Handwriting Instruction- Important or Irrelevant? ipad App Review!

Do you teach handwriting? Are you allowed to teach it? With all the high stakes testing these days, handwriting has certainly taken a back seat. In many places, typing or keyboarding has taken its place; that's understandable considering that technology has become such a huge part of our daily lives, however, in the primary grades children still need to learn how to write and I'm curious to hear other teachers' opinions on this topic. At the risk of being unpopular, I'm sharing how I incorporate handwriting instruction into my literacy program.

My personal philosophy is that explicitly teaching handwriting to children is important because it is a fundamental, foundational literacy skill. If we want students to learn to write to communicate their ideas, they must be taught proper handwriting skills (correct formation) to encourage fluency and kinesthetic/muscle memory for spelling.

My school uses the Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) curriculum. The program is based on the work of an occupational therapist named Jan Olsen. HWT incorporates a multi-sensory, developmentally approach to handwriting instruction which I think is really effective with students. Click on the link to visit their site- it's full of great resources...

One of which is their NEW ipad app, "Wet-Dry-Try Suite". It allows students to practice capital and lower-case letters as well as numbers in a way that simulates the HWT chalkboard.


I just purchased this app for our first grade team and I LOVE it! You can enter your roster and each time your students log in, it's basically like a one-on-one session because it's full of voice prompts leading the child through proper letter formation, step by step. Wet-Try-Dry Suite also self-corrects the student when he/she makes a mistake; those errors are also recorded for you so you know what to help your student with. At the price of $6.99 it's more than many apps out there, but well worth it in my opinion

Handwriting Instruction

I am blessed to have a full-time assistant, Irin. She works with students in handwriting small groups during Reading Workshop rotations so she can really monitor them and help them correct wrong movements. While I am conferring or leading a group, Irin works on handwriting while other students are reading-to-self, listening-to-reading or doing word work. Now that I have the HWT app, I plan to make a schedule for her where a couple students can use the ipads (we only have 6 for all of 1st grade) while she works with a couple of the other students in that group directly.

Handwriting in Writing Workshop

Since as use Lucy Calkins' Units of Writing as my primary resource for writing workshop, I prefer to have my students us single sheets or booklets of paper for writing rather than a spiral or bound notebook because they can manipulate the pages a lot easier (adding more, or taking out), however, Lucy usually offers single-lined paper in her unit resources. I have used it in the past and I think it is fine for kindergarten when they are just beginning to write letters; I think they need the room and an uncluttered line. After they have a sense of the shapes of letters, and have been taught to form lowercase letters correctly, I transition into using the double-lined paper to help them improve their size and spacing.

For each writing unit I create double-lined paper for my students to use during writing workshop, depending on the genre. For example, when we write nonfiction pieces, I create paper that incorporates the nonfiction text features like a page for the Table of Contents or a diagram page.

In the past I've found the "traditional" lined paper with the dashes in the middle too confusing for students; the lines are often too close, so students get confused between which parts are meant for lower-case letters, and which parts are just for spacing. Due to this problem, I only use the cleaner-looking double lines now.

While modeling during min-lessons, I remind them how to "bump the lines" and stress how important neat handwriting is- otherwise the reader cannot actually read their piece! Of course they want others to read what they've written, so they take the message to heart.

The difference between a single line and the double lines is remarkable- take a look at one student's writing:

This student cannot really control her writing with only one line, but once given the double lines, she writes much more legibly with better sizing and spacing. If you'd like a copy of this double-lined narrative paper, click on the image below!
(The left margin is slightly wider to accommodate staples for a book cover.)

Do you teach handwriting? Is it important or irrelevant? What are your thoughts on this subject?
Thanks for stopping by!

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1 comment

  1. Yes, I still teach handwriting. I think it's important, too. Thanks for sharing all your great ideas.
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