Handwriting mastery is a complex skill. Yes, I admit that it is. But, just like any other skill, there are some basic procedures that must be learned before a beginner can hope to become a master. For handwriting success, there are 3 performance areas that simply need to be taught right from the start.
Let’s have a look at them, shall we?
A writer’s sitting posture should be comfortable and provide a sturdy foundation for a smooth handwriting style. It’s very simple to figure out, really, if you remember the “90-90-90 Angle Rule.”
When students are seated at their desks:
- Their feet should rest flat on the floor with a 90-degree angle at the ankles.
- Their knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle about an inch away from the seat of the chair.
- Their hips should be positioned at a 90-degree angle and nestled comfortably into the back of the seat.
These angles will allow the students to rest their elbows on the desk in a comfortable flexed position. For right-handers, it will also place their arm in a neutral position with a slightly flexed wrist for a smooth glide across the page. Left-handed writers should maintain a straight wrist position to avoid a “hooked wrist” handwriting style.
Important Note: This Angle Rule can only be followed if the chair is the appropriate height for the writer! Why?
- If the chair is too low, students may sit on their feet or hunch their shoulders to get a better look at their work.
- If the chair is too high, their feet will dangle beneath them. Students may sit on their feet to stabilize their bodies or slouch so that they can get closer to their work.
But, don’t fret! There are easy solutions to both of these problems.
- For chairs that are too low, have the students sit on a book or sturdy cushion to bring the ankles, knees, and hips into the 90-degree angle.
- For chairs that are too high, place a book under the students’ feet to provide the stabilizing 90-degree angle at the ankles.
2. Paper Placement
There are two schools of thought about the appropriate placement of paper for handwriting success. The following is my preferred guidelines!
Handwriting mastery requires smooth wrist, elbow, and shoulder movements. A slanted paper position allows the writer to use the hand, arm, and shoulder efficiently.
- For all writers, the paper should be positioned at the student’s midline with the bottom angle placed about 1” from the lower edge of the desk.
- For left-handed writers, the paper should be slanted to the right at about a 30-45-degree angle. This allows the writer to “push-rather-than-pull” his pencil across the page and to see where he is writing. This also helps him avoid smudging his work as he smoothly moves his arm across the page.
- For right-handed writers, the paper should be slanted at about a 20-35-degree angle to the left.
The student’s helper hand should be placed on that side of the paper to stabilize and move it to facilitate a legible handwriting style. Each student will find his most comfortable paper slant as he begins to master his handwriting skills.
3. Pencil Grip
My Pencil Grip Motto is “functional is more important than pretty.” Although the tripod grasp is considered to be the optimal grasping pattern, many efficient handwriters have developed their own functional pencil grip. If a pencil grasp does not affect a student’s handwriting by making it illegible or causing him pain, then it is probably best to let sleeping dogs lie.
There are some simple rules that should be followed with any type of pencil grip.
- The student’s hand should rest on the paper using the ring and little finger for support.
- The fingers on the shaft of the pencil should provide stability using a comfortable pressure that does not cause hand or finger fatigue.
- Smaller pencils are easier for students to learn and manage a pencil grip.
There are some unique rules for left- and right-handers to facilitate their handwriting success.
- Left-handers should hold their pencils about 1 to 1 ½” from the point with the pencil top pointed toward the left elbow. This allows them to see what they are writing and helps to avoid smudging their work.
- Right-handed writers can hold their pencils closer to the pencil tip if they can maintain flexible finger movements to guide their pencil strokes. If they find that their thumb, index, and long fingers become cramped, they should also use a higher position on the pencil shaft. Their pencil top should point toward their right shoulder.
Handwriting success depends upon a solid base of support. Posture, paper positioning, and pencil grip are three of the table legs that handwriting mastery stands on. Of course, the fourth leg is a structured, guided handwriting instruction program.
As always, I thank you for reading! Please be sure to comment, as I look forward to your feedback and learning from you!
See you soon,
KatherineKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine. Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.