Penmanship: Teaching Strategies for Longhand Writing

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

This lesson stresses the importance of teaching good penmanship. Read on to learn about several creative and inexpensive strategies that teachers can use with their students to improve overall handwriting skills.

Why Have Good Penmanship?

Let's face it: We live in a world of computers and technology, and many students, by the time they enter school, are comfortable with a computer keyboard and can easily type out whatever they want to say. So why be bothered with teaching penmanship? Well, the truth is, even the most computer-savvy students are going to have to produce something handwritten at some point. As such, having good handwriting really is important - not just to the person who will be reading what Junior turns in, but to Junior as well.

Strategies for Teaching Penmanship

In some schools, the idea of teaching handwriting as a subject is going the way of the dinosaur. And in many places, cursive handwriting hasn't been taught in years. Nevertheless, that doesn't diminish its importance. Having good penmanship probably isn't as important as, let's say, knowing one's multiplication tables, but it does have its place within the curriculum. Here are some strategies for helping your students write their best:

1. Stress letter strokes. Whether you are teaching kindergartners to write their names or third graders the basics of cursive, letter strokes are important. Instead of having your students practice different strokes on endless handwriting worksheets, why not get creative? Let them practice on their desks with shaving cream or by writing with their fingers in a tray of sand. This will take the repetitiveness out of the task, and your students will have a good time as well. And chances are, the strokes will 'stick.'

Tall letters extend further up than small letters
Tall letters extend further up than small letters

2. Stress the difference between tall letters and small letters. Nobody wants to be tasked with reading handwriting where each and every letter is the same size, so it's important that students be able to physically differentiate between the tall and small letters. A lower-case 'a' can't be the same size as an 'h,' and so forth. Even for students learning cursive, practicing on ruled paper where every other line is highlighted will drive this point home. The idea is for the small letters (or the small parts of tall letters) to be written in the highlighted area, and the tall parts to go above the highlighted area. There are even applications online that will make this highlighted paper for you so you can print it out. That way you're not spending all your free time highlighting lines.

Highlighted paper ideal for practicing tall and small letters
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