When we trace we:
- start with the FIRST letter in our names
- trace each letter in order
- do our best job to stay on the line
When they start tracing on their own, they will usually need reminders about how to trace.
I start the year off with rainbow writing. I've learned if you say it has to do with a "rainbow", you can get the kids excited about anything! For rainbow writing, I print off the student's name in a handwriting font (aka one that doesn't have funky a's or g's). Print Clearly is one of my favorites, you can download it for free at dafont.com. Then, I have the students choose three colors (crayons) to trace their name with. They have to trace their WHOLE name (otherwise they'll trace their m three times then their a three times. . . ) with one color and then they can switch to the next color. When they finish their name looks like a rainbow!
Hand over Hand
Hand over hand is a great way to teach tracing and improve handwriting. It is very important to find the balance between guiding/helping and being overbearing. If students are always being corrected and controlled they will get frustrated and hate writing. Here is my mental guide for finding that balance.
- Learning how to trace - If they are not able to stay on the lines, I help them trace their whole name one time through. Then, they do it the other two times themselves. Whenever their crayon touches the black line I given them lots of praise about staying on the black line.
- Tracing well, but writing letters incorrectly - for example, many students will draw a circle then add a line for the a. This looks like an a, but as we know this is not how you write it "properly". Why is this important? In the long run, we want our students to have neat, LEGIBLE, handwriting. So, I choose one letter at a time to focus on with each child. I help them trace that letter, pointing out where to start the letter and explaining how we move our pencil. I use hand over hand and trace that letter with them a few times and then have them write it a few times by themselves. I praise them for the how great their letter looks! It's very casual! I don't expect them to write the letter the way I showed them immediately. Which is why I model it for them and write it with them so many times. It usually takes about 2-4 weeks of working on the letter for my students to break their habit and write the letter correctly. Then I start focusing on another letter.
- Tracing and writing letters proficiently - I switch from rainbow writing, to writing with a pencil. They write their name once with pencil and then once all by themselves.
- When it comes to grasp, I try to only correct them once. If they switch back to what is more comfortable to them, it's okay. I use lots of fine motor and prewriting activities to strengthen their fingers and all of mine are naturally holding their pencils correctly by the end of the year.
I only use hand over hand during our structured name writing time which is at the beginning of the day. When they write their name independently on their art, during play, etc. I praise their efforts and I don't correct them. If they have trouble spelling their name, I do encourage them to grab their name off the writing shelf (pictured below) and look at it to help them remember all of the letters in their name.
More Handwriting Fun
My students go crazy over dry-erase markers! I just write their name on sentence strips, stick a little picture on it (you can read my tech tip here), and then laminate it. Then, the students can use dry-erase markers to trace their names. When writing on lamination, it is important to erase it as soon as their done, or it will become less erasable. The pom-pom on the lid tip I found on pinterest is THE-BEST-IDEA-EVER!!
You can read more name activities here:
Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment on your thoughts or your tips for teaching handwriting.