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If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you might know that my teaching experience is in middle and high school. Or you might not. Certainly if you’re reading this for the first time, you probably don’t know that. But now you do. I student taught in 5th and 6th grade and then taught in middle school for 6 years and high school for another 3 before moving into administration. If you teach elementary school, you probably won’t believe this; if you teach middle or high school, you absolutely will: My students’ handwriting had the potential to be atrocious. Sure, I had a chunk of students who wrote neatly enough that I never had to use context clues to figure out what they had written, but there was a large hunk that I routinely had to use trial and error to get through the bulk of their sentences. And that was just for English. Don’t even get me started on trying to read numbers on a math problem. Is that a 1 or a 7? A 3 or an 8? A 4 or a 9? An ‘s’ or a 5? So much head shaking. So. Much. I found it reprehensible that students made it to 7th, 8th, 9th, even 10th grade (or…yes…heaven forbid…12th grade) writing illegibly. I prided myself on being talented when it came to reading what my students thought passed for handwritten work. But it was exhausting. And time consuming.
What to do? Take a page from the elementary school book: handwriting practice. I would identify students who had handwriting so terrible that it took me significant extra time to grade their papers, and I would foist a handwriting assignment upon them. They would be required to do this assignment every day until I was satisfied with their progress. None of them wanted to do it, but I told them I would refuse to take their assignments unless they participated in the program. And the practice worked. Handwriting is all about fine motor skills and muscle memory. It took a few weeks, but I was able to retrain their hands to write more legibly. I didn’t create any calligraphers, to be sure, but I did get them to the point where I didn’t have to take extra time out of my day to try and figure out what certain words were. Don’t be afraid to require attention to detail from your students. If you make it clear that the expectation is there, they will meet it.
You can download my [FREE] handwriting practice tool here. It’s free.