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There is ample statistical evidence to demonstrate that there is a link between academic achievement and good handwriting. Establishing fluent, legible handwriting early on allows pupils to then focus on the content of their writing. Pupils with specific learning difficulties are likely to need extra support and additional practice to develop fluent handwriting. They may benefit from a multisensory approach.

Download the handwriting checklist (PDF 141kb) Opening a new window - an assessment tool to help you identify a pupil's handwriting needs.

Developing handwriting skills

Pre-handwriting patterns

If children practise the movements and patterns which are the basis of good handwriting before they are taught real letters, they will have started to establish a firm foundation on which to build.

Pre-handwriting patterns help children to learn the shapes and directional pushes and pulls required to form letters.  They need to be able to draw horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, curves and tunnels and make joins in order to form letters correctly.  All letters are a combination of these shapes and lines. has sets of pre-handwriting sheets which you can download for free.

Letter formation

  • Teach similar letter shapes in families, for example: a, c, d, g, o, q, s and l, t, i, u, y, j and r, p, n, m, h, k, b and x, z and v, w plus e and f,  Look at for video clips on letter formation.  There are free practice sheets which you can download at
  • Encourage children to practise letter shapes in lots of different media - paint, crayon, shaving foam, sand, glitter, mud, draw with their fingers on another pupil's back, squirt on the playground in water
  • Make the letter shapes from play-doh, trace over the letter shapes, cut out of sandpaper.
  • Practise tracing the shapes of printed letters on an iPad using apps such as Wet, Dry, Try or School Writing.  For joined up handwriting letters, try Crazy Cursive, abcJoined Up or Hairy Letters.

Once letter shapes have been roughly established, give pupils daily practice for 5-10 minutes, tracing and then copying letters then words.  Start big and once the shapes have been mastered, start encouraging pupils to reduce the size little by little until an acceptable size is achieved.  Then start to improve fluency by giving timed exercises, asking them to write a word or a letter as many times as they can in 30 seconds or a minute.  See if they can beat their time the following day.

Ensure pupils have:

  • The correct posture
  • Correct chair and desk height, so that their feet are flat on the floor
  • Good lighting
  • Their paper angled 30 degrees to the left if right handed and 30 degrees to the right if left handed
  • The correct dynamic tripod grip (try a Twist 'n' Write pencil or a pencil grip, if not).  The pencil should be held between thumb and index finger just above the point on the painted part with the middle finger behind the pencil and supporting it
  • Their non-writing hand holding down the paper to stop it slipping.


  • They may find it useful to use tiny blobs of bluetack to stick their paper down and stop it sliding.
  • See if giving them a writing slope/large A4 ring binder to lean on improves their handwriting.
  • If they fidget in their seat all the time when they are writing, try a Move 'n' Sit cushion (available from Amazon or Back in Action).
  • Look at for video clips on the correct posture, pencil grip, paper grip etc.

Download alphabet strips, shaded handwriting paper, sky forest paper, paper position sheet and spaceman from the free resources section.

Early skills

There are lots of fun activities that help children to develop the muscles in their wrists, hands and fingers without them even realising.  They will use all these muscles when they are writing, as well as core upper body muscles to maintain their posture.

Activities to Develop Fine Motor Control and Hand Eye Co-ordination

  • Cutting and sticking
  • Rolling play-doh into long even sausages/worms
  • Drawing and colouring in
  • Tracing
  • Tearing up paper into little pieces
  • Wrapping a parcel
  • Threading treasury tags through hole-punched paper for filing
  • Dot-to-dot puzzles
  • Wind up toys
  • Playing with construction toys e.g. Lego, Knexx
  • Playing jacks
  • Dressing dolls
  • Chopping up food or a play-doh sausage with a knife and fork
  • Peeling a satsuma
  • Shelling peas or broad beans
  • Picking up pieces of raw pasta with a giant pair of tweezers
  • Opening bulldog clips
  • Threading nuts onto bolts
  • Manipulating coin from palm of hand to between thumb and forefinger
  • Banging nails into wood
  • Sawing
  • Pegging out socks on a clothes line
  • Playing card/board games
  • Threading beads on a string
  • Planting seeds
  • Doing jigsaw puzzles
  • Touching each finger on the right hand with the right thumb as quickly as possible, then repeating with the left hand
  • Making animals from plasticine (it is harder than play-doh so requires more effort)
  • Playing with glove or finger puppets
  • Making patterns or pictures on a peg board
  • Finger clicking
  • Mixing food in a bowl with a spoon
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Brain gym - Lazy 8s
  • iPad app Dexteria - to develop index/thumb pinching movement and finger stretching
  • Clapping games
  • Playing on a climbing frame/swing/slide
  • Egg and spoon race.

Left-handed pupils

About 10% of the population is left-handed. Handedness is usually well-established by the time a child starts school. The child does not actively choose one hand over the other, rather it is determined by the brain.

Left-handed pupils.....

  • Need to sit so their left side is at the edge of the desk.  Otherwise they will keep bumping elbows with the right-handed child they are sitting next to.
  • Need to angle their paper to the right as they write.
  • May need reminding initially which direction they should write in - it is physically counter intuitive for a left hander to work left to right, as this requires more pushing movements than pulling movements, which are harder to control.  Draw a green dot to the left margin for go and a red dot on the right for stop to remind them.
  • Will need to hold their pencil slightly further back from the tip than a right-hander to be able to exert better control and not smudge their writing.
  • Will not be able to see the words they have just written because they will be covered by their writing hand.
  • May find it easier to use special pencils/pens or grips designed for left-handers.
  • Will prefer left-handed scissors.

Look at for video clips of left-handed handwriting tips.

Download Handwriting position sheet from free resources

Page was last updated on: 08/04/2021 16:51:30


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