how to support handwriting practice

Pen licences and how to support children on cursive handwriting practice

The pen licence is a funny old thing. 

They didn’t exist when we were in school. The whole class was just told, next year bring a cartridge pen and that was it. If you didn’t have one, you didn’t get to use one. I think pretty much everyone had a £3.99 WHSmith basic pen (usually in blue or red).  I was bought a silver metal Parker pen by my Grandma one year which I loved until someone nicked it out of my drawer and it was never to be seen again.

Nowadays there seems to be uproar from lots of parents about pen licences. 

how to support handwriting practice

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If you’ve not come across them, most schools seem to have them now.  Once a child is deemed to be able to write correctly and do cursive writing, they’re given a pen licence.  Some schools do it by individual – so some may get theirs early in year 2, while others won’t achieve theirs until year 5.  Our school tends to do it by year group, after checking everyone’s writing. A much better way to do it, because surely writing with a pen is just practice and finding the right pen for each child.

If your school hands out licences individually, and then hands out certificates on top (ours doesn’t, it’s very relaxed, and there’s no need for certificates for everything!), then it can be upsetting for some children who struggle with their handwriting.

N’s been writing with a pen from early on in year 4 when they all ended up with their licences. They do all their work in pen except maths which stays in pencil. The school provide a Berol fine handwriting pen* for the children to use.  His writing used to be quite neat, but once he got hold of a pen, it went a bit wild (ignoring the fact that now he also gets filthy t shirts because pens seemingly get wafted around and drawn all over them).

I don’t know if it was the knowledge that he can now write ok, has the pen and doesn’t need to try hard. A bit of overconfidence and flamboyance. Or just careless. But his writing went on the tilt. Not a slight slant, but 45 degree angle slant.

The teacher referred to it not being the leaning Tower of Pisa writing, but more like a hurricane’s blown past the tower.  Added to that it got really skinny as well, as it meant it was getting a lot less legible. So it’s time to get back to nicer handwriting again. We tried him with a cartridge pen which helped a little bit, although he does go through scruffy phases again. But it’s a lot more legible now.

Here’s some of the ways you can help your children if their cursive handwriting needs a bit of time spent on it.

Supporting children’s handwriting

1, Encourage children to write out of school

Try to get them doing thank you letters, writing fun stories, shopping lists, writing out song lyrics.  A lot of handwriting is about practice and getting the flow and feel of the writing.

2, Get the pen right

Some schools hand out pens, others expect you to buy. But do find out what pens children are allowed to write with. Our experience is ‘pretty much anything if it’s blue ink’.  Some children still use the school provided pens, while some have their own cartridge pen.  N has tried a couple of cartridge pens, and has settled on one that is helping him write more carefully, and he’s now back to less slanting, more legible writing.

If they’re left handed, let them try out a left handed pen. But if they struggle, don’t assume this is the only solution. Some lefthanders prefer writing with a right handed pen – it’s only when it comes to calligraphy or italic pens that can cause problems writing with the wrong nib.

3, Speak to the teacher

Some will do extra handwriting booster sessions, others use specific lined paper. It’s worth understand what they’re teaching and asking of the children, so you can reinforce it as part of homework.

4, Let them explore different methods of writing

If you give them freedom to try bubble or cartoon writing as an activity, or calligraphy, they can then revert back to their standard handwriting for school specific work. It’s a way of seeing school work as the one to be neat and tidy with, where the creative side can be explored elsewhere.

5, Try them writing with their book turned at an angle

This is usually done by left handers, but some righties move theirs too.  This could be because they don’t have enough space from the person next to them at school, or they’ve copied someone else. Try switching it the other way, or straight and it might see an improvement.

Hopefully these tips with help with your child if they’re struggling with their cursive handwriting..

How did your children find learning to write with a pen?

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