From the archive...
We received the following message from a customer via the (no longer active) Logic of English Forum:
My daughter was doing a D'Nealian print for Kindergarten. I switched her to cursive because I do believe it's better AND she really wanted to learn it.
I find that she's struggling. We are doing handwriting twice a day now...once in the morning during our regular school and then a few minutes later in the day, just to help with her motor memory.
She had trouble with some of her directional strokes...for instance when writing /a/, the first stroke gives her problems. Oddly enough , she did very well with the "Drop-swoop".
What is a normal expectation for handwriting?? What should it look like?? When should I be worried?? Don't get me wrong, I believe she is within the normal range, you can understand the letter she's writing, and she's able to write it on all the sizes of lines that are given, but I find that sometimes her spacial awareness seems a bit off.....circles too big, lines too long, etc.
Everything you describe sounds pretty normal for that age! It is best to focus on large motor at this age. It is not at all uncommon for children to struggle to get the shapes sized correctly. I would simply be sure to practice using large motor movements in a variety of textures and to keep the practice fun.
But here are a couple thoughts along the way:
- Is it easier for her if you focus on the large motor for now - with a marker, in sand or fingerpaint, with her whole arm, etc.? In addition to being more challenging for young kids with developing fine motor skills, fine motor movements are also more abstract - it's harder to visualize and understand what the movement is. It is totally fine for a 5-year-old not to have the fine motor skills to write them neatly small; you can have her keep developing the muscle memory with large motor until switching to paper and pencil is comfortable for her, and it's fine for this to take as long as it needs to.
- Does it help her to spend more time on the strokes in isolation before returning to the letters? Some children learn them best in context of letters, while for others it helps to see the letters as a group of strokes and think of the strokes individually.
- Have you tried spending more time reading the full instructions as she does the movements, and having her say them to "guide your marker" as you do it, before shortening to the bolded instructions? That way she can hear the reminders of how far lines are supposed to go.
- You might try writing the letters on the whiteboard, saying the steps aloud as you do, and then have her erase them following the same movements and saying the same steps.
- When you have her write the letters a number of times, make sure to have her identify which one she thinks looks best and also tell her which one you think looks best.
The reason to work on it at this point and correct her when necessary isn't so much to perfect the appearance or have it look exactly the right way as to make sure the muscle memory she's developing is accurate. So that's something to keep in mind in trying to decide whether to worry!
The mom wrote back:
After reading your response, I think she is doing better than I realized. Today she did "g" and did very well. She doesn't like the white board because she is a lefty and doesn't like getting the marker on herself. She prefers the paper. She is going to be 6 in August.
For those with left-handed students, two more recommendations: If you have the LOE white board you can use wet erase markers with a damp cloth or dry erase crayons. Both of these will stay on as a left handed child writes. Also, here's a great blog post from a mom who uses a magnet board instead of a white board with her left-handed child: Left-Handed Mom.