Why Writing An “M” Like a Mountain Slows Handwriting Progress

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I had this conversation with a very sharp grandma this week.  She was curious about why I did not teach her granddaughter to write an “M” this way, since it is so much easier than the standard formation.  Here is my answer:

  1. Teaching it incorrectly? No! None of the common handwriting styles (Zaner-Bloser, D’Nealian, Handwriting Without Tears or HWT) use that formation.  She will be expected to use standard formation later in kindergarten or first grade.  Teaching her a formation that isn’t correct then changing it later, especially for this little girl, (who resists even gentle redirection) is likely to frustrate everyone later.  She may never make this letter correctly.  At the very least, teaching her one way now and another next year is a waste of my time.
  2. Automaticity. Teaching the standard formation, in which she is required to write a long vertical line and then move her crayon back up to the top of that line, reinforces the automaticity of what HWT calls the “starting corner capitals”.  These are the letters such as “E”, “N”, and “P”.  There are 11 capital letters and one number that start with this long straight line, and 8 of them jump back to the top of that line.  Teaching similar letter start and sequence builds automaticity and speeds learning.  One of the hallmarks of people with legible handwriting is automaticity.  They don’t have to think about how to make letters, they can think about what they want to say in their compositions.  It is not a good idea to slow down the development of automaticity in writing.
  3. Time saved in the future for educators.   A child can certainly learn an immature style and then learn that there is a grown-up way, but Common Core and all the testing have turned classrooms into testing training rooms.  Teachers are not able to take the time to evaluate each child’s handwriting and do spot corrections.  They will say it once and then move on.  Learning correctly now will save everyone time later.
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