When you attend a conference or go to a meeting, do you take notes? What are the chances that you will read those notes again? For many of us, just the act of forming the letters will help us retain the information better and longer! This is true for the students that we work with as well.
However, since teachers are bombarded with so many state educational requirements, it is very difficult to find time to teach handwriting. It has been over 20 years since handwriting lessons were actually required.
Essentially we want our students to think and write at the same time. We want them to automatically write down their thoughts without having to think about how to form each letter. When students use handwriting automatically, then they become more efficient and can create more elaborate ideas.
Guidelines for Teaching Handwriting
Children should be proficient with all printing skills by the end of 2nd grade. Unfortunately, this does not always occur. Therefore, I have created the following guidelines which can help you to determine what should be done next. Keep in mind that we cannot always follow this procedure for every student.
If you are not able to purchase a specific handwriting program, it is highly recommended that you teach letters by their similarities.
For example, c, o, a, d, g, and q all make the same motion.
The letters r, n, m, h, b, and p also make the same initial movements.
Once they can motor plan the initial movement, the remainder of the letters will be easier to learn and to remember.
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Sensory Handwriting Solutions
Teach the letters with a variety of sensory experiences such as:
Make letters by forming them with your body.
Build letters with popsicle sticks, Wikki Stix, cooked spaghetti, Q-tips, etc.
Use your finger to write using shaving cream, pudding, sand, etc.
Write on a variety of surfaces and in multiple positions such as: laying on the floor, writing on the wall or a window, using chalk to write on a trampoline, etc.
Try Teaching Cursive to Resolve Sloppy Handwriting
If the student is not proficient by the end of 2nd or beginning of 3rd grade, try teaching cursive using the ideas above as a compensation technique. WHY?
Learning something new is easier than fixing poor habits.
Cursive eliminates spacing issues between words.
Cursive typically eliminates letter reversals.
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Teach Touch Typing to Work Around Sloppy Handwriting
If cursive is taught and there is limited progress, teach touch typing. Touch typing is typing without looking at the keys. Most people learn to touch type by placing their fingers in specific places on the QWERTY keyboard. Keep in mind that if the student has a history of poor fine motor skills, this will most likely be difficult for them as well. There are a variety of FREE typing websites that have games, lessons, and tests to track progress. I strongly recommend these FREE websites:
Teach Two Finger Typing as Another Solution to Sloppy Handwriting
If touch typing is unsuccessful, teach two finger typing. Two finger typing is basically the “hunt and peck” method. However, studies have shown that people can type 40-60 words per minute using this style. This is also the style that most people use when using a tablet or iPad.
I recommend Sense-Lang.org because you can create your own lessons and modify them based on how you want to teach typing. You can also use their pre-created lessons and games. This website also allows the students to sign in at any time and as the “teacher” you can see their progress if they complete a lesson or test from your class.
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Consider Speech Recognition Software for Extreme Sloppy Handwriting
If typing is unsuccessful, resort to using speech recognition software. Speech recognition software allows a student to speak into a microphone and the computer will dictate what is said. Unfortunately this may not be effective for a child if they have poor speech fluency.
These programs can also cause increased frustration if it does not accurately detect what is spoken the first time. Typing is always recommended before speech recognition software, but it is definitely worth a try. Most computers have speech recognition software already installed on a PC or MAC and it’s just a matter of finding them in your control panel.
Remember that hearing the word “handwriting” should not make your students “cringe” with fear or boredom. Handwriting lessons can be fun and will ultimately help your students in a number of ways! After all, if it’s easier for them to write, it will be easier for you to read! Looking to learn more? Explore our webinars on All Things Handwriting.