Teaching Handwriting to First and Second Grade

During September, in my combined first and second grade, there were handwriting lessons every afternoon until there was a saturation point. It was a reminder and practice for second graders and the beginning of “correct” handwriting for first graders. The school district stressed good handwriting including proper body and paper position and correct pencil grip. I stressed correct formation of upper and lower case letters – but ignored the rest. One time a principal asked me to correct a child’s pencil grip. I wondered why because she had such a beautiful formation of her letters and seemed to be at ease when writing. So when I looked at her grip, she had the pencil between the index finger and middle finger. I tried it and found it quite comfortable. I never said a word to her about changing.

Each afternoon only a few letters would be presented at a time. It was explained: that all letters are circles or parts of circles, lines or parts of lines, and each letter touches two solid lines or the dotted line and solid line. They were asked to make each letter presented on the blackboard just five times. Making more resulted in carelessness. Then they were to underline the one they thought was their best, focusing attention upon their own improvement.

The children were told that there are many ways to write but they must learn the one which the school district required. They never objected. And there was no mention of proper handwriting with a child during an early morning conference about his story writing. When creating stories, children knew the content was most important but they would remember what they’d learned about handwriting in the afternoons and after a while, they would  began applying it during their morning writing time. Comments were made about beautiful handwriting when a finished story was read to the class. Each child seemed to easily adopt better writing. It just never seemed like a big deal. To prevent any ridicule there was also a big point made that even though we’re trying to make the letters as expected, everyone has a different handwriting. Even those with poor eye-hand coordination also improved significantly and often markedly changed by second grade. I believe, since young children’s eyes are still developing acuity, they see their own handwriting as neat and properly placed on the lines. It was quite consistent that the skinniest hands had the smoothest handwriting and hands that still had baby fat across the top, the most awkward. When the baby fat was gone, handwriting was much improved. Praise, however, was given for each one’s best efforts.

Visitors wondered how such young children could have such beautiful handwriting. One time it was unbelievable how beautiful a first grader’s handwriting improved over one week. When asked, she said, “Well, on Friday, I gave my story to Lucy to read and she couldn’t and neither could Anna. So I took a handwriting paper home and practiced every day after school until I could do it.” And these children were readers who couldn’t read her handwriting. Although this rapid a change was unusual, children soon became very proud of their best handwriting. Proper handwriting, however, was not expected on first drafts, only clear enough to be read. When the lessons ended, usually at the end of September, the children knew that their second drafts would take the place of handwriting lessons.

Read more about handwritng and the writing program in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved