Historically, some authorities argued for the superiority of one form over the other for children with LDs, most often for the superiority of cursive over manuscript. Louise Spear-Swerling After a long period of neglect in education, attention to teaching handwriting in the primary grades may finally be returning.
Legibility involves the readability of letters, as well as spacing within and between words. In addition, it can be helpful to teach children to form confusable letters differently; for example, b starts at the top whereas d starts with the loop. Children should learn a highly consistent way to form a given letter every time they write it.
Use written arrow cues to help children remember how to form letters. Whether children are learning manuscript or cursive, speed should not be emphasized until children can form letters legibly and from memory. For instance, the manuscript letters c, a, and d all begin with the same loop and can be taught in one group; i should be taught before y because it is simpler to form and is needed more frequently to write words.
If children have learned both manuscript and cursive, as is often the case with older youngsters, then assessment should consider the execution, legibility, and speed of both forms of writing. Just as effortful word decoding may impair reading comprehension, or lack of automatic recall may reduce the mental resources available for learning advanced computational algorithms in math, labored handwriting creates a drain on mental resources needed for higher-level aspects of writing, such as attention to content, elaboration of details, and organization of ideas.
Counterproductive habits in these latter areas are not always obvious from looking only at writing samples and can greatly impede progress in handwriting. Of course, children also should have access to word-processing programs and assistive technology, with appropriate accommodations as needed for individual students.
Execution includes correct and consistent pencil hold, posture, and letter formation. Because handwriting is a basic tool used in many subjects — taking notes, taking tests, and doing classroom work and homework for almost every content area as well as in language arts classes — poor handwriting can have a pervasive effect on school performance.
Focus initially on learning the motor pattern rather than perfect legibility or size. For example, teach children to write the letter b by starting at the top with a vertical stroke, then making the loop to the right without lifting the pencil, rather than having children form the vertical line and the loop in separate strokes.
Back to Top Manuscript or cursive? Assessment of handwriting skills Assessment of handwriting should incorporate observations of execution, legibility, and speed of writing.
When children are learning to form a new letter, it is helpful to begin with large movements such as forming the letter in the air; have children use a sweeping movement with the entire arm, not just the hand.
Here are a few specific suggestions for teaching handwriting: Attention to the linkages among handwriting, reading, and spelling skills can help to reinforce early achievement across these areas.
Furthermore, very modest amounts of instructional time in the earliest grades — kindergarten and grade one — may help to prevent later writing difficulties for many children.
For instance, young children may "draw" a letter such as m using separate strokes, starting on the right side of the letter.
At one time, manuscript print writing was typically taught in first grade, whereas cursive was introduced later, usually in third grade. With either form, however, children must eventually develop enough speed to use writing efficiently in tasks such as note-taking or test-taking.
This initial practice should emphasize learning the motor pattern with correct formation of the letter e. Although some letters, such as f and t, require lifting the pencil from the paper to make a second stroke, teach letter formation using a continuous stroke without lifting the pencil from the paper when possible.
Children appear less likely to confuse visually similar letters if they have learned one letter of a confusable pair well prior to introduction of the other letter of the pair. Written arrow cues for tracing dotted letters and copying letters are important so that children do not inadvertently practice incorrect letter formation repeatedly.
One involves the concept of mental resources to which I have alluded in several other columns, in relation to reading and mathematics as well as writing.Certificates and Awards teaching resources for Key Stage 1 - Year 1, Year 2.
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