If you missed the first part of this series where I share the many mistakes that I’ve made in my handwriting lessons, you can laugh along with me about the struggles of my journey here.
Before you begin teaching handwriting, it’s important to ensure that your child is ready to begin working on penmanship. There are necessary skills that need to be developed prior to handwriting instruction. These skills are pivotal for a smooth transition to handwriting and will help reduce frustration.
The Skills that Ready Your Child for Handwriting Instruction
Let’s talk about the skills you want to pay attention to for handwriting readiness. When assessing these skills in children (ages 4-5), be aware that they will still be in development (not yet fully mastered).
- Fine motor skills : Strengthen the muscles in the hand that determine hand dominance, a proper pencil grip, and writing precision.
- Eye-hand coordination : The eyes guide the hand in forming letters with accuracy.
- Proper Pencil Grip : Properly holding a writing utensil will give the child more control. An improper pencil grasp is usually a sign of weak fine motor skills.
- Recognize letters or numbers : Being able to distinguish the similarities and differences between two characters.
- Literary Orientation : Understanding left from right and that we read and write left to right.
- Introduce proper letter formation : Proper stroke direction can and should be taught long far before a student begins tracing characters on a paper.
- Lots of positive support and encouragement : Learning new skills can be frustrating for young learners. Be sure to assist them when they are struggling, make these exercises fun, and give them lots of positive feedback.
If you have found that after reviewing this list that your student is not ready for handwriting instruction, that’s okay! There are a few ways that you can prepare them. A comprehensive handwriting curriculum will review a few of these skills as well.
How to Check for All of These Skills
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Here is an example of a pre-handwriting lesson that covers all of the skills mentioned above and can be used over and over. This lesson is great for preschoolers as well as older students who may need additional practice or review. These skills are developmentally appropriate for ages 4-5 year.
- Begin by introducing a short storybook. Point out the title of the book. Run your fingers across the letters as you read the title. Read the story while running your fingers across the pages, demonstrating that we read from left to right.
- Then, get out the straight left/right tracing mat (found in the Free Resource Library) and chant “left to right” while having the student trace several times. Make sure that the student picks up the toy car (or pointer of your choice) each time. They should begin on the left and complete the stroke on the right.
- Afterwards, take out your favorite choice of laminated tracing mats. Have your kids trace the letters or numbers with their fingers, a toy car, expo markers, or magnets. These tracing mats are great for solidifying proper letter formation while students move on to handwriting practice.
- While the mats are out, test your student’s ability to identify numbers and letters. This doesn’t have to be formal or take too long. Casually ask what letters or numbers they see. It’s okay if they don’t know all of them or get a few wrong. The main thing we are searching is if they are having a hard time distinguishing characters.
- Lastly, have students draw freely using triangular crayons or a pencil with a pencil grip to promote a proper writing grip.
As a result, this lesson should give you an idea of some areas that might need more work. If you feel that your student is having a difficult time with any of the above skills, the student might just need additional practice. In some cases, intervention with a professional may be necessary.
So, you might be wanting to skip this step and jump right into penmanship practice. Similarly, you may be wondering why it is necessary to take the time to strengthen the skills mentioned above.
Earlier I mentioned how it will make transitioning to handwriting much easier. However, to truly understand the impact that handwriting has, we must understand the importance of mastering handwriting, as well as the disadvantages of an improper foundation. That is what we will be studying in the next post of this series.
Is Your Child Ready to Learn Handwriting?
Did you learn something new about handwriting readiness? Did this article give you a solution to a problem? Let us know in the comments below!