Teaching handwriting in Kindergarten takes a lot of modeling, practice, and patience! I'd be lying if I told you that I never got frustrated while teaching handwriting. Good handwriting is a critical skill for children to learn and practice as it improves their overall literacy and cognitive development. However, it's essential to make the process enjoyable and engaging for them to avoid frustration and disinterest. As a teacher, you will need to spend lots of time teaching handwriting and practice writing in Kindergarten! You want your students to enter First Grade with legible handwriting so that their teachers can focus on building their writing skills. Today, I am going to share with you exactly how I teach handwriting, along with a few ideas to practice handwriting with your Kindergarten students.
Why Teaching Handwriting in Kindergarten is so Important
The first one to two weeks, you should focus on name writing and proper pencil grip. For more ideas on name writing practice, make sure to check out this blog post here: Name Writing Practice Ideas
Handwriting should be your main writing focus for the next one to two months. Yes, you will still be working on writing words, making sentences, writing sentences, etc, but you need to focus the majority of your writing instruction on handwriting. Once your students have a solid foundation with proper handwriting, it will make teaching writing the rest of the year so much easier.
Modeling Handwriting in Kindergarten
When you are teaching handwriting in Kindergarten, you need to MODEL everything you do, starting with where to put the pencil tip down on the paper. Remember, some of your students may have never been shown how to write, so you need to start with the basics. Here's how I model how to write a letter.
I Do- Pencils Down, Watching the Teacher only
First, I tell them to put their pencils down and look at me. This is so important because if they are holding their pencil, chances are they will try to write the letter without watching me first. They need to watch you first! Once I have all my students attention, I show them how I write a letter, talking as I go. I ask them if the letter has straight or curvy lines and ask which handwriting lines it touches.
We Do- Write the Letter Together
Now, you will write the letter together. I show them exactly where we put the pencil onto the paper (almost always at the top line). Then, I go through the motions of writing the letter slowly, again talking through each step. If it takes more than one stroke, I make sure I stop and show them where they put their pencil next, then continue writing the letter. Once they are done, I walk around and check to make sure it looks good. We do this a few more times, then it is time for them to try it on their own.
You Do- Writing the Letter Independently
Now it's time for them to try it out independently. Before they start, I repeat this handwriting mantra “Take your time and use the lines” a few times. I make sure that it is very quiet while they are writing, because I want them to be solely focused on getting that letter right. Once they write it a few times, they raise their hand and I come check out their paper.
Praising Students' Handwriting Efforts
As I am checking their handwriting, I get a special colored Flair pen. I look at their letters and circle and star the best one I see! I make sure to note anything they did really well, like “Great job touching all the lines with your letter” or “That is a very straight line on your T”. I also point out any areas they could improve in. I don't get to every student, and the students that I don't get to before I run out of time, I make sure to circle and star the best letter when I'm checking the papers later.
When I teach handwriting in Kindergarten, I use the lines like a map. Every single detail of the letter either starts, crosses, or ends at a line. I make sure that my students understand how to write every single letter using the handwriting lines. This really helps develop great handwriting, because even when they are no longer using handwriting lines, they still remember how letters big letters are and how they are formed.
Introducing Finger Spaces
Even though we aren't teaching how to write sentences yet, I still take this time to introduce finger spaces. In between each letter, they need to have a finger space. I tell them that when we are practicing handwriting, we put a finger space in between each letter so they don't run into each other.
If you have struggling students…
- Have students work on their fine motor skills. Sometimes, their hand and finger muscles are too weak to hold a pencil properly. Add in some fine motor practice with play dough, clothespins, cut and paste, etc.
- Use a highlighter to write the letters for the students and have them trace. It's so much easier than trying to trace over dotted lines.
A few more key tips
- Be strict! Don't be afraid to have them erase and do it all over. You will know what their “best” writing looks like and if you can tell that they are rushing or not trying, have them do it over. Trust me, after they have to start all over once or twice, they will learn to do their best.
- Always have your students start at the top, then write going down. It is so much easier drawing a line from top to bottom, than from bottom to top. I always demonstrate this a few times with my students drawing lines both ways so they can see how much better it looks from top to bottom.
- Stick with one letter per day. You can go in alphabetical order or out of order, but it is easiest if you just do one so it's not too much at once.
- Practice pencil placement for every letter! Have your students draw a dot where they need to begin the letter, if they are having trouble starting at the correct starting point.
- There should be “no reward” for finishing first. If they finish early, they can draw or write words that start with that letter.
Handwriting Practice Ideas
I've used these Handwriting Graphic Organizers to help teach handwriting in Kindergarten because it is two activities in one! I copy them front to back, so on the front side they practice handwriting and on the back once they finish, they can draw pictures of things that start with that letter.
Daily Writing Journals with Directed Drawing
These daily journals continue the handwriting practice throughout the year! Each day, your students will work on a page focusing on a letter or phonics skill, learn how to draw using step-by-step directed drawing, and writing a sentence. You can read more about these daily writing journals here or grab the yearlong set in my TPT store here: Daily Writing Journals for Kindergarten with Directed Drawing.
If your students are having trouble with lowercase letters, this poem was always a great visual. You can find this FREE lowercase letter handwriting worksheet and poem here.
I hope this post helped you gain confidence and tips on how to teach handwriting in Kindergarten!