Writing Matters: The link between poor handwriting & poor spelling

Children can be difficult to deal with and can refuse to comply when an adult asks them to do something to a most frustrating level.
I have a student who has decided he won’t do as I asked concerning a habit he needed to break. And what is more I couldn’t make him.

My initial response was to let him have his way.  It wasn’t worth the trouble but that was the wrong approach.

I am the adult and know the reason why I am asking him to change.

I accepted I couldn’t make him and told him so but he was not to behave that way in tutoring sessions because I have his best interests at heart.  I would continue to urge him to change.

What was all this angst about?

He was holding a pencil incorrectly!

So many young people do this today and they have poor handwriting skills. Apparently spelling skills are also on the decline. There is a relationship. Many words look misspelt due to the way they are written.

I also read that educators are calling for the end of learning to write!

Thumbs and a tablet is all that is needed in the modern world!  Wasn’t phonics and learning the times tables also questioned by educators? As a result so many children had their futures limited.

Holding a pencil (or pen) is a kinesthetic (involves movement) experience. Combine it with hearing, seeing, and reading and the child’s brain is involved.  Hearing, saying, writing and reading are combined channels to the mind. They are necessary for creativity and living in the modern world.

Holding a pen incorrectly causes fatigue and prevents correct letter formation.

My student hasn’t reached secondary school yet and doesn’t realise what he is in for.
Many children find learning to write challenging and holding the writing implement incorrectly doesn’t help.

Fine motor skills are involved with writing and these are easily put off balance. Small errors of technique and lack of practise prevents a child from writing easily, legibly and neatly. It does have future consequences.

Romalda Spalding the developer of the ‘Spalding Method for Teaching Speech, Spelling Writing and Reading’ has worked with thousands of individual children over fifty years. She teaches handwriting and written spelling before introducing books to her students.
Her emphasis on developing fluent handwriting skills prevented many beginners from developing reading and language problems.

Children must see that it is the mind that directs the hand. Children must be exposed to careful and continued teaching of handwriting techniques. Remember handwriting is a skill and skills are taught systematically.

Spalding outlines seven techniques for both left and right handed children. Left handed children need special attention.

Points to Ponder
• Make sure the child realises the hand moves in the direction we write. That is from LEFT to RIGHT.
• Recognise there is a different position for the paper for left handers.handwriting
• A six sided common wood pencil is best for young writers. It is more controllable than a round pencil. It also weighs less. This reduces the pressure on the child’s hand.
• Teach the child to write with no significant pressure in the arm or fingers. Their arm and fingers should feel light and soft when writing.
Three fingers are involved. The middle finger and the thumb lightly hold the pen or pencil which rests on the middle finger.
The finger in between (the index finger) rests between the two. The index finger curves and the end of the nail rests where the painting ends and where the sharpening beings. All knuckles (including the thumb) must be bent. The writing hand must move easily. The elbow is kept stationary. The other hand moves the paper.

Correcting a child’s grip is not difficult but it takes practise and concentration. But it is worth it.

I continue to notice people who don’t hold a pen correctly: the girl in the bank, the plumber and the girl at the supermarket checkout to name a few.

Take notice of the next person who apologises for their handwriting!  Deep down we all recognise we haven’t put in enough effort. Children know as well.


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