Monday, August 31, 2009

Creating a handwriting curriculum

I have decided on teaching my kids to italic and cursive italic for handwriting. It is not what I learned, but it makes sense to me that it is an easier style and it's adherents can write both more fluidly and legibly. See here and here and here and here for explanations.

I have a number of resources I can use to teach them how to write, and there are a number of free or affordable (under $15) resources that you can use if you want to follow this path:
  • Get the Briem Handwriting font (Look for these links: The Italic Project>Teaching Aids>Software). It includes lines if you italicize it (type spaces to get blank lines). If you don't like that style of lines, get Learning Curve. It's a cursive handwriting font but it includes a symbol for the more traditional lines. Change the font sizes to change the size of the lines or the text. You can use the font to make huge letters for younger children and copywork samples for older children.
  • Download another Briem resource, Cursive Italic News. It contains lots of ideas for starting out with hand-eye training and includes many warm-up exercises that can be copied.
  • For more exercises and a step-by-step guide to each letter, see yet another Briem resource: Quick results, easy work (click that link and read everything, or click on the Model link to see the letter instruction).
  • Consider buying Penny Gardner's Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children. This book gives all the (unadorned) workbook pages that you need to teach the lowercase italic alphabet, and then works through the different types of joins. She also has YouTube videos to help teach handwriting (see the links at the bottom of the page).
  • In addition, blank lined paper is available from other places on the web including the Donna Young website (in the Handwriting section). Or you can just use a notebook from the local office store.
These are the steps I envision will work for anyone. This is not rocket science (as FlyLady would say):
  1. Choose the type of handwriting that you think will serve your children best.
  2. If you can, find a font that matches #1. If you have nice handwriting yourself, I see no reason not to make the exemplars yourself. There are free handwriting fonts available, so check those out before you spend money on a font.
  3. Consider making sheets (maybe even laminated) of warm-up exercises such as vertical lines, horizontal lines, zigzags with the first stroke straight down and the second stroke up at an angle, n-type humps, u-type curves. Finding a rhythm and writing consistently is the object here. These warm-ups could be used for years, and could be offered in smaller sizes as the child get used to writing smaller letters. (See the resources in the bullet section above for specifics on warm-up exercises.)
  4. Experts differ on whether to teach uppercase first or not, but it makes sense to me, and it's what my children have asked for. So I teach uppercase, and then lowercase.
  5. Start providing words to copy, and of course, assisting in spelling when the child asks.
  6. Continue with copywork, moving to longer passages, poems, etc. These can be printed out in your exemplar font if desired. Ambleside Online volunteers have created Word files of quotes from each years books for just this purpose. They are available in the Files section of the AOCopywork Yahoo group.
  7. Teach how to join letters.
  8. Continue with copywork, providing support and correction as necessary.
Using the resources I already have, I can make pages of copywork of various sizes, and of single letters or words using Microsoft Word and one of the italic handwriting fonts I already have: Lucida Sans italic or the Briem Handwriting font (which are free), or one of the Barchowsky fonts. (See my below for instructions on finding the Briem font, and see my first post on italics for a list of fonts.)

Penny Gardner's book Beautiful Handwriting for Children is a very useable resource and a good value. I wish it had warm-ups, and it needs to be accompanied by plenty of copywork.

New free resources:
  • I've found an additional font for italics. It's here on Briem.net. (Choose The Italic Project link and then Teaching Aids and then Software.) When you download the Briem Handwriting font, you also download a program to join the letters into cursive italics. Frankly, I don't see using the conversion program regularly once my students have the hang of joining letters, but it's a great resource.
  • Monica Dengo's mini curriculum. Lovely!
  • Nan Barchowsky's videos
  • Penny Gardner's videos: links here

1 comment:

Wendy Hawksley said...

Would you definitely recommend the Penny Gardner book? That is another I was going to purchase as well. Her work overall is very suitable to what we do at home and want to do, so I tend to prefer her books.

Thanks for sharing!