwriting. Handwriting books were uniformly crafted timelines of handwritten progress on red and blue-lined pages. Teachers modelled rows of lettering followed by a clever tongue-twister on the chalkboard (yes, we’ve come a long way since the 90s) producing completely infallible foundation-style script. Mine always looked wobbly by comparison. No pen license here.  

Handwriting, in the wake of technology, has become a little neglected in most modern classrooms. For casual teachers, handwriting can be a lifesaving lesson to fill gaps in a day where work has not been planned or as a tool to transition between "heavier" lessons. Explicit teaching of handwriting is important for a number of reasons.  


Why it's important

Explicit teaching of handwriting involves explanation, demonstration and practice of the skill of handwriting. This skill can then be applied or used in contexts across the curriculum. 

Handwriting is important in "recruiting" the brain regions known to underlie successful reading and writing.  Importantly, these regions of the brain are stimulated more after the handwriting experience than after typing, tracing or simply perceiving letters.   

Handwriting can help students develop the following skills and abilities: 

  • hand–eye coordination

  • fine motor control

  • correct letter shapes by following the suggested sequence of movement

  • consistent size, slope, spacing, proportion and alignment of letters

  • appropriate use of writing apparatus

  • legible handwriting, even at speed

  • strategies to assess their own technique and style.


What to assess

Feedback can be given to students for the following:

Skills and behaviour:

  • preparation for writing

  • correct pencil grip

  • appropriate seated position

  • correct paper position

  • consistently formed letters with correct

  • starting points

  • position on line

  • direction of writing

  • spacing

  • shape

  • size

  • slope

  • speed and ease of writing (or automaticity - for older learners).

Elements of letter formation:

  • the starting position

  • the direction of movement

  • the completion of letters as well as the links, where appropriate.


Categorising letters for explicit teaching

When teaching younger grades, I tend to refer to letters as tall, hanging or sitting for the sake of ease. However, there is a more uniform way of grouping letters which should be considered in the creation stages of a handwriting program. 

The anti-clockwise letters: 


The ‘stick’ letters: 


The clockwise letters: 


The diagonal letters: 


4 quick tips for handwriting lessons

  1. Write the letter with your finger in the air or on individual whiteboards always ensuring to start in the right spot and follow the correct direction of the letter strokes.

  2. Clearly demonstrate the starting point and direction of letters on lines that are the same to what students are writing on. If you have access to an interactive whiteboard, you can set lines as the background by selecting an image of the lines you are using and locking it to the screen.

  3. Use long date at top of page for handwriting for that day to reinforce spelling of days of the week, months of the year and format for ordinal numbers.

  4. Use tongue twisters or sentences using alliteration. It can be fun to include a student’s name in the tongue twister e.g. Amaya and Alyssa shop at Aldi all afternoon.


Helpful resource: Put your lesson to practice with a handy lined paper resource from Teach Starter! 


- Simone from the Relief Teacher Association


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