We focus on good handwriting skills in kindergarten all year long. In January, students practice letter formation for their first and last names. Send home free printable Name Ticket books so families can help their children practice. Build short authentic practices into morning work activities and continue sight word sentences.
Create a sense of urgency: Your name is so important!
If handwriting skills are not automatic, it interferes with the whole writing process!
1. Use a Name Ticket Model: First and Last Name
Even by January, almost all kindergarten children will still need to see a Name Ticket model of how their name looks when printed correctly—especially when they start working on their last name too. Consider using a model on lined paper; it may help the children learn letter-size relationships among letters. Use this Name Ticket model as a rubric to promote efficient name writing and handwriting fluency. (Fluency = accuracy and speed!)
2. Build Writing Fluency with High-Frequency Sight Word Sentences
Practice high-frequency sentences for handwriting fluency. We call them pink “heart word” sentences. Children take pride in writing I love…, I see…, I like, I can… from memory. Most children are writing purple “heart word” sentences by January. I have…, This is my… They are also adding the opinion writing word “because” to their sentences.
3. Teach Children to Think, Focus and Do Quality Work
- Remind children when they are practicing handwriting during the day to Stop, breathe, think, and focus…and do quality work! We use American Sign Language (ASL) to aid comprehension.
- Continue fingerspelling everything: It develops finger muscle strength while building memory hooks for encoding sounds to print.
How to make name/fingerspelling cards:
- Insert a one column table into the document
- Use Ball-and-Stick font for letters in approximately 80 point size*
- Place a space between each letter
- For fingerspelling underneath, use font Fingerletters in approximately 90 point size*. For ease in reading, do not bold the fingerletters.
The Fingerlettters font may be purchased from Educational Fontware, Inc. at firstname.lastname@example.org. 1-800-806-2155.
*Size depends on length of name.
4. Maintain Consistent Handwriting Routines
- Children need a consistent routine and a short targeted, systematic time for daily name writing practice, ”heart word” sentence quick writes, and a, b, c, d fluency drills. In some classrooms, this works best first thing in the morning as part of “settling in time”; other teachers provide this practice after recess and before independent “choice time.” We make connections with our ABC Phonics: Sing, Sing and Read! program and fingerspell throughout the curriculum.
- In still other classrooms, the children are expected to always do their best name writing. Some teachers check the students’ names on their illustrated “I Can Read” Anthology (Notebook) pages or other art/writing pieces, which gets finished before recess. Quality name writing becomes their “ticket” to go outside. Expect good name writing throughout the day!
5. Reteach and Review as Needed
- Review the touchstone sentence: I love you. Notice how children are making the lowercase “y”—have them verbalize short diagonal, long diagonal. Let them write fancy “I love you” secret messages (to take home and hide) as soon as they have demonstrated mastery! By January, they will add “I love you because…” or “I like cats/dogs because…and because…” (Opinion Writing)
- Review minilessons for the word “dog” and “cat” to work on the counterclockwise “O” movement. Use white boards. Then introduce the Independent Writing Tote so the children can build fluency by writing, drawing, and making books about dogs and cats and other animals. Children love making books!
- Review handwriting motions within the context of high-frequency “heart word” sentence patterns before children do independent bookmaking activities. Expect quality handwriting: “I see the dog.” “The end.” Review songs from the Sing, Sign, Spell, and Read! CD by Nellie Edge, Gina Edge, and Rosalie Karalekas.
6. Invite Parents to Practice First and Last Name Writing at Home
Send home a new Name Ticket Practice Book for first and last name and ask families to help the child practice twice a day. Parents value good handwriting and appreciate that it is being taught. Make sure they have a Name Ticket model of the child’s full name.
7. Introduce the Opinion Writing Word “Because”
- Use the Sing, Sign, Spell and Read! anthology pages for follow-up practice on Opinion Writing words. This can be a white board lesson, a creative art piece, or a page from our Kindergarten-Friendly Handwriting, Word Work, and Phonics book.
- For harder-to-accelerate children who are receiving individual letter recognition/phonics tutoring as a response to intervention (R.T.I.), always incorporate handwriting! Shaping the letter efficiently will help the brain remember the visual pattern and sound of each letter.
- Notice children’s independent writing. Record letter formation problems so you can provide appropriate individual or small group instruction. (We understand this is very challenging, especially in large Title 1 kindergartens; however, research supports teaching handwriting.)
8. Honor Handwriting Experts: Make Learning Visible
- Honor children as “handwriting experts” once they have learned efficient handwriting for their names and/or pink “heart word” sentences. The experts can each make a crown and have their pictures taken for a class book or receive a badge or certificate. Kindergarten children love recognition for having worked hard and achieved an important learning target.
- For children who are still challenged by the skill of holding a pencil, ask to have an occupational therapist, doctor, or learning specialist screen the child for large motor integration and strength. Can the child crawl? Cross the midline? Are their arm and shoulder muscles strong enough to support handwriting? Can their fingers form a web for pencil control? Again, continue fingerspelling to build fine motor skills.
9. Teach Handwriting While Simultaneously Practicing High-Frequency “Heart Word” Sentences to Accelerate Literacy
We send copies of our Sing, Sign, Spell and Read! CD home with children. (Permission granted to make multiple copies for family literacy.) Families love singing along and being “parents as partners” in joyful accelerated literacy learning.
For more information about this approach to joyful accelerated sight word learning, see Sing, Sign, Spell and Read!
Nellie Edge Online Seminar #3
10. Study to Become the Best Handwriting Teacher You Can Be
Make These Practices Routine in Your Classroom
See our Pinterest Kindergarten-Friendly Handwriting board for useful articles from occupational therapists.
For teachers already using our Kindergarten-Friendly approach to handwriting, consider rereading the first 20 page photo essay in the Teachers’ Guide: Kindergarten-Friendly Handwriting, Word Work and Phonics by Nellie Edge and read Chapter 3 in Kindergarten Writing and the Common Core: Joyful Pathways to Accelerated Literacy.
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