As promised, I'd like to take time this week to talk a bit about "letter formation" in printing. If any phrase could describe the importance of letter formation - specifically, teaching children to print using "continuous line formation" - "it's just like riding a bicycle" is it!
When you think about riding a bicycle, you don't think about the "steps" or what to do first, next and last. You just DO IT! Once you learn the motor pattern, you just get on and ride. In fact, if you stopped to think, "How do I push off? What do I do first?" you may actually stall yourself or just fall over! That's because riding a bicycle (after you have learned how to) is a motor memory. There aren't sequences of words to describe it (though you could try) the way your body knows how to do do it. The same should be true for a skill that is often used as printing.
So, when we think about printing, consider the need to teach "motor sequences" in the most fluid, continuous way possible. This means the, instead of teaching children how to print discrete shapes and attaching them together (like drawing a house), teach children to form the letter, from start to finish, without lifting their pencil off the page whenever possible.
While there are definitely some letters that require a pencil be lifted off the page (f, i, j, t, x and y to be specific) most (20 letters can be formed using a single, continuous line that may stop, retrace, or change direction without having to lift the pencil off the page.
For example, the letter "d" can be formed in a single continuous way by beginning by creating the lower case letter c (starting at the top of the c) and then moving the pencil up to form the tall line and back down again, retracing the tall line to the end at the bottom. This letter formation pattern translates easily to cursive writing by simply adding the starter curve and the tail at the end of the letter with a slight tilt (as is the custom in cursive writing) to the right.
As part of teaching "continuous line formation" patterns, however, it is important to teach children where to begin. As with the letter "d" discussed in the paragraph above, the temptation may be to start at the top fo the line and form the letter from there, however, if you did so, it would be hard to create a connecting line to the letter before and after (as you would need to with cursive writing). While this is not the primary reason for teaching specific starting points for each letter, it is an added bonus!
The ideal is to teach children to print the letters of the alphabet in their "motor groups" - letters grouped for instruction and practice so that children are having repetition of line sequences beginning with where letters start - rather than alphabetically.
If you would like a handout of letters grouped into their motor sequences, click here.
Till next week!