Working on handwriting
In today’s technologically advanced world, many people believe that the written word has lost its importance, with so much of our communication now done via computer and other electronic equipment. However, students continue to recognise handwriting as being an important literacy skill. They are aware that their written work represents them to the world. While they may excuse or explain away illegible handwriting by professionals, for example their local G.P., they are often both ashamed and critical of their own efforts. Eventually, they may avoid writing altogether and this makes the situation even worse. The only way a student will improve is to start writing again and to keep practising on a regular basis. There may also be a need for more specific guidance, particularly about good letter formation, joined writing, what type of pens/pencils to use, or whether to use lined writing books.
Points for tutors to note on handwriting
- Work on handwriting should always arise from the student’s expressed needs and should not be imposed by tutors.
- It is important to discuss the basic requirements for good handwriting with students – writing instruments, writing paper, good light, comfortable seating..
- Handwriting will only improve if people write regularly. Students may need to be reminded of the opportunities for daily writing such as keeping a diary, writing down telephone messages for the family, writing out shopping lists. This allows students to see everyday, useful and regular reasons for writing.
- Strain can be felt in the writing hand, even after a few lines, and especially if students have not done much writing recently. Suggest they take a rest and shake out the arm, right from the shoulder down to the hand.
- Doodling, such as circling particular letters or words on a page, is a good way to get a pen in hand, without having to produce continuous writing.
- Tutors should not overuse the pen. Waving it around while chatting or correcting work obtrusively can appear intimidating.
- Students asking for help with handwriting may have had bad personal experiences, for example, a chequebeing refused or illegible writing returned, so do not make light of their difficulties. Accept that it is serious for them and help them with strategies for improvement.
- Writing letter strings is a useful practice, both for dividing long words into manageable parts and for helping with spelling, for example. acc-ommo-date, em-barr-ass-ment, in-ter-est-ing
- In the past, some people were taught to use their right hand when writing, when they were naturally left-handed. They may wish to reconsider which hand they want to use as adults.
- When students gain confidence, it can be helpful to dictate short passages which they have time to prepare in advance. This can help them to overcome feelings of panic about writing in public. Filling in a lodgementdocket or application form is another useful writing exercise. Only try these ideas after discussion and with the agreement of students.