I am so excited to welcome Kristin Butler, a tutor from Arkansas.  Her tip for today is very timely for myself as I was just lecturing my own children about having neat handwriting.  It takes some convincing in this technology driven world.  Kristin shares an idea that is easy to implement and one I'll be using with my own kiddos right now!  Thanks Kristin.  If you enjoyed this post, please comment and let Kristin know!  – Adrianne

Most students Need a Refresher Course in Handwriting

You may not have been hired as a tutor to teach a student handwriting, but after over one year of serious tutoring, I’m convinced that most students who come for help need a refresher course in good handwriting (and notice I didn’t say “perfect” handwriting).

I’ve observed that many problems, specifically in math, arise because a student cannot even read their own writing. Versions of messiness include sloppy letters & numbers, misaligned place values, and letter &Handwriting_Ideas_Tutor number reversals.

When I notice that a student’s handwriting is impairing their ability to learn effectively, I take note of how they are forming their letters. Then, during the last five to seven minutes of our session, we practice handwriting.  In math, I have them practice the numbers 1-10 on a sheet of paper. As they inevitably write their number in the wrong pattern, we pause, and I show them the proper way to do so. Generally, I have them write the same number about ten times each. (However, as with all things tutoring, gauging the student’s capabilities and exhaustion points are key to quality learning!) If they write the pattern wrong again, we go over the correct way, until there is at least some improvement.

I remembering being taught using an “attic-1st floor-basement” method, which has served me well in helping my students work on their own handwriting. The “attic-1st floor-basement” method is where there is an “attic” for the top line, “1st floor” for the primary line (or middle), and the “basement” is where are the loops hang out.

I draw this on my student’s paper to let them see a visual of where each part of a letter or number should belong. It is also helpful to be able to point back and say “So, in that ‘g’ you just wrote, where does that loop actually belong?” Visual reference points are great in drawing pictures, and also great in handwriting!

The last step I usually have my student’s complete is a self-evaluation. I ask them to circle the best letter or number on each line. Sometimes they choose one different than what I would have chosen, so I take the chance to praise and compliment the highlight of their best practice.

Why Do We Work on Handwriting?

When students do not understand why we are working on their handwriting, I like to discuss two principles that go hand-in-hand with each other:

  1. Handwriting is a unique privilege that allows us to communicate

We would know little about the Ancient Egyptians or the Greeks without written language. The ability to write set you apart from the crowd (think of “making your mark” in pirate movies or old westerns). The opportunity to have instruction on how to write as well as the necessary tools is a privilege, and one that can be developed and nurtured into, sometimes, truly a work of art.

  1. Handwriting can indicate, in a snap judgment, the validity of our thoughts – whether we want it to or not

This goes with the thought above about social status and handwriting. Partly, the ability to communicate effectively allows one to stand above the crowd. But also, the quick judgment of some people is that if you have good handwriting, you have had a good education. (Although, I’m not sure if doctors’ “chicken scratch” falls into this example, so obviously it isn’t true in all cases).

And although I don’t usually tell my students this next part, it is a secret benefit of handwriting:

Good handwriting develops perseverance.

The perseverance to practice, the perseverance to correct habits, and the perseverance to practice some more.  And with perseverance and results, the pride of a well-formed “5” or a legible “e” can make all the difference in the world for a student’s self-esteem (let alone the feeling when they figure out that elusive math problem).

Writing is a habit, and it is not easily changed. I do not require perfection or am concerned with it 100% of the time during tutoring sessions. At the end of the day, I truly desire my students to succeed, and helping them improve their handwriting is a small lesson in a bucket of hundreds of lessons. But, by spending a few short minutes at the end of session, who knows what their minds and hands may create long after we have parted.


Kristin is a young educator in the rolling, wooded hills of Northwest Arkansas where she operates her own private studio with all assortments of classes and tutoring services. Her passion is that her teaching would inspire students and families to be life-long learners, so they can enjoy the many splendid wonders that the world can behold. But, aside from her passion of education, Kristin enjoys reading, crafting, and a good laugh (especially at her very entertaining pets who supply no shortage of stories).  You can follow Kristin at her website. SplendindWonders.com

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