Let’s talk about HANDWRITING today! Over the years, I’ve realized that handwriting instruction can vary widely from district to district. It can even vary from school to school and from teacher to teacher. With all of the technology in today’s world, such as the convenient use of keyboards and speech-to-text programs for students, handwriting can sometimes seem like a lost art.
How Important is Handwriting?
In my eyes, it’s extremely important! Even in our technology-filled world, there will always be a need for quality handwriting skills. These needs will take place as we write a quick note to a spouse or friend, a to-do list, a sticky note reminder, a thank you note, etc. Within the classroom, handwriting is a primary tool of communication. However, as teachers, we often receive little professional training or instruction in interventions for students who struggle with proper handwriting skills. Today, I want to share some simple, easy-to-implement ideas, tips, and tricks you can use with your kiddos who struggle with proper handwriting skills and techniques.
Promote Wrist Extension and Shoulder Stability
Proper wrist extension and shoulder stability are necessary for the fine motor movements associated with writing. For students who struggle, try letting them write by laying on the floor, on their tummies. The student can rest his or her elbows on the floor to improve shoulder stability. This is very similar to when a baby does “tummy time” on the floor. The position helps improve sensory input and strengthens the muscles needed for handwriting. A picture of this position is shown below:
Another idea is to place the paper on top of a 4 to 5-inch binder. Position the binder so that the rings are at the top of the paper and the binder slants towards the child. Rotate the binder at an angle.
Utilize Pencil Grippers
The Pencil Grip makes AMAZING pencil grippers! These are a definite staple supply in my classroom for students who struggle with proper pencil grasps. Yes, there are many different grippers out there, but The Pencil Grip, Inc. is THE source that I trust to use for my kiddos. Their grippers are research-based and truly provide the scaffolding support that students need as they adjust their pencil grip to a proper position. The best part about The Pencil Grip’s grippers is the options they offer. They use a 3-step approach to guiding students toward a proper pencil grasp. This is important to me! In the same way that I would not expect a reader to go from reading 2 words per minute to 50 words per minute in a matter of a week, I do not expect a student to automatically pick up a new habit and suddenly hold his or her pencil correctly. Baby steps, my friends! Here’s a look at the three main grippers I like to use from The Pencil Grip, Inc.
Step One: The Crossover Grip
This gripper is great to use to help students who want to cross their fingers over one another. The deep finger guards hold the fingers in the correct position. I find that this gripper is helpful with very stubborn students who need a lot of direct support in understanding where their fingers need to be placed on the pencil. It’s also very comfy!
Step Two: The Pinch Grip
The Pinch Grip is a more gentle guide for proper handwriting positioning. As you can see, the “cape” design of The Crossover Grip is now eliminated and the “pockets” used to position the fingers are more subtle. Once I notice an improvement in the student’s pencil grasp after using The Crossover Grip in Step One, we move onto The Pinch Grip. They LOVE when they get to “graduate” to a brand new pencil gripper and my kids find this super motivating and exciting!
Step Three: The Original Pencil Grip
The Original Pencil Grip is the pencil grip you are probably more commonly used to seeing. This helps train students in a traditional tripod grasp and it’s truly a great “training” grip for ALL young writers. Do you have students who will sometimes slip into their “bad habit” pencil grip? Using the Original Pencil Grip on a day to day basis can truly help prevent that “bad habit” grasp from returning. All of the grips also work wonderfully for students who are both left handed and right handed.
Not sure how to help your students with their pencil grasp? The Pencil Grip, Inc. provides a free download of a wonderful poster to help you understand the differences between a correct and incorrect pencil grasp. You can find this free download by clicking HERE.
As an avid Amazon shopper, I love that I can purchase The Pencil Grip’s grippers straight from their Amazon store! Find all of these grips (plus tons more) by clicking HERE or on the picture below:
Utilize Visual Aides
I don’t know about you, but another common handwriting problem is aligning the writing up to start on the left side of the paper. You know the kids I am talking about. They can be fabulous writers, but by the time they get to the bottom of the page, their essay looks more like a pyramid art project than a paper or journal entry!
An easy, highly visual aid is to take green highlighting tape (I like to use Washi tape) and stick it vertically along the left side of the paper. This serves as a visual reminder for students to “start” their writing where the green tape is. You could even take a green marker and draw a vertical green line down the left side of the paper, too! 🙂
This year, I have quite a few first graders who just want to write all of their letters BIG! I don’t mean that every letter is capitalized, but that their lowercase letters are almost reaching the top skyline. Gahhh, it drives me insane! One visual intervention you can use with these kiddos is to use highlighted writing paper. You can buy pre-printed highlighted paper on many websites…..
But, there’s just one problem.
I am cheap.
I’m not afraid to admit it.
My fix? Just highlight the page with a highlighter! Yes, it takes a bit longer but after awhile, you can even have the child do this! I actually prefer that because while they are highlighting the lowercase line, it makes them focus on what our intentional goal is – to write our lowercase letters where they should be!
Highlighting the bottom half of the writing line emphasizes where the lowercase letters need to be placed and helps kids focus on this skill as they are writing.
Provide Direct Handwriting Practice
Are you guilty of starting the school year with a great handwriting review and lots of practice, but then forgetting to bring it up again throughout the year? (I’m raising my hand right now.) Yes, I’ve “been there, done that” many times before. Especially in first and second grade, it’s easy to do a great review at the beginning of the year and then assume and expect our kids to just “have good handwriting” for the remainder of the year. But, my friends, that is not how reality works. Truthfully, we need to be teaching handwriting instruction and practice in a consistent, direct manner throughout the entire year. Otherwise, we end up with kids who form bad habits that are entirely too difficult to break if we just “let it go” and fail to re-teach and instruct. Just like we would re-teach a math concept that a child fails on a test we need to be sure that we are consistently providing handwriting instruction to those students who are struggling.
I LOVE using my Handwriting for Beginning Readers practice pack when I am reviewing and re-teaching proper letter formation. Why do I love it? Because it does not just involve the students “tracing” a word over and over again. Instead, it combines phonics and reading skills at the same time! This is a great pack that you could pull out at the beginning of the year, or throughout the year when you need a review with your students. You could also place the pages in sheet protectors and create a “handwriting center” that you can implement all year round!
Implement Sensory Strategies
Some students will benefit from getting more sensory feedback as they write. One idea is to place the paper on top of a sheet of sandpaper. I actually like to use this idea for students who write really lightly on the paper. (So lightly that I find myself squinting my eyes like I am 90 years old because I can barely see the pencil marks!) Do you have writers like that, too?! Have students who write with TOO much pressure? For example, the student is pressing down so hard on the paper that his pencil is always breaking and the writing is SO dark. For a quick intervention idea, place a carpet square under the paper. The student HAS to focus on writing lightly so that he or she does not make immediate holes and rips right through the paper.
The Pencil Grip company also makes an excellent “weighted” pen and pencil. This is great for students who need more sensory feedback while they are writing. It also helps students who need to continue to strengthen their fingers in order to properly use their fine motor skills. You can find the weighted pen HERE and the weighted pencil HERE. A picture of this pencil is shown below:
I hope this post gave you some quick but helpful ways to assist your students who struggle with handwriting. Whether it is the students’ pencil grasp, fine motor skills, strength, or visual perception while writing, there are SO many things you can do as a classroom teacher to help your students reach handwriting success! Feel free to pin the image below on Pinterest to remember this post and refer to it at a later time.