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Handwriting: Best Practices Debbie Shatrowsky/Occupational Therapist. Ergonomics. 90° rule- hips, knees, ankles Trunk, neck and head vertically aligned Wrist in slight extension (neutral) Desktop 1” to 2” above elbow when seated

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Handwriting: Best Practices Debbie Shatrowsky/Occupational Therapist

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Handwriting:Best PracticesDebbie Shatrowsky/Occupational Therapist


  • 90° rule- hips, knees, ankles

  • Trunk, neck and head vertically aligned

  • Wrist in slight extension (neutral)

  • Desktop 1” to 2” above elbow when seated

  • Paper angled- right handed/right corner up, left handed/left corner up

Looking Out For Lefties

  • Preventing the “hook”

  • Left corner of paper elevated, okay for student to have an exaggerated slant

  • Left handed writers will sometimes pull into their hand which causes them to write from right to left, this is okay to allow

  • Left handed

  • Slant left corner up

  • Okay to have exaggerated slant

  • Right handed

  • slant right corner up

Pencil Grip

Developmental sequence

  • Palmer 1- 2 years of age

  • Digital pronate- 2 to 3 years of age

  • Transitional Grips

  • Static tripod- 3 ½ to 4 years of age

  • Dynamic or quadrupod - 4 ½ to 6 years of age

Efficient Writing Grips

Dynamic Tripod


Adapted Tripod

Inefficient Grips

Correcting Grip

Twist N Write Pencil- Office Depot, Educate and Celebrate, Amazon

Handiwriter- therapy shoppe.com



Jumbo Big Grip

Claw Grip

Grips available at Educate and Celebrate or therapyshoppe.com

  • Slant board

  • To decrease wrist flexion

  • Visual difficulties

Developmental Sequence of Prewriting

  • Imitation-vertical, horizontal, circle

  • Copying

    ~ 2yr.10mo. vertical

    ~ 3 horizontal and circle

    ~ 4 to 4 yr. 11 mo. cross, diagonals,

    and X

    ~ 5 yrs. 3 mo. triangle (Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration)

Developmental Approach to Handwriting

  • Handwriting Without Tears®

    L F E H I – Verticals and horizontals

    U C O Q G S J D P B- lines and curves

    R K A V M N W X Y Z- diagonals

    Uses a sensory motor approach

Promoting Development of Fine-Motor Skills

  • Sensory motor approach

  • Whole arm to promote motor planning-air writing

  • Wet sponge

  • Strengthening- incorporate pinching activities: clothes pins, strawberry hullers for sorting small objects, cutting play-dough snakes, poker chip or bingo chip activities

  • Parents- encourage wheel barrel walking with their child (fingers facing forward)

Promoting Proper Stroke, Number and Letter Formation

  • Model sound handwriting behaviors

  • Reading and writing follow the same basic patterns - top to bottom, left to right

  • Orally describe the pattern when introducing and practicing letter formation (big line, little line, big curve, little curve)

Promoting Proper Formation

  • Stress correct starting point and formation of letters i.e. large writing on chalkboard, wet-dry-try, etc.

  • Make sure the tool size is proportional to the hand size

  • Forget the dot-to-dot use whole strokes when practicing writing

Wet Dry Try

Adult writes letter

Student erases with wet sponge, dries, and then writes

Ideas for fine-motor centers

Teach letter sequencing and letter sounds with this poker chip alphabet sequencing activity and Leap Frog Fridge Phonics

Filo from Beyond Play $25.

Lakeshore products $60

Lakeshore Products Alphabet Rubbing Plates $19.95

HWTs Products

HWTs Square Block Paper

Integrating Handwriting and Reading Programs

Option 1: Separate the handwriting and reading sequence (remind students when letters and sounds have been previously taught)

Option 2: Integrate the handwriting and reading sequence (when introducing letter formation also introduce the sound/s and when introducing letter sounds use direct instruction for learn letter formation)

Option 3: Follow the reading sequence when introducing letter names and formation

(Leanne Meisinger/Learning Specialist CCPS)

  • When teaching handwriting keep in mind the basic principles of UDL and the four major channels of learning:

  • Visual learnerslearn through seeing.

  • Auditorylearnersprefer to listen

  • Tactilelearners like to use their fine-motor skills when learning

  • Kinestheticlearners need to use their bodies in the learning process. They need to “do”. They are hands-on learners.

  • http://www.cast.org/udl/


  • Amazon.com

  • Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration 6th Ed.

  • Beyond Play- Products for Early Childhood and Special Needs (beyondplay.com)

  • ccpsatot.wikispaces.com

  • Educate and Celebrate (http://www.learning-experts.com)

  • Handwriting Without Tears (hwtears.com)

  • Lakeshore Learning Materials (lakeshorelearning.com)

  • Leap Frog Products

  • Office Depot

  • Meisinger, Leanne /Learning Specialist CCPS

  • Therapyshoppe.com

  • UDL Principles (http://www.cast.org/udl/)

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