Rhythm of Handwriting FAQs

Foundations and Rhythm of Handwriting both offer instructions for teaching handwriting in cursive or manuscript. In Foundations, the teacher's manual includes both; Rhythm of Handwriting books are available in either handwriting style. Before beginning, the teacher should decide which form of handwriting is best for the student. We encourage teachers and parents to read our blog entry “Why Teach Cursive First?” We also suggest that you consider the following three questions:

  1. Does the student struggle with fine motor activities? If the student struggles with fine motor skills, it is helpful to begin with cursive. Cursive handwriting requires significantly fewer fine motor movements than manuscript. The pencil does not need to be lifted up and down between letters, and placing the pencil to begin each letter is greatly simplified by the fact that all lowercase cursive letters begin on the baseline, whereas manuscript letters begin in seven or eight different places.
  2. Does the child show signs of reversing letters while reading and/or writing? If the student has demonstrated confusion about the direction of b’s and d’s, or p’s and q’s, cursive can be very helpful in minimizing the issue. Cursive handwriting naturally emphasizes the direction of reading and writing, from left to right. Furthermore, it is difficult to reverse b’s and d’s and p’s and q’s in cursive.
  3. Does the child attend a school where manuscript handwriting is taught? If a parent or tutor is using Foundations to supplement a reading program at school, we suggest matching the handwriting style to that of the school to minimize confusion.

Yes! While reading is a visual experience of language, handwriting is the kinesthetic element. Learning how to form the shapes of the letters helps students to more readily recognize them for reading. Seeing, hearing, saying, and writing the phonograms simultaneously reinforces and deepens their learning. We strongly recommend teaching children to write the letters at the same time that they learn to read them.

It is important to note, however, that children do not need to master handwriting while learning to read. While developing the muscle memory of how to form each letter and a deep knowledge of the connection between that kinesthetic activity and that letter's sounds is very beneficial for children learning the phonograms, it is not important that they master the written letters while first learning to read.

It is also not important that young children be able to write the letters using fine motor movements. The transition to pencil and paper can come later, when fine motor skills are more developed. Children first learning the letters can be writing them in sand, with markers, in paint, or on the sky, using their whole arm. See the next question to learn more.

Each letter is formed with one or more strokes. When students learn how to write the letters using large motor motions, they are able to more easily visualize how each of the pieces fits together to form the whole. Small motor motions, on the other hand, are more abstract and less easy to visualize. In addition, many young students do not have well-developed fine motor skills. By learning to write using large motor, they are still able to benefit from the kinesthetic component of writing, which helps them to internalize the shapes in the motor-sensory areas of their brain. Students can then progress naturally to fine-motor writing with paper and pencil when they are ready to do so.

If the student struggles with fine motor skills, practice writing exclusively with large motor movements. Write on a whiteboard, chalkboard, in a sensory box, or using finger paint, with motions that originate in the elbow.

At other times during the day, provide opportunities to develop the student's fine motor skills:
(**Many of these activities require adult supervision!)

  1. Color with markers, chalk, or crayons.
  2. Provide the students with an eyedropper and small paper cups. Fill one cup with water. Direct students to transfer the water with the eyedropper. For added fun, use a few drops of food coloring in each cup and allow students to experiment with mixing colors.
  3. Make necklaces and bracelets with plastic beads.
  4. Use tweezers to move beads from one cup to another.
  5. Provide students with small colored pom-poms and direct them to sort them by color.
  6. Provide clothespins that pinch. String a rope between two chairs and allow students to hang up doll clothes, socks, or pictures to display.
  7. Use child safe scissors.
  8. Provide students with bolts, nuts, and washers of varying sizes to sort and screw together.
  9. Play with building toys.

In this way, the student can make progress with reading and writing comfortably, using large motor skills, while further developing fine motor skills. When the student is developmentally ready to transition to fine-motor writing, the muscle memory that he or she has formed using large-motor movement will translate into fine motor motions.

The decision to transition to pencil and paper should be based upon the student's individual development. Many students will find great success by learning to write a letter using large-motor skill, then immediately writing the letter with a pencil. Other students with less developed fine-motor skills benefit from extended large-motor practice.

To assess readiness, periodically provide the child with a pencil. Demonstrate how to hold the pencil and position the paper. Ask the student to write two to three phonograms that she can already form easily with large motor writing. If the student is able to hold the pencil and form recognizable letters without frustration, she is ready to begin practice with pencil and paper. If the student is deeply frustrated or the letters are not recognizable, continue large motor writing while providing fine motor activities.

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