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Stages in Developing Handwriting
© Beverley Paine
[an excerpt from Developing Children's Handwriting, a Practical Homeschooling Booklet, by Beverley Paine, available from Always Learning Books.]
Children learn to write because they see adults and other children writing, and they see it as a natural part of growing up. Providing children with examples of people writing for a variety of authentic purposes is essential to encourage learning to write.
All children progress through the following stages. In each stage children are building a series of ‘rules’ based on experimentation. This process involves hypothesis formulation and testing, in which attempts are made, reviewed and revised. Progressing through these stages may take some children several years.
1. The scribble stage.
The child has hypothesized that it is possible to send messages to someone else by putting squiggly marks on paper. The starting point may be anywhere on the page.
In the above example, the line is continuous, but the child has started at the side of the page and moved from left to right across it. He has also hypothesized that when writing a message he needs to start at the left hand side of the paper and proceed straight across.
2. Personal or non-conventional symbols.
Here the child separates the squiggles or non-conventional symbols and obeys the directional features of our written language. The child has recognised that writing moves from left to right across the page, and is a collection of separate symbols.
3. Strings of conventional symbols.
Here the child strings together many letters from the alphabet and moves from left to right across the page and progressively down. The child has hypothesized that when people write they use a particular set of symbols which are repeated over and over again and are not invented.
4. Groups of letters with spaces between each group.
Here there is no match between the letters and the sounds of the words, but the child has some concept of a word. At this stage it is appropriate for you to write for the child what he or she says has been written, and to encourage invented spellings and approximations.
5. Writing where the child reveals developing awareness of sound-symbol correspondences.
At this stage any person who is literate in English is able to work out and read back what the child has written.
6. Gradual inclusion of writing conventions, uniform size and direction of letters, uniform writing style, correct use of capitalisation, etc.
The child is able to write, generally in a print style, following most of the conventions of writing. Letter positioning on lines, and uniformity in size is apparent. The child’s writing is able to be easily read.
7. Development of cursive writing style.
Here the child has been shown how to write using a cursive style, and the writing conforms to a modern style. Attention to slant, formation of letters, and legibility is apparent.
Cursive writing provides your children with a fast, efficient and legible writing style. It is worth encouraging, and a suitable time to begin training your children to write using cursive is when they are comfortable with the writing process in general. Many children show an interest in emulating the cursive style of adults and will ask to be shown how to write in this way.
Cursive is joined script. Emphasis needs to be placed on the formation of letters, beginning, ending and connection strokes, slant, reducing the size of letters and increasing speed. To help your children develop a neat slant you can make ‘slant reminder’ sheets to place under their pages as they write.
It isn’t necessary to schedule separate cursive handwriting lessons - encourage your children to practice their cursive skills during any writing activity they do. Gently point out where improvements can be made and praise all efforts. Some children will never choose to learn to write cursive, and others may prefer to develop typing and keyboarding
The important thing to remember throughout is that handwriting is only one way of being able to express the written word, and that the reason for writing is to be able to communicate with others for the sake of meaning, not neatness!
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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