This article was written for our newsletter and discusses the key components to successful handwriting and what to do if you suspect difficulties related to these components. Many handwriting problems can be avoided or solved by teaching good strategies. Also, consider consulting with an occupational therapist or other professional trained in handwriting assessment and remediation.
Memory refers the process of remembering and producing quick and automatic recall for letters and numbers. Poor memory often affects production, speed and accuracy. If you suspect problems with memory, play visual memory games with letters using flashcards or other hands-on materials to encourage letter and number discrimination.
Orientation refers to ensuring that all letters and numbers are facing the correct direction. Errors in orientation can be distracting and often result in children frequently stopping to think about which way a letter faces. Difficulty with letter orientation is linked to spelling errors and poor legibility. If you suspect problems with orientation, teach your child that English is a top to bottom, left to right language. Teach orientation for “B D E F P R N” by having your child write the big line on left edge of paper, encouraging them to start at the top. The next component of each of the aforementioned letters will be on the right side.
Placement refers to placing letters and numbers on the baseline. It helps with legibility. If you suspect problems with placement, model how letters sit on lines.
Size refers to how big or how small a child writes. Children learn to control movements in their wrist and fingers to ensure that the size of their writing is appropriate given their grade level. If you suspect problems with size, make sure the child is using age-appropriate paper. Provide paper that guides the size of letters until children naturally develop a sense of size.
Start refers to where each letter or number begins. Good habits ensure that children learn to form letters in a top to bottom and left to right format. Speed, size and spacing are often compromised with incorrect starting habits. If you suspect problems with start, demonstrate the correct starting position and correct all bottom-up writing.
Sequence refers to the order and stroke direction of the letter and number components. The ability to form the components of various letters and numbers is acquired through direct teaching and consistent practice. Speed and neatness are often compromised if incorrect teaching methods are adapted. If you suspect problems with sequence, demonstrate letter formation. Teach letters that use a similar formation pattern in groups. For example, letters o a d g q all begin with a c stroke then change into another letter.
Control refers to neatness and proportion of letters and numbers. Problems with control do not always require direct remediation; rather they are almost always caused by the adaptation of poor habits and in turn will improve once better habits have been adopted. One of the most common poor habits is an awkward and immature pencil grip. Teach children how to hold their pencil correctly.
Spacing refers to the amount of space between letters in words, and between words in sentences. Spacing is important to the legibility and uniformity of writing. Avoid using poorly designed worksheets that do not give enough room, as this may lead to problems with spacing. If you suspect problems with spacing, create and use worksheets that model good spacing.