In the good old days when there was far less targets and testing for Key Stage One, I was able to do 20 minutes of handwriting time 3 times a week in my Year One class. The whole class would practice letter formation and spelling words (we didn’t teach joining at that stage then) and it seemed to really improve their writing – as well as being a nice calm start to the afternoon.
It feels like handwriting is often neglected these days due to the pressure of overpacked timetables and targets (again). I had a lecture on handwriting for my last MA module and it was interesting to be reminded about why its important.
So – a quick summary on what it’s all about:
- Writing is a very cognitively demanding process and difficulties with handwriting are often one of the earliest constraints on writing development.
- Berninger (1998) says handwriting is ‘language by hand’ and much more than just fine motor skills – it impacts fluency and composing of writing.
- The aim is legibility, speed and automaticity.
- It begins with gross motor skills in the early years (large movements with the arms and hands e.g twirling ribbons / chalks on walls / big construction / climbing apparatus) moving to fine motor (tweezer activities / playdoh / baking etc) to develop wrist strength and hand dexterity.
- Boys often develop fine motor control later than girls.
- The process of handwriting then begins to be about the 4 P’s: posture, paper position, pencil grip and pressure. Concentration and co-ordination are also important too.
I will post again in the next few weeks to think about the practical application of all this in the classroom, in the meantime I need to work on my own untidy scrawl as my Year 6’s keep telling me they can’t read my feedback in their books…