Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Importance of Handwriting Instruction

A few weeks ago, our district had a training session with Anita Archer.  The topic was “Written Expression Instruction”.  There were so many ideas and methods presented, all of them immediately accessible to teachers for use in the classroom.  I was glad and impressed to hear Ms. Archer address handwriting as a foundational skill for success in writing.  I have known primary grade teachers who spend no time teaching handwriting and I have wondered how they ever expect children to become fluent, productive writers if the mechanics are not mastered first.  Ms. Archer discussed the importance of writing fluency as a foundation for self-expression, just as reading fluency is the foundation for comprehension.  Here are some quotes from the materials Ms. Archer presented:

“Children who experience difficulty mastering this skill may avoid writing and develop a mindset that they cannot write, leading to arrested writing development.” (Graham, Harris, and Fink, 2000)

“If students have to struggle to remember letter forms, their ability to express themselves suffers. Handwriting must be automatic.”  (Graham, 2007)

“Fluent, accurate letter formation and spelling are associated with students’ production of longer and better-organized compositions.” (Beminger, Vaughan, Abbott, Abbott, Brooks, Regan, Reed & Graham, 1997)

“Measures of handwriting speed among elementary students are good predictors of quality and quantity of written products in middle school.”  (Peverly, 2007)

The bottom line is, handwriting instruction matters!  Students benefit from explicit instruction on how to form and fluently write letters of the alphabet!  As a third grade teacher, I spend a fair amount of time teachings students to write in cursive and then practicing to build fluency.  When students come to me with correct letter formation of the manuscript alphabet, the transition to cursive is much easier.  When students are not fluent in correctly forming manuscript, cursive is a real challenge.  I SO appreciate K-2 teachers who send me students who have good handwriting skills!


  1. Jan, this was a truly great post. Handwriting isn't just a mechanic that is "supposed" to be taught to children. It's a life skill that opens doors to becoming, as you said, "fluent and productive writers." I too view handwriting as a foundational skill for success in writing. As a teacher myself I've been the most familiar with Zaner-Bloser's handwriting instruction and I was wondering what your thoughts (since they seem kin to mine) on the program were if you had any experience with it.


  2. Leeandra, My district doesn't have an actual handwriting program. There is some instruction in Reading Street,(our reading/language arts program) but most of us just kind of do our own thing. I'm not familiar with the Zaner-Bloser program. I looked at it online, and thought it looked good--instruction seems to be well-sequenced and methodical. Good luck with it! Hope it produces lots of good penmanship!