Tuesday, February 18, 2014

7 Tips for teaching handwriting

We have tried a lot of different things around here (Getty Dubay, traditional French Cursive lessons, Handwriting without Tears, CLAA.... to name a few!) to teach handwriting, mostly because I was just feeling my way around the how to teach aspect.
We are finally settling into a kind of rhythm, and it seems to be going pretty well.
Perhaps sharing what I've learned along the way will be helpful to someone.

1. First, determine a style of cursive and a style of print writing and plan to stick to it.

This was hard for me because I grew up learning two styles-- Slanted American-style cursive and French cursive, which is straight up and down and round. I wanted my kids to learn both, and their schoolbooks require that they learn both, since we bilingually homeschool. Also, French cursive was important to me and American cursive was important to my husband.
What I learned is that they don't need to be able to WRITE in all the different styles to be able to READ in them. ;)
So just pick one, and focus on that. We decided to stick with New American Cursive.

2. Second, work at both simultaneously.

I was convinced they needed to master printing before cursive and couldn't get them moving fast enough in printing since I wanted to teach cursive in first grade. Duh.
It is both necessary and good to get them working in both at the same time if you want to do both early. We do our copywork in print for now and practice penmanship in cursive. This will change starting around third grade.

3. Go slowly.

Even if all the child does in the beginning is a perfect letter formation, let them work using the habit of perfect execution. It is good practice to have them go back and circle their best work, as well, in the beginning. And keep lessons short-- 10 minutes max. Handwriting is not a subject-- it's a precursor to actually communicating.  Don't draw out their lessons and frustrate them with writing from the beginning. Instead, have them take their time and go slowly for short periods of time each day.

4. Use copywork and make it enjoyable.

Using Charlotte Mason's principles--- copywork becomes fun and not a chore. Let them select the sentence or paragraph to copy on their own, from a good book they have read.  I do copywork alongside them to show them that EVERYONE can enjoy working on their skills. Let copywork become a habit, so that when you add dictation they already have the skills necessary to succeed at it.

5. Help them to understand WHY they need to write.

CLAA is the best program out there for this--- to help them clearly understand why writing is an important skill. Don't just teach them to write. Help them to see why writing is necessary.

6. From the beginning instill in them the habits of attention and perfect execution.

All it takes is a little bit of work on the parent's part to encourage them to pay close attention and to work to the best of their ability. I have found that when I FORCE the learning, they stumble, but when I encourage them to use these habits in an "I'm on your team, isn't this fun" kind of way, It is much easier to get them to work well.

7. Select good quality paper and pens.

I encourage the use of pen (so that they can't go back and erase mistakes--- although this frustrates them it also causes them to pay attention) and give them good quality paper and pens to work with. I grew up writing with a fountain pen, which is -- to me-- an important skill. The fountain pen requires them to write correctly because they can break the nib or mess up the paper if they don't form the letters properly. It also allows for fast writing, which is a critical skill in my homeschool where we do dictation often and take notes as we read. I encourage you also to use the kind of paper you will use to write with from the beginning. No need to spend a lot of time and money learning to write on different types of paper,  with different colored lines and such, as children are perfectly capable of LEARNING to write neatly on normal, lined paper... whatever your paper of choice may be.

If you plan on teaching print first and then cursive later, I strongly recommend the Getty Dubay program, which uses CM's principles except for ONE... it lacks the "good literature" element by having children copy silly sentences and facts. However, the children don't notice and love doing this program, and by love, I mean LOVE.

If you plan on teaching cursive from the start, I recommend the Memoria Press New American Cursive series. My preschoolers start by tracing dry erase charts of New American Cursive, Capital and lowercase print letters. When ready, they move on to the workbooks (There are three) which are pricey, but IMO worth it if you can afford them for the extra practice they provide. If you can't, the dry erase charts WILL suffice if you keep at it. We also use Memoria Press' copybook series in the very beginning, simply because they take all the hard work and do it for me, providing excellent scriptures and poems for the children to copy in an easy to use workbook. This goes against CM's principle of having them select their OWN copywork, but in my experience the children enjoy these tremendously and will have plenty of time later (these end in third grade) to choose their own copywork.

*Note: before they begin handwriting, have your preschoolers do what the French call "graphisme," exercises that improve hand-eye coordination. These include tracing drawings, making spirals and drawing lines across the page.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, two things: the Developing the Early Learner Workbooks (which I LOVE) have those "graphisme" exercises in them. Just thought I'd throw that out there :D Second, for those of us that can't afford CLAA just to find out why writing is an important skill, can ya give us a very abbreviated version?


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