As we celebrate National Handwriting Day I am pleased to highlight for you the line of Homeschool Holiday products designed to help learners develop their “John Handcock”, that is their signature! National Handwriting Day was started in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association. They wanted people to use more pens, pencils, and writing paper.
January 23rd was chosen because it is John Hancock’s Birthday. Mr. Hancock was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, and his signature is the largest of all 56 signatures. Putting your John Handcock on something has become slang for your signature. Before you can sign something, you have to develop a sense of the basics of handwriting.
How Handwriting Develops
Handwriting involves more than just making letters on a page. Learners must first develop strong fine motor (small movements of the fingers, hands, wrists) as well as visual motor skills (using both vision and hands to complete tasks). Because every child develops and learns differently, just when, where, and how they develop these pre- handwriting skills is going to vary as much as when they smiled, walked, were potty trained, etc. Experts certainly have suggested timelines, but as parents and classroom educators working one on one with learners you know the finite details that matter as far as readiness for such things.
Tracing and Handwriting
Tracing has long been an effective way to help young learners learn handwriting. Using crayons, pencils or even markers to trace shapes and dotted paths from left to right, right to left, up, down diagonal (you get the idea) can help learners develop fine motor control. Tracing is also great for focus and concentration.
Tracing however is not for everyone, it can also be a source of frustration. That is why it is so important to check for readiness. There isn’t a “magic” ready light or ding like the microwave. I recommend sitting with the learners you feel are age appropriate for holding crayons and tracing and give it a go. If the crayon gets gripped in a fist and the page gets scribbled on joyfully, you can model appropriately holding the crayon and tracing.
When the crayon is held properly (there are many videos on grasp, etc. you can view – and this too can be a source of individual child development), and your learner gets JOY out of tracing the lines, does not mind when they go “off” the line, these are signs of readiness.
On the other hand, you may wish to consider different activities for fine motor strengthening if your learner has poor or no grip, gets frustrated, cries or fusses about imperfections or going off the lines. Remember, there is no deep learning going on when a learner does not enjoy the activity. And tracing does NOT hold the exclusive rights to Letter Learning! Everyone learns differently.
Everyone learns differently – whether you have a tracer or a non conformist, fear not. Writing will come. Celebrate all successes.
Teaching Pencil Grip
I often get questions from teachers in the primary grades, or young mothers teaching their learners at home about pencil grip. My 100% honest heartfelt answer is it must be taught correctly from the get go in a one on one situation, like using a kitchen knife. I wouldn’t let my kids just use a sharp knife without showing them exactly how to do it because they might get cut – it’s dangerous. Well a crayon isn’t dangerous, but the wrong grip will never become right. It’s THAT important. If you leave the learner unsupervised, or walk away to check the other learners in a classroom (which unfortunately is the way of things) they just auto correct to what they want to do. You know your child best. Why are they holding the crayon/pencil the way they are? Age, hand strength? Differently abled? Lack of proper instruction? Only one on one instruction can achieve proper pencil grip a little each day.
As a classroom teacher, pencil grip was a non issue for me. I taught middle and upper grades. Correcting pencil grasp was not something that was going to happen by the time a learner entered my classroom. I was not going to change their penmanship for that matter. My motivator was, and remained helping learners recognize their BEST WORK. I did have learners self correct pencil grip, improve handwriting, learn multiplication facts, learn to read and any number of AMAZING accomplishments. These accomplishments were THEIRS, encouraged by my mentoring of their best work. If it was their best work it was accepted, if it was not, they chose to re-do it. I did not however suffer through papers I could not read. It was pretty hard to convince me THAT was your best work. You can read more on best work HERE.
Older learners can use pencils, colored pencils, markers, etc. as their hands develop and their grip strengthens. There are grips, trainers and even shaped pencils if you choose to use them.
Other ways to develop writing skills
Tracing isn’t the only way to develop a “good” writer. Free drawing is also a great skill. Plenty of blank paper and imagination go a long way. Point out when your learner uses curves, zig zags, straight and diagonal lines so they get used to seeing them and hearing the terms. Let them write and draw about topics they are interested in, even if it is over and over.
Other learners prefer to “free write” where there are no lines and they copy from a nearby model. They can do this on paper, in the air, into a pan of rice, on a chalkboard, into fun dough, etc… they sky really is the limit!
Sensory writing is also very effective. Painting with water on the sidewalk, using beans, shells or other dimensional objects like twigs to form letters is unique and fun. You can even shape the letters out of dough. Members of the Curriculum Club can download FREE Alphabet Play Mats, or you can just allow learners to free form the letters on their own.
If you would like the Alphabet Mats, and are not already a member of the Happy Hive Homeschooling Curriculum Club, signing up is easy, FREE, and you’ll be downloading your Alphabet Mats in under 5 minutes !
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Believe it our not – playing outside, climbing, and bike riding all help a young writer develop as well. Writers need both fine motor and visual motor skills. These non-worksheet, off the page activities are great for improving a variety of skills, including visual motor skills. Take the pressure off and provide learners of all ages plenty of practice with tasks that involve using their eyes and hands together ; and play is the perfect activity to do just that!
Homeschool Holiday Products
If your learners enjoy tracing and copying, Homeschool Holiday has pre-writing activities for you!
Our Left to Right Lines to Trace Mega Pack has over 30 different worksheets for beginning to advanced tracing. This pre writing skill involves following the path then coloring a picture. There are “review” pages with a variety of paths on one page for learners to trace.
We also have unique Alphabet Tracing activities. Each letter of the Alphabet is on it’s own page (capital and lower) arranged in boxed rows. Assign by the row or by the page to keep the activity from becoming tiring or boring. These are available in MANUSCRIPT or CURSIVE styles.
A favorite for learners who are already writing is COPYWORK. I consider copywork an essential component to any homeschool curriculum. You can read why HERE.
When learners use copywork, they use great pieces of writing, read it aloud, then copy it EXACTLY as it is written in their best writing. We have several copywork Activities (Even FREE sets) to choose from, and each come with Trace, Print and Cursive all in one pack so whatever your learner needs it’s in the pack! If you are looking for a good copywork starter set, I recommend the Famous Quotes Set. IT has a little something of interest for everyone.
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