Beginning Handwriting

Handwriting is an essential skill in written communication. Every individual needs the ability to write easily, legibly, and rapidly to meet the demands of school, social, or business activities. The main emphasis in the primary school will be placed upon the development of “good” writing characterized by legibility and style. At the same time, training in writing must ever aim at producing good writing with useful speed.

The best means of obtaining the necessary speed with legibility and style will be found in constant vigilance on the part of pupil and teacher, and careful supervision of all written work.

A good simple style is required in every writing activity; slovenliness and illegibility must not be accepted. Good handwriting is a mechanical skill gained by constant practice by the pupil and effective supervision by the teacher.

Writing in the very early stages will be closely linked with reading which will supply children with the experiences wherein writing will have purpose for them. Consequently, the importance of using vertical script writing (print-script) during this period is stressed. They may write words and easy sentences in print-script as soon as they begin writing.


Children should be trained in the correct position of body, head, and hands.

The two great faults that require constant correction appear to be

  1. the chest is compressed against the edge of the desk; and
  2. the body and head are bent too far forward and the eyes are too close to the writing surface.

To guard against these faults the following are recommended:

  1. Sit erect but not rigid with feet apart and resting flat on the floor, the part of the legs below the knees being vertical; hips well back on the seat; shoulders level and parallel with the desk; chest forward but clear of the desk; head inclined slightly forward towards the paper but not turned sideways (the movement should be forward from the hips); eyes not less than a foot from the m. writing paper.
    • Both forearms rest loosely and obliquely on the desk with the palm of the left hand downwards and resting on the paper. The position is essentially symmetrical and provides for arm-movement.
    • For inclined cursive writing the paper is kept directly in front of the child

Method of holding the Pencil or Pen

  1. Pencil or pen is held pointing in the direction of the lower arm. The pupil is able to see the writing point easily by looking straight in front of him.
  2. The pen touches three points
    1. the tip of the thumb;
    2. a point midway between the tip and the first knuckle joint of the middle finger; and
    3. the tip of the index finger.
  3. The index finger rests lightly on top of the pen and should be only slightly bent. The thumb is also slightly bent.
  4. When held in this manner the pen is drawn over the paper and does not press heavily on it. Writing is done in an easy gliding movement. Fingers and wrist are relaxed. Teachers should correct the tendency on the part of the pupils to grip the pen or pencil too tightly and to write with the muscles of the wrist and forearm contracted. Pen and posture drills are recommended.

Correction of Errors and Practice in Correct Forms

The fundamentals which will require attention will be shape of letter, slope, size and spacing of letters and words, and smoothness of line.

The Change from Vertical Script to Inclined Cursive Writing

Vertical script and inclined cursive writing are recognized as two separate skills and the one should not grow into the other by the gradual development of a process of joining vertical script letters. Separate and different alphabets are provided for the two styles of writing.

Vertical script is to be the only form of writing in Grade 1. The objectives of its employment at this stage are to aid the child in his first attempts at reading, to promote that co-ordination of brain, eye, and hand necessary for good writing, and to avoid attention to fine details in elaborately ruled books.

In Grade 2, a beginning is to be made with inclined cursive writing, the small letters and the capital letters being prescribed for this grade. It is not to be expected that, as soon as the child has commenced cursive writing, all his written expression will be in this form. In the first six months in Grade 2, general written work may be in vertical script. When the child has developed the necessary facility at inclined cursive writing, all his written work will be in this form. This should be possible for most children by the end of second term and for all children by the time Grade 3 is entered. Thereafter script writing will be confined to the process of lettering on maps, charts, labels, and pictures made by the child in the course of his activities.

Left-handed Writers

Is the young child who shows a preference for writing with his left hand to be discouraged from doing so? This is a question of considerable importance for teachers.

Our system of handwriting is designed for right-handed production. Since the right hand in its forward movement leaves behind the letters on the written sheet, there is no tendency to cover up or blur what has been written. The left-handed person is at a disadvantage in writing because his left hand tends to cover up what he writes. Moreover, the normal slope of letters is not the easiest and most natural for the left-handed writer.

Justification exists, therefore, for encouraging young “left-handed” children to use the right hand in writing. This is not to say that a conversion will be achieved in all cases. It must be remembered that there are many grades of handedness ranging from the dominantly right-handed to the dominantly left-handed. Experience has proved that the teacher’s kindly and consistent encouragement to use the right hand will bring about the desired change in many cases.

Department of Education Queensland. 1964. English: The Syllabus, or Course of Instruction in Primary Schools. Brisbane: Government Printer, pp.13, 5-8.