The Secret to How to Teach Handwriting

A beginner's guide to helping preschoolers to read and write letters correctly using this one simple easy DIY project.

We know young children learn best through play. Countless studies tell us this but then how do you intentionally teach a skill like handwriting

My secret is so simple you will kick yourself for not thinking of yourself but it's been the most effective tool I've used as an Early Years teacher to help teach pre-writers and readers how to recognise and then read and write letters correctly.

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The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey
Juliet from Creative Star Learning uses stones to teach math concepts during play.

It was such a simple idea based on experiences children naturally seek out but I saw a different use for them. That they'd be the perfect tool for teaching handwriting!

The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey

EXPLORING LINES WITH ROCKS

Young children are sensory seekers. They rely on their different senses to help them learn about the world around them. 

Making the leap from drawing in the sand or air to putting pencil to paper can be made easier by harnessing a child's natural curiosity to explore - to touch and feel, to see. Using these senses can help take the abstract and make it concrete.

Creating intentional visual supports for young children is so important in the Early Years. 
With a handwriting focus in mind, I created a collection of rocks with different lines - straight lines, curved lines and some with both curved and straight lines to explore with my students. 

I've used them with the preschoolers to look at correct letter formation and to introduce the sort of language they will hear when they start formal handwriting at school.

The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey

HOW TO EXPLORE LINES WITH CHILDREN

Many of us are visual learners so by using the correct language to describe the different lines helps children connect that to what they see and feel equipping them with the tools to form letters correctly later. 

Balls and sticks are out, straight lines along with round and curved lines are used to make both tall and short letters, those that sit on the baseline and those that go below.
When introducing them to the children I started with a selection of rocks with straight lines, curved lines and the combination of both in front of us during circle time. 

To introduce the exploration of the rocks, try giving some simple prompts -

What do we notice? 
Can we sort them? 
How shall we sort them? 

During our exploration, the children were grabbing the rocks and discussing how they were alike or different.

I used a simply drawn Venn diagram to help create a suitable framework for sorting the rocks or a pair of overlapped hoops would work just as well. 

The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey

LINKING LINES TO HANDWRITING

I then gave each child a lower-case letter and we discussed what we could see. 

Could we see straight lines? 
Curved lines? 
Or a little of each?

Can we sort them like we sorted our rocks? 
Yes, we can.

The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey

The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey

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You still need to teach children the directionality required to form each letter correctly but with this knowledge of language to support them, my students have then gone on to perfect their handwriting more easily than ever before.

Teaching correct formation of numbers is sometimes forgotten when teaching handwriting but you can use these line rocks to explore number the same way. They can also be used to teach children 2D shape. Check out how we used these same rocks to teach 2D shape.

The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey

The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey

HOW TO MAKE YOUR LINE ROCKS

YOU WILL NEED -

* some clean smooth rocks (collect your own or I bought the rocks from the garden section of our local hardware store)
* a Liquid Chalk marker (you can buy a 4 pack of these Liquid Chalk Markers or alternatively these Giotto Permanent Pens are great) 

Draw a collection of different lines on one side of the rocks. 

Make sure you include straight lines, curved lines and a mix of both on some rocks. By including some angles, these same line rocks can be used to explore 2D shapes and angles too.

How else would you use these rocks?

The Secret to Teaching Handwriting - Use this one simple DIY project  to help pre-writers to distinguish between straight and curved lines to help build their understanding of shape and help establish correct letter and number formation later | you clever monkey




39 comments

  1. I used to have a game a bit like this when I was a kid... I've been thinking about making a printable version, but I LOVE this on the rocks!

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    1. I love working with rocks and the kids can't stop picking them up at preschool! The game you mention sounds interesting, do you remember what it was called? We love trying new ones. You should definitely make a printable - you make the best printables :)

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  2. What a great idea and using such a natural (and cheap) resource! Pinning!

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    1. Thanks Suzie :) Yes, I like working with rocks for that reason!

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  3. I just can not tell you how much I LOVE these!!! I am just itching to make some now. I NEED more rocks!!!

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    1. Haha Kate! And thank you for your kind words :) I love your blog!

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    1. Thanks Danya - your comment made me seriously laugh out loud!

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  5. Such a great idea and I think they look so pretty too! x

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    1. Thank you :) I think they look pretty too!

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  6. Wow! They are so beautiful! Great game too! Thank you for sharing it with us! #Pintorials

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    1. They are lots of fun to play with but are proving very useful for teaching too. Thanks for your comment :)

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  7. What a brilliant idea!!! I can see kids spending hours with activity like this! thank you for sharing! pinned!

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    1. Thank you :) The preschoolers I work with at the moment have certainly enjoyed playing with them.

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  8. This is just fantastic. I love how you can use them in so many ways!

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    1. My favourite sort of resource - one that can be used many ways ;) Thanks for commenting

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  9. Absolutely BRILLIANT. It's engaging, beautiful, so practical. Thank you for this. Pinning, sharing and doing this. Thank you! xo P

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    1. Thank you Pauline - I'm glad you found my post useful :)

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  10. I can't tell you how much I just love this. Great work!

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  11. These look beautiful, I'm sure the kids could think of a million ways to uses them.

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    1. That's one of my favourite ways to find out how to use things like this - watch my kids play with them first.
      Thanks for visiting Kate :)

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  12. I just love these Nichole and all the different ways we could use them. I've never seen the chalk pens so thanks for mentioning that! Pinned and shared!

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    1. Thanks Jodie x
      I used the chalk pens because I wanted a wider line than the Giotto paint pens we already have. The chalk lines are holding up well so far considering how many children like to trace their finger over them ;)

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  13. This is absolutely genius! I love, love, love it! I can see this keeping my boys busy for hours. Stopping by from Show-and-Share Saturday. :)

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  14. How fun! As a mom of 4 boys (who adore rocks), this is right up my alley. I love that it can be open-ended or more focused, depending on what your intent is. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Sharon :) Yes, these rocks can be used so many ways that's probably why I love them so much. My own three like making a continuous line and giant shapes

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  15. I LOVE this idea! Definately using it for my Pre-K class.

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    1. I found it a great way to support visual learners and scaffold their learning. I hope you find it just as useful. Thanks for commenting :)

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  16. This is such a fun, hands-on way to explore lines - great idea!

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    1. It's certainly proven very popular with each group of children I've used them with. Thanks for visiting Emma :)

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  17. Thanks for referencing my blog post - I'm delighted that you and others are taking an idea and being even more creative with it than I could have imagined!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Juliet and the inspiration xx
      The line rocks have certainly helped us build some useful language into play ahead of teaching more formal handwriting this year to some older students.

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  18. I LOVE THIS!!!!! Going to go get some rocks this weekend and I'm thinking a paint marker! Thanks for the idea!

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  19. This is excellent. it looks fantastic and fun

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  20. So many ways to use those rocks. I really need to make some!

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