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30+ Tips for Teaching Handwriting in the Early Years

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Photo of Holly (Teach Starter)
Updated | 4 min read

The main building blocks for teaching handwriting in the early years include; developing your students’ pre-writing and fine motor skills, encouraging crossing of their midline, correct pencil grip, strong pencil control and an understanding of letter patterns and letter formations. All of these elements are crucial in the successful teaching of handwriting in the early years classroom.

The foundation for good handwriting is a strong pencil grip and proper letter formation.


Teaching Handwriting Through Pre-Writing Activities

There are a plethora of pre-writing activities that you can incorporate into your classroom today that will help develop and set your students up for success as they transition from the emergent writing stage.

Pre-writing activities are the basis for developing a strong pencil grip.

(1) Develop Fine Motor Skills

Developing your students’ fine motor control is fundamental in any foundation/prep classroom. Fine motor development can be incorporated into a variety of activities. There are many printable resources available in our fine motor teaching resources collection. Other ideas include:

  1. Playing with playdough to strengthen students’ fingers and hands.
  2. Lacing and threading activities to develop hand-eye coordination.
  3. Cutting activities with scissors to strengthen hands.
  4. Open and closing activities such as using pegs on peg card activities.

You may be interested in checking out some of our printable fine motor resources for the classroom:

Image of Secret Threading Task Cards

teaching resource

Secret Threading Task Cards

A set of 24 threading activity cards.

Teach Starter Publishing8 pagesYears: P - 1
Image of Alphabet Playdough Mats for Fine Motor Development

teaching resource

Alphabet Playdough Mats for Fine Motor Development

A set of alphabet playdough mats to help children develop their fine motor skills and identify the letters of the alphabet.

Teach Starter Publishing26 pagesYears: P - F
Image of Scissor Cutting Skills Pages

teaching resource

Scissor Cutting Skills Pages

A set of 7 different lined pages to assist in developing students' scissor skills.

Teach Starter Publishing7 pagesYears: P - 1

Image of Scissor Cutting Skills - Dinosaurs

teaching resource

Scissor Cutting Skills - Dinosaurs

A set of 6 different dinosaurs to assist in developing students’ scissor skills.

Teach Starter Publishing3 pagesYears: P - 1
Image of 1 to 20 Clothesline Number Cards

teaching resource

1 to 20 Clothesline Number Cards

A set of clothes themed number cards to use in the classroom when creating a 1 to 20 number line.

Teach Starter Publishing10 pagesYear: F
Image of Pre-Handwriting Worksheets

teaching resource

Pre-Handwriting Worksheets

A collection of 18 pre-handwriting skill sheets with a range of different techniques and themes.

Teach Starter Publishing18 pagesYears: P - 2

(2) Incorporate Crossing Midline Activities

Crossing the midline is a slightly different skill your students will need to develop.

A child that has established this skill will be able to cross a body part (eg. hand or foot) over to the other side of the body with ease. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, for the little learners in your classroom who are still developing this skill, simple things such as tracing, cutting or even beginning to write may get tricky.

 

For a list of activities to help students cross their midline – read our blog – 15 Crossing the Midline Activities for the Classroom.

(3) Pencil Grip Training

A good pencil grip will allow your students to keep the wrist steady and make small movements of the fingers to create short straight and curved lines. Many studies have proven that the tripod grip is by far the best technique to use the correct hand muscles. Many children naturally learn this grip while others need some assistance.

 

The Pencil Grip Flip Trick was always the most effective in my classroom for helping students hold the pencil correctly.

Pencil Grip Flip Trick Classroom Poster

What do I do if a student is holding their pencil incorrectly? Changing a student’s pencil grip is very difficult and many people ask if it is worth trying to fix? In my opinion, it really depends on whether it is affecting the students writing. You’ll notice that children who may be holding the pencil incorrectly, tire quickly during writing as they are not using the correct muscles in their fingers or hands. This is when it is worth assisting them to form a better pencil grip.

(4) Practise Pencil Control

Apart from helping with fine motor, tracing activities like this super cute animal-inspired Pre-Writing Pencil Control Tracing sheets are fantastic to focus your students on pencil control.

Pre-writing Pencil Control Worksheets

Here’s some printable pencil control tracing worksheets that would work perfectly!

Image of Fine Motor Skills - Dinosaur Tracing Lines Worksheet

teaching resource

Fine Motor Skills - Dinosaur Tracing Lines Worksheet

A dinosaur-themed tracing lines worksheet.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: P - 1
Image of Tracing Lines - Fine Motor Activity

teaching resource

Tracing Lines - Fine Motor Activity

Tracing lines for students to develop their fine motor skills.

Teach Starter Publishing3 pagesYears: P - F
Image of 5 x Dinosaur Tracing Pictures - Fine Motor Skills

teaching resource

5 x Dinosaur Tracing Pictures - Fine Motor Skills

A set of 5 dinosaur-themed tracing pictures.

Teach Starter Publishing5 pagesYears: P - 2
Image of Pre-Writing Pencil Control Tracing Sheets

teaching resource

Pre-Writing Pencil Control Tracing Sheets

A set of four animal-themed pre-writing tracing worksheets.

Teach Starter Publishing4 pagesYears: P - F


Letter Formation Activities and Resources

Learning to form letters correctly is another huge part of the handwriting process. It’s important to incorporate many opportunities in your classroom for your students to learn correct letter formation from the very beginning. Here are some printable resources that will assist in this process.

(1) Shapes in the Alphabet

Students understanding that there are certain shapes seen in the letters of the alphabet is a great way for them to begin the transition from pre-writing pattern activities into understanding the formation of letters.

This set of Shapes in the Alphabet posters is the perfect way to explain how certain shapes can be found in the alphabet such as loops, waves, tails, and arches.

Shapes in the Alphabet Classroom Posters

(2) Letter Formation Posters

This gorgeous collection of Letter Formation Alphabet Posters also includes simple instructions to help students understand how each letter is formed.

These posters are also available in a variety of school fonts to suit the needs of your students.

Letter Formation Posters

 (3) Letter Formation Task Cards

Use this set of Lowercase Letter Formation Task Cards for younger students to learn the basic formation of lowercase letters. This handy-sized collection of task cards can be held together with a key ring and used at your literacy rotations.

You may also like to check out our Uppercase Letter Formation Task Cards as well.

Lowercase letter formation task cards

(4) Word Shape Activities

When students are further along in their handwriting journey. Focusing on looking at word shapes is beneficial for them to understand how letters look in simple CVC words. It’s also a great way to build word and letter recognition.

This new resource is a set of CVC Word Shape task cards perfect for literacy rotations in your Foundation classroom.

CVC Word Shape task cards

For more fun activities to help your students with letter formation, check out our blog – Fun Letter Formation Activities for Kids.

Share your handwriting teaching wins with us over on our Instagram page @teachstarter.

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