Handwriting is a crucial skill that is often overlooked. We are seeing poor handwriting in quite a lot of children. It doesn’t mean they are lazy or cannot be bothered. Like any other skill, it can be taught.
Why is handwriting important?
- It makes their work legible for their teachers, parents and friends.
- Children with poor handwriting may avoid writing and this sets up a negative cycle, which hinders learning.
- Some kids are not using the right grip to hold the pencil properly, which results in muscle fatigue.
- Teachers say that neat handwriting is usually a good predictor of a diligent student and it has a positive impact on grades.
- Practicing handwriting activates the brain more than using the keyboard.
Once they enter P1, they are expected to write neatly and legibly. They have penmanship booklets at P1, but usually the writing habits which have been formed in preschool are harder to change compared to starting them off well.
If they don’t have an adequate foundation with proper spacing, keeping the words on the line, consistent letter size, it gets harder when they have to write without lines, or do work for long periods of time. Kate tells me that they have a lot of group work in school, and some classmates with untidy handwriting will ask others to do the writing. This sets up a negative cycle and may affect their self-esteem.
What is contributing to their poor handwriting?
1. Handwriting is not given much attention in a lot of preschools today as there are other things competing for time. Many children do not use the correct strokes for the formation of letters. In the absence of instruction, they simply look at the letters and try to copy it by making up their own strokes. A small “a” may be a circle with a line connected to the side.
2. Weak fine motor and gross motor skills
Handwriting requires the use of both fine motor and gross motor skills. As children are spending less time in physical activities, as well as being put in restraining chairs and strollers at a younger age, their overall muscles have less opportunities to be developed. Playground time is great for strengthening these muscles, by climbing, swinging from bars, and pushing their friends on the swing.
3. Gadgets are more prevalent in their lives
Before gadgets, children spent time colouring, doodling or writing. Now, much of their free hours are spent swiping screens. Practice makes perfect, given the right instructions on forming their letters properly.
Among my kids, there are great differences in their handwriting. I was too busy focusing on survival that I completely overlooked their handwriting. I left it to their preschools to teach them how to read and write.
My son has very untidy handwriting, and I received a text from his teacher recently. She informed me that his handwriting is getting worse because now they are expected to write long essays in Sec 2. Sometimes, his scrawls are hard to decipher and she’s concerned about his exam papers.
I had a talk with him, and he said he will try his best. Handwriting is much easier to correct when they are younger as the wrong letter patterns may become a strongly ingrained motor habit.
In our education system, having fast and legible handwriting is crucial as many tests and exams are based on written work.
My daughter has tiny slanted handwriting which was not corrected, and it gets tedious to read when she produces pages and pages of an essay argument. Despite being a straight A student, she always fails written interview essays.
In JC, she sat for the admission test for Linguistics which is via a written assessment. She failed that, but subsequently, topped her class in GP and Literature and her teacher said that if she had known of her calibre back then, she would have admitted her.
Truth is, the first impressions of your written work counts. Examiners have to pore through hundreds of exam papers, and although the content may be good, they have to decipher what is written.
Handwriting is something we should not neglect in our children. Some kids tell us “I don’t like to write” or “I don’t want to write”. Many parents lament that their kids have messy handwriting, but don’t know where to get help. Our children should not have to feel bad about their handwriting. All they need is proper instruction and lots of practice.
Let your preschool child join us this March holidays for a 2-day Handwriting Camp at The Little Executive where our educators will guide them patiently to improve their handwriting skills, in a fun and enjoyable setting.
Here’s the link for more information and to sign up. Don’t worry parents, help is at hand 🙂