Teaching Handwriting: Methods & Strategies

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will discuss the importance of handwriting, the components of handwriting instruction, and some specific strategies for teaching handwriting.

Handwriting Matters

Why is handwriting important? While many educators have prioritized other skills over handwriting, educators are now finding that explicit handwriting instruction in early elementary school may prevent writing problems later. Writing instruction is particularly beneficial to students with learning disabilities or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) as handwriting reinforces reading and spelling skills. Let's examine some methods and strategies for teaching handwriting.

Do Students Need to Write in Cursive?

According to research, the bigger question is whether or not students are able to effortlessly communicate in writing. As long as students are capable of writing legibly, whether it is in manuscript (handwritten in a fashion similar to type-written letters) or cursive (handwritten in a way that the letters flow together) does not matter. While many experts formerly promoted cursive writing as being more beneficial to students with learning disabilities, the evidence to support that claim is lacking.

Components of Handwriting Instruction

There are three basic components of handwriting that students must master to be considered proficient: execution, legibility, and speed.


Execution relates to a student's ability to use proper form when holding a pencil and forming letters. If a student learns to hold a pencil incorrectly or to form letters incorrectly in the younger grades, it is difficult to correct later. Students should be taught to write letters using continuous strokes. Letters, such as 'b', 'd', and 'g' should be written without lifting the pencil.

Practicing by making the motor movements in air or sand before moving to paper and pencil helps students learn to correctly form letters before they are required to attend to details, such as size and spacing. When students move on to pencil/paper practice, using arrow cues will prevent them from getting into the habit of making formation errors.


Legibility relates to forming readable letters and using correct spacing within words and sentences. Although there are times when it doesn't matter whether or not it is legible to others, such as when students are writing notes to study later and the student can read what they have written. However, students need to understand that there are other times when others should be able to decipher what has been written. In those circumstances, the student should be capable of creating legible text.


Speed indicates proficiency and fluency in written communication. Legibility takes precedence over speed. However, once students are able to properly form letters, they need to be write quickly enough to be able to take notes.

Handwriting Sequence

When determining the sequence of handwriting instruction, there are a few things to keep in mind.

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