Learning To Write - Letter and Numeral Formation

If you've following along, I hope you have gotten some good tips about how to help your child when he/she is interested in learning to write. All of these suggestions are meant to be used as a guide and give you ideas that will make learning to write more fun, but I would be amiss I didn't bring proper letter formation into the discussion. Back in the olden days, when I was a little girl, we received LOTS of instruction on how to write correctly and were even graded on our penmanship.

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Fortunately, that pressure is gone for most children these days, but with it often went the needed instruction on letter formation. It may not seem important to you, but there actually is a proper way to write most letters that was developed in an effort to make writing more efficient as you grow and mature and have to write more and more. 

You probably already know that you should always work left - to - right, just like we read. But did you know that you should always start at the top of the letter??

Here is a really cute song/video from Handwriting Without Tears that I have used to help children remember where to start.

Another favorite tool of mine is using the Smart Start paper. I ordered mine directly from Frog Street Press, but you can also find larger packs online at Amazon, (This is the K-1 paper.)

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The lines have logical icons of "sky, fence and ground", which it makes it really easy to explain how to draw a letter or numeral as I am drawing the model. 

Ex: Start and the sky and pull straight down to the ground. 

I also always remind children that just as our feet ALWAYS touch the ground, so do the letters.  :-) 

Here is a picture of my Smart Start White Board being used to draw a person, although someone's baby brother was busy scribbling on the other end. 

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That character you see at the bottom of the white board is known as Mr. Pencil and he, too, is a great way to have fun with teaching letter formation. I have named a couple of my own triangular shaped pencils, "Mr. Pencil" and have drawn a face on them. I treat him as sort of a hero who will help the children remember where to start, how to form letters, how to grip the pencil and such.  If they are gripping the pencil too tight, I make a strangled voice and tell them Mr. Pencil is choking and they need to loosen up, etc. They love it!

And that leads me to another way to reinforce proper letter formation. I feel strongly that children learn best by hands-on activities and that time on devices such as phone and iPads should be VERY limited. I could go on and on about this, but that is a topic for a blog post all on its own.  :-) 

I DO however, realize the role that electronics play in our lives these days and for those limited times that your child is on one, you might want to consider making it a fun, learning experience as well. My two favorite apps for handwriting are:

* Letter School - Free Version and Full Version ($6.99) I tried the free version first to try it out, but loved it and bought the full version. Letter School is a letter tracing app that is not only fun, but actually teaches the proper formation of both letters and numerals. It begins by showing the child how to write the letter, then they have a chance to trace the letter, then the lines are removed and they write the letter. If they make a wrong move, there are sound and visual prompts of how to proceed, so that there is always success in the end. In the full app, you can choose to make capital letters, lower-case letters and numerals 1-9, plus you can choose which handwriting style your child is learning - HWT (Handwriting Without Tears), Zaner-Bloser Style (which is traditional), or D'Nealian Style (which is slanted and has a curve at the bottom of each letter).

* Wet Dry Try ($4.99) - With Wet-Dry-Try, children learn and practice correct formation habits for writing capitals, numbers, and lowercase letters. The app simulates The Handwriting Without Tears Slate Chalkboard and Blackboard and helps children learn handwriting skills using that method. Another great app that teacher correct formation.

Both of these apps are really good and there may be more out there, but these are my personal favorite and the ones that kids seem to enjoy the most. Wet Dry Try is not as animated and "fun" as Letter School, but both are worth a try. Of course, neither should be used as a replacement for really hands-on activities, but could be used as a supplement to the activities I've already mentioned.

After your child has mastered these with their finger, try using a stylus, holding it like a pencil.  In fact, Mr. Pencil even comes in a stylus form, which is really appealing to young children!! He also has an electronic game, Mr. Pencil's Scribble And Write, which is cute.

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This series is about to come to an end. My last post will focus on some troubleshooting ideas and what to do if you suspect your child might need additional interventions.