10 Things All Teachers Need to Know When Teaching Handwriting

I wanted to share a few tips of the trade when teaching handwriting to young children. There are several approaches but mine has always been eclectic and varies greatly depending on the child’s strengths. But here is a little bag of tricks I like to use!

1-Do not look at the final product, look at the process that the child uses to make sure the approach is correct.

2- Teach letter writing from top to bottom, left to right (for lefties it’s ok to go from right to left)


3- Do not teach letter formation in alphabetical order. Follow this order:
First teach letters with vertical and horizontals: L F E H T I
Then teach circular letters: U C O Q G S J D P B R
Lastly teach letters with diagonals: K A M N V W X Y Z

4- Make sure you draw a box within which children have to copy letters (gives them a framework within which they remain focused, otherwise letters are all over the place)

5-Have children trace highlighted letters rather than dotted lines.

DSCF04386- For children who have difficulty remembering the order of a stroke, I like providing them with an auditory cue. I therefore associate each stroke with a sound ex: diagonal is going down a slide weeeee

7- Some children may need you to create a storyline behind the formation of certain letters. Ex: lowercase letter e, I tell children they are in a car with the family driving vroom across (horizontal line) and we forgot the dog so we stop and go back around around around and stop (creates an e)

8- Teach formation of uppercase letters first then graduate to lowercase letters

9- Use a whiteboard to teach letter formation. The low friction allows children to focus on the formation of the letter instead of losing focus trying to maintain the pencil in their fingers caused by the higher friction of a pencil on paper. Once a child practices the formation on a whiteboard, you can then practice on paper with pencil.

10- Make letter formation fun! Use as many sensory components as possible ex tactile: sand, paint, shaving cream, pudding etc… Use stickers, wiki six, magic markers, Popsicle sticks, music games, childrens’ bodies to form letters, glow in the dark sticks etc….



Elastic Bands

Tricks of the trade

Comes included in MissMancy’s Handwriting Starter Kit. Available for purchase on this site.

We always want children to keep their pencils and crayons in the webspace (the area created between the thumb and index finger). You will find that many like to keep the pencil straight up (perpendicular to the paper). This is an inefficient way to hold a pencil as it puts unnecessary pressure on joints.

There are several ways to keep the pencil in the webspace; you can either weigh down the pencil (with pencil weights)/use a heavy pencil or you can use the rubber band trick.


The rubber band trick: Simply place a thin rubber band around the pencil and have your child wear it like a bracelet. Make sure the pencil is at the top and place the pencil in the webspace….tada!


Get a Grip on Pencil Grasps

Get a Grip on Pencil Grasps

I realize through my career in pediatrics that more and more children are referred to OT for poor handwriting. I truly believe that this is created in part by society’s haste to begin an academic curriculum earlier than the normal development of children’s fine motor skills. We overlook the importance of hand development and fine motor skills development. Emphasis is placed on the production of a final product (in this case writing letters) rather than ensuring that children are holding their pencils correctly while learning to write their letters.

At an early stage, when it’s acceptable for young children to produce large letters, an inefficient grasp doesn’t appear to be a big issue. Teachers are contempt that the student produced a beautiful letter rather than looking at the grasp this child used. The problem with an inefficient grasp is that as a child gets older and that the expectations for handwriting evolve (i.e. small letters, correct formation, spacing, sizing etc..) the child with an incorrect grasp is unable to formulate letters neatly and efficiently. This child can have a very difficult time performing and keeping up with the demanding and voluminous writing assignments. This in turn, can have a very negative affect on a child’s academics and love for learning/writing.


Understanding Mature Pencil Grasp Development:

It’s normal for young children to use a fisted grasp on crayons (A,B on figure) however we want to make sure that they progress from holding a crayon in their palm to holding it with their fingers.

An efficient grasp is one where the thumb and index finger create a circular webspace. This allows for skillful manipulation. So always look for that open circle between the thumb and index finger. Chances are your child is holding his pencil correctly!

Ideally, children will progress through 3 different stages of pencil grasp development:

1-    Palmar grasp (A,B on figure)

2-    Static Tripod Grasp with open webspace (G on figure)

3-    Dynamic Tripod Grasp with open webspace (J on figure)

However, there are other accepted functional grasp patterns including Quadripod Grasp with open webspace also known as the Four Finger Grasp (H on figure) AND Adaptive Tripod Grasp (this is like the dynamic tripod grasp however the pencil is held between the index and 3rd finger)