Literacy in the Primary Classroom : Lower Case Letter Formation

lowercaseletters

Welcome to my new series focusing on literacy in the primary classroom. Over the next few weeks I will focus on the different aspects of literacy and give lots of practical tips for parents to employ into their home to develop their child’s literacy knowledge and understanding.

assessmentsThis first blog in the literacy series will focus on the correct formation of letters.  Although technology is embedded into everything we do, handwriting is still an essential skill to have in today’s society. Handwriting is a fine motor skill that can be developed through a variety of activities. It is strongly advised to hold off introducing the formation of letters until these pre-writing skills are developed. Below is a list of 5 pre-writing skills that your child should be able to do before learning how to form letters.

1. Drawing lines from top to bottom.

LinesChildren need lots of opportunities to draw straight lines going from the top to the bottom. This is an important skill for letter formation that they need to grasp before forming a single letter. This pencil movement is used often to form many letters. These letters are; b, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, p, r and t. Children not only need to draw straight lines from top to bottom with a pencil but with many other tools. For example paintbrushes, crayons, chalk, sticks and fingers.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have the child draw lots of lines from top to bottom across the page. After they have done that, they can use the lines as stems for flowers and draw petals on each.
  • Have the child draw lots of lines from top to bottom with chalk on the pavement. After that get your child to draw circles on each to turn each line into a lollipop.
  • Have the child paint lots of lines from top to bottom. After that, have them paint a line on top of them all from left to right to create a fence. They could paint a cat walking  on top of the fence.
  • Have the child draw lines with crayon from one sticker at the top of the page to a sticker directly under it at the bottom of the page.

2. Drawing circles starting from the ‘2’ position on a clock

clock[1]Drawing a circle is another important skill that the child must be confident with before introducing letter formation. This pencil movement is used often to form a few letters. These letters are; a, c, g, o and q. We want to encourage a child to start their circle from a ‘2’ position on the clock and go in an anticlockwise direction until they get back to the ‘2’. Therefore their pencil would go past the 1, then 12, then 11 etc until they get back to the starting position to complete their circle. We want them to start from this position so it will be easier for them to continue to form a letter without taking their pencil off the page when they are ready for letter formation. For example, to be able to add a line to a circle for an ‘a’ or a tail to a circle for a “g’.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have the child draw lots of circles on a piece of blue paper. These circles can become bubbles in an underwater scene. They could cut out underwater sea animals to stick on their page.
  • Have the child draw a small circle in the middle of the page and get them to keep drawing larger circles around the smaller one.
  • Have your child trace around circle shapes, such as bottle lids while always encouraging them to start at the right spot (‘2’ on the clock)

3. Using tools other than pencils

circlesChildren need to practise pre-writing skills using a variety of tools. We need a child to start with a thicker tool, like a paintbrush and make big movements with this tool. As they become more confident, a child could move onto chalk, thick crayons, using their fingers and then pencils. They need to be able to make large movements first and then develop their fine motor skills to be able to make smaller and more controlled movements with a tool. It will be hard for a child to use a pencil at first, so by using thicker tools, the child will be able to start practising these pre-writing skills from a younger age.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have a child trace chalk outlines of lines and circles with a paintbrush
  • Have the child paint circles, lines (zig zag, left to right and top to bottom) and spots with their fingers.
  • Have the child use a variety of tools (paint, chalk, crayon and pencil) on a large piece of paper. They can trace over lines and circles or try doing dot to dot lines.

4. Multi-sensory play

Marble in Sand[1]Children learn best through a multi sensory approach. This means allowing the child to discover skills and concepts through a variety of sensory methods. Pre-writing skills can be developed through this method very successfully. Children should be encouraged to use their sight and sense of touch to develop the fine motor skills required to learn letter formation.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have the child draw lines and circles and any other writing patterns in the sand with their finger
  • Put some paint in a zip lock bag and put it on a flat surface. Get the child to use their finger to practise writing patterns on the outside of the bag. The paint will move around depending on where they press.
  • Have the child practise writing patterns in the dirt with a stick

5. Holding the pencil correctly

pencil1The correct pencil grip needs to be encouraged, not forced from the age of 4 years old. Children younger than this need to explore holding a variety of tools in their own ways before the correct pencil grip can be taught. Forcing a child who is younger than school age to use the correct grip before they are ready, can cause more harm than good for their development of fine motor skills. Children need to hold the pencil with their thumb and index finger, while the middle finger is used for support under the pencil. We can call these fingers the tripod fingers so when ever you ask your child to check their pencil grip ask them if all of their tripod fingers are in the correct spot.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have the child hold something small in their hand, like a tissue to prevent the fingers that are not being used from moving
  • Use a pencil grip to encourage the correct hold when the child is younger. You can also get triangular pencils that also do this job.
  • Have the child do lots of finger exercises with the thumb, index finger and middle finger to strengthen their small muscles eg roll small play dough balls using these three fingers and making a pinch pot with clay.

Teaching letter formation for lower case letters

When teaching letter formation, it is a great idea to introduce letters that have a similar formation to help the child understand direction and pencil movement. Below is the oral instruction you can say with your child when forming each letter.

lowercase-and-capitals-prev[1]

1. Round Letters (a, c, d , g, o, q, s)

a (around in a circle and down), c (around in a circle until the 5 position on the clock), d (around in a circle, up and down), g (around in a circle, down and tail), o (around in a circle), q (around in a circle and down), s (around in a small half circle, then the opposite way)

2. Straight Letters (b, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, p, r , t)

b (top to bottom, up and around), h (top to bottom and hump), i (top to bottom, pencil off to dot), j (top to bottom and tail), k (top to bottom, up, oval and diagonal stick), l (top to bottom), m (top to bottom, hump and a hump), n (top to bottom and a hump), p (top to bottom, up and circle), r (top to bottom and half hump) and t (top to bottom, pencil off for line left to right)

3. Curved Letters (u, v, w, y)

u (smiley face and top to bottom), v (diagonal down and up), w (smiley face and smiley face), and y (smiley face, top to bottom and tail)

4. Different letters (e, f, x, z)

e (left to right, up and around), f (half circle, top to bottom, pencil off for line left to right), x (diagonal line from top left to bottom right, diagonal line from top right to bottom left) and z (line left to right, diagonal down to bottom left and line from left to right again)

When a child first learns how to form letters they need to continually revise this skill on blank paper with no lines. The introduction of writing letters on lines comes much later when a child is competent at forming each letter.

lower-case-letter-formation-i3[1]

We can use the analogy of sky, grass and soil to help the children remember what lines each letter is written on.

The grass letters are: a, c, e, i, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x, z

The sky and grass letters: b, d, f, h, k, l, t

The grass and soil letters: g, j, p, q

When a child is learning to write letters correctly, exposing them to as many varied experiences with different types of mediums and tools will enhance their learning immensely. Children do not learn the formation of letters by pencil and paper only. Be creative and let them explore lots of techniques.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and you can take away some practical tips that will help you guide your child in forming lowercase letters accurately. I would like to end this blog with a little rhyme that I always say with my Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 classes to help them to remember some important tips before they begin to write.

1, 2, 3, 4, Are my feet flat on the floor? 5, 6, 7, 8, Is my back nice and straight? 9, 10, 11, 12, Is my pencil correctly held?

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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5 thoughts on “Literacy in the Primary Classroom : Lower Case Letter Formation”

  1. Thank you from a retired teacher. This information is excellent. My grandchildren are benefiting from your advice.

  2. Brilliant. Could you possibly email me this and also your other blog re 20 ways to help your child learn the sight words please.

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