Handwriting Policy (written September 2015 by K Lyon)
Even in this technological, computer-literate age, good handwriting remains fundamental to our children’s educational achievement. Therefore it is essential we equip our children with the skills they require to develop fast, fluent and legible writing.
Handwriting is a developmental process with its own distinctive stages of sequential growth. It can be counterproductive if we ask the children to form/join letters before they are developmentally ready, therefore it is important we are aware of these developmental stages: 1. Readiness for handwriting - hand-eye co-ordination, gross and fine motor skills
2. Pencil grip
3. Development leading to pattern and letter formation
4. Beginning to join
5. Securing the joins
6. Practising speed and fluency
7. Presentational skills
Readiness for handwriting and pencil grip:
Before the children begin the formal teaching of handwriting they need to experience appropriate activities that help them develop their hand-eye co-ordination, gross and fine motor skills. These do not need to be formally recorded in a book using a pencil, photographic evidence can be taken to monitor a child’s gross and fine motor development.
|Gross motor skills||Fine motor skills||Hand eye coordination||Pencil grip|
Contrary to what some people believe a thick pencil has little benefit for younger children, more important is the surface that they are writing on and this may be the case for older children.
Children’s pencil grip depends on their physical development of the muscles in their hands not on their age. Pencil grip needs to be clearly taught and misconceptions need to be addressed as they occur. By the end of the EYFS, children will be expected to hold their pencil using the static tripod grip, baring a few exceptions. The dynamic tripod grip may not develop until the children are in Key Stage 1. Staff are expected to model a tripod grip when writing in front of children.
Pattern and letter formation
Once the children have developed their pencil grip and control they will be developmentally ready to begin letter formation. In the early years there is no focus on the size of the letters, but the ‘flow’ of the formation. Our handwriting scheme is based on the pattern of the letters. Many letters can be derived from starting with c, l, and r, for example, and teaching the children the letters as a pattern has proven to support their learning.
c, o, a, d, g, q - derived from c
s, f - development from c
l, t, i, j - derived from l
e - doesn’t follow a pattern, but is the most common vowel so it’s important it is taught early on.
u, y, w - derived from u
r, n, m - derived from r
h, b, k, p - these letters follow a basic pattern
v - doesn’t follow a pattern
z - doesn’t follow a pattern
x - doesn’t follow a pattern
By the end of the EYFS, children must be able to form all the letters up to ‘e’. This is a ‘non-negotiable’.
Beginning to join and securing joins
Once the children have been taught the individual letter formations they are ready to begin to join. A lot of children begin to join before they are developmentally ready as they can ‘see’ the join pattern, but it is important to teach them how to join correctly as some are trickier than others.
Capital letters do not need to be explicitly taught, but children do need to be aware of how they are different from lower case letters. Please see the handwriting scheme for the example of how capital letters should be formed. It is also important to note that children should not be joining from a capital letter they should stand alone.
Practising speed, fluency and presentational skills
Once the children can join correctly, it is a case of practising to develop speed and fluency. The children should be transferring their handwriting skills throughout the curriculum and this should be emphasised in marking comments/feedback. By the end of Year 4 there shouldn’t be a need to carry out formal handwriting lessons, but handwriting practice should be covered through copying up work for display work or their neat work books. There may be a number of children who still need more formal practice depending on their development.
So when should handwriting be taught?
Handwriting practice should be ‘little and often’ and actively taught, a few minutes at a time to practise a particular set of letters. As for motor skills, long practice sessions spaced apart are much less productive than short and frequent sessions.
Children need to be supervised when they are practising handwriting until letter formation is secure - bad habits are difficult to eradicate later on! Children who have experienced the multi-sensory approach to learning letter shapes are less likely to develop bad handwriting habits. The holistic approach to learning handwriting and phonics together is an ideal basis for emergent writing because children become used to thinking about letter shapes and sounds together. As children begin to join letters to write digraphs and some HFW, their writing and spelling will become increasingly accurate.
Handwriting and RWI
As we are aware, RWI handwriting practice relates to pictures i.e. ‘Down Maisie, round the mountain, round the mountain’ but there is no upstroke! We must model to the children how to use the upstroke when teaching handwriting, therefore say “get ready...” before the RWI phrase. During the early stages of ‘Speed writing’ in RWI there should be no emphasis on perfect formation as handwriting is taught outside of RWI. As long as the children have ‘made a mark’ which recognisably resembles the letter this is adequate at this stage. Once the letter formation has been taught in class/RWI and the children have successfully mastered it, they will be expected to transfer to their work.
Modelling handwriting and the environment
A lot of what children learn about handwriting is from watching adults writing. Therefore it is of upmost importance to always model good handwriting practice when writing in front of the children. Even down to the way we hold our pencil can impact on the children’s development - just something to consider!
Displaying good handwriting in the environment is also important. With the ease of typing labels and signs on the computer we need to consider if everything the children see around school is printed. Handwriting peg, draw labels, display signs etc can be time consuming, but the effect of seeing handwriting around the environment can have a huge impact on the children’s knowledge and development. Where appropriate, children should also be encouraged to produce good quality handwriting to display in the environment.
A handwriting display should be present in each learning space, whether this is simple letter formation or examples of joins (depending on the children’s needs). The handwriting must be presented sized correctly and sitting on a line. Be aware that examples of handwriting pre-made on teaching websites do not always follow the letter formation we use in our schools.
Other factors affecting handwriting
• Make sure tables are big enough (width)
• Height of tables and chairs - so feet can be flat on the floor
• Good lighting
• Use non writing hand to steady the paper
• The paper should be tilted slightly (depending on left or right handed)
At least 10% of the population are left handed - a slightly higher proportion are male. There is no need for left handed children to be disadvantaged when writing, if a few simple strategies are employed:
• Model letter formation, sky writing etc. Specifically for left-handed children, with your left hand.
• Make sure that left-handed children sit on the left of right-handed children, otherwise their writing arms will clash.
• Put a mark at the left side of the page to indicate where writing begins as some left-handed children mirror-write from the right.
• Left-handed children usually need to have the paper slightly to the left of centre of their body and should be encouraged to tilt their work clockwise so they can see what they have written.
• Experiment with seat height - some left-handed children may need a higher seat to view their work clearly and to prevent the elbow locking into their side as they work across the paper.
To avoid smudging:
• Left-handed children should be encouraged to position their fingers about 1.5cm away from the end of their writing implement;
• The pencil should sit in the ‘v’ between the thumb and forefinger, sitting parallel to the thumb;
• The wrist should be straight.
• Writing from left to right is more difficult for left-handed children. They should, therefore, be given more attention in the classroom to ensure that they do not learn bad habits of position, posture and pen hold which will deter a fast, fluent and legible hand.
In the EYFS the focus for handwriting is on the ‘flow’ of the letter formation rather than a focus on size. When the children are developmentally ready to consider the size of their writing they should carry out their handwriting practice in the green wide lined book. As their handwriting develops they can progress on to the small green book with guide lines (handwriting to be practised between the little lines) and then progress on to the purple books. Progressing through the books depends on individual’s development rather than being in a certain year group. For example some Year 2 children may still need to practise in the green book with wide lines.
Handwriting must be commented on in marking. Children should be given the time to read these comments and act upon them.