Letter Strokes-Are They Important?

Letter strokes are a part of writing.  Yet, how important are they?  I do not have the research here yet.  However, I have 20+ years of teaching experience and a clear memory of our elementary school’s occupational therapist coming into my Kindergarten classroom.

AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST’S VISIT

She conducted a 30 minute active lesson stressing the importance of proper letter strokes, top to bottom, left to right, counterclockwise circles.

*This post contains affiliate links.  For more information, see my disclosures here.*

CURRENT OBSERVATIONS

For the last 6+ years, I have been teaching year round writing camps and workshops for students ages 5-13.  It is a consistent observation that the majority of children who struggle with writing in general, struggle with handwriting.

They take a really long time to complete their stories or lose interest before they have finished because they are genuinely tired.

The thing is, many of these children have GREAT story ideas!  They can rattle off their story with excitement and energy.  However, writing out each word feels like a daunting task to them.

Unfortunately, letter strokes are not being stressed like they once were.  In addition, cursive is becoming almost unheard of in many schools.

PRIORITIZING LETTER STROKES

From this experience, I have made developing proper letter strokes my first priority when teaching Kindergarten and now homeschooling my young children.

It’s just so important.

Students practice letter strokes

SCHOOL SUBJECTS

All other subjects and aspects of learning, eventually involve writing in some form or fashion.

I don’t want children to have to expend all of their energy on writing when they’re supposed to be focusing on a math, science, history or literacy concept.  I want hand-writing to feel as natural as eating.

START WITH DRAWING

In order to foster this, I began a culture of drawing in my home.  You can read the full post on the importance of drawing, how it can lead to proper letter strokes and how to go about it with your child or students here.

Here are examples of my own children’s drawing:

toddler practices drawing to prepare for letter strokes
My daughter who just turned 3
“Adding Sun Rays”
drawing fosters strong letter strokes
My 5 1/2 yr. old son
“11 Marshmallow Sandwiches”
drawing fosters strong letter strokes
My 6 1/2 year old son, “Desert Commotion”

DRAWING LETTERS

Drawing on a regular basis naturally lends the opportunity for me to teach the children how to “draw” proper letter strokes.  I teach capital letters beginning at age 3.5/4.  Once they’re comfortable with capital letters, I teach lower case.

My own children have learned to form their letters using markers, stickers, paint and dry erase markers on white board.  But the ideas for doing this are endless!

Pinterest has many ideas that include writing letters in sand, finger paint, shaving cream etc.  At this stage, the size of the letters doesn’t matter at all.  Their letters can be HUGE!  The key is that their letters are formed properly.

HANDWRITING WITHOUT TEARS

The occupational therapist who came into my Kindergarten classroom, truly left a deep impression on me.  Her lesson was from Handwriting Without Tears* which I strongly recommend if you want professional guidance.

handwriting without tears workbook for strong letter strokes

They have an entire series of books.  They also have a Key Boarding Without Tears*, which I am equally passionate about for the older grades.

Because of our occupational therapist’s guidance and instruction, when I taught Kindergarten, I made writing letter strokes correctly a top priority.  Making this a priority also led children to learn to read through their writing.

VERBIAGE TO USE

If you’d rather not purchase the Handwriting Without Tears books, here is a list of verbiage that I have used with my own children when I teach them how to write their letters.

I try to be simple and consistent with my words.  And yes, my voice is almost motorized.   I want them to hear the strokes clearly, even to the point where they say the strokes themselves when they are writing independently.

Early writers will make many mistakes.  When they write strokes incorrectly, don’t dwell on it.  Simply show them the correct stroke again.  Have them try to write the letter correctly again…and again until they get it right.  Go slow and keep repeating the same verbiage.

Below is a list of posts that offer ideas for practicing specific letter strokes.  The list will continue to grow.  If you’d like to receive new ideas monthly, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter below!

A Circle Summer

Clearing up the lowercase b and d confusion

Spin-Spin-Letter Strokes!

Stickers for Beginner Writers