Handwriting

Handwriting@Barnehurst

Intent

With e-mail and telephones, it is easy to think that handwriting is now outdated, but by no means is this true! The need to be able to write well, and quickly, is greater today than it ever was. Accurate handwriting not only enables our children to write fluently, but it also supports their cognitive development, helping them retain new knowledge in their long-term memory.  At Barnehurst, our children take pride in the presentation of their work and understand the importance of clear and neat presentation in order to communicate clearly. We intend for our pupils have a neat and legible style with correctly formed letters and understand the impact clear and neat writing has on a reader. Through a systematic teaching sequence, our children produce letters automatically within their independent writing with good flow and speed. Through structured handwriting practice children develop coherence and continuity in their learning. 

We do this by:

  • Ensuring children are ready to write - starting in our early years
  • Teaching children how to hold a pencil correctly and supporting those who struggle
  • Teaching letter formations using a consistent progressive approach
  • Teaching capital letters (including their size)
  • Teaching that letters sit on lines
  • Teaching relative size of letters (ascenders and descenders)
  • Teaching finger spaces
  • Teaching joining formations

 

Implementation

According to guidance released on 1st April 2021 by the department of education “at first, children should not be taught to join letters or to start every letter on the line with a lead-in, because these practices cause unnecessary difficulty for beginners. Children may be taught to join the letters in diagraphs, but this is optional.”  This guidance can be found here.

We have used this guidance to create a progressive sequence in teaching handwriting.

Motor development

During the EYFS our children take part in activities to develop their fine and gross motor skills. Children begin to learn how to correctly hold a pencil and then how to use a pencil effectively to form recognizable letters. Children are given opportunities to develop their handwriting using a range of engaging resources.

Gross motor control is the term used to describe the development of controlled movements of the whole body, or limbs (arms or legs). Good posture and balance is of particular importance in relation to handwriting. Activities such as dance, football, use of small apparatus, gripping climbing frames and building with large-scale construction kits all develop gross motor control.

Fine motor control is the term used to describe smaller movements, usually of the hand and fingers. Fine motor control is best developed through activities which involve small-scale movements such as art, mark making, scissors control and other activities.

Posture

Good posture is vital for any child, but it is particularly important if children are lefthanded, because people who are left-handed have a tendency to develop a cramped, curled hand position which makes writing challenging. Sitting properly helps to prevent this. In order to develop good posture children must:

  • Sit upright on a chair
  • Keep both feet on the floor
  • Sit at a comfortable height
  • Keep a straight back
  • Keep their head high enough to see the pencil point forming the letters

 

Teaching handwriting

Pre-writing skills

Prior to writing, children need to be able to make their pre-writing shapes. Pre-writing shapes are all of the shapes that form letters. They include the directional movements a child needs to make, like diagonal lines and curves. It is also important to focus on squares and triangles as the ability to create corners is an important developmental step.

These are the pre-writing shapes in order of least to most difficult:

A picture containing diagram

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Pencil control and grasp

Pencil control is an essential part of writing letters. Colouring, drawing and pencil works all give children an opportunity to improve their pencil control.

Pencil grasp, like all motor skills, develops in a sequence. Initially children use a larger or gross grasp. As they get older, the way they hold their pencil matures. To be efficient with their pencil skills, children also needs to be able to hold the paper steady with their other hand.  Children do not move through all the stages. Children usually start with a palmer grasp and aim to secure the dynamic tripod grasp.

Table

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Fisted grip or palmer grasp

To begin with, children will use what is called a ‘fisted grip’ or a ‘palmer grasp’. This is typical for a 12-18 month year old.  Children will hold their pencil with their fist.  They make large movements and their colouring is not very controlled.

Digital pronate grasp

This is where children will turn their palm around so their little finger faces the ceiling.  They continue to hold the pencil in all of their fingers, with it resting against their palm.  Children begin to have more control over their pencil.

From here children will move to and explore a range of different grasps.

Dynamic tripod grasp

The reason the dynamic tripod is championed is because it provides the most amount of pencil control for the least amount of muscle effort. This helps to facilitate speed of writing. In reality however, it is common to see a variation of this grasp in adults and children.

 

Progression of teaching handwriting

National curriculum requirements / Statutory requirements  

Non-Statutory

EYFS

Pupils should be taught to:

  • Hold a pencil effectively in preparation for fluent writing – using the tripod grip in almost all cases;
  • Begin to show accuracy and care when drawing.
  • Write recognisable letters, most of which are correctly formed;
  • Write simple phrases and sentences that can be read by others.
  • Represent numbers up to 10

Nursery: During the summer term children at Barnehurst are taught phonics. When each letter/sound is introduced children will learn a formation rhyme. Children will be taught each letter in print with simple exit strokes for a, d, h, i, k, l, m, n, t, u.

Reception: During phonics children are taught each letter using a formation rhyme. Children will be taught each letter in print with simple exit strokes for a, d, h, i, k, l, m, n, t, u. Diagraphs and Trigraphs are taught as a join.

1

Pupils should be taught to: 

  • sit correctly at a table, holding a pencil comfortably and correctly 
  • begin to form lower-case letters in the correct direction, starting and finishing in the right place 
  • form capital letters 
  • form digits 0–9 
  • understand which letters belong to which handwriting ‘families’ (i.e. letters that are formed in similar ways) and to practise these. 


Handwriting requires frequent and discrete, direct teaching. Pupils should be able to form letters correctly and confidently. The size of the writing implement (pencil, pen) should not be too large for a young pupil’s hand. Whatever is being used should allow the pupil to hold it easily and correctly so that bad habits are avoided. 

Left-handed pupils should receive specific teaching to meet their needs.  

Year 1: Children will continue to develop fine and gross motor-skills with a range of multi-sensory activities. Teachers and support staff continue to guide children on how to write letters correctly, using a comfortable and efficient pencil grip. In Year 1 children will start to include entry and exit strokes ( lead-in and lead-out lines) learning handwriting through letter families.

2

Pupils should be taught to: 

  • form lower-case letters of the correct size relative to one another 
  • start using some of the diagonal and horizontal strokes needed to join letters and understand which letters, when adjacent to one another, are best left un-joined 
  • write capital letters and digits of the correct size, orientation and relationship to one another and to lower case letters 
  • use spacing between words that reflects the size of the letters.  

Year 2: Children in Year 2 are taught to join their writing. Children will have handwriting sessions throughout the week where they learn to join different letter families

Pupils revise and practise correct letter formation frequently. They are taught to write with a joined style as soon as they can form letters securely with the correct orientation.  

3/4

Pupils should be taught to: 

  • use the diagonal and horizontal strokes that are needed to join letters and understand which letters, when adjacent to one another, are best left un-joined
  •  increase the legibility, consistency and quality of their handwriting (for example, by ensuring that the downstrokes of letters are parallel and equidistant; that lines of writing are spaced sufficiently so that the ascenders and descenders of letters do not touch)

Pupils should now be using joined handwriting throughout their independent writing. Handwriting will continue to be taught, with the aim of increasing the fluency with which pupils are able to write down what they want to say. This, in turn, will support their composition and spelling.  

5/6

Pupils should be taught to write legibly, fluently and with increasing speed by: 

  • choosing which shape of a letter to use when given choices and deciding whether or not to join specific letters 
  • choosing the writing implement that is best suited for a task.  

Pupils continue to practise handwriting and are encouraged to increase the speed of it, so that problems with forming letters do not get in the way of their writing down what they want to say. They are  clear about what standard of handwriting is appropriate for a particular task, for example, quick notes or a final handwritten version. They are taught to use an un-joined style, for example, for labelling a diagram or data, writing an email address, or for algebra; and capital letters, for example, for filling in a form.  

Handwriting content progression

In EYFS

The holistic approach to learning handwriting and phonics together is an ideal basis for emergent writing. Each letter has a rhyme which children learn when forming the letter correctly. Children are taught each letter in print with simple exit strokes for a, d, h, i, k, l, m, n, t, u. During their phonics session diagraphs and trigraphs are taught as a join.

                               Rhymes to teach formation                              EYFS agreed letter formation

     38 Letter Formation Sheets | Read write inc phonics, Jolly phonics, Letter  formation                     

Our children experience a multi-sensory approach to learning letter shapes and are less likely to develop bad handwriting habits through feedback and modelling by adults during their child-initiated learning. As children begin to form letters and join them to write digraphs, their writing and spelling will become increasingly accurate.

Year 1

Children will continue to develop fine and gross motor-skills with a range of multi-sensory activities through our Year 1 continuous provision. Teachers and support staff continue to guide children on how to form letters correctly, using a comfortable and efficient pencil grip. In Year 1 children will have handwriting lessons in addition to phonics sessions where they start to include entry and exit strokes ( lead-in and lead-out lines) learning handwriting through letter families.

There are four letter families that children will learn. The letters are taught in a developmental sequence in groups with similar strokes (from simplest to more difficult strokes). Both lower and uppercase letters are taught.

 Letter families

  1. Long ladder letters

l     i      t     j     u     y 

  1. One armed robot letters                    

m     n     r     b     p     h 

  1. Curly caterpillar letters

c     a     d     o     q     g     e     f     s

  1. Zigzag letters  

v     w     x     z     k

Wk1

Wk2

Wk3

Wk4

Wk5

Wk6

Wk7

Wk8

Wk9

Wk10

Wk11

Wk12

Autumn

Long ladder letters

Assess and review

One armed robot letters

Themed practice

Spring

One armed robot letters

Assess and review

Curly caterpillar letters

Summer

Curly caterpillar letters

Assess and review

Zigzag letters

Assess and review

Themed practice

Agreed Year 1 letter formation  ( individual letters not joined, only diagraphs/trigraphs)

Year 2

 

Children in year 2 are taught to join their writing. Children will have handwriting sessions throughout the week where they learn to join different letter families. Children learn that there are two different types of joins.

  1. Diagonal joins
  2. Horizontal joins

It is vital that children are taught to keep the main body of letters the same height in order to master these joins. This sequence is repeated in Year 3.

Wk1

Wk2

Wk3

Wk4

Wk5

Wk6

Wk7

Wk8

Wk9

Wk10

Wk11

Wk12

Autumn

ai  ar

an am

ap aw

er  ip 

ie in

Assess and review

ew en

be br

um un

ux xe

se ze

Assess and review

Spring

ch  ck 

at gh 

sh th

il  it

if uf    

Assess and review

ef ff      

bl ut 

ed  nd

ea ig 

ng eg

Assess and review

Summer

as    ss    

ac fo

oe  oi

on  or 

ou  ov/ow 

re  ve/  we   

oa  oo 

wa wo

oh  wh

wl  rl 

ob  ok

of

Diagonal join to no ascender:   ai ar an am ap aw er  ip  ie  in ew  en be br  um un ux  xe se ze  

Diagonal join to ascender:    ch ck  at gh  sh th il  it if uf ef ff  bl ut  ed  nd     

Diagonal join, no ascender to anti-clockwise letter:    ea  ig  ng eg as  ss ac fo

Horizontal join to no ascender:   oe  oi on  or  ou  ov  ow  oy  re  ve  we   

Horizontal join, no ascender to anti-clockwise letter:  oa  oo  wa wo

Horizontal join to ascender:  oh  wh wl  rl  ob  ok of

Correct Year 2 font ( same letter formations as Year 1- although now continuously joined)