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Handwriting to Writing: one leap or many hops?. Angela Webb 22 nd March 2014. A FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION…. “How is it that a child can write well in a handwriting lesson but does not transfer that skill into classwork?” What can we do about it?. The Simple View of Writing. Translation

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Handwriting to Writing: one leap or many hops?

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Handwriting to Writing:one leap or many hops?

Angela Webb

22nd March 2014


“How is it that a child can write well in a handwriting lesson but does not transfer that skill into classwork?”

What can we do about it?

The Simple View of Writing


Words, sentences, paragraphs.

Working memory


Handwriting, keyboarding,


Executive functions

Planning, review

Adapted from Berninger & Amtmann (2003)

2.How do we solve this?(A two-pronged approach)

1. Modify the expectations of the teachers while you work

(particularly in the short term)

2. Move the child forward in a series of graded and highly structured hops.

Suggested ‘hops’


  • The process – how the child writes

  • The product – the written script

    Target intervention only to those parts which need fixing.

4 ‘P’s (Process)

  • Posture

  • Paper position

  • Pen grip

  • Pressure

7 ‘S’ Rules (Product)

  • Shape

  • Size

  • Spacing

  • Sitting on the line

  • Slant

  • Speed

  • Sustainability

A Case-Study


  • Age 12 years

  • Mainstream secondary school

  • Left-handed

  • Problems of legibility (but not of speed)

  • DASH percentile ranking = 64%

  • Copy Best-Copy Fast difference = 12 wpm

Hop 1. Look at the finished product. Use the ‘S’ rules.

Evaluation of Billy’s handwriting








Prioritise what to work on

  • Extending the writing horizontally.

  • Rounding the curved letters.

  • Correcting mis-alignment.

  • Keeping ascenders and descenders parallel.

You can’t achieve everything at one go: practise by building

  • Begin with the most important and practise.

  • Add a 2nd element.

    Practise on its own then add it to No.1.

    3.Add a 3rd element.

    Practise then add it to 1 + 1.

    4.Add the 4th. Practise on its own then add 1 + 2.

Hop 2. Lesson 1 Moving across the page

Hop 3. Lesson 2 Rounding letters

Hop 4. Lesson 3 Correcting mis-alignment

Hop 5. Lesson 4 Making vertical strokes parallel

Further ‘hops’

Set him/her a series of graded tasks in which the cognitive load of each (in terms of spelling, sentence length, composition, etc.) increases gradually.

(N.B. Ensure that the correct handwriting is used at each stage. If it is not, do not proceed to the next level of difficulty).

Hop 6. Most common bigrams (in order)








…and tri-grams (in order)

  • theandthaent

  • ingiontiofor

  • ndehasnceedt

  • tisoftsthmen

Hop 7. 100 most common words

the ofandatoinisyou



fromoronehadby wordbutnot whatallwerewewhenyourcan

said there useaneachwhichshe


aboutoutmanythenthemtheseso someherwouldmakelikehiminto

100 most common words (cont.)


seenumber nowaycouldpeoplemy

thanfirstwaterbeencallwho oilits



Keep writing tasks simple

  • Copying (but move on quite quickly).

  • Short dictation of CVC words better (see below).

  • Simple close exercises (see below).

Hop 8. CVC sentences for dictation(from Alpha to Omega)

Gradually increase task complexity

  • Simple stories – cloze.

  • Simple narrative.

  • More complex narrative.

  • Free writing.

Hop 9

From Headwork 2


Jo had a radio. She got it in a jumble sale. It was a very strange radio. One day when Jo was listening to the six o’clock 1 a very strange thing happened. A hand came 2 of the radio and got hold of Jo’s face. Jo was very 3 . She 4 the comic she was reading. She 5 her cup of tea off the arm of her chair.

Jo picked up the 6 . She stared at it. Then the 7 came out again. This time is got hold of Jo’s left 8 . Jo jumped back. Jo got very upset. She grabbed the radio and ran into the kitchen . She put the radio in the sink and turned on 9 taps. The water filled the sink. Jo heard a voice coming out of the radio. It said, “Help me! Help me! Please help me. I’m 10 .

The child reads and selects words. Then retells the story orally.

Writes the story using clue words

Hop 10.

  • Ask the child to create their own narrative.

  • You scribe.

  • S/he chooses the key words.

  • S/he writes it.

10 hops = 1 leap

Billy six months later

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