Getting Ready to Write – Part Two looks specifically at the mechanics of handwriting.
The explicit teaching of handwriting is essential if students are to develop the skills of correct letter formation. Handwriting instruction supports students in producing legible, smooth and fluent writing.
The New Zealand National Curriculum refers to students writing legibly, fluently, and with ease when creating texts (English; Speaking, Writing and Presenting).
Achieving legible, smooth and fluent handwriting requires students to first have stable sitting posture, correct paper position and good pencil grip.
Body posture for handwriting relates the student’s sitting position, the table height, and the chair height and placement. These factors may seem minor, but they contribute to a student’s physical alignment as well as impacting on their handwriting success.
Ankles, knees, and hips need follow the 90-90-90 rule. Each of these areas should have a 90-degree angle. The student’s spine needs to be supported by the back of the chair. If the chair seat is too big the student’s knees may not be able to bend. A pillow placed behind the student would solve this issue and provide posture stability.
The tabletop should be just below the student’s bent elbow when they are sitting. This can be achieved by lifting or lowering the table. If this is not an option, it could be solved by altering the student’s sitting height. Placing the student on a pillow would lift their height.
The height of the chair needs to be adjusted to the height of the table so it’s important to assess and adjust these together. A student’s feet must be flat and supported rather than dangling or curled around chair legs. A box or stack of books under their feet is an easy solution for this.
Right-handed writers need their paper to be angled slightly anti-clockwise while left-handed writers angle their paper in the opposite direction.
Pencil grip is about holding and moving a marker, like a pen, pencil or crayon, to make marks on paper. Being able to produce legible, smooth and fluent writing is the goal. Holding a marker using the ‘Dynamic Tripod Grip’, also called ‘Good Pencil Grip’ is the main key skill in achieving this. Good Pencil Grip requires students having fine motor movement control, and strength and dexterity in their fingers. Activities like playing with Lego, play-dough or clay, threading and buttoning, and using tweezers to pick up small objects can help develop these. Insisting students use Good Pencil Grip whenever they pick up a marker helps establish muscle memory.
A stable sitting posture, correct paper position and good pencil grip will help a student achieve legible, smooth and fluent handwriting, which will support them when getting ready to write.
Keywords: Handwriting, Writing, Pencil grip
Curriculum Links: English Level 1; Language Features; writes most letters and number forms legibly when creating texts;