Ed Tech · Primary Pedagogy · Risk

How do we solve a problem like handwriting?

“We used to have fun

Now all we do is fight

We know something’s wrong

It’s clear something here ain’t right”


The writing’s on the wall

Plan B

After an excellent session on handwriting at a partnership training day I asked the following question on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 19.36.39.png

The volume of “no” responses, coupled with the number of replies I’ve had to my original tweet, suggests that this is a problem. As Lois Addy said in the session on Friday, “If you haven’t been taught how to teach handwriting, which is a complex process, then how can you be expected to teach it?”

This question has had quite a profound effect on me since. My own handwriting could only be described as terrible and I feel woefully equipped to teach handwriting to others. Yes, on a purely superficial level I understand why handwriting needs to be neat, legible and joined but on a practical level I am more interested in the content of the writing. But, given the importance of handwriting in the primary National Curriculum, should we be doing more to support our writers? Does writing for pleasure hit a blank when the author cannot commit their thoughts to paper in a meaningful way? Does technology do away with the need to write legibly anyway?

I’ve subscribed to the school of thought that says some children are writing refusers. I’ve never really looked at the reasons why before; mainly I’ve postulated that these children are lazy or lacking in imagination, the tools to aid them translate ideas to paper. However I’m now thinking that there may be a psychological reason why these children don’t write and I’m looking for a way to help them.

For this to work we all have to take handwriting back to a base level. It isn’t about constant repetition of alphabets, reinforcing ascenders and descenders until children are bored. Maybe we have to look deeper. Maybe, just maybe, we have to take a look at the fundamental issues facing these children who won’t or cannot write. Perhaps we need to intervene with the children who have low shoulder girdle strength in a way that isn’t just getting them writing more. Maybe we have to look at the provision of PE within a school to see how that can help build writing stamina and improve poor technique.

Maybe though, we need to look at how we are trained ourselves. If we have had no formal training in the teaching of handwriting then how are we best place to solve it? Is this another problem that schools need to solve, absolving parents from any responsibility? Or can we work in partnership to address these issues, providing a system where children are not penalised for their writing style while we try to help them?

Any help, as always, gratefully received…


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