Changing Your Child’s Handwriting Technique and Style
Since most schools moved away from teaching proper cursive writing in favour of print or a semi-linked script style, there has been less emphasis on teaching handwriting technique. Consequently, many children hold their pens in an awkward manner, which in turn forces them to use a technique called ‘finger-writing’ which is slower and more difficult to do than traditional ‘hand-writing’. Visually, finger-writing often lacks style because the letters slope in different directions. If your child is using a finger-writing style it is important to make a change to hand-writing as soon as possible because it will slow down his/her written work thus wasting a lot of time at school and while doing homework.
How to Hold the Pencil for Good Handwriting
Ideally, your child should be sitting upright, not hunched over the paper. The hand should be holding the pencil at an angle of about 60 degrees and using a 3 finger grip, 2-3cm from the tip. Discourage the use of biros to start with because young children’s hands are still too small to hold a biro at the correct angle – biros force them to hold the pen upright in order to get the ink flowing properly.
Left-Handed People Need a Different Writing Technique to Right-Handed People
If your child is left-handed you need to be especially vigilant because left-handed children are not always taught the special techniques needed to compensate for the fact that they must push the pencil rather than pull it (like a right-handed person). The first thing to check is the slope of the letters. Left-handed writers should slope their writing to the left (in the opposite direction to that of right-handed people). The 3 finger grip is still used, and the wrist should be straight, not bent in an attempt to mimic the style of right-handed people.
Good Posture for Writing
- So the arm and wrist are easy to move while writing your child should sit with good posture so he/she is not leaning heavily on his/her forearm.
- Slope the page slightly to the left for a right-hander. Slope to the right for a left-hander.
- Your Child’s head should be upright not hunched over the page. If he/she is having trouble seeing what he/she is writing, get him/her to hold the pencil further back from the tip.
- Only light pressure should be applied to the pencil when writing. Use a pencil with replaceable 0.7mm leads – this is so the lead will break if too much pressure is applied, thus providing your child with immediate feedback.
- Your child’s non-writing hand should be used to hold the paper still so the writing arm is free to move.
Poor Handwriting Can be a Symptom of Other Problems
Poor handwriting can also be a sign of other language problems. For example, poor writing is frequently used to cover up weaknesses in spelling or written expression. If this is the case, remedial action should be taken to fix these problems before attempting to change the handwriting style.
Stay Calm When Teaching Your Child
Most children (and adults) are used to their hand-writing technique and are reluctant to change so don’t underestimate how stressful it will be for your child. Do not let your attempts to help your child write better develop into a battle. This will lead to a negative attitude and so make the problems harder to fix later on. Just practice one skill at a time for frequent short periods of say 5 minutes at a time. If either of you are getting tense or frustrated, just do one line then come back to it again in 30 minutes or so. Set a timer to go off at the appointed time so you don’t have to make the decision to do the work at the same time as doing the work.
Getting Extra Help to Teach Handwriting
If your child can’t make the changes you are asking for, get help from a specialist in teaching handwriting (Occupational Therapists do not necessarily have the appropriate skills to teach good handwriting). Find someone who knows:
- how to teach hand-writing instead of finger-writing
- how to teach a sloped cursive style
- how to teach left-handed and right-handed people
- how to teach the 3-finger grip
- how to get your child to master an appropriate style in less than 2 months
With appropriate weekly training sessions and daily practice at home, it is possible to correct all these handwriting problems and develop a fast, legible handwriting style, in about 6 weeks.
High Performance Learning
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