Handwriting in Kindergarten
To some extent, teachers are waging an uphill battle with students who are developmentally unready (for the most part). If you hand a child a writing instrument (crayon, pencil, marker, paintbrush, etc.,), there is no guarantee they know how to move their hand directionally, or to hang onto it correctly. How are we supposed to help students gain handwriting proficiency?
Intervention 1: Start at the Beginning
The beginning for all children is being able to manipulate objects. Picking up small things with pincher finger and thumb, grasping and holding on as they draw, etc. Most kids have a very immature grip, and some have never held a crayon, pencil, marker, paintbrush, stick, or other variety of writing tools. Before handing a child a pencil, hand them some play dough!
- Observe how they manipulate the dough. Can they roll it, smush it together, roll it into a ball
- Can they follow directions to make a simple object like a bug by watching the teacher model how to do it?
- Determine whether they need more time with dough to develop hand/finger strength.
Intervention 2: Model, Model, Model
Model, model, model! I cannot stress this enough! You need to allow kids to see you making notes for yourself, writing cards and letters to others, and to see the importance in everyday writing. They need guided drawing and writing to make connections to themselves.
Identify the Best Grip for Each Student
We all know about how important it is to help students establish a proper grip. An improper grip such as the fist grip will make handwriting increasingly challenging. As a primary teacher, it is important to help a child find the grip that works for him/her. Important: Do not make these first lessons long. Students will tire of trying to focus on a new way to hold a pencil. Try lines, squiggles and a few circles for only a few minutes. Add a minute or two each time the student attempts to draw with the correct grip.
Do correct the return to a fist grip during the short lesson.
The standard tripod grip works for most children. However, once in a while you will have a student who holds their writing instrument against the index and third finger a different way. I suggest this article on acceptable ways to grip a pencil.
Once a proper grip is established, I recommend using drawings that illustrate letter sounds you are working on. One of my favorite framework resources is Randee Bergen’s Writing in Kindergarten. Each letter features a guided drawing lesson along with letter and name practice. It’s perfect for a beginning writer. The best part is there is a sequence to follow, and your copy is now available on Kindle! (I am a big fan of digital storage for resource books)
(See this resource if you need a way to teach guided drawing to your virtual students–Digital Alphabet Activities for Seesaw allow guided drawing practice for every letter)
During Guided Writing, students should practice lines and circles in both directions, and practice pointing out directional arrows (left, right, up, down, around to the right, around to the left, etc., using their arms to show direction), then attempt letters in their name with assistance. This can be accomplished with clear sheet protectors with a name guide slipped inside.
After doing a warmup (this can be hands doing “airwriting”), model writing by doing a class story using predictable text. Independent writing will follow the short lesson. Circulate and watch as students write. Correct grip and monitor letter placement, reversals and spacing.
Intervention 3: Mirror Image Handwriting
When it is January or February, and you have seen a few students still struggling to manage handwriting skills, it’s time to determine specific deficits, then target those movements in one-one instruction.
My Favorite Intervention!
It’s called Mirror Me!
Put plexiglass in light weight picture frames. Grab a dry erase marker and eraser. Try the following:
*Ask students to mirror as you write on the back while they write (directionally correct for them) on the front.
*Do the letter or name 5x during each short session with individuals.
This seems to address the need for emotional support and strengthen a student’s proficiency all at the same time. Kids want to know they are doing it right, and when you are writing along with them, you are supporting that need. Gradually allow them to independently begin the letter or word, then write it on the back after they have written it.
Products you may find helpful:
My final word on handwriting…
It’s developmental! All you do in kindergarten will benefit your students when they go to first grade. Handwriting is something kids have to grow into. Some will be ready for it during the year, and others will gain readiness with developmental maturity.