Learning to Write and Spell
| Writing | Handwriting | Spelling |

''There is a growing field of research that supports the French belief that handwriting is an important skill—not just for its own sake, but because it is correlates with other important skills and brain functions, such as language learning, reading development, and working memory'' (Susan Vachon. Education Week.12/3/14)

Do ensure that all the children can sit on a chair at a table for the writing part of the phonics lesson, so that they can sit comfortably, holding a pencil correctly with a proper tripod grip.

Encourage your child to hold their pencil correctly right from the beginning; remind them of the tripod pencil hold: 'froggy legs with pencil resting on the log'. Left handers need to be shown how to angle the paper and write the letters with their hand below the line rather than by hooking their hand over the top of the line. With initial guidance, left-handed children can be taught to handwrite just as legibly as right-handed ones.

Late b/d reversal is linked to poor handwriting instruction. Students with this difficulty habitually start writing both letters at same point on the line, resulting in a failure to distinguish between them. (Tricia Millar) One way to remediate b / d confusion is to show the child how to use their own mouth shape as a cue: ''Make your mouth the shape to say a letter /b/, your lips make a straight line, so you write the letter that starts with a straight line - the b. When you start to say /d/ your lips and tongue make a circle (ish) so that's the letter that starts with a circle''.

b/d reversal: what can be done?

SEN consultant and phonics tutor Ann Sullivan is well aware of the benefits of handwriting for reading and spelling. She says: ''Pertinent to SEN pupils who can't handwrite because of physical disabilities. I include some 'hand-over-hand' and 'big' writing for this reason but most will ultimately type (or eye gaze) rather than form letters'' She adds ''(W)ith the hand over hand technique it is important to be aware of the child's sensory preferences... they may not like to be touched at all or may like a firm approach. I always ask permission before doing it even if I have worked with the child for some time''

On the subject of mainstream classroom teaching of handwriting, synthetic phonics trainer Debbie Hepplewhite points out the big difference, ''...between learning to write with a mini whiteboard sitting cross-legged on the floor with a marker pen – and learning to write with paper and pencil, learning correct pencil hold and sitting comfortably at a correct-sized desk'' (ABC Does...blog). She adds, ''It is handwriting that adds to the 'multi-sensory' set of activities for core phonics learning. We have virtually a nation of children learning to write with marker pens sitting scrunched up on the floor. I ask teachers wherever I speak or train to conduct observations around their schools when children are writing to see just how they write (physically). What is their posture, how do they hold their implements, do they write 'under' the words or 'above' (hooking their wrists around -writing 'upside down' in effect), where is their 'spare hand', how well do they form their letters on writing lines??? Further, how do the staff handwrite in front of the children, when modelling any writing, when marking the children's work?'' (Hepplewhite. RRF message board)

Do provide plenty of handwriting practice using pencils and lined paper, not mini whiteboards.

Debbie Hepplewhite: Teaching Handwriting

Don't Teach Fully Cursive Writing in Reception

Cursive Handwriting and Other Education Myths

Learning to read/recognize letters via handwriting vs via keyboard / tablet

Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard:

Hands help us to see!

Want to improve children's writing? Don't neglect their handwriting.

Writing by hand helps with reading, spelling and possibly language development.

"Reading and writing share the same network in terms of brain development, and this research actually adds more information by saying that handwriting by paper and pen has major advantages."

Writing by hand strengthens the learning process. When typing on a keyboard, this process may be impaired.

''Children learn letters by writing them, not from looking at them or from letter tiles. They say the sound the letter(s) stands for as they write it (not the letter name)'' (Prof. Diane McGuinness 2002 RRF newsletter 49)