Formation of letters

Handwriting requires :
Fine motor and gross motor skills
The ability to trace over other lines neatly
Memorisation of the shape of each letter
Correct pencil grip, posture and placement of the paper.


the abilitiy to move in the conventional direction required.

In Playground Sound,  I combine the writing of letters with the learning of their sounds.  It is part of the 3 way process..............recognition (see it)  sound (hear it)  recall and write (do it).  The first thing I do is an exercise to get the flow of movement working.

Our hands are cars and we are going for a drive!

view details view details I draw an 8 on its side as the race track.  Starting in the centre, the child follows the track moving up to the left. It is better if this can be done on a blackboard or whiteboard or a large piece of paper stuck to the wall.  Boards are great because the size of the flat 8 can be altered from small to large.  The child must not move their body from the centre of the race track.   This exercise encourages the flow of movement from left to right and across the middle line of the body (cross lateral ability) which helps the left and right hemispheres of the brain to work together.

Use toy cars to make it fun instead of markers.

For children who find it extremely difficult to move to the left first and have a natural tendency to move to the right, put a dot at the top of the first bend. This can be used as a verbal/auditory cue to help them to move in the right direction:

“Ready, steady!”

Now for the formation of the letters ..................................

Each part of a letter is called something.  This helps me to prompt children while they are writing as well as creating a picture they can relate to.  It brings lines on paper to life with a little story children can “see”.

And there is also a Monkey tail....... J.....who must have been hiding when I made this chart!!

Before I begin, I re-iterate that using my pen is like driving a car, it does not fly but stays on the road hence it never leaves the paper whilst forming a letter.

I model the letter first and say each part of the process. Then I get my student to have a go whilst being given verbal cues.

d......  racetrack.....up the road...... up up up....   d.d.d.d.d... dead end... back down the road and little smile.
a.......racetrack.....stop.......down the road and little smile.
m.......  candy cane and mountains
v....... is a pointy smile
As the child becomes more proficient at forming the letter, reduce the verbal prompts.   For example...."it's a mountain letter" or "dead end d".
If your child has difficulty making any particular line, simply practice that on its own. The candy cane is a common problem, often formed from the bottom upwards and then the "mountains" are added or the mountains are done and the hook of the candy cane is added  afterwards. Unlike an e or s made from the bottom upwards, this does cause a real break in the flow of writing.  I have not encountered any children who have found it difficult to make a good "candy cane" before adding the mountains despite their natural preference to move in the opposite direction.
Certain letters are much harder than others for children to remember and master (possibly because they require more movements to create)  such as  b and d (refer to the Specific Difficulties section of the overview)  q g  y  j  k l n and r.  Some letters such as s may need to be worked on separately if it is being reversed.  I do not worry too much about children writing it from the bottom long as the end result is a neat s.
The ability to "trace" over another line is also a common problem.  r can often look like a v etc. To give a child a clear idea as to why it is important, I show them the tree crash!  If you go off the road you might crash into a tree!!!
There will be a complete letter by letter guide in the member's Resources section in due course.
Pencil Grip
Undoubtedly, one of the most important aspects of successful handwriting.
The way a child holds a pencil impacts on the legibility, speed and clarity of their writing.  It is very hard to change after the age of approximately 6 to 7 so it is a very important aspect of their early learning.  Studies have also shown that a poor pencil grip creates stress on developing joints and can later be a cause of arthritis.

What is a good pencil grip?

The “tripod” grip (which starts as a “simple” tripod and develops into a “Dynamic” tripod grip by about the age of 7)  is considered to be the most beneficial technique.  It develops highly co-ordinated finger movements, fluidity of writing and good control of the writing implement.

Here are examples of poor writing positions:

Other problems and solutions

Gripping too tightly -   A suggestion to correct this is to place a wad of tissue in the palm of the hand to form a ball.

Pushing down too hard –   If the pencil is standing vertically to the page, children will often be using it with too much force.  Encourage them to slant the pencil at an angle to the paper.   The pencil may also be too light and they are pushing harder to darken the print.  The use of a soft lead pencil can help this problem.

Holding the pencil vertically to the paper instead at an angle.  Colouring in helps to improve this as a child can visualise the different end results of using the pencil both ways.

Ways to encourage the correct pencil grip

The use of a special “gripper” that can be slipped on to a pencil.

Break wax crayons into small bits – the child cannot use a whole-hand grasp and will need to adopt a tripod grip to hold them.  Using fat crayons can also help.

Build up the small muscles in the hand by doing fine motor activities such as

*  threading beads

*  playing with pegs

*   picking up small items with a “pincer” grip using thumb and forefinger

*  moulding clay and play dough

*  tearing and scrunching paper

*  using spray bottles with a trigger

*  using scissors

There are a great range of activities on the website


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