30+ Tips for Teaching Handwriting in the Primary Grades


Written by Natalie

The main building blocks for teaching handwriting in the primary grades include: developing your students’ pre-writing and fine motor skills, encouraging the crossing of the 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 primary classroom.

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

Young boy writing

shutterstock.com / ZouZou

Teaching Handwriting Through Prewriting Activities

There are a plethora of prewriting 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.

Prewriting activities are the basis for developing a strong pencil grip.

Child handwriting

shutterstock.com / Cmspic

(1) Develop Fine Motor Skills

Developing your students’ fine motor control is fundamental in any Pre-K and Kindergarten 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 clothespins on clip card activities.
young boy cutting paper

shutterstock.com / Lordn

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

(2) Incorporate Crossing the 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 (e.g. 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.

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 it? In my opinion, it depends on whether it is affecting the students writing. You’ll notice that the children who are incorrectly holding their pencils will 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 in forming a better pencil grip.

(4) Practice Pencil Control

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

Pre-writing Pencil Control Worksheets

Here are some printable pencil control tracing worksheets that would work beautifully!

Letter Formation Activities and Resources

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

(1) Shapes in the Alphabet

Students’ understanding that specific shapes can be found in the alphabet letters is an excellent way to begin the transition from prewriting pattern activities into understanding the letters’ formation.

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.

(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.

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 binder ring and used in your writing center.

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 resource is a set of CVC Word Shape task cards perfect for a reading center in your Primary 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_US.

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