Posted by Nellie Edge on February 10, 2016
Fall and Winter Handwriting Tips for Young Writers
- If handwriting skills are not automatic, it interferes with the whole writing process!
- Good handwriting skills facilitate rigorous Common Core writing standards: Continue working with each child’s name!
- Have high expectations
- Be intentional
- Create a sense of urgency: Your name is so important!
- 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” as their standard of excellence to promote efficient name writing and beginning handwriting fluency. (Fluency = accuracy and speed!)
- Carefully observe each child forming the letters in their first name. Expect each letter to be formed correctly before letting the child practice both first and last name. Notice pencil grasp and whether letters are being formed from the top.
- Once a child can print her first name fluently, she may also practice pink “heart word” sentences for handwriting fluency.
- Remind children when they are writing their names on papers during the day to “Stop, think, and focus…and do quality work!” We use American Sign Language (ASL).
- Continue fingerspelling everything: It develops writing strength in the finger muscles while building memory hooks for letters and sounds.
See How to Make Name/Fingerspelling Cards.
- Children need a consistent routine and a short, targeted, systematic time for daily name writing practice, ”heart word” 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.” One of our colleagues developed a form to assist parent volunteers so they can accurately help children with the a,b,c,d handwriting challenge. We make connections with our ABC Phonics: Sing, Sing and Read! program 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. This becomes their “ticket” to go outside. Expect good name writing throughout the day!
- Reteach the concept of continuous motion and lift the pen motion using spiral and twinkling art star projects if needed. (See original blog: Kindergarten Handwriting Matters!)
- 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…” (Opinion writing) or “I like cats/dogs because…and because…”
- 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 book making activities. Expect quality handwriting: “I see the dog.” Sing, Sign and Write ”This is my house” from Sing, Sign, Spell, and Read! CD.
- Before children engage in the Book Making/Word Work Fluency totes, use white boards to reteach and review letter shapes for “My Book, by,” and “the end.” Always have multiple copies of the language models at the table as a memory scaffold for quality handwriting.
- Consider sending home a first and last name model and the Name Ticket Practice Book again asking families to help the child practice twice a day (especially after your Fall or Winter Literacy Evening!). Parents value good handwriting and appreciate that it is being taught. Make sure they have a Name Ticket Model.
- Continue to notice each child’s pencil grasp. Teach an efficient pencil grip. Consider using the CLAW or a large triangle crayon with the children who need support to build muscle memory for pencil holding. Encourage families to use it at home.
- If you notice that several children are not making the “e” efficiently, do a white board lesson using the word “love” or “like” or “the end.” Fast writes build fluency! Ask children to verbalize how to form the “e”: “out and around” while forming the letter in the air. Emphasize the first “horizontal” line.
- For optimal teaching, every time we introduce a new “heart word,” we provide a lesson involving writing the word multiple times! This can be a white board lesson, a creative art piece, or a page from our Kindergarten-Friendly Handwriting, Word Work, and Phonics book. Use the Sing, Sign, Spell and Read! anthology pages for follow-up practice.
- 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 in large half-day programs however, we believe it will be the norm in quality all-day kindergarten models.)
- Honor children as “name writing experts” once they have learned efficient handwriting motions for each of their letters. 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.
- Expect good handwriting for the pink and purple “heart words”: include writing the word with fluency as a part of becoming a master of each new set of words! Once pink and purple words are mastered, children will be able to efficiently write every lowercase letter except j, q, and z.
- 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.
See our Pinterest Kindergarten-Friendly Handwriting board for useful articles from occupational therapists.
Sing the handwriting songs and chants: “I Always Start My Letters at the Top”, “The I Chant”, and “O Dance.” http://www.pinterest.com/pin/569142471632852490/
Teach handwriting while simultaneously practicing high-frequency “heart words” 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 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.
For additional information about Kindergarten-Friendly Handwriting, see our earlier blogs.
Your Professional Development just got easier!
3 Foundation Seminars for $39 each
The entire Sing, Sign, Spell & Read! program is included as a FREE digital download.
A special thank you to to Jaime Corliss, Celeste Starr, Laura Flocker, Katie Nelson, Shanda Lung, Kathie Bridges, Shabri Vignery, and Kristi Nelson for collaboration in our ongoing teacher-research on the most authentic, inexpensive, and time-efficient way to teach kindergarten-friendly handwriting and high-frequency "heart words".
Some free helpful links:
- Name Ticket Practice Book
- The Printing “I” Chant
- I Always Start My Letters
- For video and audio of L-O-V-E Spells Love see L-o-v-e Spells Love ASL Instructional Video
- Draw Animals and Make Rubber Band Books (dog and cat) Nellie Edge TpT Store
We enjoy hearing about your success using this authentic approach to kindergarten-friendly handwriting. We will make every effort to respond to questions for several days after this is posted. Please post your comments below.
Nellie Edge says
That is such a good question with no “one right answer” that would apply to every situation. We study our children’s writing—both during Writing Workshop time and during the bookmaking (authentic word work) activities. Certainly preschool children should be given blank paper to simply explore their art/scribbling/drawing process as they develop interest, fine motor control, and awareness of letters and shapes.
We begin kindergarten by teaching children to draw with detail and label their drawings on blank paper and practice name writing every day on blank Name Tickets. We have high expectations and we use developmentally sensitive coaching, soon expecting children to start writing sentences during Writing Workshop using their own phonetic spelling and conventional spelling of sight words. At that time (late September or October), teachers usually provide children wide lines—or kid-writing paper with a shaded line for adult underwriting—(not three-lined paper) as a frame to write inside of. What is interesting about young writers is you can usually tell when they’re not ready for “writing within the lines,” because if they’re not, they will total ignore them!
Some of my colleagues introduce three-lined paper toward the end of the year, just to give the children the opportunity to explore the type of paper they may be using in first grade. Three-lined penmanship paper may be offered as one of the paper options for those children, if they choose to! However, most of our colleagues use “paper with wide lines” all year long for writing workshop, and children transition to formal three-lined penmanship paper in first grade.
Notice that our Rubber Band Books, Folded Books, Skinny Books, and later published books, do not have lines. Our diverse kindergarten writers, with support, transition into writing left to right, top to bottom, without lines quite naturally because we create a culture of engaged writers.
You can see there is no one easy answer to this question. Teachers need to have a solid grasp of the writing process and observe their children, trusting their teaching wisdom about the lined structure needed.
We have discovered that for developmentally younger writers still practicing good name writing and having a hard time with size relationship between the letters by January: It may be helpful for them to see their Name Ticket printed on three-lined paper and to practice their name writing on three-lined Name Ticket paper.
1. Forcing children to write within three-lined paper before they are developmentally ready may impede the writing process and diminish progress and enthusiasm.
2. Asking children to work on three-lined paper before their hand-eye coordination and their perceptual writing skills are mature enough can also cause parents undue worry. If they have unrealistic expectations for their children, this may lead to negative feedback and pressure around the whole writing process—not a good way to build happy, motivated writers!
Our larger purpose is to create a kindergarten of children who not only know how to write but who choose to write and draw because it is a source of personal pleasure and power.
Thank you for asking this important question to which there is no one easy answer. Keep writing real and be sensitive to the needs of your children. Consider taking a quick look at the writing samples in all three of our handwriting blogs again, and these random thoughts may make more sense.
We will address this issue with more examples (and logic!) during our upcoming 2015 Online Seminar: Kindergarten-Friendly Handwriting Matters! Meanwhile, thank you for reading our blogs, and enjoy the process of becoming a master teacher of young writers! – Nellie
I love the photos of the children practicing the technique – they really help demonstrate how children learn in the classroom. Thanks!
Nellie Edge says
Thank you Patti! We love documenting and sharing the work of kindergarten writers.
Kristi Nelson says
Thank you for the writing reminders in your blog! I plan to add those strategies in my lesson plans 🙂
Nellie Edge says
Thank you for reading the blog and for wanting to be the best kindergarten teacher you can be! I write these detailed blogs for teachers like you who really think about joyful accelerated literacy practices.
Cindy Ulshafer says
I noticed you have so much layering of information on your resources. Teachers are so lucky to be able to see the work of current kindergartners, hear the songs that help them learning handwriting, study the strategies, and just share the joy of kindergarten from others’ perspectives. There is a lot of anticipation for your online seminars! Cindy