Writing does not just include papers and letters, but handwriting, too. Although public schools are slowly ridding themselves of teaching the dreaded cursive to their students, I say no! Cursive is a beautiful way to write letters and even with the internet and high technology around, students really should be learning cursive and how to write neatly. Not everyone has a smart phone or internet. Handwriting is still, and always will be, essential. There are some really creative ways to teach this basic five skill.
Beginning in preschool, children need to start learning to hold and control a pencil, crayon, marker, etc. Allowing them to draw and color as much as possible will help them master this skill earlier than those kids who never pick up a writing or coloring instrument. Dollar stores are great places for coloring books, drawing pads, and the instruments to create artwork. Though free creative thought is definitely encouraged at this age, it is also important to teach these kids control. Using shapes, have the preschooler identify and then try to draw shapes. This focuses their attention on a specific line that has to be made.
Most kids at this age have “cave man” control over their instrument, and despite what public schools may say (some have), it is ok. This is the year where they are going to learn more control and how to write a little smaller. Printing out some basic alphabet pages where the letter must be written over and over is a very simple tool in teacher handwriting. Also, because this is the age where they are starting to learn letter sounds, it is a great time to show them and read to them many letters on email and through the mail. Find them a pen pal or email pal. They may need help writing or typing out these letters at first, but by the end of the year they may be begging to learn how to do it themselves. Be sure to be creative with writing out silly words, words that make no sense and drawing pictures to go with any stories they create or simple words they write.
Continuing with the idea of simplicity and creativity, these ages of kids are most likely to find writing boring. Incentives are a wonderful way to keep their interest, even if it is just a tiny bit of it. Writing reward charts helps a child see their progress, and helps the parent to see their child’s development. It also serves as an incentive for the child to keep learning and growing in this skill. The chart can include anything that is geared toward the child. In other words, if the child is having problems with spelling then each word spelled correctly would earn him/her a star or good mark on the chart. If the child is impatient with their handwriting, then good handwriting would earn a good mark. The list goes on and on and the chart is, of course, specialized for the child in question.
At this age cursive writing really should begin. It is a very hard skill for some kids to develop, especially many boys. Sometimes patience needs to be taught. Other times the child is not holding the writing instrument correctly. There are attachments that can be purchased to add to the instrument to allow for ease of holding. If the child has hand cramps or pain, that might just be the ticket to get them writing more. This is also a great age, as most kids are reading very well, to start on book reports, history papers, etc. The grade for these and all papers does not just have to include content and organization, bibliography and form, but it should also include the clarity of the handwriting. Remember, writing is not just about language arts, but also about how the reader is viewing the written piece.
Middle School and beyond
Writing from here on out is basically the same, just getting more difficult in subject, form, and vocabulary. Keep up with the child by making sure they are working hard to make their written word understood. Be sure children at this age learn the importance of a signature and why it is needed. Not everything is digital!
Writing is an essential part of life. We write emails, letters, correspondence, and so much more. When the power goes out and there is no charged laptop or smartphone, a person absolutely must have clear handwriting to avoid confusion, and good form to gain respect in their correspondence.