5 Ideas for Improving Handwriting



Handwriting is frequently a problem area with many students,  but especially so in the special education classroom.  Sometimes handwriting gets neglected in favor of "more important" academic areas that are also lagging. In today's technological age, sometimes the IEP goal for handwriting is substituted with  keyboarding. Sometimes the keyboarding is the perfect solution and for other children it isn't. Many times I felt it imperative to continue handwriting skills while working on keyboarding skills.

The common underlying causes of handwriting problems vary greatly. These can include:

  • visual perception problems 
  • intellectual difficulties 
  • motor difficulties 
  • sensory issues 
  • postural issues and of course there are many more.

Sometimes, the underlying causes of poor handwriting can be improved. Posture can be improved by stretching, exercises, or visual strategies for reminders of how to sit when writing sometimes help. Visual perception difficulties can occasionally be  improved through special training exercises (tracking, tracing, eye hand coordination) or motor problems can sometimes be mitigated by using different tools, aids or shortcuts.
In addition to the underlying causes of poor handwriting, we need to know what part of writing the student demonstrates problems with.  Some of those areas can be:

  1. Poor letter formation
  2. Poor spacing 
  3. Writing is too light or too dark.
  4. Inability to stay on the lines or within the lines.

Today I wanted to share with you several ideas I have used in the classroom for improvement of handwriting. These are things you can do in your classroom to help those kids. You, of course should determine if they are right for your students with the disabilities you have.
Let's share - what else have you found helpful for your students?


1. The Correct Tools

Correct tools make all the difference sometimes. Tools of course in this case mean the right type of paper and pencils. 
There are many different types of papers out there to help improve handwriting. There are papers with lines of different sizes, lines with different colors and placements of highlighting and papers with raised lines. Handwriting Without Tears, a program I have used for many years has many different types of paper to help writing. One that I found very useful for my students, is the paper with individual boxes for each letter.  You can see a portion of one below.This was most helpful with students having a hard time knowing where to place the letters on the lines. Each box was for one letter and spaced across the page. Using the box as a beginning point for teaching letter placement,
 is awesome.
Primary size pencil versus standard pencil. #2 versus darker shades of lead.  Octagonal shaped pencils versus round versus triangular shaped. What do you choose?
All of these attributes can help students improve their writing. I particularly like the triangular shaped pencils. The triangle shape give a set position in which for students to place their fingers.
I usually start with the largest pencil in diameter such as Ticonderoga Primary pencil and or  triangular Pencil. The primary pencils I could obtain through my school were the ones that were good in size but they were round and had no eraser. 
I often number the sides of the triangle pencils sides; 1 is for the thumb, 2 for the middle finger and 3 for the pointer finger.

Let's not forget slant boards. Slant boards can improve the position in which the student writes by putting the paper on incline. Some of the better boards have ways to set them at different inclinations so they are useful to implementing with different students.
Check this one out!

2. Grips



I know I'm sounding redundant but guess what shape of pencil grip I have had the best experience with? Yep you are right TRIANGLE!!  Hmm didn't know I had a thing for triangles.
Triangle pencil grips can really help the hand position in the same what a triangle shaped pencil does. Putting numbers on the grip with stickers or markers can also help with finger placement.
There are a multitude of different shapes and sizes of pencil grips out there

3. Sand Writing


For students with significant disabilities they often work on their handwriting repeatedly year after year. I make writing in the sand a routine staple of my classroom centers and work stations, but I don't want it to be boring, so I make games for it.
One of those is practicing writing favorite words or their name in the sand.
I use a 13x9 rectangular pan...either metal or aluminum and fill it with clean sand.  I prefer the metal pans since the sand gets so heavy. I like to wet the sand just slightly; just enough that it will hold together if pressed in my hand. I usually put it in a center area and each child practices, letters and words in the sand. Coloring the sand is also an option. You can use food coloring, powdered tempera paint, crushed up colored chalk or artists' ink colors.
Make sure the colors dry prior to using and storing.

4. Using Tablet Apps

Another great way I find to help students practice handwriting is using Apps on devices such as phones and iPads and other tablets.
There are so many apps out there but I want to share with you LETTER SCHOOL MAKES HANDWRITING COOL. There is a FREE LITE version and a 4.99 full version. It uses multiple visually appealing items such as trains on a track and glowing lights to show them how to trace the letter. Below find some pics of the app. Students are given  3 different fun ways to trace the letter. If they stumble, a guide appears giving them the path to follow but it doesn't stay there long.

      



        

 The last step is for the student to write the letter on the screen without a model. If they falter, a model will appear momentarily and disappear when they continue their letter.

This app on the iPad is great fun for the kids and they really don't realize they are working on their handwriting skills.

5. Tactile Letters

Some students really need the sensation of feeling the letters in order to understand the formation of the letters.The picture below shows numbers that are grooves in the wood. They are also available in letters; both upper and lower case.
You can also use sandpaper letters; commercial one or ones you make yourself. Here is an example of some commercial ones. 
 
In my TpT Store you will find several writing activities. This one is centered around sight words and among other activities to practice the words, the students practice writing the words on writing lines with dotted line in the middle.
Thats just a small piece of items to use when working on handwriting. Let me know what YOU use, what works for you and what doesn't. 
I would love to hear from you!
Until next time!

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