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sloppy-handwriting-2My last article in this 3 part series discussed 4 out of the 7 sloppy handwriting issues that many educators and parents are seeing on a daily basis. Sloppy handwriting is not something that can be “cured” overnight. Handwriting is a complex task and there are many components that lead to legible handwriting. Sometimes addressing one or two components can make a huge difference in legibility.

Please refer to 7 Sloppy Handwriting Solutions, Part 1 to learn more about the first four components:

  • memory of each letter,
  • starting each letter at the correct place,
  • reversals, and
  • placement on the line.

After these first four components are addressed and we can get our kids to actually make letters and place them accurately in the space provided, we can then work on fine tuning! This article will address how we can get kids to produce the right size of each letter depending on their grade level.

5. How Can We Tame Letter Size?

Placing letters on a line can definitely affect the size of letters. It all depends on the type of paper that we provide the student. Then there is the follow-up question: “What is the acceptable size for each grade level?” Luckily, the two most popular handwriting programs have given us a way to measure this.

For the Younger Kids

Where to Start Letters

For younger kids we can try the strategy that was discussed in Part 1 about where to start letters. Many times we ask students to write their name at the top of the paper and write it on the line. Many of our children will start at the line and write UP, which causes them to start from the bottom. This also affects size. If kids start at the top of the paper they see an opportunity to use the entire paper for space to write their name. However, if we ask them to write their name at the bottom of the paper their writing will fall off the bottom of the paper if they write too big.

Try Paper Strips

Along the same lines, try practicing writing letters, numbers, sight words, or even their names on paper strips. Gradually start to decrease the height of the paper strips. Most kids will not write on the table and they will work their hardest to fit those letters/numbers on the paper.

For the Older Kids

Lined Paper

As children get older the type of lined paper they are given plays a huge role in letter size. There are so many different types of handwriting paper available it can be quite confusing. The most popular handwriting paper is the tripled lined paper with a dotted line in the center. This can help children remember to start tall letters at the top line and small letters at the dotted line. Unfortunately, many kids do not pay attention to this and their letters often float somewhere between the three lines. Many times the small letter “a” can be the same size as the tall letter “t”.

Small Letters are the Most Important

One of the best strategies when teaching lowercase letters is to make kids aware that letters have different sizes. There are seven tall letters (b,d,f, h, k, l, t), five low letters (g, j, p, q, y), and the 14 remaining letters are small (which would typically fit between the dotted line and bottom line). I personally feel that the small letters are the most important because there are so many of them. If kids truly understand this concept their handwriting size starts to improve.

Type of Handwriting Paper

However, sometimes they need a little help. Therefore accommodations can be made with the type of handwriting paper used.

Handwriting Without Tears

The Handwriting Without Tears program has recognized that the majority of letters are placed under the dotted line. Therefore, they use paper called “[easyazon-link asin=”B0062TKYKE” locale=”us”]double-lined paper[/easyazon-link]”. Children simply learn that all letters are placed between the two lines, but tall letters go above the lines and low letters go below the lines. I personally have seen some great success using this paper. However, it does require some teaching and flexibility.

Highlighter Paper

Highlighter paper is available that has a yellow or blue highlight in the bottom section which visually stimulates the child to remember that most letters are located in this colored area.

Unfortunately, this can be expensive and visually overstimulating if you have a child who has visual issues. Can you make this paper? SURE! You can easily make your own handwriting paper in any Microsoft Word program. You could even use an actual light colored marker and darken the bottom sections yourself and then make copies of it.


Zaner Bloser has a FREE program called ZB Fonts Online. On the right side you will see a drop down menu so that you can choose a grade level. You will then see various handwriting worksheet templates using triple lined paper. You can type in any words or sentences that you want and print off your own worksheets. However, you can also measure the height of the writing space to determine what is acceptable for each grade level.

Handwriting Without Tears has a FREE A+Worksheet Maker Lite. You will need to sign up for the website, which is also free. Once you enter this program you will notice that on the left hand side there are grade levels with options for various types of handwriting templates. You can use this site to simply type in words that you want your kids to practice using the double lined paper. You can also measure the height of the lines so that you know what is acceptable for each grade level.

Both programs have “full versions” that you can purchase to receive more templates.

I presented a lot of different ways to work on taming letter size. Have your child practice these while you wait for the last two sloppy handwriting tips in Part 3.

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Kim Wiggins works as a full time OT in a school district, is a National Instructor for Summit Professional Education, and is the owner of listenWRITE shineBRIGHT. She runs an annual Summer Handwriting Camp and specializes in handwriting, sensory strategies, and technology in the classroom. Kim has a professional and personal perspective when working with children because she is also the adoptive parent of a 12 year old boy with special needs.