Video summary: Letter formation and pencil control skills

Where to start?

When preparing to teach handwriting there are two different skills that need to be considered: pencil control skills and letter formation skills.

  • Pencil control skills refer to the ability to control the pencil in order to produce neat handwriting – which you can imagine is a huge element of handwriting.
  • Letter formation skills refer to the forming numbers, letters and handwriting patterns correctly.

So you can see how these two skills are linked –  in order for learners to be able to form letters correctly, learners need good pencil control skills such as holding a pencil correctly, starting and stopping effectively on the line, forming letters with turns and curves and change of direction.

Often what happens is that young writers or writers with poor fine motor skills tire out quickly, make mistakes like letter reversal, their handwriting becomes messy and they make silly errors. This all leads the learner to become frustrated and discouraged. Therefore, when teaching handwriting to young writers (or to writers with weak fine motor skills) it is a good idea to teach these two skills separately. Work on pencil control skills without the added pressure of learning and memorising letter formation as this will help a learner develop good control and writing endurance, which they will need when they learn letter formations.

Why do we teach the correct letter formation? Do teachers really need to spend so much time teaching and guiding learners to write letters correctly…and the simple answer is YES!

One of the goals of teaching handwriting is we want learners to write with speed and accuracy that takes the least amount of effort, and letter formation encourages just that. Learners who have not learned the correct letter formation spend a great deal of time and effort into remembering and writing letters that they don’t have the energy left for creative writing or answering questions correctly. Letter formation promotes efficient automatic letter production to free up their brains for higher levels of thinking.