The past two days, I attended the Zaner-Bloser handwriting workshops. Yesterday was Manuscript, and today was Cursive.

Did you know that handwriting is the gateway to learning to read? It’s true. And also, I can tell you why the letters are referred to as uppercase and lowercase!

Back in the days of typesetting, the uppercase letters were stored in a case that was up high, because they were not used as often. The lowercase letters were stored in a case that was low, and easily accessible. Hence, the names uppercase and lowercase! :)

I learned that it takes a LOT of fine-motor development to be able to write legibly. With a four-year old son who is an emergent writer, I am now armed with all sorts of knowledge to help those little muscles of his grow. Things such as Play-Doh, playing with a Magna Doodle, putting pennies or checkers in a stack all develop the fine-motor skills needed to write legibly.

When learning handwriting, children actually have to learn 52 letterforms, not only 26. Once cursive is in the mix, make that 104 letterforms. Children have to learn to recognize these letters, the sounds they make, and the roles they play in words and sentences. Then they have to learn to write these letters. It’s a tall order!! And a fancy one. I’d had no idea that occupational therapy played such a large role in handwriting. And that handwriting played such a large role in literacy.

I learned the proper way to hold a pencil, to position my paper (of course, I’ve been doing it wrong!!), why chalkboards are better than dry-erase boards for teaching handwriting, and the way to teach it to children using the three primary learning modalities–kinestetic, visual, and auditory. I also learned it’s best to start big, then work down to writing on paper. Teach muscle memory, so that when kids get it, they’ll have “automacity,” which means they will be able to focus more on their thoughts, rather than the handwriting process.

Zaner-Bloser has been around for a VERY long time. It was one of the first three handwriting companies. Its letterforms been simplified over the years—the cursive Q no longer looks like a big, floppy 2, for instance (this, at the request of the US Postal Service!)—but it’s still one of the very best programs out there.

If any of you are teachers of handwriting, what programs do you use? How do you feel about it?

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