Handwriting in the classroom


I blogged a few weeks ago about why handwriting is still important and the way in which a fluent and automatic handwriting style allows children to write more and write better. If children don’t have to think about the process of handwriting then that frees up brain power for attending to all the other tricky bits of writing and allows the composition side of things to take priority.


So how do you go about teaching handwriting in the classroom? A few ideas..

– in EYFS, opportunities to practise forming letters once fine motor control is reasonably secure can be given through play provision in a variety of areas and with a range of writing implements (whiteboard pens, paintbrushes of different sizes with water, forming letters in different textures in active trays, chalks etc)

-Teachers need to model and explicitly teach handwriting at some point during the week, little and often is the ideal I think. There are lots of different handwriting schemes with slightly different scripts and descriptions for how to form each letter or join but the main thing is consistency- adopt one approach as a school and ensure everyone is modelling it the same way

-make sure handwritten notices / headings / labels etc are on display in classrooms. I think there is less and less evidence of this these days as laminated sparklebox and twinkl ( to name a few!) readymade display signs seem to be all over every classroom but I think its really important children see handwritten signage and labels too.

-Think about when to make a big deal of handwriting and focus on other things at other times. So model that note taking or idea generating doesn’t need to be our best handwriting but a final published piece would do. Give children the opportunity to choose best pieces of writing ( in terms of composition) to be written up with neat handwriting and presentation. Handwriting and presentation / decoration choice can and should be an enjoyable thing – calligraphy etc.

-Lastly, don’t ignore keyboard skills! Children will be increasingly producing written work on computers alongside handwritten pieces. My course in touch typing during my A-levels has turned out to be invaluable although I wasn’t that enthusiastic at the time! Realistically, beyond primary school almost all written work will be keyboard based so its worth thinking about.






Handwriting in the classroom

Why make time for handwriting?

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…



















Why make time for handwriting?