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com Eight week handwriting guide

Eight weeks to improve your childs handwriting? No problem!

Handwriting isnt just about forming neat joined-up letters. Its much more than that. Its about strengthening the upper body, learning good posture and the correct sitting position even before your child has picked up a pencil. Handwriting is the cornerstone of the national curriculum. Good handwriting enables children to get their ideas down on paper, to express themselves clearly and to disseminate information in a way that anyone can read. In this age of technology, you might be thinking is handwriting really that important? The simple answer is yes, it is. We dont always have a computer with us when we need to make a note, a printed birthday card never looks as heartfelt as one with a written message and a beautifully written letter is always something to be admired. These are just three things where computers will never be better than handwriting. Its a life skill too. Almost invariably, we all write something every day whether its a post it note, a shopping list or an address label. Being able to write neatly and clearly enables us to do all these things, and more, in a legible way so we can get our meaning across. This eight week guide will help your child improve their writing techniques new and fun ways. Each week has an activity to help your child learn. Lets get started!

Week one: Body strength Practising handwriting isnt just about gripping a pencil with your fingers. Did you consider the muscles that you use in your hand, arm and chest all help hold the pencil? This is the fun bit. To develop upper body strength you have to exercise, but exercise doesnt just mean a weekly PE lesson. Try running around the garden, do star jumps or try out handstands against a flat wall. Tennis and badminton are great for upper body strength as they involvement a lot of upper body movement. 1 Eight week handwriting guide

Activity: Get your child to write their name or their favourite words in the air. Big swings of the arm will help work those arm and chest muscles.

Week two: Posture Many of us get into lazy habits when were writing. Sitting at a bad angle at a desk, letting our arms sprawl as we write or hunching over a desk are just a few of them. Practise sitting up straight at the dinner table, get your child to stretch to see how tall and straight they can be and have a look at your childs homework area to see if they can sit up straight but still comfortably work. Activity: This activity requires some method acting. Ask your child to curl up tightly in a ball and gradually unfurl until they are crouching on the ground and rising upwards as straight as they can be. Can they stretch and feel their body becoming straight? What have they become? A tree? A rocket? The possibilities are endless and children can be reminded later that if they need good posture they need to be as straight as that tree.

Week three: Pencil grip Weve probably all seen people who have some seemingly very odd ways of writing. Get your child off to a good start by ensuring that they are holding their pencil between their thumb and forefinger with the pencil resting in the curve of their hand. Dont let your child let their hand sit on the paper but instead lift their hand, lightly resting when they need to, and let their fingers act as a guide for the pencil. Left handers can hold their pencil in a different way but many will adopt a handwriting position called a hook. This is where the hand curves around the top of the writing area so the immediate area is uncovered. Left handers will need to extend their elbow a little so that they can accommodate this position. If they are sharing a desk they should sit on the left side so they dont take up any of their partners space. Gripping with a thumb and forefinger can be practised by playing board games to as it is the same technique they will need to use when picking up a dice or playing piece. Activity: Doodle art. Get a large piece of paper and a bunch of coloured pens. Take your first colour and draw a continuous line looping in and out of the line to form swirls. Break off and continue again with another colour. Do this several times until 2 Eight week handwriting guide

your sheet is covered in swirls. Colour in the swirls. This will help children with pencil grip and with neatness.

Week four: Back to basics Now that weve learnt about the many other things that help us write, we need to look at some letters and understand a bit more about them. Letters are split into upper case e.g. A, B, C and lower case a, b, c. They are named upper and lower case because typesetters used to keep capital letters in the upper case and small letters in - you guessed it - the lower case. These letters are further split into ascenders, the taller lower-case letters that have a stalk that goes above other letters e.g. b, d, h. Then there are descenders such as g, j, y which have tails that go under other letters. A common way to practise the different letters is by using lines on a paper so children can practise writing the letters and getting their positions correct. Activity: Cut paper into one inch squares and write in each letter. Take a large piece of paper and draw two lines so the sheet is divided into three. Name the top portion ascenders, the middle letters and the lowest one descenders. Ask your child to use a dab of glue and stick each letter in its correct place. Can your child think of any words that have a mixture of ascenders and descenders? Which do they have in their name?

Week five: Multi-sensory writing Learning handwriting techniques doesnt mean endless practice in work books. Instead, children can learn how to form letters in tactile, fun ways. When at the beach, try writing letters in sand, try swirling letters into water while in the bath and write letters in the earth in the garden. The idea behind this is that children enjoy learning in fresh, unexpected ways and can retain the information they learn when they are actually feeling what they are doing. Activity: Get a shallow tray and add a layer of sand or spray in some shaving foam. Use fingers to create letters and words so that children can actually feel what they are doing. Eight week handwriting guide

Week six: Massive letters and little letters When learning to write, children are often taught to write small, neat letters. This week we want you to try something different huge, whopping, ginormous letters! Drawing really big letters will help your child see all the interesting points about the letter and get to grips with curves in c and d, tall and short stalks in h or m and tails in g or y without worrying about neatness and sticking to lines. Activity: Make a letter poster. Get a sheet of paper - the bigger the better and practise writing huge letters and then fill them with tiny letters. Try writing the little letters in different colours and sprinkle in some words that begin with that letter (apple, age and at are all a words).

Week seven: Practising control Handwriting doesnt have to be a chore. This week were going to put everything weve learnt into practice with some games. Games are one of the most fun ways of learning and often your child wont realise theyre practising key skills. There are lots of games that need handwriting. Boggle is a simple way of finding words and writing them down. Pictionary is good for drawing and thus pencil control. Activity: Game night. This is one for all the family to join in. Get your favourite game that involves some pencil usage. Dont forget mini prizes for winners and good handwriting. You could also try dot-to-dot activity books and colouring books or create your own games such as Noughts and Crosses and Hangman all of these require pencil control.

Week eight: Joined-up handwriting All children start learning joined up handwriting while at primary school. This style of writing is considered more grown up and sophisticated than printing. Your child might have already learned how to join their letters together so now they can go ahead and put all their hard work into practice. Lined paper really helps children get neater handwriting as they can see where their writing needs to go and it stops having sentences undulating in waves across the paper. Younger children might need to leave a line in between each written line so they have extra space for any descending letters. Activity: Write a short story about your favourite character. Imagine what they are doing, who they are with, what they can see, smell or feel. Make sure that you write in joined-up handwriting. 4 Top 10 tips for handwriting

Top 10 tips to help your child improve their handwriting By Karen Cohen 1. Always make sure your child is sitting comfortably and holding the pencil or pen correctly. The pencil should be held between their thumb and forefinger with the middle finger held loosely behind. Your child should be sitting squarely on a chair and be able to lean on the table top easily. 2. Using a highlighter pen, write letters or words on a plain or lined piece of paper. Your child should use a pencil to write on top of the highlighted words. Make sure your child can watch you write the letters or words so they can see how the letters are formed. It is never too early to write words on lines so that your child can get used to seeing how the letters sit on the lines. Remember that letters like g and y (these are called descenders) hang under the line. 3. Model your best handwriting all of the time. Together with your child, take turns to add written items to shopping lists. If your child is learning to write, let them watch you write and they can add pictures of the item. At the early stages it doesnt matter what your child is writing or drawing. If your child is a more experienced writer, you could leave handwritten notes for each other around the house, such as on each others pillows at night or inside lunchboxes. Use post-it notes to label objects around your house; not only will your child get used to seeing correctly spelled words, but will see handwriting in their surroundings. It may be useful to find out which handwriting scheme your school is using to teach joined handwriting so that you can adopt the same style at home. 4. Have lots of fun whilst helping your child learn to write by using magic wands, fairy wands and light sabers! Take turn to write letters and words in the air using these toys. Add appropriate music and let your children dress up whilst using these props, writing magic spells or fairy notes in the air.
1 Top 10 tips for handwriting

5. Baking is a great opportunity to go over letter formations or letter joins. Make dough letter shapes and discuss with your child how you would write the letters, bake them in the oven and hang them in the kitchen. Whilst icing cupcakes, let your child have a turn to write each member of the familys name on each cake in icing; use icing pens, tubes or fill up a bag and nozzle; all are great ways to practise writing letters. 6. It is not necessary to invest money in lots of equipment, but if you want to buy one fun item to really help your child improve their handwriting, then invest in a small whiteboard and pen. Children find them easy to write on and they can be used over again; involve your child in noting down hot drink orders for your family or let them write their own birthday wish lists. 7. When out and about, use every opportunity to embed those writing skills! Go on a nature walk and encourage your child to write words in the ground or in dense leaves using a long stick. If you are on the beach, use the opportunity to draw letters or words in the sand with a stick or let your child make letters out of wet, drippy sand (also works using a sand tray). 8. Mix equal quantities of water and cornflour together and place in a tray. Let your child use their finger to practise their letters and words. Your child could also squidge the mixture between their fingers as this is good for developing their hand muscles and fine motor skills, which are essential for handwriting. 9. Handwriting sheets are useful but try and give your children real situations to practise best handwriting, such as writing letters to relations and posting them; they will love to receive letters written back to them. Your child could also describe a picture or write a poem. 10. Children of all ages love to paint, and painting letters and later on joins with paint is a fluid medium for children to practise their skills. Focus on the same types of letters at one time, such as a, d, p, b so your child can perfect the same type of letter before moving on to another group such as c, e and o which are similar shapes.
2 Handwriting Q&A

Handwriting Q&A with expert Karen Cohen When we invited handwriting expert and deputy headteacher Karen Cohen to talk to the parents in our busy forum about handwriting, we knew she would have plenty of questions to answer. Here, we recap the questions about handwriting that parents really wanted to know along with Karens answers and tips that every parent can put into practice.

My youngest has just started school, and is primarily using his left hand for writing, though he uses his right hand for other things. He is forming his letters differently, and has trouble following the guidelines for forming letters. Should we persevere in teaching him the correct way, or is it easier for him to form the letters a different way? Fredd. Karen said: Try not to force him to write in a way that is not comfortable for him. Yes let him form his letters in the way he feels more comfortable - letter formation is slightly different for leftys and it might be worth you looking up correct left handed letter formation. Lots of tips for leftys include making sure that they can sit on a higher chair so they can see their writing from above. Also make sure that light is coming from their right hand side so there are no shadows on their work. Make sure they are holding the pen comfortably for them, it may not be the way a righty might hold a pen.

My 11-year-old son is also left handed. There is a possibility he may be dyslexic, and he still has trouble writing some letters and numbers the correct way round. School (year 7) must have some concerns over his awful writing, as he brought home a book at half term - which he wouldn't do! Do you have any other suggestions of ways to help him improve? xxJaneyxx Karen said: Like the answer above, left handed people have slightly different way of forming their letters and tend to do it in a way that is comfortable for them so dont stress too 1 Handwriting Q&A

much about how his letters are formed. I would emphasize the neatness of his writing rather than the letter formation. As for improving writing, it would be useful for you to model neat joined writing and then make writing practice relevant to him. Find something he is interested in such as football or X-Factor, or whatever his interests are, and get him to write about that for a short amount of time - around 10 minutes. Let him write in what he thinks is his best writing. Make sure you give him lots of praise. Use his piece of writing for a benchmark with all other writing tasks, so he can refer to it regularly.

Do you think children should be encouraged to write at their own pace, even if this maybe rather slow and mean not as much work may be produced? So for instance, what would you do if you taught a child who had lovely handwriting and took great care with it, spelling as well as formation of letters but wasn't getting through the work set quickly enough? Would you encourage children to speed up and forsake some quality or not? Christiesgal Karen said: Yes definitely writing at their own pace would be preferable. If I were teaching a child like this I would be very clear with my expectations of them, for example, I may indicate to the child a clear target to achieve by the end of the lesson e.g. write up to this mark on the paper within a 15 minute writing slot. I would much rather have them take the time over their work than rush and have a messy piece of work, or, more importantly, writing that the child was not proud of.

My daughter struggles with joined up writing and apparently she has to write joined up to get the relevant scores for her year group. She is 10 and in Year 6. Any advice? Miss Poppins Karen said: You dont mention whether or not her writing is neat un-joined? When I was teaching Year 6 we had a pupil with a similar issue and no matter what she tried her writing would not flow. In this case her writing was neat and legible and she did really well in her SATS papers without the joined writing. If she had written joined up in her papers she would have scored an extra three points. I believe that we should be teaching children to write for life and not just for SATs papers. So she doesnt get the three points out of 50 (Writing SATs) because of un-joined writing, does it really matter when her writing is neat and easy to read? 2 Handwriting Q&A

Do you have any suggestions for a reception-age child who writes b and d back to front? His reading skills are great, and the rest of his letters are fine, it just seems to be these two he's struggling with. OliversArmy Karen said: This is completely normal and common with many early writers. Dont stress too much but perhaps you can do some fun activities at home such as writing in water (get a shallow tray of water* and draw the letters in the water), making the letters out of play dough and getting him to trace them or try spraying a tray with shaving foam and writing messages to each other in the foam? Most importantly make it all a game so he is having fun whilst you are modeling correct letter formation. *Children should never be left alone with water My son is mildly dyslexic and his writing is still full of reversals - we have only just cracked getting the letter a right. Do you have any less conventional and more fun things that he could do to help this, because we are already doing all the conventional things. He is 9 years old. Mammak. Karen said: Try the shaving foam idea that I mentioned before its great fun! Also a colleague of mine Alistair Bryce-Clegg ( has a great suggestion: Jedi writing where the child (and you if you fancy) holds a light saber and writes the letters in the air. This also works really well with Harry Potters magic wand or fairy wands! What is your opinion of children writing on plain paper rather than lined paper? I know it seems a minor thing, but my daughter's handwriting is MUCH better when she writes in a lined exercise book, yet her school insists that the children write on plain paper. I ruled some pencil lines on the paper for my daughter to follow, and got told off by the teacher for it! Barefootgirl. Karen said: Lined, lined, lined! It is never too early to give a child lined paper - one of my Reception classes loved it, they felt so grown up and their writing was great on it. Try and steer clear from those complicated handwriting books with about a million tram lines on them (no one knows which line to write on!) but what you are doing sounds Handwriting Q&A

like a great idea. Maybe your school has a strict handwriting policy? It may be worth arranging a meeting to discuss your concerns with the teacher?

I'm home educating my oldest daughter who is four (I'm an expat living in a country where there are no suitable schools). She is starting to read and I'm teaching her using the synthetic phonics method. She's really keen to start to hand write and is asking me to teach her. I've started teaching her to do the correct letter forms as I was taught them but she's struggling to draw an anticlockwise circle/curve so can't form letters like c and a that involve anticlockwise curves, which is a lot of letters. She likes to write letters and she's been copying them from books but not forming them correctly. She even occasionally writes words she can read, with the correct spelling but the letters are not formed correctly. Should I be worried about this or should I leave her to do this as she pleases and teach her the correct forms later? Or is there something I can do to help her form anticlockwise circles/curves? Dhakiyya Karen said: Wow! Sounds like you are doing a super job. When children first learn to write they do so emergently and that is a great starting point for your daughter. She is mimicking letters she has seen and I would leave her at the moment to continue to do this of her own freewill. In previous answers there are fun practical ideas to try. You dont say where you live but perhaps if you live near the beach you could have some fun sand writing...

I have had a meeting with my eight-year-old son's teacher today. My son has great difficulty in writing i.e. he cannot write joined up. His teacher said that she wants him to write in joined up handwriting from now on, but I think his writing looks worse when it is joined up. He is also left handed which his teacher says is why he finds it more difficult. I am left handed myself and never found writing to be a problem. Can you please give me any advice or exercises that I can do with my son to help to improve his handwriting skills? sdelgado Karen said: Certainly try the fun ideas in previous answers, but most importantly we want your son to feel good about his writing. He is eight- years-old and is starting his writing journey. It is more difficult being left handed but as you know it doesn't mean that his writing will be illegible. 4 Handwriting Q&A

I think that I would help him build up his skills gradually. Firstly start with working on neatness of un-joined letters and then start with joining two letters etc. The joined writing will come when he is ready and confident.

My daughter is now 15 and has atrocious writing - it's legible, but poor. My step son at 14 is barely legible, yet my older daughter found her own 'style' and is really neat. How important is it? They seem to have passed the point where school put any interest on it at all, but my son will barely write two lines in a lesson. Will they, in time, find their own styles and 'neaten up' or does it have to be a learnt behaviour? Corris Karen said: Yes they will find their own styles just like your daughter has. It might be worth having a chat with school and seeing if he could do some of his work in his lessons using a laptop. As a teacher I would want to see the content of the writing rather than have him struggle with two lines of poorly written script.

My ED [elder daughter] is in Year 3 and has been placed on the Gifted and Talented Register. Since Year 1 she has been reluctant to write and her spelling is terrible. She is currently having 1:1 tuition arranged by the school (not as part of the Gifted & Talented Register but because they felt she didn't achieve what she should have done in her SATS) and the tutor is focusing on her spelling and speed of writing. Although she is making progress with these meetings, its still very slow. I'm convinced her slow writing is connected to her giftedness as she can verbally tell you the most intricate and advanced stories and explanation but its agony getting her to write it down. She always gets distracted from the task at hand and I'm struggling to find techniques to get her to focus long enough to complete tasks. Over the last two school years she has repeatedly failed to complete in class tasks in the allotted time and had to forgo playtime. Could you recommend some techniques to improve her spelling, speed of writing and general concentration skills on a task she feels is boring? Bunny200 Karen said: Yes of course. It sounds like her brain is working faster than her hand. I would set her small, manageable targets with her writing to keep her on task. It may also be worth thinking about a reward system at home and school to keep her motivated. 5 Handwriting Q&A

She sounds like a bright 'cookie' and I would say that she doesn't feel these tasks are relevant to her life! It might be worth you making the spelling and writing tasks relevant to her for example encouraging her in writing letters to friends and posting them or writing a shopping list for you etc. You say she can verbally tell you stories etc how about writing a shared story together e.g. she tells you the beginning and you write that part, then you tell her the end and she writes that part etc. In terms of spelling I would always suggest teaching spellings through games like Snap or Scrabble. There are many that are linked to the 'Letters and Sounds' spelling strategy (most schools use this to teach spelling in school). My DS [dear son] is in Year 4 and has been taught to do joined-up writing which is just huge and messy. I have explained to him - rightly or wrongly - that this is not the way to write as its unreadable. It makes his homework really scruffy even though he has done it right. His y's and g's are all over the place and it's hard to get him to change. Im probably worrying about nothing but how can I get him to make his writing neater? I have an A4 size wipe away paper where he can practice with a special pen and wipe it away but is there anything else? I would be grateful for any tips. Cuckoo68 Karen said: Is his un-joined writing neater? I know how frustrating it can be to see your child do it 'wrong', but they need to have the freedom to experiment with this difficult skill. Let him play with the whiteboard but also lots of practical fun ideas like the ones I have mentioned in previous posts. Try and take the pressure away from him in getting it 'right' and just have plenty of opportunity to play. Please don't worry about him not being neat at this early stage of joined up-'ness'. He will get it in his own time.

About Karen Karen has been a primary school teacher for more than 10 years and has taught all year groups from Nursery to Year 6. She recently spent a year as a writing consultant, visiting schools across the country to deliver training and offer practical help to teachers and parents to help raise standards of handwriting. Karen is currently an assistant headteacher and has two children aged three and six.

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