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Teaching Handwriting

(31 Posts)
barefootcook Mon 03-Feb-20 00:01:39

Due to the appalling handwriting of some of our Y7 and 8 students we have decided to reteach them how to write! Some have missed out on handwriting lessons early on and others are just sloppy. We have created a good resource, however no one in the department has ever been trained in actually teaching handwriting. Does anyone have any hint or suggestions to help us?

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IHeartKingThistle Mon 03-Feb-20 00:08:28

Yeah it's a huge problem for me too (secondary English). A lot of my students have terrible pen grip but it's too late to correct it. I have no suggestions but will be following!

Oblahdeeoblahdoe Mon 03-Feb-20 00:27:26

Is this going to be a whole school policy because it will require constant reinforcement at their age. There are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating cursive handwriting so you need to pick a style and stick with it. I am surprised that there are so many Y7 and 8s with the problem because in the last few years primaries have focused on the standards of handwriting.

GrammarTeacher Mon 03-Feb-20 05:50:21

Handwriting is awful in our school too. So following for advice. I suspect the issue we may have is that people see it as an English Teacher thing and 'not their concern'.

Oblahdeeoblahdoe Mon 03-Feb-20 09:26:12

You're probably right GrammarTeacher I could give you plenty of ideas that work in primary such as daily handwriting practice, fine motor control exercises, issuing of 'pen licences' but I'm not so sure they would go down so well with Y7 & 8s.It might be worth working with the local feeder schools on it.

chipsandgin Mon 03-Feb-20 09:34:05

I’m a parent not a teacher but DS1 is now 16 in GCSE year, is very academically able (predicted mostly 8s) but has appalling handwriting.

His brother who is Yr5 has benefited from the more recent focus on handwriting in primary school and has lovely, clear consistent and most importantly legible handwriting.

I am concerned that it could affect the outcome of his exams, he could write incredible content but if it is a mess or difficult to read it won’t help.

If there had been some re-focus such as you are suggesting in Yr7 or 8 I would have really appreciated it. We did try at home but to no avail. If anyone has any suggestions or tricks that have worked I’d love to hear about them, I don’t know if it is something that can change after a certain point?

parrotonmyshoulder Mon 03-Feb-20 09:44:35

I trained over 20 years ago (primary). I have got most success in teaching good handwriting in schools that have had whole class handwriting lessons, led from the front of the class with demonstrations on the board. Absolutely not my usual style of teaching but always loved by pupils.
I had to practise a lot to make sure I could fluently use the handwriting style.

I have to say, no amount of iPad apps or similar, however cool they seem, has improved the writing of any children I’ve worked with.

Apple23 Mon 03-Feb-20 10:27:15

What is the standard of handwriting in your feeder primaries? Is is actually poor in every Y6 class?

More likely, the problem is with the expectations in your school, perhaps in combination with some pupils still having relatively poor fine motor skills.
Do you pupils use appropriate pens rather than cheap biros?
Are desks and chairs at the right height?
Do teachers allow enough time for written tasks and teach note-taking skills so children can record the information quickly enough?
What standard of handwriting is modelled in class?
Is poor handwriting challenged and pupils helped to improve?
Is legible handwriting seen as desirable, or something that doesn’t matter or only is valuable for girls?
Are left-handers properly supported?

You need teachers in all subjects on-board. Rather than an immediate start, I would run some test groups with the current Y7s to iron out any issues and then implement your new policy consistently from September with the next cohort of Year 7s.

Oblahdeeoblahdoe Mon 03-Feb-20 10:57:53

chipsandgin is your son's handwriting illegible or just messy? I say this because my DS in his 30s now, has the handwriting of a 4 year old but is a nuclear physicist and very successful. I still cringe when I receive a birthday or Christmas card written by him.

Rupertpenrysmistress Mon 03-Feb-20 11:09:30

This is very interesting to me my ds is Y6 and his handwriting is awful. I do worry about him starting secondary school, he has had poor handwriting through the whole of primary and the teachers are aware of it, he used to have 'handwriting intervention' this stopped in Y5 but there was no improvement.

I did contact the his teacher as I am happy to help him, but don't know where to start. I was told they are aware he needs help but don't have the resources. It worries me as he is intelligent but, I fear his writing will prevent him progressing as far as he could. The school have been no help and I don't know where to start.

Can anyone here signpost some resources or websites I can access.

Oblahdeeoblahdoe Mon 03-Feb-20 13:31:47

Rupert, it takes a lot practice but there are various resources such as triangular pencils or grips which help. WHS sell handwriting practice books too. Does he generally have issues with fine motor control? This is usually worked on during the early years e.g. playdoh, threading beads etc but maybe you could get creative in some way. I wouldn't worry about the size of the letters yet, it's the formation that's important. When that's right he can go smaller. There are YouTube clips which demonstrate in case you're not certain yourself. I'd also encourage writing as much as possible e. g. he writes the shopping list, to do lists etc.

TeenPlusTwenties Mon 03-Feb-20 13:45:14

If you haven't already done so I think you definitely need to go back to your feeder primaries and see the standard in y6 classes. if they aren't sending up children with good enough handwriting then that is something they need to work on.

You could also ask the primaries to provide an example of each pupils' average handwriting. Photocopy and stick in the front of every exercise book at the start of y7, so every teacher can see the quality that each child can produce (to stop drop in standards).

Bimbleberries Mon 03-Feb-20 14:00:08

I wish I'd been shown the 'monk's grip' for holding a pen much earlier in my school career, as that would have helped my pain/arm ache enormously. I pushed through and made myself write quickly and neatly, but at such a cost.

I think there should be a push for legibility, not perfection. Many children learn in primary how to write very neatly, when required, but not at speed. A fluent, joined, speeded script that is legible is much more useful that a lovely, very neat, slow script that is just useful for 'best'.

Lots of space needed at desks, and appropriate height. Room to allow the arm to move from the elbow and shoulder, not just the wrist.

Time to do it properly! So much copying from the board, with very little time to do it, and children end up going faster than they're capable of. There needs to be a better transition from primary school, to build up speed gradually.

Enough paper/space. Some schools scrimp on photocopying so that worksheets, exam practice papers, homework etc are all done half size, so writing has to be squashed into small space, which doesn't foster good habits.

Time to practice - maybe a daily session in form time. Some of the activities used in remedial handwriting programmes could be incorporated, like worked large, making written patterns in rhythm to music to promote good 'flow' and arm movement, making sure children remember the correct letter formation and joins.

NarwhalsNarwhals Mon 03-Feb-20 14:18:35

I run handwriting interventions at primary.

Before you start you need to look at the pens they are using, it is harder to write neatly in biro than any other pen. Also check they are holding their pen properly and the paper with the other hand (should be obvious but I've seen quite a few kids lately who have never been shown to hold the paper still)

The big problem I see a lot from children joining my school later is not all schools teach cursive so when they come to start joining up no one shows them where the lead ins and lead outs go, so they guess which leads them to starting the letter in the wrong place and quite often not knowing not to join capitals! So with a new child i will always go back to individual letters first. so say I chose a the page would look like this


10 minutes a day will be more effective than a lesson a week.

NarwhalsNarwhals Mon 03-Feb-20 14:32:32

@09Rupertpenrysmistress try twinkl, I use their continuous cursive versions, there is some free stuff on there but even if you decide to pay a months subscription to download some bits it'll be cheaper than buying handwriting books. They have the year 5 and 6 spellings on there as handwriting sheets which i quite like.

Rupertpenrysmistress Mon 03-Feb-20 14:49:14

My ds is still writing with a pencil I will ask him later what type. The academy keep saying they have no money and often work is badly photocopied or reused!! They ran out of handwriting pens so the children who were allowed pens had to go back to pencils.

My son is very conscious of his poor writing so tries to avoid practice. He concentrates so much on letter formation that he runs out of time to complete work and gets hand ache.

I did ask the school if they could offer support to him but didn't get much back. I need to chase again I have parents evening soon. What pens/pencils are good for handwriting? I assume once my ds is at secondary in September he will be using a pen by default. I don't see the academy allowing him to use a pen anytime soon. I will get some grips and practice books, my ds spells really well and punctuates I just wish his writing were at the appropriate standard.

RedskyAtnight Mon 03-Feb-20 14:50:20

My DS's handwriting is fine, but he writes ridiculously slowly.
IMO the skill he hasn't been taught is how to write quickly - which is absolutely necessary for a lot of the new style GCSEs.

Actually I suspect handwriting is just a dying art, and wonder when schools (at least secondary schools) will move towards everyone having a laptop. Other than very quick notes, how much do most people actually handwrite in the real world?

BackforGood Mon 03-Feb-20 14:53:21

What Apple23 said.
Also, don't forget that you can exercise fingers and hand muscles (just like you would warm up muscles all over your body before starting to play a sport using them). Well worth doing.

NarwhalsNarwhals Mon 03-Feb-20 15:02:54

Handwriting pens are best, Wilkinson's cheap ones are actually really good.
HB pencils are all pretty much the same, i find hexagon ones more comfortable than round ones but thats personal preference.

Is his handwriting any better with pen than pencil? DDs writing in pencil is awful but in pen its ok.

TW2013 Mon 03-Feb-20 15:35:41

Do also make sure that you assess for any underlying issues first. A combination of visual issues and hypermobility has made handwriting very difficult and painful despite years of handwriting interventions. For mine using a laptop has meant legible and painfree communication. Being told their handwriting was sloppy was very disheartening when writing legible was the thing that required the most pain and effort each day. Am sure for many children it is being sloppy or not being taught properly but not for all children.

Talking to primary schools first would be an important first step. The primary school supported us in the move to laptop because they knew how hard and how long she had tried to write legibly.

chipsandgin Mon 03-Feb-20 22:36:49

@Oblahdeeoblahdoe that’s good to hear, thank you!

It’s definitely more messy than illegible, if he tries to write quickly then more so (& even when writing slowly it does look like a much younger child has written it), it’s generally a large script & not joined up - also it looks like he hasn’t bothered to finish some of the letters, particularly t and r for some reason.

Oblahdeeoblahdoe Tue 04-Feb-20 01:54:57

chipsandgin yep, sounds about right grin

LeGrandBleu Tue 04-Feb-20 02:32:10

In my experience, it is very difficult to change handwriting after year 4.

We arrived from Europe and my kids had learnt to write in the "Ronde " cursive. Most teachers were fine with it, saying it was very neat and elegant and the kids were able to write quickly. Most teachers except one year 5 teacher who tried in every single to change my DD's handwriting. If there was a single loop on a L, B, or g, she would refuse to read the paragraph and send my DD back to her desk and write every thing back again and again. She became so slow, would write 2 sentence and then bang, the s would have a belly or similar, and it would cause a meltdown. She told me it was like trying to copy Chinese symbols.

Note that all the casuals or training teachers all commented on how lovely her handwriting was but the main teacher couldn't stand it and made it her mission to change it.
At one of the last meeting, she even told that in her experience, it is impossible to change a handwriting after year 4 and yet there she was, battling a loop on an L .

You can try, but old habits die hard.
She now has her very own old fashioned handwriting, and keep the paper at a funny angle when she writes. But it is legible and she is fast , so it works.

My recommendation would be to find your handwriting style, write as much as possible, so taking notes in class with a one and not a laptop.

sashh Tue 04-Feb-20 04:09:38

I could give you plenty of ideas that work in primary such as daily handwriting practice, fine motor control exercises, issuing of 'pen licences' but I'm not so sure they would go down so well with Y7 & 8s.It might be worth working with the local feeder schools on it.

Take this offer of help OP but you may need to adapt things, perhaps a 'fountain pen' licence and give out a fountain pen. The disposable fountain pens are £1 to £1.50 and come in different colours, depending on colours used for marking different colours could be used for different classes or different levels of neatness.

I know budgets are tight, you could perhaps ask for a sponsor eg WH Smith might supply your pens if school reports have a, "Pens supplied by..." note on your website.

I used to always be in trouble from one teacher for my crap hand writing. But there were reasons. The first being that I am dyslexic, the second that I went to 3 different primaries. The second one had you writing in pencil until the last year when you were supposed to ask for a fountain pen for Xmas and then learned to write in ink for secondary.

The last school I went to everyone was using biro.

I now have arthritis in all my joints so my hand writing is, worse than crap.

barefootcook Wed 05-Feb-20 04:37:08

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. We have an attached prep school and I have contacted them. The Year 3🤪 teacher suggested the following:

Do a pretest and set each student 2 clear handwriting goals. The goals must be visible every time they use the handwriting book.

Create a write on resource that covers all letters and is attractive to look at.
Our one is quite amusing and in colour. The goals are written on red card and poke up above the booklet so they easily see them every lesson.

Do handwriting in all (or at least most) English lessons for about 5-10 minutes.

Actively monitor the 10 minutes of writing- focusing on posture and grip.

It is also worth doing some finger exercises before starting as a warm up.

Hope this helps👍

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