Pupils who do not learn to read and write fluently and confidently are, in every sense, disenfranchised.
No one can disagree with that.
But how many of us put a premium on well-formed proportionate letters and are concerned with an elegant, handsome and legible style?
How many of us can claim to have knowledge and understanding of the science of handwriting?
I once attended a talk by a Coroner who bemoaned the appalling handwriting of many doctors. He said that whilst doctors were easy targets and unfairly stereotyped for having bad handwriting many needed to go back to school. He went on to say that handwriting was a life skill but all it needed to be was legible and that we shouldn’t get hung up on the intricacies. The bottom line was ‘can I read it?’
Try telling that to my colleague who has a daughter in one primary school and a son in another primary school. She told me that they both came home this week with ‘A guide to handwriting’ leaflet both of which offered different advice and contradicted each other in places.
One wanted to turn children into champion calligraphers and the other was a new literacy coordinator trying to impress with her take on a new handwriting policy.
Needless to say, my colleague and her children spend a lot of time arguing about handwriting and whether to kicking, flicking, looping or curling was actually important.
Legibility is king so the Coroner has a point but you do have to follow some sort of structure and one active approach to handwriting intervention comes from Morrells using something called the new ‘bounce technique’.
Morrells resources cover the essential key stages of the writing process from letter formation to cursive writing.
Their approach is that it is important that children create letters stroke by stroke on paper and their workbooks are unique in their teaching of handwriting. There are 6 workbooks in all, 3 devoted to letter formation and 3 to joining letters and they are all based on ability rather than age.
Letter Formation workbook 1 teaches the letters in the correct handwriting families and ensures that old handwriting habits are corrected. Practice in this book kicks-off with the letter C and progresses through six levels in a step-by-step business-like fashion. Workbooks 2 and 3 in the Letter Formation set offer further letter formation and handwriting practice to help writers print confidently and at speed.
They also teach the correct letter spacing and embed the placing of letters on the line before moving onto joined-up handwriting. Workbook 3 is my favourite here because it practises amongst other things high frequency words, parts of speech, contractions, and conjunctions. This is more focused and just the job for killing two birds with one stone.
The first Joining Letters workbook goes further and uses the newly developed bounce technique to show the correct horizontal and diagonal joins used to master joined-up handwriting beginning with the baseline joins and round joins before moving onto more difficult top joins.
Books 2 and 3 embed the joining technique and help writers to gain fluency and speed focusing on muscle strength and storing handwriting style in the muscle memory of a writer. Again I particularly like workbook 3 as this gets writers to practise their handwriting using synonyms, homophones, direct speech, reported speech, punctuation, story openings, story endings, and paragraphs. I’d definitely like more of these please.
Apart from the front covers, none of the books have graphics. This is something Morrells have done on purpose because they can cause too many distractions and get in the way of the task in hand. I’d agree here. Whilst primary resources are mostly the materials to decorate and adorn with fun-loving characters and designs, sometimes less is more. The books are still attractive and I don’t think they are any poorer for not having pictures and cartoon style add-ons.
With the Morrells resources don’t expect to implement a scheme because there isn’t one. There are no weighty teaching manuals to plough through either. What you do get is a Teachers’ Photocopy Book is really what you need to explain the thinking and rational behind these resources as it explains how to use Morrells handwriting.
You will also find teaching notes to support the teaching of handwriting for left and right handed writers, extension pages for letter formation and letter joining and extra handwriting practice for homework.
The book offers invaluable help for assessing handwriting and selecting the correct workbook, identifying problems and how to correct them, help with grip and posture, and support for writing a whole school handwriting policy. I think what I’d like to see is some sort of Morrells You Tube videos showing best practice in action so students had something to guide them and look at.
One definite draw of the Morrells materials is their value for money. They are as cheap as the proverbial fried potato at £4.95 per book and that can’t be bad can it?
Do these resources offer the digital generation something different? Well, they offer a pile of opportunities for targeting spellings, grammar, vocabulary and sentence construction and they do offer a fresh, modern and structured approach to handwriting.
They could be your must-have for rectifying illegible handwriting and they’d be something to definitely recommend to parents and home tutors too.
See the Morrells Handwriting Brochure for more details. It provides information on teaching handwriting and the importance of choosing the correct handwriting resources.
See also their excellent blogs, particularly ‘Teaching handwriting to children: why it’s important to teach it correctly’