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What should I be doing for handwriting in Y4?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by sfm_81, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. Hi

    I'm an NQT in Y4, our school doesn't have a policy on handwriting and haven't given any specific instructions for KS2. I've asked and just been told to follow a handwriting textbook, where the kids just go through it page-by-page doing the handwriting activities in their own book. One other thing I've also done so far is write a poem on the board and ask them just to copy it, quite dull I know but this actually produced far better results than the textbooks...

    So I know it should be cursive, is there a specific way to teach this? If a child is for example joining a letter at the top instead of the bottom is this really a big deal? Should I be talking to them about it?

    The children in my class have good standards of presentation but are at the stage where some are joining, some half-joining and some not at all, I'm finding the top writers in the class are not joining at all which is concerning. Hence why I am trying to get some uniformity going! Any help is much appreciated, thank you.
  2. Personally, and I will probably get shot down for saying this, so long as the writing is clear and uniform in shape and size (and obviously a suitable size for the lines etc) then I wouldn't be too worried about it not being cursive. My own handwriting is sometimes cursive, sometimes print, and sometimes a mix. There are some letter joins I always do, some that I occasionally do and others that I never do, but its always consistent.
    I know others will say that all children by a certain age have to be able to write cursively, and I have been on placement where by the end of Year 2 it is frowned upon if they don't write cursively, but I wouldn't say it is a huge issue.
    As to how you should go about it in your classroom, I would possibly identify those with 'weakest' handwriting, and focus on those children in guided sessions, and make it very tailored to what they need to work on.
    If your whole class would benefit from some practice at doing as you have said, copying the poem, then do that too.
    Another possibility is looking at the type of pen they use to write with (if pencils are used then maybe introduce handwriting berol pens for 'special' handwriting lessons and introduce them into display work at a later date?). I know that personally I write much more fluently and much easier with a biro than any other type pen, whereas my sister can't stand to write with biros and much prefers a gel or fountain pen.
    Just a few ideas, and I can guarantee my first comment will cause a stir..
    JSY x
  3. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Some while since I've done this but as far as I can remember we looked at forming letters without ascenders or descenders- actuallu teaching flick . . ..flick (those of us who remember magic pen where it showed the children and they drew it in the air with their fingers started there). All letters should begin and end on the line.
    Then moved on to drawing in sand trays before attempting actual writing Next looked at formation of letter with ascenders and descenders making patterns as creatively as you can (children are good for suggestions they often spot patterns!).
    Then we practised words using all letters concentrating on joins- usually registration every morning for example.
    When a child could produce 'good joins' awarded a certificate which meant they could 'progress to a proper handwriting pen.
    Hope that's of some help.
  4. http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Joined%20Handwriting.pdf

    Well done for being concerned about the handwriting of your Y4s.
    Of course you should be addressing handwriting - you're the teacher! But then, your whole school could do with getting together on this and deciding how best to discharge your duty to teach handwriting well.
    I'm only too aware that many students revert to any old handwriting - perhaps a mix of print and joined - or even all print - once they get to secondary school - but at least as primary school teachers 'we' should have taught them a good, neat style in the meantime.
    Then, at least the students have a choice as to how they move forwards - and some students will be pleased to have been taught, and established to automaticity, a mature and efficient handwriting style.
    It's a bit like eating well with a knife and fork - if children are taught well, they may choose to eat any-old-way when they're older but at least it is THEIR CHOICE.
    I recommend that schools start teaching full joined handwriting from late in the infants - probably late in Year One in schools where children are generally able, and in Year Two when schools have a huge range of issues to contend with.
    First of all, the infant teachers should have established very good handwriting which is not joined - including where letters are positioned on writing lines correctly. The children should also have been taught to hold pencils with a tripod grip.
    Those teachers who hold their writing tools with different grips may defend the notion that it doesn't matter how the children hold their pencils because 'they' have managed perfectly well. I suggest that it does matter, and that infant teachers should try very hard and consistently to help the children to sit with good writing posture and so on.
    Then, engage the children with what joined handwriting is all about - fluency, maturity and flair with handwriting - which will help them to enjoy writing activities. It is very motivating for children when they can produce any work with competence and which is also attractive. The vast, vast majority of children can write well and produce good work, and rule lines etc. when they are taught well and with whole school staff determination that that is the standard of the school.
    Teach all the letter shapes discretely at first in simple lines of practice - but with no joining at all. We don't write long, long letter strings when writing words. The children just need to understand about each letter. Establish starting on the line with leaders.
    Then, looking at the washing line join, examine all the discrete letter shapes to find those letters which do not end on the line, and therefore will be followed by washing line joins such as o, v, w, x, r. This influences other letters which follow these letters as they then start at their proper 'starting points' and not on the line.
    Children who are taught with 'leaders' from reception may tend to do 'dips' which are neither leaders nor washing line joins because they were basically taught too early before print writing was established and perhaps because the teachers themselves are not fully aware of addressing all the joins well enough. There becomes a sort of fuddle where children are not really sure enough about what they are doing. Sadly, the joined handwriting of tinies often looks impressive to the undiscerning eye to be persuasive of starting joined handwriting too soon.
    Also, phonics teaching and joined handwriting are not necessarily the best combination - and really the phonics teaching should take precedence over the joined handwriting for little children.
    Finally, practice the handwriting with discrete lessons with finger-spaced joins until the children know the discrete letter shapes and can position them well on the writing lines (don't bother with those handwriting lines which put a line halfway - this can be confusing and children must learn which letters are half-sized in between the lines for themselves).
    Then, demonstrate the joining up of letters in short words where the children are engaged with thinking how the joins will work.
    Then, pick a day when from then on, the children MUST join their words up for all writing - not just the handwriting practice sessions. Make this non-negotiable. If children try to wriggle out of this, extremely kindly but firmly, make them do their writing again.
    Oh, I missed a bit, ask them at first to write in all-joined handwriting when copy-writing so that they are focused on their handwriting and not spelling and thinking about composition - for example, writing out the poem from the board you described. They can actually copy out bits from their favourite poems - and then let them do fab drawings to illustrate their poems and bang them up on the wall or make a class handwriting, poetry anthology.
    You may find a large number of the children actually start writing in joined handwriting generally once they get the hang of it. Let them do this prior to the BIG DAY when they all have to do joined handwriting.
    In total, this whole process should take no more than one term for the whole class. Some children may take only days to get going with full joined handwriting. Establish the time-scale from the start so the children know the ultimate plan.
    You can remediate any chid's handwriting in this time-scale.
    Engage your colleagues with your success - for success you will have if you follow these suggestions! Then, see if you can lead the whole school in establishing a 'school handwriting' policy.
    You can email me at any time for further advice at debbie@phonicsinternational.com . I can't wait to hear if you follow these suggestions and what happens!!!!

  5. PS: Sorry, two further points:
    I don't mean 'all' writing - establish times when you do want just print so that children can keep up their printing (no joins) capability.
    Check that children can write the capital letters correctly. I suggest that capital letters are written the same as 'print' capital letters leaving a tiny space before the next letter starts on the line with a leader join.
    I personally don't think it is good enough for primary teachers to have a 'it doesn't really matter' attitude with regard to handwriting and presentation.
    Children reflect how they are taught - or not taught. We are approaching a political era when schools are purportedly going to be allowed greater freedoms of provision - this must not become an excuse for a free-for-all where individual teachers make pink and fluffy decisions about 'what matters' and 'what doesn't' based on their own idiosyncratic styles and beliefs.
    If children leave primary school with poor handwriting, for example, this is because they were taught poorly or barely taught at all.
  6. And as ever, debbiehep has some brilliant ideas which have been logged into my head for when I qualify! Thanks :)
    Ok, maybe I should back my self up a bit, or get myself out of the hole I created for myself.
    I don't think I worded my post as I wanted to, as I certainly don't have that attitude, I just feel that if a child writes fluently, neatly and has good presentation of their work, then I wouldn't be worried if they didn't join up all of their writing. I never meant it to sound like I wouldn't care at all for any child in my class if they didn't join cursively, but I think sometimes too much emphasis is on cursive writing.
    When I was in years 5 and 6 (and probably earlier but I have vivid memories of the handwriting display in my Y5 classroom), I remember having to sit and do letter joins until my hand hurt, and I could never apply it in my writing, purely because it just didn't work for me. When I join my writing, I use the proper joins, with correct starting points for the letters, so something must have stuck, but what I disagree with is when we say that children MUST join all their handwriting. For me it was more of a chore to do that and I often put more effort into the handwriting than the actual content of the work.
    Saying that, it is now 10 years since I left primary school and standards have changed, and new ideas have been put into motion by the Government, so maybe I am a bit behind in what happens in handwriting lessons, having only taught a handful of them on each of my placements.
    I have to say I never meant to offend anyone with my opinion, I just wanted to say that for me, cursive writing isn't the marker of a good writer who presents work well and neatly.
    JSY x
  7. JSY - I think your last posting is very gracious and well-put. Thank you so much for your positive reply.
    Bear in mind that nothing I ever post is 'personal' and often what I write comes across as a criticism.
    It is never intended that way.
    What upsets me is that we have newly qualified teachers fresh from universities where they have not been trained in how to teach handwriting.
    It has taken me a lifetime of teaching and tutoring (and parenting) to have reached my level of approach in even the most basic of skills.
    What I am endeavouring to do is to shortcut other people in the teaching profession. We cannot afford to each one of us have to find out these things through years of experience.
    Because within those years of experience comes the realisation that we have at least in part let down various children without meaning to. The ones who invariably have been short-changed the most are the slower to learn and weaker to learn children - and often children who are disadvantaged in one way or another.
    Also, please bear in mind that I am trying to 'persuade' people via the internet with just 'postings' and therefore try to convey some degree of authority in order to perhaps make people reassess their current provision. Sometimes I don't get the tenor of my postings quite right - and sometimes I cause upset. There's many a time when I have felt the need to apologise one way or another!!!![​IMG]
    All the best,

  8. wellingtonboot

    wellingtonboot New commenter

    Can I just add two points:
    1. You need to be aware of your left-handers - make sure that they are being taught correctly and are not seated on the wrong side of a right-hander.
    2. If you've got any children who are struggling with pencil control, look at "Write from the Start" (Teodorescu) from LDA for advice and exercises.

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