Learning to write systematically

Developing handwriting

Developing handwriting with playful (writing) motor skills

Before children actually start school, they start writing their first words, such as their own name, perhaps, MUM or the name of a beloved pet. Letters are “drawn”, written incorrectly and also inverted. At this stage, this is absolutely normal.

For a child to be able to successfully write letters and words, short sentences and texts from the beginning, there are a number of gross and fine motor skill movements that first have to be mastered. Both simple and more complex movement sequences have to be practised and learned until they can be carried out automatically.

Lots of traditional children’s activities and games (clapping, hopping, playing catchy, pantomime, throwing and catching a ball, small dances, counting rhymes and lots more) give children practice with these essential skills and capabilities. Running and jumping around outside stimulates the senses while simultaneously promoting the development of certain competencies in children in a number of different areas. They include important balancing, swinging, circling and overlapping movements in various directions and with varying levels – often in combination with rhythmic language.

Getting into motion

A child develops smaller, finer movements (fine motor skills) from larger, less precise movements (gross motor skills). These have to be encouraged, practised and automated with specific tasks and the right material: e.g. with play dough, building bricks, stickle bricks, jigsaw puzzles, threading beads, tying bows and similar exercises. These varied, practised sequences of movement ultimately result in graphomotor and writing motor skills. In the line drawings children create in their initial years, the drawing movements become finer and more differentiated; they are an important basis for writing. Children deliberately practice different signs in this phase; they take notice of and have increasing control over the shapes (= graphomotor skills).

To write successfully, they have to learn the necessary connections: the different movements involved in pushing and pulling a writing instrument, straight and curved lines, arches, lines and dots, complete upstrokes and downstrokes, changes in inclination, changes of direction and different starting points, but less so the precise shape of letters. These connecting movements result in – particularly for cursive writing – writing motor skills. The combination of accurate graphomotor skills with smooth writing motor skills results in orthographically correct, fluid writing.

Particularly writing motor skills have to be given sufficient practice and support. The flow of writing does not happen by chance; it has to be practised and guided! The basic movements and motor skills are fundamental here: targeted controlling of movements, space-position coordination, eye-hand coordination capabilities.

How to encourage writing motor skills

If children have poorly developed writing motor skills, they lose control over the shapes (graphomotor skills) when they have to carry out movements more speedily. This means their writing deteriorates considerably if they have to write quickly: their writing becomes illegible and they increasingly make mistakes.

Intense practising of letters and words is not the way to encourage children; this could result in children tensing up more when they write as well as greater learning and concentration difficulties.

It is far more productive for these children to practise important movement sequences, such as changes of direction, with their hands in the air or by drawing very large on paper or in sand.

The more children are shown a link from movement impulses through elementary drawing to writing, the more easily they succeed with the learning-to-write process. Children who experience problems with the motor skills involved in writing must therefore be given help with the movements involved in gross and fine motor skills. Sweeping movements of all kinds are the perfect preparation for children in pre-school and reception class.

Paying too much attention to the right letter shapes and orthography alone is not a help but a hindrance. The ideal practice for children are movements in the air, on the back of another child, using their hands on a table, using their feet on the floor – both with their eyes open and closed. Moving is fun, gets rid of tension and allows children to practise movement patterns.

Learning to write systematically

Learning to write – with the right grip
Grasping and gripping are of great importance for human beings throughout their entire development.
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Left or right?
Whether children are left-handed or right-handed has nothing to do with their capability to learn, with their intelligence or with the learning-to-write process.
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Some further points to bear in mind
Suitable pencils as well as the following criteria will have a positive impact on children’s handwriting skills.
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Ergonomic writing instruments
All writing instruments by Faber-Castell are developed with an ergonomic value added so that they support different individual children’s hands.
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Practising with beads
Valuable training for the relaxed, correct holding of a writing instrument.
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