Kindergarten Handwriting – What does the Research Say
The Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, and Early Intervention published a review on handwriting and interventions for preschoolers, kindergarten students, first grade, and second graders. This is what the experts found:
- Writing letters in late preschool contributes to letter recognition.
- Elementary students do better when handwriting is explicitly taught.
- Legibility improves with adequate practice. (Fancher, 2018)
Research also tells us that the more young chidren practice letter formation incorrectly, the harder it is to change.
There is also research that supports handwriting and fluency. As students learn to write the letters more fluently, they are also able to name them more fluently.
Do Teachers Still Teach Handwriting in Kindergarten?
Yes, I know, so many of us have tons of technology in our classroom. Students are up to their elbows in tablets and writing tools, and quite frankly, they’re better at this technology than I am most of the time. Will they need to know handwriting? Is it still important to teach? Well… yes… and there are these little things called the learning standards, as well:
- K.L.1.a-3. Print all uppercase letters.
K.L.1.a-4. Print all lowercase letters.
But the standards alone should not be the reason to convince us to embrace a subject. For me, I need to feel it is important as well, otherwise, it might get pushed off the schedule… whoops!
I often think about where I want students to focus their mental energy. In writers’ workshop, I want them to focus on composing a message (not handwriting). BUT if handwriting is laborious for the student, they might spend their mental fuel on forming letters or thinking about how to form the letters. I don’t want that to happen. I want them to feel confident and their letter formation to be automatic. SO… we practice.
What Does Kindergarten Handwriting Practice Look Like?
Each day we practice. I do these steps as part of our phonics and handwriting practice work.
- I place a copy of the same handwriting worksheet the students are working on under my document camera.
- As we form each letter, I repeat the path of motion. Then I say, “A…apple../a/.” The students echo me.
- On one side of the paper is the classroom practice. As this is happening, I am also circulating around the room. Because we all know, just because we show them the correct path of motion, it does not mean they will necessarily follow it.
- We are building muscle memory. I would rather have them do NOTHING than practice it incorrectly.
- When the page is done, I have students circle their best one of the entire group of letters they wrote. It helps them to be reflective.
Handwriting Homework Practice
The back of the page goes home for “optional homework” so students have extra practice with letter formation at home. I include the path of motion instructions for the parents and reinforce the importance of building muscle memory. So, no more guilt about giving out handwriting practice pages!
Is path of motion THAT important?
Yes! Experts tell us that it is! They also tell us that a good handwriting program should have students try to complete the letter formation without lifting the pencil, whenever possible. For example, a, d, m should be written without lifting the pencil. Whereas, lower case letters like k, f, t require a pencil lift.
Focus on the path of motion versus perfection. Meaning, instruction should be focused initially on teaching the students the correct letter path of motion. Perfect legibility will come later with time.
Letter introduction order
Experts also tell us to provide instruction on letters of the alphabet that are formed similarly. You can see the order I use by downloading the FREE curriculum guide that is offered in the right-hand sidebar of my blog.
You have introduced all the letters… now what?
Wouldn’t it be great if humans could be taught once and then they would know? This makes we think about when I was learning a new dance step. I had to do it OVER and OVER and OVER. Then, when my mind would wander, I would miss a step. Students need time to build muscle memory… Enter Minute to Win IT! Here is how it works.
Once all of the letters have been introduced, we start with a fun whole group writing practice activity. In all honesty, I usually wait until mid-November to start this. The entire class starts with just the single letter a. They practice writing the letter across the first line and then STOP! They do this at their own pace. I walk around to make sure they have the basic strokes and correct letter formation. If they do not, I show them quickly (see the pen marks on her letter b?). Then I set the timer for 1 minute.
Students race down the page as quickly as they can. AGAIN, my focus is on the path of motion. If they reach the bottom and the letters are formed correctly, they pass that letter. So yes, after a few weeks, I have some students working on f, while others are working on k. Also please know that my expectations, with these types of fine motor activities, are usually not the same for every student. Some students might need to complete the page, while others need to just do 10 letters correctly. Another modification might be giving students more time, or practicing with their handwriting worksheets during small group time instead.
How Do I Keep Track of the Students’ Handwriting Practice Progress?
I don’t … the students do it for me. The students have a punch card that they keep in their crayon box. As they “pass” a letter, I punch the letter out and they move on to the next letter. Then students take this home as practice sheets for their homework. As part of the motivation for home practice, I sent home a smelly marker with the student. They just got one, so they had to take care of it. I know this is a sponsored post, but honestly, Mr. Sketch is the BEST. The markers last REALLY long, they make great anchor charts, and according to one of my students, “The light blue one smells like the car wash.” Ha!
When they bring the page back completed, they get a star on the back of their card. When they get 10 stars, they get a trip to the treasure box! What a fun way to master basic letter formation – SCORE!
How long does this take?
I know time is a huge commodity. At the beginning of the year, on a daily basis, I spend about 10 minutes teaching the path of motion, in conjunction with letter sound. Talk about making the most of your day when you don’t have a lot of time — this is a great way to do the hard work of reviewing letter sounds, fine motor skills, and handwriting all at once! So then, when we start to do Minute to Win IT! it literally takes MINUTES… 5 tops!
I have also talked about dessert tubs or early finishers. You can read more about these by clicking HERE. Tossing in your path of motion cards with an Expo Marker is simple and such great practice! Expo markers are the best! I have yet to find another brand that works as well. Nobody has time for dry erase markers that DON’T ERASE! Expo never lets me down. I would get a class set at the beginning of the year because my OCD is STRONG!
What About Letter Reversals and Handwriting?
You can read my post on b and d letter reversals and grab a free download by clicking:
If you are looking for more on kindergarten handwriting practice worksheets:
And, if you’d like some ideas for center activities that show how to make handwriting practice more fun, click HERE.
Want a numeral version?
You can find that version by clicking:
FREE Handwriting File
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